By Buck Rogers
So what’s Bifannah? It’s the name of a sandwich. Certainly one of the most popular in Portugal. It’s simple, yet notoriously classless. It’s loved by many and known to all. And if you have a musical project, I suppose that’s the reputation you’re aiming for and dreaming of.
Bifannah (the band) started in 2015, sparking from the association of old friends and bandmates who had met in previous musical projects – Guille V. Zapata, Antía Figueiras, Antón Martínez and Pablo Valladares. While their background was in shoegaze and noise, Bifannah is by all intentions psychedelic. Moreover, even though the members are in fact Spanish, the band decided to sing in Portuguese. It’s an artistic choice that comes to make sense when you know that their hometown is in Galicia, a land in the North embracing both countries, where both Portuguese and Spanish seem to agree on their resemblances.
Their first EP (titled simply EP) came out a year after their formation, and it’s already adorned with the same minimalistic artwork approach that features in their following releases, giving us a break from the never-ending swirl-based album covers that indie psych bands spoon-fed us during the past decade. Sonically, its’ well-done surf, garage, and psych influences are refreshing. And they are successful at throwing the listener a finger-gunned smile à la Gories. Some of their songs, like ‘Skeletor’ or ‘Pior’ bear resemblance to The Gories’ ‘There But For The Grace of God’. The lead singer’s accent, lost somewhere in between Portuguese and Brazilian hints, makes the whole thing even more branché.
In 2017, the band strategically decided to let go of some of its primitive cool debuts for the release of their first record Maresia. They bet on a more orchestrated sound (we’re talking organs and a couple of drum fills). This approach usually works when it comes to slamming doors open into summer festivals. The mission was successful and the band found itself sharing some serious stages with bands like Allah Las. This record also serves as a clear bridge between their EP and their latest work, Danças Líquidas, unfortunately, released right before the pandemic. They joined forces with the talented musician and composer Frank Maston as a producer and used an “all analogue” means of production. The result is a mature, live-sounding album – levelling up and which in turn, collaterally assigned a very positive “kvlt’’-ish connotation to their previous, rougher work. Surprisingly, the album fits very well into what is now called the “Lisbon sound”, the consistent indie output from the city over the last decade. It’s a warm, vintage, yet – dare I say – as hi-fi as possible intentioned sound, using retro equipment and backed by classically rehearsed arrangements and heterogenous, rich orchestration.
At this point, the ‘’hypnagogic’’ aspect of their work must be mentioned when describing their sound. It’s not about making an aesthetic pastiche of intentional sonic degradation and ironic references to the past, nor is it about stopping at the mark of creating a conservative tribute to now more nostalgically remembered times. It’s about re-inventing psychedelia and its response to capitalist culture. In today’s day and age, it’s a counter-current fueled intention, and a challenging task for any musician – as it places the artist somewhere in the middle of the leftfield and the mainstream. This is not your radio-tailored, limelight-ready record, but instead a skillfully crafted product, not only production-wise but more importantly intention-wise: it takes a few years of artistic maturation to approach a record in this fashion. This should earn them a frequent spot on more niche radio waves, and if not, at least it’s guaranteed to age well and bring some second-wave extra recognition in a few years.
This article was published with the support of Liveurope.