“In four years we’ve played almost 600 concerts,” Singer and drummer Sebastián Piracés-Ugarte tells Billboard. “I think that says a lot about us. We need to play to live. It’s our therapy, it’s in our blood.”
Francisco, El Hombre (not to be confused with Portugal. The Man), takes its name from a legendary character of Colombian folklore who is an archetype of the traveling minstrel.
On Thursday (Nov. 16), when the Latin Grammys are presented in Las Vegas, the members of Francisco, El Hombre will be in a corner bar somewhere in Northern Brazil, where they might be moved to perform their nominated song “Triste, Louca Ou Má” (“Sad, Crazy or Bad”). The song has recently been featured in the Brazilian soap opera O Outro Lado do Paraíso (The Other Side of Paradise). A video for the ballad, shot in Havana — where the band traveled in 2016 — busts stereotypes about Cuban beauty.
In advance of the Latin Grammy Awards, Francisco, El Hombre checked in with Billboard while, of course, on the road.
Give a little description of Francisco, El Hombre.
We are five musicians: Me, Sebastián Piracés-Ugarte, I sing and play the drums; Mateo Piracés-Ugarte, guitar and vocals; Juliana Strassacapa percussion and vocals; Andrei Kozyreff on guitar and Gomes on bass and backing vocals.
Is Francisco, El Hombre a Mexican group that lives in Brazil or a Brazilian group that lives in Mexico – or both?
We are a Brazilian group, but my brother and I are Mexican. That is where the Spanish-language influence comes from, but really, after so much touring in Latin America, by now we are equally Brazilian, Mexican, Argentine, Uruguayan, Chilean, or all of those things, or none of those things!
Who was your namesake, “Francisco el Hombre”?
The name is a humble tribute to the mythical creator of the vallenato, a traveling musician who sang about what he learned on the road. For us, it was just traveling, we never thought that we would become a real band.
When, how and why did you start out?
Four years ago, us friends felt an urgent need to live, to feel, to learn and grow. The way we found to do that was to get out of our “nest” and travel in order to learn. Music was the means that we found to be able to travel without money. We played on the street, in restaurants in exchange for food, in hostels in return for a night’s stay. And that was inspired by the figure of Francisco el Hombre. Meaning, we didn’t think about forming a band, it was about a learning experience. It’s crazy to think about how much it’s grown in so little time.
In addition to “Triste, Louca Ou Má,” another song of yours has gotten a lot of attention. What is the story of the song “Calor da Rua”? What is its message?
It’s about domestic violence and the need to speak out. To confront what is a cruel reality for so many families, and take to the street to defend the right to live in peace.
Complete this sentence: With our music…
We want to live a long, crazy life, always learning, planting seeds for what we believe and defend, enjoying and growing, together.
Will you go to the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas?
Nope. We will be on tour in the North of Brazil and celebrating our way, in a “buteco” (neighborhod bar) with local people, drinking a good “cachaça de jambu” – made with a plant that makes you mouth numb. That’s the way we are.
Are you going to continue touring?
We will be touring until the middle of next year!
We don’t stop here – Brazil, México, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Colombia or any country that opens its door to us, we’ll be there. And if they don’t open their doors, well ok, then we’ll go through the windows! In four years we’ve played almost 600 concerts, I think that says a lot about us. We need to play to live. It’s our therapy, it’s in our blood.