The Black Mamba is a band from Portugal that carries on its shoulders at least a decade full of live performances, record achievements and a truth that always dominates any of their creations! With these supplies and a song that describes an amazingly strong story, The Black Mamba took the big step and participated in the Festival da Canção of their country.
“Love Is On My Side” not only brought them to the top of the podium but also gave them the coveted ticket to Rotterdam where they will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. This is one of the most special songs of this year’s competition and that was enough of motive to make us claim an interview with them. Soon everything was arranged for a web interview via zoom where the band’s singer Pedro Tatanka, drummer, Miguel Casais and keyboardist Guilherme “Gui” Salgueiro showed up.
With a really friendly and honest mood, the three artists explained to us how the band was formed, the strong inspiration behind “Love Is On My Side” and their future plans! Shortly, the interview felt more like ahanging out with three good friends, with lots of confessions, laughter and a beautiful feeling floating in the atmosphere … a feeling that made me believe that “love is even on my side” too … Good luck Mambas! Good luck Portugal!
Hello guys and welcome to SounDarts.gr! What have you been up to these days? You must be really busy lately with all the Eurovision preparations right?
Miguel: We’ve been doing a lot of interviews everyday. This our third zoom meeting in a raw since three o clock. So there are a lot of things happening a lot of interviews, a lot of tv and radio shows, performing also … it’s happening!
Who are The Black Mamba? How would you introduce your band to the audience?
Pedro: We formed the band in 2010, we had this venue live band which was called Speak Easy Band, which was also a legendary club in Lisbon, and we were a lot of members. We were a big band and we started to narrow a little bit until we were only three to play in smaller venues and it worked. We played live about 200 shows in 2011 because we had this tiny formation that basically could perform everywhere and then we decided to record our own stuff. That’s when everything happened with our first record, our first singles, playing in Rock In Rio, playing in the States. Everything was happening so fast.
We are a soul, funk, blues, rock ’n’ roll band from Portugal and we are faithful to our beliefs, very true to ourselves and to our fans because what you see is what you get.
Ηow did you meet in the first place?
Pedro: It just happened along the way. The original formation wasn’t this one and then natural things happened. People change, people move from other countries and the final formation is this one. We’ve been together since 2017 with the formation you know from Eurovision and Festival da Canção… the five of us. We have a few more collaborators on the horns, the background singers, the percussion players that were not allowed to go to Festival da Canção -because only six members are allowed- but you can watch the full band on our YouTube. There are a lot of videos of us playing live with our full formation.
Your song “Love Is On My Side” is the one that was selected to represent Portugal in Eurovision 2021. What’s the story behind it?
Pedro: First of all we started to build the song in 2016 but it didn’t go anywhere. We put it in a self waiting for better times to come. It happened before we came from the Netherlands. We were there touring in 2018 and there we met this old lady, it was a fast meeting in a coffee shop counter where she told me briefly her story. She came from Eastern Europe back in the 60’s or the 70’s -I can’t remember very well- with a bag full of dreams and hopes but everything went wrong. She became a drug addict and a prostitute… everything went wrong but at the end of the day she told me that she felt like “Love has been always been by her side” and she was hoping for love. That was really inspiring so when we came back to Portugal I decided to write a story with some other facts that she didn’t really share with us. I had to build this narrative in a way that it would make sense with her story. So that’s the story behind it, that’s where the story came from. The fun fact here is that the story came from the Netherlands and it’s gonna be back there in May. Hopefully she will listen to it and she will realize that this is her story.
It would amazing if she did actually! But this song has a mellow-retro rhythm, while Eurovision is more of a party Contest. Why did you choose to present a song with such a hard story to the Festival da Canção in the first place?
Pedro: I don’t know… We just kept faithful to our beliefs, to our music, to our origins, to our influences. That’s the sound we make. That’s the music we make. Even in Portugal it was a little bit out of the concept here despite all the differences between Festival da Canção and Eurovision. Eurovision is more like you say but Festival da Canção has a lot of beautiful ballads and a lot of feeling into it so I guess that’s why. It’s just being ourselves and what we really believe.
It’s also the first song in English to represent Portugal in the Contest right?
Pedro: Yes that’s true. After 53 years right? It’s the first time that everybody is going to understand the lyrics!
Did you expect to win the Festival da Cançao 2021? What are your feeling now?
Miguel: In our dressing room we thought that we were going be like second or third. I personally thought from the very beginning that we could win but overall everybody was thinking that we would win the second or third place. We weren’t expecting it. It was kind of a surprise because there were also some other contestants that have a lot of followers in their social media. In the festival a part of the jury grade the songs and then there are the audience’s votes, so we thought that maybe the audience would balance the result by giving more to their favorite artists. It was kind of a surprise to have so many votes from the audience and now we are really really happy to be here talking to you!
Are you satisfied with the audience’s response you have received so far for “Love Is On My Side”?
Pedro: In Portugal we’ve been playing around for about 11 years so we have a lot of fans here but realizing that a big amount of people is by our side was really important to us, to feel the love and that people were there for us. Now we are more aware of what Europe think about it and there are a lot of good commentaries on Eurovision’s YouTube channel from all around the world.
Gui: Especially about your voice Pedro!
Pedro: Oh thank you Gui… hahaha
Now what people are really impressed with is this aesthetic that we would bring to Eurovision. An old-school, soulful song with a guitar solo. People who love music think it’s a very cool entry. People who love “fireworks” probably don’t find it so interesting but we have to respect everybody’s opinion. After all it’s a contest so we’ll do it in the same way as we did it here, with a lot of love, a lot of self-confidence, a lot of respect for everybody, trying to make our Portuguese people proud because that’s what we promised to everybody.
Could you tell us what should we expect from your live performance on the Eurovision stage in May?
Gui: We have more possibilities in Eurovision because the stage and the led-walls are bigger and I think we’re gonna play with that. It’s gonna be a little different but the concept is still the same.
Pedro: Yes it’s more like a tribute to the golden years of Festival da Canção here in Portugal, back in the 70’s when the orchestra was playing every song, we concidered that we should built the production around the song with the orchestration, even the outfits and the black and white result. We believe that those were the best years of Festival da Canção so that’s a tribute to it. I don’t know how it was in Eurovision but I guess it was like that, with the orchestra playing the songs.
Are there any other songs in this year’s participations that you like and they feel like a “threat” to yours?
Pedro: I guess we’re a bit different. People are more into modern songs. So I guess us and the French entry are more into this music side of it. I don’t feel like anybody is “threatening” us.
Miguel: We don’t feel there’s any “threat”. We just do what we know to do best and we’re just being true to ourselves.
Pedro: It’s a music celebration after all!
There only a few weeks left until the 2nd Semi Final of the Contest during which you are going to present “Love Is On My Side” live! What’s on your schedule until then?
Gui: We hope to promote our song as much as we can but we also have to rethink of some things and do a lot of interviews. We’re thinking to do some videos too. Playing some other songs from Eurovision, just to show to people in Europe who we are!
Are you fans of the contest? Which are your favorite Eurovision songs of all time?
Miguel: Maybe one of the most iconic was the one by ABBA, “Waterloo”! That’s maybe one of the biggest references.
Pedro: I guess my favorite is Salvador Sobral’s entry. It’s like asking us “Christiano Ronaldo or Messi?”. The answer is going to be Christiano Ronaldo because he’s Portuguese! haha
Gui: Salvador’s song was a good one. And the monsters from 2006’s contest, Lordi from Finland.
You released your debut album in 2012 titled “The Black Mamba”. In what ways do you believe that your music has evolved over these years?
Pedro: It’s like life, you know, you evolve every time you do something. You learn from your mistakes. You wanna do things better and I guess we’re more mature now. We’ve grown! We know the industry better, we have more ways to reach what we want to do or how we make our sound because we’ve been mastering the techniques. It’s pretty clearer if you listen from one album and then the next ones to have your answer. Whoever is gonna do this exercise is gonna understand that we’ve been evolving. We’re proud of our past. We’ve evolved a lot even from this experience (Eurovision), we’ve learned a lot from this and I guess it’s not over yet!
Have you ever dreamed about your biggest goal in your musical career?
Miguel: Since the beginning of the band, our main goal was always to go international. To be able to share our music outside of Portugal and to the bigger number of people possible, in other countries and different cultures. We would try to do this in the past but still we haven’t fulfilled our goal yet. So this our goal from our very beginning and still is today.
If you had the chance to collaborate with one of your favorite artists, who would you choose and why?
Gui: Frank Zappa!
Pedro: Frank Zappa would be one of them. Also Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, all of our heroes.. there are so many that influenced us along the way.
What are your next professional plans? Should we expect new music from The Black Mamba soon after the contest?
Pedro: I think it’s high time now, to take advantage from all this exposure. Even this emotional blossom that we’ve been exposed to, since we’ve been in lockdown for almost a year at home. We wouldn’t be able to be with each other except from five or six times that we had do a show or something like that, which gave us a lot of motivation to bring back the band to the studio, to write and to record new stuff. This is what we’re going to do once we pass this interview-tv show phase. Maybe we’re going to release a single right after Eurovision and then we’re going to release our new album, we just don’t know when yet.
Expect “Good Luck” for the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, what else would you like us to wish you?
Pedro: To be happy. If we’re happy everything will go right!
Miguel: and also healthy… it’s important!
Interview: Theodore Kolliopoulos