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I Do It For Music, I Do It For Love: PopMatters Meets The Gift

Photo: Evan Sawdey

PopMatters traveled all the way to Spain to find out what was so unique about The Gift, one of Portugal's most famous acts, now attempting to break through to America. These are the wonderful results ...

The Gift can almost laugh about it now.

When this group of forward-thinking alternative-popsters tried getting signed to a label in the early '90s in their native Portugal, every label told them the same thing: "Why are you singing in English?"

At the time, no one wanted to put out a heavy electronic single in Portugal where English was the only language heard on the track. Discouraged yet determined, the band decided to release the track themselves, and "OK, Do You Want Something Simple?" wound up becoming a massive hit. As such, the group has never once looked back, managing every release themselves, slowly but surely building up a sizeable fanbase in Portugal, Spain, and other surrounding countries. Their debut album, 1998's Vinyl followed, and before long, "OK, Do You Want Something Simple" became the first-ever video from a Portuguese act to air on MTV.

Now, over a decade later, the band has released Explode, a disc which shows the group slowly ditching their electronic background in favor of a brighter, more rock-oriented approach. Preceded by the singles "Made For You" and "RGB" (both directed by the L.A. based Carleton Ranney), Explode truly does feel like the euphoric pop experience it was designed to be: upbeat, explosive, layered, and wonderously memorable.

PopMatters had a chance to visit the group while they prepped for a large performance in Madrid, Spain, and during that time, got to see the group do an in-store acoustic gig, show us around the many hot spots in the city, and talk about their career and what where they want to take it.

Perhaps most fascinating was a conversation with the group in the lobby of the Hotel Oscar, where a discussion about Radiohead's famed In Rainbows pricing strategy lead John Gonçalves -- the group's bassist and manager -- talk very excitedly about how he loves the idea of people sharing music all at the same time, almost instantaneously. Yet for the release of Explode over there, the band didn't have the album hit people all at once, no: fans who paid for the disc were given a song a day, so that each track could be absorbed individually. The more you talked to the group, the more obvious it became that music wasn't just a job or a gig for these guys: it truly was their life.

Perhaps the sentiment is best summed up on their single "Music", where the powerful Sónia Tavares sings "I do it for music / I do it for love / I do it for everyone around me."

With the passion and drive that The Gift has, that "everyone" is going to grow quite rapidly before too long ..

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