Awesome track ‘Morning Dew’ was what first led us to Portuguese emo grunge outfit Memorial State. Captivated from the get-go by the band's genre-defying sound, we immediately streamed their back catalogue. We're very glad we did. You should too.
Memorial State's music oscillates between shoegaze and emo, favouring heavy guitars and sweeping melodies. The lyrical storytelling is nostalgic, heartfelt and hopeful. Musicianship and production are on point.
Memorial State: Leo Dacosta, Gui Toledo, Thiago Abreu
Based in Porto, Portugal, the band comprises Leo Dacosta on guitar and lead vocals, Gui Toledo on drums, and Thiago Abreu on bass and backing vocals.
Since forming in 2019, and despite the setback of debut album ‘Heavy Colors’ releasing at the very moment Portugal went into Covid lockdown, the band has amassed a significant fan following at home and abroad. They are rightly touted as one of Europe’s most promising alternative rock bands.
Still busy promoting their recent ‘Live at Room 27’ EP, and with a new studio album dropping soon, we were doubtful lead singer Leo Dacosta would find time to chat with us. Happily, he did.
Join us as we vigorously probe him for his musical insights, experience and creative process, and discover what Memorial State has planned for 2024 ♣︎
Please introduce yourself.
Hi, we're Memorial State from Porto, Portugal. I’m Leo Dacosta. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but now based in Porto.
Describe Memorial State for anyone who hasn’t heard you yet.
It's hard to describe our sound or fit our band into a specific genre. We listen to a lot of bands that are not exactly mainstream – Title Fight, Touché Amoré, Tigers Jaw, Basement, Citizen, Turnover, Superheaven – and maybe that's why it's hard to define a style or genre with a mix of all that stuff.
We are too soft for hardcore, too heavy for dream pop, too pop for shoegaze, too sad for pop-punk, and not sophisticated enough for Midwest emo! People have framed us as dreamo or grungegaze.
When did you guys get together?
The band started at the end of 2019. I had just moved to Porto from Brazil. All I had with me was an electric guitar, an amp, my computer and my audio interface.
I met Gui through a Facebook group looking for musicians. It was for a musical project with a different focus. To play the music we both liked, we decided to start a new band, and here we are.
You've already achieved a lot. What’s the secret of your success?
We have a very specific aesthetic sense about our music. We are very concerned about what we want to achieve with every song. The idea is to tell a story through music, even if the journey happens through harmonies or melodies and not necessarily through lyrics.
As much as my heart wants to scream, my vocal cords aren't capable of translating it that way, so I try to create melodies that create contrast between the comfort zone and dissonant harmonies.
We work hard on song structure so that everything is concise, objective, but dense enough for everyone to identify with the reality and atmosphere we created for the song. We try to avoid the obvious, to create something original. But we value a good hook and a good chorus.
Choosing a band name is the most difficult thing in the world. How did you choose yours?
It was Gui's idea. It’s about the feeling of nostalgia, missing something you didn’t experience or remembering glory days that probably won’t come back. We're about learning to see the present without forgetting the past.
Tell us about the personalities in the band.
Gui is the artsy one, trying to keep us on our artistic route. He’s an amazing visual artist, photographer, video maker, and a hell of a drummer. The dude is like a clock.
Thiago is all about passion and always trying to explore new ideas. He’s also the least punctual and most disruptive! But he is all heart and always there for us. A true brother. I’m lucky to have these guys by my side.
I'm the one who likes to see things get done. I try hard to make everything possible. Overall, we're all down-to-earth dudes that like to be around each other playing music.
How do you write the songs? What's your creative process?
I'm the one who starts the process, usually. I record all the harmony and melody ideas I have during the day on my cell phone, roughly singing an idea for a riff or a vocal melody. It’s really embarrassing. When I get home, I record rough guitar and vocals and send it to the guys.
We absorb the initial ideas, take them to the rehearsal space and see how it works live, with the band playing together, each giving their input. Then we’ll record a live demo to listen to later. Then things evolve naturally.
Tell us about your first gig as Memorial State.
It was the day before lockdown in Portugal: March 9, 2020. We had just released our first album, that day, and we were supporting this hardcore band from Marseille, Wake The Dead. The show was awesome. Everything went well.
But the very next day, everything locked down. We had to postpone everything.
That really is spectacularly bad timing.
Yeah, Covid fucked everything up. Besides releasing the album and that one show, we barely existed as a band in the first year.
Trying to see it on the positive side, it gave us perspective to look at the album again with different eyes, understanding what really mattered to us, and what didn't work for us.
We then had the opportunity to relaunch the band later with the ‘Bloomed’ EP, which brought a version of us that was more mature and ready to show off to the world.
What’s been the band’s biggest highlight so far?
We're still a new band and we feel we have a lot to do and lots of places to go yet. So far, our biggest moments were a few months ago. We did a tour of Germany, then we were support for a big Brazilian hardcore band called Dead Fish at a huge venue in Porto.
The next month we played three headline shows, one in Lisbon and two in Porto, to full rooms of our own fans. We still think there's a lot more to come. We just have to keep pushing our limits. But sometimes we still don't believe how far we've already gone.
‘Live at Room 27’ come out in November . How and where did you record it?
This live session was recorded in a very DIY way at our rehearsal space, STOP, in Porto. Since I have experience of working as a studio engineer and producer, and we have our own recording gear, we record every rehearsal.
After doing this every week, we realised we had some really good quality audio out of these rehearsals. We thought, why not release a live EP?
I did all the audio engineering, mix and master. Gui directed the video, as he’s a great visual artist. With a little help from our friends at Breu Visual we recorded four live tracks in about four hours. It was crazy.
We’ve read about STOP. It’s getting quite famous. Please describe it for us.
It's an old shopping mall from the ‘80s that lost its commercial appeal over the years. With the closure of conventional stores, and in a completely organic way, bands began to rent stores and convert them into rehearsal spaces and recording studios.
Nowadays, it is a great cultural hub for Porto. It is estimated that more than 500 musicians rehearse, record, and work there.
What’s the response to the EP been like?
The response has been amazing! We're so glad people are enjoying the songs. That means the world to us. It's truly awesome to be able to share a little part of our own hearts with everyone.
Do you have a favourite track on the EP?
I think we all believe ‘Morning Dew’ is a special song. We love it because it doesn't have a regular song structure and it builds so much tension and energy.
Which is your favourite track to play live?
We have this new song that everyone seems to love: 'Failure'. It’s not released yet, but we’ve been playing it at our shows. It will be on our next album, to be released soon. There’s a bootleg of the song on our YouTube channel, so you can already check out a rough version of it.
What’s your dream for the band?
Our dream has always been to be able to make music full time; to live from this and for this. Until then, we’ll continue reaching more and more people, playing in more places, discovering new realities. Life is good.
How did you get started in music?
When I was 14 years old, my best friend got an old guitar from his uncle. We started a band together. That’s when I realised this is what I wanted to do.
A few years later, I was in the studio with another band, and I was unsatisfied with the results we were getting. I started to really study how to get my songs to sound like they do in my mind.
The studio owner then asked me to intern there, and that’s how I started as a studio engineer and, later, music producer.
Who are your musical heroes?
I’ve never had undisputed idols. I've always been more focused on what I can do musically, without thinking too much about other people's music.
Will Yip is a producer I would definitely like to meet and work with. In addition to having produced several bands that I love, his musical vision and the sound he is able to capture in the studio is something beyond imagination.
I would love to meet Jeremy Bolm from Touché Amoré. He hosts an amazing podcast and seems like a pretty chill guy.
Alex Henery from Basement and Fiddlehead is such a prolific dude who did some sick videos for Run For Cover Records and Turnstile.
Give us 3 albums everyone should own.
It changes, but today’s list would be ‘American Football’ by American Football, ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ by Smashing Pumpkins, and ‘Stage 4’ by Touché Amoré.
If you could be in any band, now or at any time, not including Memorial State, which would it be?
I think I would love to be playing with Sunny Day Real Estate doing a full US tour in 1994.
Nicely specific. What do you do when not making music? How do you relax?
I'm really into my football club, Flamengo, from Rio de Janeiro. And I love video games. My main game is an open world survival game called DayZ.
What advice would you give someone starting out in music?
Do it for you first. Don't try to do it for others. And be consistent with your work and with others.
Sound advice. Thanks for making time to speak with us today. We appreciate it.
I have enjoyed it. It’s hard to capture, in an honest way, the philosophy of the independent scene, and manage to translate it into a brand. You guys did it.
And dude, this Tape Long Sleeve. What a sick design! There's something about the colours that reminds me of another time in my life, when I had little money for batteries for my Walkman, and used a pen to rewind my favourite mixtapes.
A simple pleasure now sadly lost. What’s next for Memorial State?
We are currently in the studio recording a new, full-length album. The first single is dropping soon, before the end of February, with many more to follow.
Our next gig will be on February 16 at Hard Club in Porto.
And once the album’s released, we plan to play everywhere possible and try to tour all over Europe.
We hope you come to the UK. Thanks again, Leo. Any final words?
Be sincere with your hearts. Don't live to please other people. Don't be ashamed to love whoever you want to love, to dance without knowing how to dance, to be happy being yourself.
And listen to Memorial State!
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