By Robert Wheatley and Matt Dowse
It’s hard enough to make it as a musician, let alone do it all the while studying and working abroad, but with a fanbase growing by the day and three incredibly distinctive tracks released to Spotify already, André seems like he’s well on his way to making his dream a success. The Trident sat down with the artist in the Trident Media radio studios to discuss his musical origins, his artistic influences and what we can expect to see next from the prospective Midnight Ambassador.
André Graça [Credit: Midnight Ambassador]
I’m sitting in the Trident Media suite as I see a figure appear at the door; a bearded fellow whose face suddenly rings a bell as I let them inside for their interview on Matt Dowse Live! As I lead them through to the radio studio, I understand why the recognition has arisen: André was the same guy that had served me the other day at the Elehouse, the bartender with an accent I had assumed was American until he explained his Portuguese origins.
Matt emerges from the doors of the suites, beckoning us to join him on the show’s break as music fills the room, our chatter not lasting long before André soon accompanies the host as the show starts up once again. A quick hello from Matt has André return a greeting, the artist bright and cheerful, explaining how happy he is to be here. The interview begins, and Matt desires to delve deep into the artist’s childhood to recall his first musical memory; namely, what was the first album he had ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
“My first album I ever bought was from Black Eyed Peas, Elephunk. I loved ‘Let’s Get It Started’, I probably listened to that track a billion times. RnB had such a big influence on my childhood, as my brother used to listen to a lot of it, and hip-hop, so I grew up with Dr. Dre and early Snoop Dogg.”
There’s something very inspiring about André’s conversation: he’s upbeat and friendly, a cheerful grin on his features as he shares his stories from the past. Despite the contrasting atmosphere of the classical institution, André’s mum soon enrolled him into a Conservatoire, inspiring his musical abilities and giving him an array of instrumental skills; piano, saxophone, and drums. André loved the school, nonetheless; the artist considering it his second home. Another contrast is geographical: Matt raises the fact that his interviewee comes from South-West Europe from the gorgeous Portugal.
“I actually always wanted to live in the UK,” explained André. “Sometimes, I still wake up and think, ‘Huh, I’m here’. It was always a dream, so when it came to applying to universities I thought that maybe I could do this, so I applied and I got in. I had a year in Hungary too, so I did everything!”
André hadn’t been to the UK for long before deciding to study here, the artist only having visited once for two days, and decided on the University of Hertfordshire without a second thought.
“I’m doing music composition for film and games. I started composing for film because I was inspired by a composer named Michael Giacchino and thought that maybe I could do that too. That was way back, and I realise I wasn’t as good as I am today as I’ve had a lot of practice. I’d say my music has changed a lot since going to this university; it’s helped me develop to become the musician I wanted to be.”
While the music in his Conservatoire had been orchestral in nature, André’s study abroad in Hungary inspired a change to find a sound that was true to himself: a blend of indie-pop and R&B that inspired his first single, Serial Killer, which later influenced Palace and Black and Blue. While he admits the change was irrational, he hasn’t departed from his classical roots.
[Credit: Midnight Ambassador]
“I still have to do [classical music] for the university course, and I still do it personally, but now it’s got a lot of electronic influences. It’s something new, and I love finding new sounds.”
Matt suddenly seems inspired by this conversation to point out the unique vibe André’s music possesses, something that chart music often lacks: depth, a factor, Matt thinks, comes out of independent music transpiring out of passion rather than money and a career. Working independently with his producer, Eduardo Monteiro, songs take longer to produce, but André has pride in the level of detail he squeezes into each track.
“I’ve used real sound effects like water and sticks, throughout my songs, and that takes a lot of time. If I think about composition of the song, without any studio time, it probably takes 60 hours; in the studio maybe 60 or 70 more. It adds up, but when I release a song I want to make sure it’s perfect. Right now, what I’m planning to do is to release one more single before I release my album.”
The conversation moves on, all the while the sanguine atmosphere continues in the enthusiasm André brings in each answer. Curious to know the origins of his stage name, Matt shifts the discussion to the origins of André’s title, to which we soon discover he did a Gambino.
“You know Childish Gambino?”
“Yeah?” Matt replies.
“You know how he got his name?”
Matt doesn’t know, but I do. I recall that Gambino discovered his pseudonym on the Wu-Tang name generator, a site that gives you a title similar to those of the famous hip-hop group of the same name. I reveal my own name is ‘Gentlemen Bastard’, and André reveals he followed the same process.
“Midnight Ambassador… it sort of just clicked, you know? It could have been any other name, but it works; when I saw it I was like ‘Ah, I have to use this name for music!’ This was before my first single: I was on holiday for Christmas in Portugal, I had just come back from my semester in Hungary, and I don’t know what happened but I went on that site and Midnight Ambassador came up, and I just went with that.”
André soon started producing his unique style of music under Midnight Ambassador, the idea for his first song appearing not in a dream, but in a shower.
“I was in the shower and I started singing the main hook for Serial Killer. I just ran out of the shower, ran to my phone and started recording a video running around my room. I told my producer, one of my best friends, Eduardo — we had a punk rock band when we were 14 in high school called Feedback Line — I told him hey, I’m starting a new project but I don’t want to produce it myself as a fresh set of ears is good.
“He said, ‘Absolutely, just come to the studio next Monday.’ On that Monday, we recorded the song Serial Killer, while I was abroad in Portugal, in Eduardo’s studio. When I went back to Hungary, we Skyped through the production of Serial Killer.”
“For the other two singles?” Matt asked, leaning in curiously. “Black and Blue and Palace?”
[Credit: Midnight Ambassador]
“Serial Killer was on the 4th of May, Palace was in the 15th July, and Black and Blue were on the 12th October. All of them were recorded and produced in Portugal. Palace had a more in-depth production, as I was there in the studio.”
Matt asked if André planned to get his single out sooner rather than later, and the musician had a clever plan: he will use some of his Midnight Ambassador songs in his final project at the University of Hertfordshire, hoping his next single will then be released around January of next year. A completed project, and song is an incredible feeling and is something André loves about the musical process.
“When it clicks, when everything blends together, it feels so good; and, of course, when I finish the song.”
The topic became specific, with Matt asking what the meaning of Black and Blue was. Aside from its incredibly catchy sound, and a surprisingly effective blend of R&B elements, guitar, and the occasional saxophone, the enigmatic lyrics are something to explore.
“Well, the song is about a guy who took one too many pills for his anxiety, and he starts hallucinating colours. His shape of reality turns upside down, and everything loses sense. When it says, ‘I’m sorry, no, not sorry; hope you leave without me’, it’s basically him talking to his girlfriend: he’s so dependent on his pills he doesn’t want to leave his private hallucination. It’s about anxiety in general, basically.
“I’ve had a lot of issues with anxiety in the past, and a lot of my songs are an exaggeration of reality. Obviously, if you take something for anxiety you wouldn’t start hallucinating, I just imagined it as if you did. In Serial Killer, it’s about a girl who was with other guys, her boyfriend knew about it but still stayed with her. Palace was about a place in Hungary I used to pregame in before parties, and it was honestly a palace; the bathroom had pillars and a Jacuzzi, it was crazy. Basically, Midnight songs are always an exaggeration of reality.”
[Credit: Midnight Ambassador]
The lyrics are brought to life with André’s vocals, his tempo varying depending on the track albeit always possessing a soft, modulated voice that fits the often lucid atmosphere of his songs. Finding the right vocals was something he struggled with initially when it came to Black and Blue, but a suggestion to go for a limbo between upbeat and downbeat was influenced by his producer, Eduardo; the idea being that it fits the anxiousness present in the song.
André claims that, despite his Portuguese origins, his songs under Midnight Ambassador are all meant to be in English. While it’s not his first language, the artist felt that his singing voice wouldn’t work in Portuguese, the nasally, throaty voice something he couldn’t achieve in his native tongue. The disparity between his voices amuses him some, though.
“I’ve spoken to a friend in Portuguese before, and they said I sounded so different in English, even though I hadn’t noticed. In singing, though, I can clearly notice a difference.”
Whereas many people get songs stuck in their head, unique to André is that it’s often his own music that creeps into his head. It’s not the only thing he’ll sing, of course, because André has a newfound obsession with Glass Animals.
“I saw them live this summer and I fell in love with them; their second album, how to be a human being, I can’t explain it, is amazing. Childish Gambino’s new album is something really inspiring, too; especially Red Bone which was the song that inspired Midnight Ambassador.”
“Tell me about the link between them, as Redbone is massive,” asks Matt; the host a big fan of Gambino’s work, as well.
“I was listening to Redbone, probably while I was playing Rust or something, with my friend, and his brother comes into the room and says, ‘Oh, Andre, haven’t seen you in a while! Have you heard about Childish Gambino’s new album?’ I always knew Gambino for his rap, but when I listened to Redbone I fell in love and I was like, ‘Huh, I wanna do this — I really wanna do something like this!’ So, I guess I mixed indie with Redbone; that’s what Serial Killer is.”
After a round of quick-fire questions, the final fire inspires a question about André’s desired future. The artist wants to retire in Portugal, but before then wants to live abroad to fulfil his musical career, and hopes to one day be featured on Portuguese radio. It seems Midnight Ambassador will have a strong future, even though…
“Midnight Ambassador is gonna die one day.”
Matt almost screams, the statement admittedly throwing me off a little as well.
“He is gonna die, someday,” continues André, laughing at his host’s reaction. “I don’t know when, but I assume it’s when I’m 35, as I want to move into film music eventually. Midnight Ambassador is where I am right now though… I’m really in love with this project.”
[Credit: Midnight Ambassador]
“One more song, then an album?”
André laughs, “One more song, then an album. I can tell you the album’s name: Red, but it’s gonna be blue.”
Matt Dowse Live! draws to a close, an appeal for André’s social media requested by Matt.
“Instagram, @MidnightAndre; Twitter, @MidnightAndre; Facebook, The Midnight Ambassador; and Spotify, Midnight Ambassador — go follow me on there! Most updates come to Instagram, on my story, and I keep messing with my fans as there’s a dispute about what name to choose for their name; Ambassadors or Midnighters… It’s currently tied 50/50.”
With only a few seconds left, André gives us a final plug before the break, the interview drawing to a close as the ever-cheerful musician turns to the mic and says, “Get ready for my latest single, Black and Blue: inspired by Glass Animals.”
Make sure you follow Midnight Ambassador on his social media and check out his incredible music over on Spotify. Quarantine is in the midst of its final production and will be the next single to drop, so keep an eye out! What did you think of André’s music? Tweet us your opinion @TridentMediaUK!