There’s nothing better than revving up the engines of 2018 with the thunderous sound blasted by one of the meanest and most humble bassists in contemporary Thrash Metal, a woman who not only kicks some serious ass with her roaring bass guitar, but who’s also an accomplished Extreme Metal vocalist, growling and gnarling like a beast anywhere she goes for our total delight. With that said, please welcome as our first metal chick of the year the stunning and electrifying Brazilian musician Fernanda Lira, better known as the lead singer and bassist for Brazilian all-female Thrash Metal power trio Nervosa. And you better be ready, because Fernanda will accelerate your heart and mercilessly rock you like a hurricane with all her passion for heavy music, her devilish screams and, above all, the groovy wallops of her mighty bass.
Fernanda B. Lira was born on September 9, 1989 in São Paulo, one of the world’s most populous cities with over 20 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, having discovered her love for heavy music and for playing bass guitar at the age of 13, being influenced by her father, who was also a bass player (and with whom she remembers “jamming” with his acoustic guitar or “playing drums” on the leather couch as a child while he played) and a huge fan of bands like KISS and Venom, and by her biggest idol since childhood, Iron Maiden’s one and only Steve Harris. Furthermore, she never attended classes to learn how to play bass, always using her instincts and utter dedication to develop her skills as a musician, blending all that with her endless energy and aggressiveness to make her playing style truly unique. And despite deciding she wanted to be in a band when she was around 15 years old, Fernanda undertook several other endeavors before becoming (and even when she was already) the frontwoman for Nervosa, as for example studying journalism at Faculdade Cásper Líbero (the oldest journalism school in Latin America), working as an English teacher, and presenting a show called Heavy Nation on Rádio UOL together with her friend Julio Feriato from 2012 until 2015, among other projects.
Highly inspired by the aforementioned Steve Harris and by other renowned bassists such as Geezer Butler, Steve Di Giorgio, Geddy Lee, Ron Royce and Markus Grosskopf, our badass Fernanda eliminated the use of picks and dedicated herself to playing with her fingers, also trying to take down from the bass the function of only “marking” the rhythm of the music. Moreover, regarding her vocal inspirations, Fernanda has always tried to learn how to sing by imitating her metal idols Tarja Turunen, Michael Kiske and Geoff Tate; however, after she started working with more aggressive vocal-inspired bands, she began to migrate to a different style of singing, leaning towards a similar style used by extreme music singers Tom Araya (the iconic vocalist and bassist for Thrash Metal behemoths Slayer) and Schmier (from Teutonic Thrash Metal legends Destruction).
Before joining Nervosa, Fernanda was part of two other Brazilian metal bands, both hailing from the city of São Paulo, those being the all-female Heavy Metal act Hellgard (who played more melodic material the likes of Helloween and Edguy), from 2008 to 2009, and Thrash/Death Metal group HellArise, from 2009 to 2011, playing bass and doing some backing vocals, as well as playing bass live for a comedy Heavy Metal band known as Detonator e as Musas do Metal (which translates as “Detonator and the Muses of Metal”), in 2012. She recorded two demos in her pre-Nervosa era with those bands, one being a three-track demo with Hellgard titled Rise of a Kingdom, in 2009, and a four-track demo with HellArise named Human Disgrace, in 2010, with the title-track being re-recorded and re-released in 2016 already without Fernanda on bass. Apart from Hellgard, HellArise and obviously Nervosa, Fernanda was a guest musician for two distinct metal bands from Brazil in the past few years, Post-Black/Doom Metal act Fanttasma and Thrash Metal titans Torture Squad, and in both cases she acted as a guest vocalist, leaving her menacing bass guitar “dormant”, for lack of a better word. You can enjoy her potent vocals in the songs Metropolis and Life Is War, from Fanttasma’s 2013 album Another Sleepless Night, as well as in their 2014 single Voodoo, and in Torture Squad’s 2013 release Esquadrão de Tortura (throughout the entire album) and in their cover version for Coroner’s Divine Step, released as a bonus track for their 2017 opus Far Beyond Existence. And last but not least, she’s also featured in the song Carcaça de Outro Alguém, together with a band called Fire Strike, as part of a tribute album to the cult Brazilian Horror Punk band Zumbis do Espaço; in a partnership with Brazilian guitarist and producer Denis Di Lallo in a song called Struggle to Survive; and in countless live performances with distinct bands and musicians, like for example playing Slayer’s all-time classic Black Magic with Brazilian Thrash/Death Metal band Desaster.
It’s finally time to talk a little about her career with Nervosa, one of the most promising bands not only in Brazilian metal but in the entire world of Thrash and Death Metal. After quitting her previous bands, our raven-haired growler was already searching for an all-female thrash act when she met guitarist Prika Amaral, who already had Nervosa as a project and was in pursuit of a bassist and singer to bring the band into being, which ended up happening in 2010. And Nervosa have been on a roll since their inception, releasing their debut EP titled Time of Death, in 2012, followed by the full-length albums Victim of Yourself, in 2014, and more recently the underground masterpiece Agony, one of the top 10 metal albums of 2016 from our list. From all those three flammable releases by Nervosa, you can slam into the circle pit together with Fernanda and the girls to the songs Masked Betrayer, Death, Hostages and Guerra Santa (with a nice explanation of what this song is all about by Fernanda herself). As a matter of fact, in one of her interviews, our ass-kicking bassist explained in more details the concept behind Guerra Santa, which is Portuguese for “holy war”. According to Fernanda, this song “talks about all the intolerance that goes on when the subject is religion. Although this is not like a Black Metal song talking against God, Jesus or any religion because I totally respect people’s beliefs. So, this song is not against religion but against the way religion can be harmful sometimes; I mean, religions should be preaching about love, respect, being kind to the next of kin, doing good stuff but sometimes they preach about intolerance against like sexual orientation, races, other cultures – destroying temples of other religions – so what kind of good they bring?”
When asked about the fast and growing success of a relatively young band like Nervosa, Fernanda mentioned that metal is always renewing itself, and everything that’s new in metal, such as three girls playing furious and aggressive Thrash Metal like Nervosa, ends up catching a lot of attention from metalheads all over the world. In addition, she believes that, as part of the process, in some years that’s going to become more natural with more and more girls getting involved with metal. In my humble opinion, I strongly believe their music is what’s really driving their success in the heavy music scene, especially when Nervosa are performing live, and you can get a very good taste of their crushing thrash live in several videos on YouTube, such as the songs Time of Death at Estúdio Showlivre in 2012 in Brazil; Justice Be Done at Seis Tercios Sesiones in Colombia in 2014; Masked Betrayer, Victim of Yourself and Nasty Injury at Ao Vivo no Casarão in Brazil in 2013; and in distinct full live performances like their 2016 concerts in Bulgaria and Serbia, and in special their demolishing concert at Rock Al Parque in 2017, arguably the largest free rock festival not only in Colombia but in the entire continent. And Fernanda loves that life on the road and being on stage, having already visited a lot of different countries and cities, despite the fact she never has enough time to walk around and get to know more about the place she’s playing that night nor about its culture or people.
As expected, Fernanda has already been asked numerous times how it feels to be an all-female band and about the growing importance of women in metal music. She said that, at the end of the day, we’re all metalheads nurturing the same passion and admiration for Heavy Metal. She complemented by saying she doesn’t really care about being gendered, because in her opinion being called an all-female Thrash Metal band is just a way to describe a specific genre, like Folk Metal, Black Metal, and so on, given the fact that there aren’t many known bands like Nervosa in the market, and although it was a little difficult in the beginning because they’re playing an extreme style dominated by men in a sexist country like Brazil, people are changing their view of women in metal, supporting them, respecting them and encouraging other women to play heavy music. Moreover, she said there’s still a long way to go regarding this matter because there are many conservative metalheads that do not fully accept girls playing heavy music yet, but that’s something metal as a subversive kind of music can certainly change, with fans of heavy music being in their majority very open-minded, intelligent and cultural people. In addition to that, Fernanda said she has always felt like playing only with girls, as she has always dreamed about that and has always been inspired by girls in metal. All her previous bands were all-female groups, and she knew that it was something new that would help her and her bands stand out in metal.
Another interesting topic discussed by our charming growler in some of her interviews is the usage of the Portuguese language in her lyrics, something you can easily find in other heavy music styles like Punk Rock and Hardcore, with amazing bands like the unparalleled Ratos de Porão applying the Portuguese language to their music almost to perfection, but that’s not very common in Thrash, Death and Black Metal. Although Nervosa have two songs in Brazilian Portuguese, those being Urânio em Nós (from Victim of Yourself) and Guerra Santa (from Agony), she said she has always listened to metal in English despite the fact she was born and lives in Brazil, obviously due to the fact most major metal bands sing in English, and that writing lyrics in English is much more natural and easier for her than in Portuguese. And besides, she believes that the English language helps her spread her opinion and ideas much better than Portuguese to a wider audience worldwide (despite the fact that nowadays it’s quite easy to translate anything in any language), making people think, debate, agree or disagree about the topics and subjects contained in her lyrics.
If there’s one thing you can definitely spend hours watching on YouTube, those are several interviews Fernanda gave in both English and Portuguese to the most diverse channels, shows and websites, and in all of them you’ll be able to notice how fun and honest she is not only as a musician but also as a regular human being. I’ve selected a few of those videos for you, including an interview she gave during Nervosa’s performance at Obscene Extreme festival in the Czech Republic in 2015; her chat with the online show From Hero To Zero in 2016 during Nervosa’s European tour with Destruction, where she talks about how difficult it is to make a living out of metal in Latin America, among other topics; and my favorite (and most distinct) of all, Fernanda, together with João Gordo (the idiosyncratic frontman for Ratos de Porão) and vegan chef Willyan Balbino, preparing a vegan twist to a Brazilian popular food snack named “coxinha”, a savory dough shaped into a drumstick around a creamy chicken salad filling then battered and fried, but in this specific case as Panelaço do João Gordo is a vegan show the coxinha was prepared with jackfruit instead of chicken. They obviously talk about heavy music and other stuff, but the star of the show in the end is the jackfruit coxinha (even for a “meatatarian” like myself, those coxinhas look beyond delicious).
And closing our small tribute to the talented Fernanda, when asked about what her recommendations are for bands that are starting their career in heavy music, she said the best option in the beginning is for the bands to promote their music in their homeland, focusing on what’s around them first before going for bigger markets like the USA and Europe. Nervosa have hundreds of thousands of Facebook and Instagram likes, but most of them come from their fanbase in Brazil and the rest of South America. She strongly believes it’s essential to have a huge support from where you come from, with the only issue in their own case being the fact that it’s really hard to make heavy music in Brazil due to the lack of money, opportunities and support from the media. However, as an obstinate metalhead that she is, she believes in the power and unity of metal fans in Latin America, who are always buying albums, merchandise and attending concerts with more intensity than in other parts of the world, being proud of the scene and proudly carrying the flag of Brazilian metal anywhere she goes with Nervosa. And that, my friends, is how you join professionalism and passion in the best possible way.
Fernanda Lira’s Official Facebook page
Fernanda Lira’s Official Facebook fan page
Fernanda Lira’s Official Instagram
Nervosa’s Official Website
Nervosa’s Official Facebook page
Nervosa’s Official Twitter
Nervosa’s Official YouTube channel
Nervosa’s Official Instagram
“All of my best stories and memories are because of metal. I was born and raised in metal. So, all my boyfriends, all my friends, and experiences are related to metal. That’s why I’m so intense on the stage, I feel like I’m living the dream.” – Fernanda Lira