O Presidente

When I’m neck-deep in yet another inbox full of emails from every band, label, booking agent, and publicist under the sun, sometimes the strangest things can pique my interest. Take, for example, O Presidente. We got an email from the band’s singer and guitarist Andrew Zingg that identified the four-piece as “a new San Francisco band,” dropped some names like Fuzz City Records and Spot-On Sound, and then linked to their Bandcamp page. Digging the first couple tracks off their self-released debut LP Clube de Futebol, I noticed in their bio that O Presidente actually calls two locales home – San Francisco and the hallowed halls of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, just 35 miles south of the bucolic (read: deathly boring) suburb of Hartford that I called home as a kid.

If the dirty, grooving sounds of Clube de Futbol and the mentions of Fuzz City and Spot-On weren’t enough (they were), O Presidente had me hooked at the mention of the Nutmeg State. Intrigued by the random connection (you would be too if you came from a state sporting less than ten percent of California’s population), I shot an email back to Zingg, looking for more info about this weirdly bi-coastal band that hails from both the City by the Bay and the banks of the mighty (no, seriously) Connecticut River.

It turns out that half of O Presidente (Zingg and bassist Tobias Butler) is still in Connecticut finishing off degrees, but those two intend to return to the Bay Area after graduation this spring to reunite with guitarist (and Wesleyan alum) Nathaniel Draper and drummer (and current Berkeley senior) Thomas Yopes. Despite their school’s proximity to indie rock mecca Brooklyn, Zingg and company made the conscious choice to return to the Bay. Citing influences including Thee Oh Sees, The Fresh & Onlys, Shannon and the Clams, and Terry Malts, the frontman told me that “with all the great garage/psych/punk happening here, we can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

O Presidente actually formed at the Music House, a Wesleyan-owned “program house” that, according to the University’s website, “aims to provide…a supportive, creative environment for musical activity, from discussion and the exchange of ideas to performance, composition, music production, recording and appreciation.” There, Zingg met fellow resident Draper as well as a handful of other musicians (including Butler) that would join in on the writing and recording of the band’s debut EP, 2012’s Music From Little Spoon (which features a photo of the Music House on the cover), and “Little Spoon” eventually hosted O Presidente’s first gigs, where they played cover-filed sets at college parties.

Listen to “Nickels and Dimes” off ‘Music From Little Spoon’:

Initially set to graduate last year, Zingg took the 2011–2012 school year off, returning home to the Bay Area and writing most of the tracks that appear on Clube de Futebol. “Then,” Zingg recalls, “the rest of the boys came home from school, and we reworked them, played them at shows all summer, and put them on tape.”

When Oakland band Warm Soda played Wesleyan last fall, O Presidente opened and had the chance to meet Matthew Melton, who not only founded Warm Soda (and the now defunct Bare Wires), but also happens to own Fuzz City Studio with bandmate Rob Good. Originally intending to have a classmate mix the record, they turned to Melton and Good when that arrangement fell through. Melton also connected them with Patrick Haight at Spot-On, and O Presidente was thrilled with both outfits’ work on Clube de Futbol, calling them “wizards behind the board.” The album was eventually released on January 9th of this year.

The title Clube de Futebol – with the extra “e” in “clube”, which Zingg is quick to tell me is the Portuguese spelling – originated from a student group he and Draper had during their freshman year of college. “The idea was to form this club that would get Wesleyan funds to pay for a TV and the Fox Soccer Channel so we could get together with our friends and watch soccer,” he admits. “I suppose the Portuguese spelling was an homage to Brazil’s beautiful way of playing the game. Needless to say, Wesleyan never agreed to give us any money. But the name stuck.”

Listen to “Buddy” off ‘Clube de Futebol’:

Eventually, Clube de Futebol became the name under which they booked shows at Wesleyan, and Draper even used it as his “DJ name” during parties at the Music House. Even the band’s name itself was a product of “the Clube” – Zingg tells me that Draper held the highest office in the land; that is, he was referred to as “O Presidente”, of course.

“Around the time we started playing together as a band too, I was becoming obsessed with Tropicália and Brazilian psychedelic rock from ‘60s and ‘70s,” Zingg said of O Presidente’s sound. He eventually discovered that his grandfather David Drew Zingg was an American photographer who lived the last 40 years of his life in Brazil and took the album cover photographs on some of the iconic Brazilian pop records of the 1960s, including the original Tropicália “manifesto album” and the breakthrough records of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

“Although I had been listening to these albums for years, I had never realized my grandfather’s connection to them because he cut off all contact from our family,” he explained. “I ended up going down to Brazil to do research on my grandfather’s life with grants from Wesleyan and interviewed Caetano and Gil, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.”

O Presidente casually refers to their genre as all of the following: “noo-wop,” “bro-fi,” “skate folk,” “hyphy”, and “tropicália.” But, the band’s varied roots, including their interest in Brazilian and other Afro-Caribbean influences, doo-wop, and ’50s and early ’60s American and British pop, are patent on Clube de Futebol, an entertaining, rocking, and even sometimes crooning record, replete with beautiful instrumentation and songwriting. Zingg also likes to think that “some of the newer stuff is faster, louder, with more fuzz.”

Listen to “Brain Chemicals” off ‘Clube de Futebol’:

The cover of Clube de Futebol also features the Music House, although it’s only in the background. At the center of the photo is the band’s good friend Anna, who is apparently a good sport. “She incurred some type of injury on her knees and put duct tape on it, in lieu of bandages,” Zingg told me. “That ended up being a bad decision. Another good friend of ours, Aaron, took the picture and we’ve always liked how it looked, so I guess that’s why we chose it.”

Any plans for Bay Area shows are on hold until after Zingg and Butler graduate, so in the meantime, get your fill over on O Presidente’s Bandcamp page, where you can download both their EP and the new record. Hopefully, the foursome will get some local gigs lined up to celebrate once they’re all back in the Bay this spring.