When musician Sergio Dias brought his ’60s Brazilian rock band Os Mutantes back from the dead in 2006, reviving the group after a 28-year hiatus for a show in London, he was shocked to find who was in the audience.
“We were extremely surprised by the kids that were there,” says Dias, 62, on the phone from his Sao Paulo hometown. “It was, like, all teenagers, and it was an amazing thing. And so, the least that we could do was basically keep on putting out new music.”
And thus the second coming of Os Mutantes began.
The band from Sao Paulo, which was integral in creating the trippy, psychedelic, bossa nova-tinged art-rock known as Tropicalia, went on to tour and perform extensively. Dias is proud of his band’s legacy, as well as being one of the chief architects of the Tropicalia sound.
“I mean, that’s what we created,” he says. “The fact that, now, we are older doesn’t change in any way the motives of the things that drives us as musicians and artists. There’s a huge connection to Brazil – I’m from there – and a huge connection to all the things that we’ve lived, you know. There’s no way that you can just erase this out of your soul, you know.”
Os Mutantes (Portugese for “the mutants,” by the way) has had quite an influence on popular artists over the years. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes and the late Kurt Cobain have all declared their love for the band and their music. David Byrne even released a best-of compilation through his Luaka Bop label in 1999. (Os Mutantes compilations always seem to pop up. Earlier this year, the Which record label released the vinyl-only “The Sixth Finger: Singles, Rarities and Outtakes: 1965-1968,” a release Dias didn’t know about until this interview.)
Considering how old and new fans have been equally drawn to the music Os Mutantes created back in the day, Dias felt that, when it came time to record new music, if it’s not broke, then don’t fix it.
“Well, I think the most amazing thing, as far as the way we started – I mean, when we decided to do the reunion – was to revisit, for example, myself and see and play whatever that kid of 16 years old was playing,” he says. “And I was, like, 59 or whatever and I could have changed everything, you know. But there was no way that I could change, because it was perfect.”
In 2009, Mutantes released “Haih or Amortecedor,” their first album of new material since 1974. They followed that release this year with “Fool Metal Jack,” on which, unlike “Haih” and the rest of the band’s catalog, the band mostly performs tunes in English.
While various members (including co-founder and Dias’ brother Arnaldo Baptista) have come and gone over the years, Dias, who remains the lone, original member, insists that he isn’t looking for Os Mutantes to be a revolving door for past and present members.
“If that would happen, I would be the first person to stop,” he says. “I already did stop in 1978 or ’79, because I felt that the guys weren’t treating it or not understanding what it was about. So, I stopped the band and it was like ‘The Sword in the Stone,’ waiting for somebody to pick it up.”
Of course, it would be Dias who would pick Os Mutantes up again and present its psychedelic sound to appreciative 21st-century fans.
“The main reason was basically because of the audience,” he says. “We have to give it back, you know.”