The soul of antifascist neofolk came from bands who already were connected to the genre, but had a different starting point. For the people of the country, who were resisting encroaching empire or, later, fascist dictatorship, folk music was a type of cultural struggle that helped to remember who they were in the face of total erasure. In Galicia, the regional language and cultural practices, the strength of women and the diversity they respected, was crushed as Francisco Franco’s nationalist regime banned the language and expressions of tradition.
This is what has driven Galician neofolk giants Sangre de Muérdago to focus these folk traditions, handed down by families in their homes and pubs, alive in modern concert halls. A mix of romantic folk revival, traditionalist instrumentation, and a musical drive from the punk and metal world, Sangre de Muérdago has become one of the most defining crossover bands of the neofolk scene and have bucked the perception of the genre as solely owned by the far-right. Instead their anarchist inspired music has pushed back on bigotry and oppression, that was the role of the music from the start.
We interviewed Pablo C. Ursusso, who plays classical guitar and writes much of the music, about how they came together, what role Galician music has in fighting fascist oppression, and why they are taking a stand.
How did Sangre de Muérdago first come together?
Hard to describe, the winds brought us together, and then they separated us again, and then the long journey began… Sangre de Muérdago is an attempt to capture the essence of the wild spirits and translate them into our language through music, and I think this idea is what in first place brought us together.
The sound is firmly based in the Galician folk tradition, why do you focus on reviving Galician music? Did this come from your own family traditions?
The sound is based in Galician tradition but also in many other fields. I think we are more focused on reviving the spirit I mentioned before, but we definitely have a compromise with Galician music and folklore.
I’ve grown up in a relatively undeveloped area and I still absorbed many old ways that were, and in some areas still are, alive.
What role did Galician music and culture play in resisting Franco?
The role it played during the war and the dictatorship was mostly to be in exile, hidden in the villages and the taverns, where people sang and played percussion with spoons and gardening tools.
Franco prohibited Galician language, and he was a Galician himself (only geographically speaking), so it is not only that it was forbidden to sing in Galician, but even to speak it.
Galician teachers were sent to the south of Spain, while southern teachers were sent to Galicia, in order to prevent the children to even learn the proper grammer, because at home, the Galician language was alive, but the blow that the language and culture suffered back then still has effects today.
Where do you find lyrical inspiration, and how does the writing process happen in the band?
I try to dig it up from my own most of the time, but of course I get a lot of collateral inspiration by countless sources. I don’t think I can name a specific tangible something from where I find most of my inspiration.
The writing process is on me, and often we do arrangements together. The process happens usually by surprise, but you know as Picasso said, “inspiration always catches me at work.” With this I mean that I play my instruments a lot, and when not, I sing to myself and my dog very much too, so I think that sentence applies very much to the creative process, and inspiration catches you often with the brush or the instrument or whatever is your tool, in hand.
You play in a huge range of venues, from opera hall to metal venues, why have you chosen to have such a diverse community?
That is something not chosen at all, it just happened and it is something I’m very glad about. A beautiful diversity of people in front of the stage feels very good.
I don’t really know, but after all, we are people that come from many little corners of the musical and cultural world, and some of us have been active for a long time.
I myself grew up with a lot of folk around me and at the same time deep into the anarcho/punk/diy community of music and counterculture, which in the 90s offered some of the most eclectic and interesting music that a scene had to offer, from metal to rock to experimental music. Georg comes from a more metal background, and Erik from a lot of rock and psychedelia, for example, just to mention some of us… and after all, we play folk music!
How do you see the band relating to the struggle for liberation and autonomy?
I sing with all my heart for liberation and autonomy. And at a personal level, the band exists as a product of the struggle for liberation and autonomy.
Do you think it is important for bands to create an inclusive space and stand against bigotry?
Yes. Very much. Bands and everyone in general.
What’s coming next? What tours, albums, collaborations or anything should people be looking out for?
Next is a good winter solstice ritual of magic and music.
We are as well working on our songs for our next album, which will be recorded in February 2020, then on tour through Europe in March, and hopefully for that time we will have in our hands our next release which is a Split Lp with Monarch. We have also some single shows popping up here and there… stay tuned.
We feature Sangre de Muerdago heavily on the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, and will continue to add more tracks as they are released. Below are several albums from their Bandcamp, and stay tuned as we spotlight upcoming releases, tours, and collaborations!