From making music in their parents’ basements as teenagers to releasing albums and touring the world as adults, Lisbon indie rock band You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown (YCWCB) have had an incredible journey.
Invited by RTP to write a song for Festival da Canção 2023, YCWCB has sent the mesmerizing “Contraste Mudo.”
As we gear up for the first semi-final of Festival da Canção this evening, we’re excited to welcome YCWCB to ESC United before they perform tonight.
Get to know band members Afonso Cabral (vocals and keyboard), Pedro Branco (guitar), and Salvador Menezes (guitar and bass) in our Q&A below!
How did you choose “Contraste Mudo” as your entry for Festival da Canção ?
Afonso: “We all liked it, and felt confident that we were proud of the song. You can easily get lost writing for a thing like Festival da Canção or Eurovision, and lose track of what you are as a musician and as a band. We were happy that this represented us and made us feel proud of what we were doing, so we sent it!”
Pedro: “That was one of our main goals with the participation in the festival. Either we make something that fits more into the global aesthetic of how Eurovision works, or go full You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown. So it was kind of a mix, more into the YCWCB side.”
What is the story behind “Contraste Mudo” ? Can you tell fans about the meaning?
Afonso: “I take a lot of time when I write lyrics and get obsessed about details and what I’m not happy with. It’s hard to know what to write about and what fits in a song. But this was the opposite. It was a burst, and came out all at once. It’s about the feeling of when you’re holding a lot of stuff in, and that can somehow affect everything you’re thinking and how you view the outside world. You know that feeling like you’re going to explode? It’s about trying to get out of that phase and breathe a bit more.”
What has inspired your music the most over the past decade?
Afonso: “We’re six people, so what inspires us is different depending on the individual. It changes a lot over the years sometimes. The other day Pedro and I had a conversation about how we’ve been doing this for so long, you start feeding off your own work. At the beginning, inspiration comes from outside but then you work off what you did.”
Pedro: “Before thinking about the outside or what we’re listening to, it’s what can we do with what we are already? Can we work around that, and what can we do that we didn’t do before?”
What does the potential opportunity to go to Eurovision mean to you?
Afonso: The big thing about participating in this is being able to share your music with a different audience than you’re used to. We take it all a step at a time. It’s nice just to be able to have the Portuguese audience that’s not used to our music listen to it, and hopefully that makes them want to listen more. Then there’s the whole Eurovision and Festival da Canção international community that I didn’t know was that big. Even talking to someone in the United States right now about a song we made for a Portuguese competition is kind of mind-blowing in a way! We’re just happy to be able to show are music to more people.
Do you have any favorite Eurovision songs?
Afonso: I used to live in Belgium as a kid, so “J’aime la vie” by Sandra Kim, that’s one that’s really rooted in my childhood memories. In Belgium, it was almost like a national anthem.
What plans do you have coming up aside from Festival da Canção this year?
Afonso: All of us have different projects on our own or with other people, and we want to continue playing our new album.
Pedro: I have a record with a good friend of ours that we made during the pandemic, and it’s coming out in May if you guys want to check it out. All of us are probably going to release solo albums before we do the next YCWCB record. Festival da Canção caught us in a moment where we were figuring out where we could go with the band, and with this project, so it will be really nice to play more of our record! We just had a couple of shows. We’re impatient people, so we will keep putting music out.
Afonso: There’s always something by someone from the band.
We’re excited to check out more of your solo works! As a band that has been together for more than a decade, what are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Pedro: I was really proud to join it — I was the last to join.
Afonso: There’s not a specific moment for me, just the bulk of the whole thing, being able to start a band in your parents’ basement and being able to play most of the big stages here in Portugal and travel to the U.K. and U.S. The journey is the fun part. And inviting Pedro to the band!
That is quite a journey! Can you tell us more about your beginnings?
Afonso: Salvador and I, and two other band members, we used to have a a band when we were teenagers. It ended at a certain point. A friend of ours who’s not in the band anymore, Salvador and I were writing songs on our own but we reached out to each other, asking “Do you want to play on my record?” We realized it was silly to have all of us play in different records, so we went on to form a band. It quickly grew into a six-piece band. We used to rehearse either in my parents’ house or Salvador’s parents’ house.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?
Pedro: Reading, watching basketball. I love my cat a lot! And the guys have children so they don’t have a lot of hobbies.
Afonso: Most of the band has small kids, so when we’re not making music or at work for those who have other jobs, we’re taking care of our families. Maybe in a couple of years we’ll have more time to do stuff like petting cats! Shared calendars are a big thing for us.
Is there any message you’d like to share with fans?
Afonso: We hope you listen to our music, and if you like it, thank you! Share the word.
Pedro: And stay hydrated! Sleep well, be kind to each other, love your cats.
You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown are among the first 10 artists competing in Festival da Canção this year. Semi-final 1 starts at 22:00 Central European Time on RTP this evening.