Interview - Inês Vaz de Sousa

Inês Vaz de Sousa was born in Portugal, but having moved here at age five she now considers Australia home. Her heritage shines through – a kind yet fiery soul with a riveting presence and highly distinct vocals, describing herself with a laugh as “officially the craziest star sign of the zodiac… Very split down the middle but the most fun and the craziest.” Known for their expressive traits, this Gemini is not one to hold back; her passion, out of this world creativity and non-stop spontaneity makes this empowered musician one to admire and definitely not one to be missed live.

Taking it back to early childhood, Vaz de Sousa grew up as a dancer practicing ballet. Naming herself a “bun-head” she expanded this avenue by attending Newtown High School Of The Performing Arts. The musical side of the school captured Vaz de Sousa’s interest – along with a desire “to be John Coltrane” she laughs – turning her attention to learning the saxophone.

She was heavily involved in the music scene while studying, “focusing on big bands, swing bands and improvised jazz music. It was through those avenues – alongside being one of the only girls in the school band – that my singing progressed, filling in whenever the singer was ill,” she explains. During the last years of high school Vaz de Sousa saw herself accumulating more and more gigs, opening up extraordinary experiences and opportunities.

Now you can find Vaz de Sousa performing all across live music venues in Sydney supported by her incredible band – though “you may not be aware of these young, prolific players by name, but by the bands they play in,” Vaz de Sousa suggests. She and David Rodriguez [Sampa The Great] met while performing a gig together whilst both filling in for other musicians, and Rodriguez’s roomie Miles Thomas [Montaigne, Japanese Wallpaper] joined them on drums. The fatalism of living arrangements struck again introducing Vaz de Sousa and the band to Jan Bangma [bass – New Venusians] and Andrew Bruce [keys, vocals – Wallace, Ngaiire].

She is a fierce spirit at the best of times, but when her band join forces they never fail to fill a room with their sound. “I owe them everything!” she gushes. “We write together, I basically bring the melodies and chord progressions to them and then we record in a fashion of improvising in a studio and then adapt that for a live show.”

On their latest release The Vessel you can expect to hear “songs titled and associated with the body, being ruled by my own vessel, my body, through dancing and having a high pain threshold, I tend to write about disfigurement, displacement and love,” she explains.

Over the last five years Vaz de Sousa has divided her time between Australia and New York, finding inspiration in “the abundant hidden music spaces [and] being surrounded by people who have been doing this for a lot longer than us back home; a true cultural taste where music first flourished. With no aspirations to actually make it big in New York, I hope to see Sydney as the next cultural hub, foreseeing a thriving underground, building up.”

She says that the lockout laws “have just exasperated a need for people to do their own shit. Yes, I have lost a few venues due to them, but the laws have pushed my band and I to expand to areas in the Inner West… Tyson Koh is doing an incredible job with ‘Keep Sydney Open’,” she extols. “People power works, everyone coming together to support the culture of night life. It isn’t centred around alcohol consumption, it’s about freedom of creativity and the ability to express yourself,” she adds. “This is the way forward to make a living for new musicians, contributing myself by putting on my own gigs, taking action and investing personal money and time into local venues to draw in crowds and to spread a sense of community.”