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The Gift

The Gift, Live in Oeiras (AM-FM Tour), Photo by Alexandre Cardana
Background information
Origin Alcobaça, Portugal
Genres Synth Pop
Electronic
Alternative rock
Years active 1994 – present
Labels La Folie
Website www.thegift.pt
Members
Sónia Tavares
Nuno Gonçalves
John Gonçalves
Miguel Ribeiro

The Gift is a Portuguese alternative/electronic/rock band.

Biography

Formed in 1994, The Gift was initially a parallel project of the Dead Souls, Nuno Gonçalves and Miguel Ribeiro’s band at the time. The evolution from one project to another was natural, as they felt the Dead Souls sound was limited to the instruments they were using (guitar, drums and bass) and the need to experiment with new sounds and explore new musical paths was rapidly growing. So, what started to be a side project for these two young men taking their first steps in music got bigger and more important in their lives.

Starting off with two members, The Gift grew to be a four member band with Ricardo Braga and Janita, the latter in vocals. Janita stayed in the band for a short period, being replaced by Sónia Tavares along the way.

Sónia joined the band almost by accident and, despite having been essential to The Gift’s new sound, at the time the choice of a female voice was not welcomed by Nuno who couldn’t imagine a girl singing in the group. The situation got worse as Sónia would not say a single word during the first rehearsals and shied away from the rest of the band. One day she broke her silence, began to sing and immediately wrote the group’s first song: Lenor. The Gift’s first step was taken.

From this point on, The Gift’s sound took shape and, in September 1994, Sónia, Nuno, Miguel and Ricardo (with ages ranging from 16 to 21) enrolled in the Bar Ben Music Competition in Alcobaça. At this stage John, Nuno’s brother, joined the band first as a sound engineer and later as a musician. The group got through all the competition’s stages and took second place – to everyone’s great surprise, given the band’s short time existence.

This result was seen as a great victory and a motivation, giving The Gift more to hope for – the band played its first show at the Alcobaça Monastery in July 1995. This was followed by the Belém Cultural Centre (Lisbon) in September 1996 and the Labirintho Bar (Porto) in November 1996. It was on the night of the Labirintho show that the idea of recording the first demo came up, with the help of the bar’s owner, José Carlos Tinoco.

From that day on and until May 1997, The Gift was 100% committed to preparing their first record, with the intention of showing its music to the media and labels. From this effort, “Digital Atmosphere” was born, a six track enhanced CD featuring interviews and videos, recorded at home but not available in stores.

The goal of getting the music industry’s attention would not be achieved as desired but the expectations towards the music press reviews were overcome.

In that same year the band went on the road, playing at over 30 theatres (many of which sold out) and releasing at the end of the tour a video with the Belém Cultural Centre and the Alcobaça Cine-Teatro’s shows.

Soon after the Digital Atmosphere Tour was over, Ricardo Braga left the band. The Gift was now a four member group again and established the goal of releasing a new record as an independent band, paying for all the costs and without any kind of support from a record label.

Sónia Tavares, The Gift - photo by João Loureiro

This goal was met in November 1998 with the release of “Vinyl”, the band’s first true record, which combined the potentials of new technologies (samples and synthesizer) with classical instruments (violins, cellos, trumpets, saxophones etc.).

“Vinyl” got great reviews from the press straight away, being considered Album of the Year by the Diário de Notícias newspaper and finally getting the attention of the same labels that years before had ignored The Gift’s work. In spite of this, the band chose to stay independent, only signing a distribution contract with an international label which would get the CD all over the world.

It was after the release of this record that the band was invited by The Divine Comedy (an admitted influence) to open its shows in Lisbon, sharing the main stage of the Belém Cultural Centre in January 1999.

Two months later, in March, the Vinyl Tour started and with it the rise of The Gift. The band played over 80 shows, including the biggest Summer Festivals, sold out the most important venues in Lisbon and Oporto, won several awards with the first hit single “Ok! Do You Want Something Simple?” and sold over 20,000 records – which was a first for a debut record of an independent band.

At the end of that year The Gift played for the first time abroad, in Paris (at La Cigalle) and a few months later participated in the prestigious music faire MIDEM 2000 (in Cannes), taking the first step towards the band’s career outside Portugal.

In early 2000, the band closed the “Vinyl” era, releasing at the same time the photo book “A Single Diary” (by Ana Pereira) and the video “Single Hand Camera Documentary” (by Gonçalo Covacich), two artistic visions and documentary pieces on the Vinyl Tour. Once again, all the costs were paid for by the band.

The steps taken abroad initiated at the end of the previous year were followed in June 2000 by the band’s first mini-tour outside Portugal , with several dates in Germany (Expo 2000Hanover), Macau and again France (Paris).

At the end of the year The Gift took a break from touring and started writing songs for the new album, some of which were introduced later in 2001 at the Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands, representing Portugal .

The band went to studio once again to concentrate on recording “Vinyl”’s follow-up. They called for Daniel Howard (a drummer who had collaborated with the Cinematic Orchestra), a string orchestra conducted by Gavin Wright (Nick Cave, Massive Attack...) and Howie B, a well-known producer who had previously worked with U2 and Björk. “Film” emerged from this work, The Gift’s second album released again by the band through its own label, La Folie Records.

Before the album’s release (in April), “Film” premiered in Leiria with a show which marked the beginning of the Film Tour and history was repeated. The band showed its “Film” throughout the country, playing at the Paredes de Coura Festival, the optimushype@meco Festival (sharing the stage with Howie B and Matthew Herbert), at the Interactive TV’s launch in Portugal, live for Sic Radical channel, and radio Antena 3.

“Film” went Gold and The Gift won several awards for its videos (“Waterskin” and “Question of Love” – the album’s first two singles). At the end of 2001, the band was once more invited by Cap Magellan to promote “Film” in Paris.

The following years were a turning page in the band’s career. Always bearing in mind its home country and the Portuguese fans, The Gift wanted to take its music to new audiences and different countries. The previous shows and participations in events related to the international music industry motivated the band and 2002-03 turned out to be decisive in the group’s search for success outside of Portugal.

In March 2002, The Gift flew to the United States to enter the South by Southwest Music & Media Conference in Austin, Texas; in June returned to Paris to perform at the Hôtel de Ville Square; in August they played at the Popkomm and Musikfest Am-Ring festivals in Germany; Spain followed in September with shows in Barcelona; in October the band was back in the USA for a short tour in a few north-American cities (like New York); and in November its first concert in Madrid, Spain, took place.

Of the few performances in Portugal, the Manchester Mad Remixers concerts are a highlight (first at the Lux, and later at the Frágil and the Clinic bars). This was a project specially created for the "24 Hour Party People" film's premiere, which featured The Gift together with Rodrigo Leão and Pedro Oliveira recreating songs from Joy Division, New Order, The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.

Meanwhile, The Gift continued searching for partners abroad to support its music and started to write the first new songs of the post-“Film” era.

The work developed outside of Portugal, mainly in Spain, the United States and Venezuela came through in 2003 and the band practically moved abroad to invest in the first full tour outside Portugal – fully aware of the work waiting ahead but also certain that it was a risk worth taking.

Altogether, there were about 50 venues. The band played in numerous places, such as Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Bilbao, Vigo, New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, London, Caracas, Dunkirk, amongst many other cities.

The Gift was also invited to open for The Flaming Lips and Cousteau, and at the end of the year, in December 2003, got an invitation to perform for the recently launched Portuguese MTV, recording one of the first MTV Live shows in the history of MTV Portugal.

In 2004, The Gift celebrated its first 10 years in music and returned to album releases. At the beginning of the year, the band already had a handful of new songs, which were being introduced in various concerts, and felt it was time to start a new record. After the Sónar 2004 Festival show in Barcelona, The Gift started the production and recording stage of the forthcoming album.

The Gift's album development process had always been complex and hard, but the third record became probably the most difficult one to date, growing more apart from the band's work method, but at the same time the most challenging one.

By the end of the recording sessions, The Gift was faced with a double album, where two distinctive but complementary environments surfaced (one more intimate and introspective, the other more euphoric) and in which duality was the key word. That is why the new CD, the first in three years, was called “AM-FM”.

The first songs from this album were made available through an innovative system, introduced by Vodafone in Portugal, Vodafone Mobile Music. Even before the record was in stores, 5 songs from the new album could be downloaded to mobile phones, with CD quality.

“AM-FM” was released in November 2004 with great expectation from the group's fans, who rapidly sold out the presentation concerts in Alcobaça, Lisbon and Porto (a few days after the band's shows in London, New York and California). A week after being available in stores, “AM-FM” went Silver and not long after that it went Gold, selling more than 20, 000 copies.

The Gift returned to the stage, once again with a victorious feeling, to start the AM-FM Tour in January 2005 and a new cycle in the band's career.

The Gift acted with great success on the Expo 2008 Saragossa, the day of Portugal at the exhibition.

Biography in "www.thegift.pt".

Discography

Albums

  1. 1997 - Digital Atmosphere (demo tape without commercial release)
  2. 1998 - Vinyl - Platinum (+20, 000 copies sold)
  3. 2001 - Film - Platinum (+20, 000 copies sold)
  4. 2004 - AM-FM - Platinum (+20.000 copies sold) (From where the song 11:33, that appears in FIFA 06, was taken)
  5. 2006 - Fácil de Entender

In Portugal, since May 1 2005, the platinum sales mark has changed, and now its for 20, 000 copies. Before it was 40, 000 copies.

Singles

From Vinyl

  1. 1999 - Ok! Do You Want Something Simple? ( the first video from a Portuguese act to be on MTV )
  2. 1999 - Real (Get Me For...)
  3. 2000 - Truth

From Film

  1. 2001 - Waterskin
  2. 2001 - Question of love

From AM-FM

  1. 2004 - Driving You Slow
  2. 2005 - 11:33
  3. 2005 - Music

From Fácil de Entender

  1. 2006 - Fácil de Entender

International Awards

  1. 2005 - MTV Europe Award for Best Portuguese Act

External links

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