Pombagira | Interview with Pete Hamilton-Giles


Pombagira, as some of you with an interest in Afro-Brazilian religious beliefs might recognise, is the name of a female entity or spirit from Quimbanda that manifests and encompasses female beauty, sexuality, and desire.
What most of you don’t know yet is that Pombagira is also the name of a psychedelic-doom duo divided between London-UK and Sacramento-US that just recently issued their third full-length record called “Baron Citadel”.
It seems rather odd for an act plying such miserable and gargantuan sound to pick a name that portrays the female sexuality in such lustful manner. Was it consensual choice at first?

“Carolyn and I knew an Afro-Brazilian or Afro-Caribbean religious name was what we needed for the band. We found the attributes of Pombagira fitted neatly into what we wanted to say about the band. Depicted as a female devil, her role within the Quimbanda movement is to protect the downtrodden. We loved the idea of using a name that reflected our interests in the everyday life experiences of people throughout Brazil and the Caribbean. The destitute negotiate their lives according to the guidance they receive from spirits like Pombagira. This relationship reflects the inspiration we fill when writing our music. While the ritualised and religious aspects to our music are self evident, the essence being found in our compositional style as well as lyrical content indicates our ongoing fascination with the invisible world.”

The Afro-Caribbean religions and the occult play any sort of role in the lyrical imagery of the band as well?

“Absolutely. Spiritual experiences I have had in Haiti, England and Nepal have informed every aspect of our lyrics. I have been witness to many spiritual interventions. I have been present when people have been possessed in both Haiti and Nepal. I have discussed matters of personal importance with the spirits. From shamans in Nepal to Voodoo priests in Haiti I have seen authentic visitations by spirits, watched while they re-affirm the need to remember the ancestors, awed at the extra-human abilities of the possessed. I have been guided into the graveyard in Haiti and have been introduced to the Baron and keeper of the cemetery. These experiences inform the riff and the lyrical content.”

Comprised by Carolyn on drums and Pete on guitar and vocals, who also function as a married couple, Pombagira started out as a four-piece in 2007 with members of Blood Island Raiders and Ramesses on board. What were the circumstances that led to the current formation as a duo?

“In short it was despair. For the longest time we wanted a bass player, we did everything we could to find one. We even went as far as putting up adverts in London. The last bass player we had in the band was a guy called Mark. He was such a lovely guy but he didn’t dedicate enough time in his personal life to learning and rehearsing the songs that combined with him always turning up late to rehearsals drove us slowly insane with frustration. This all came to a head when we went to record Baron Citadel the first time around and it transpired he still didn’t really know the songs even after intensively rehearsing the songs. It kind of fell apart from there with him, we ended up asking ourselves why we needed a bass player because we have all of this equipment we could use. As soon as the decision was made we never looked back. It worked on so many levels, we didn’t need to consult someone else about whether they could tour, we didn’t need to teach someone else our songs.”

Is that a permanent situation or will you eventually might consider adding another guitarist or bassist in the future?

“It is a permanent situation. We would consider collaborations or having a guest guitarist. But how many people have an equivalent collection of amps…there aren’t many.”

The first time I’ve listened to “Baron Citadel” I was really impressed with the way the guitars are tuned, really, really low, it’s something that's almost halfway between a guitar and bass. Is that an essential part of your music?

“Yes the tone of the guitar is of utmost importance. It is something that we strive to improve by getting hold of other vintage amps. We are very happy with our set up at the moment but we are always on the hunt for new amps that might add more colour to our sound.”

So how would you define “Baron Citadel” to those who never listened to Pombagira before? The music is slow and painful sounding yet there is a subtle sense of mysticism and psychedelic as well.

“I think you have already done a good job describing our music. I would say Pombagira is more than just about the music, but about the idea, the lyrics, the tone, the heaviness. We ask people to join us on a psychedelic journey into the realm of the occult.”

The band has been pretty active in the live circuit this year, you’ve just come back from a European tour with Eagle Twin, which had a date in Portugal in Oporto. What has been your favourite moment live so far?

“Yes that’s right we have been extremely active this year. We had some amazing experiences on the road one of which was the show we played in Porto on a boat. Other highlights would be Geneva where people were actually requesting songs from previous releases. Nuremberg was also really great fun, and we have some very firm friends down there. Maybe our favourite moment would have to be playing in Geneva, there were so many people, most of whom seemed to be there to see us rather than Eagle Twin, sold a lot of merch, and got to drink lots of shots. We had a fantastic time. I would say though that the tour we did at the beginning of September when we went out to the continent on our own was the best touring experience have ever had. The Eagle Twin tour was a bit of a let down in comparison for many different reasons. But let’s face it, being on the road is always going to be better than trying to hold down a regular job which ever way you look at it.”

More info at: www.myspace.com/pombagiradoom