002 • Intensity as a role model

Life lessons from my friends
7 min readJan 3, 2021

We knew each other from school. I bombed and had to redo the 9th grade (which would be the freshman year in the US). I didn’t really know anybody, hated the school and most of the people, had gone through a fair share of bullying and all sorts of crap. I was also a very different person back then and probably a bit of an asshole to a bunch of people. Teenage years are the worst. So failing that school year was actually a silver lining to the 12 other years I wasted in that awful place — because in that year I met the group of friends that would be my closest friends still today.

In fact we became friends a little later. Because we both found a connection when we realized that we had something in common: advertising. Strangely that was the igniting factor, even after we went to the same school, had lots of mutual friends, lived in the same neighbourhood and liked the same music. Another great friend once told me: “if you let, life will show you”. I guess for all the past years I wasn’t really seeing all the connections and advertising will take the credits for this one.

Anyway, this particular guy has a pivotal role in my career, work ethics, musical taste and with the most incredible things that happen to me: becoming a singer, spending entire weekends in the rehearsing studio and playing music live — really the absolute most transformative and incredible moments I got to experience were because of singing, and therefore because of him.

Let’s start with our careers.

He went to a top-level advertising school, after taking pre-university technical training in design. He was miles ahead of anybody that was starting university that year. He was already pretty much wired into knowing all agencies, creative directors, awards, tools and references.

On my side, because of the awful years before that, I was into computers. Had some sense of aesthetics and real pleasure choosing fonts for my school papers. I was already mind-blown by the first steps the internet was taking and was building and designing websites since school. The internet deserves a whole letter, because for many years it was my portal to the world, to finding my identity, to understanding my taste and skills. I wanted to work “with the internet” and was accepted to a fairly ok school thinking that I would learn progressive digital advertising. HA! We are talking about 2000, ok? Teachers didn’t even have emails back then.

Because my family was going through some tough times, I was focused on finding an internship that would pay me anything so I could be less dependent on my parents. A friend connected me with another friend and I got this internship at a 7-people digital studio that was pretty much designing for intranets, corporate newsletters and exploring the new worlds of Flash animation.

Wait. This is not about how I started. It’s about how our friendship started.

So, I was there learning the ropes on the small studio and bumped into him in some music joint. We reconnected after years and to his surprise I wasn’t a jerk anymore and was actually working and doing something that he was also doing, and looking for an internship. I made an intro and he was hired. And boy, he raised the stakes at that tiny company.

We worked together for a year or so, while commuting to the same neighbourhood and going to school. His school projects were just so well done, and I struggled to understand why he put so much effort into any print ad he was doing for school. And he explained it all to me. Always intense, with laser focus. The way he stared at the screen looking for pixel perfection was really how I learned to look at the work. Anything that had the opportunity to look incredible, would deserve all his energy to make it look incredible. He taught me Photoshop hacks that I still use and impress people with today. He taught me how to understand lights, shadows, photography treatments and exporting files for print. He told me that fonts have stories and purpose. He showed me books, references, gave me names of the industry rockstars, told me all the advertising stories… he was much more important than the average ad school I was going to. His passion for art direction, detail and craft set the standard to everything I would do for the next 20 years.

He left this little studio to work at the largest editors group in Brazil, in a digital team that was doing really impressive work at the time, creating the digital presence for the most famous magazine titles in the country and for the coolest music streaming service of that decade (something like Spotify is today, but in Brazil and in 2002). And I stayed a little longer in the studio. Roughly a year later, he got his first break into an actual advertising agency and repaid me that intro by recommending me to fill in for his role at Editora Abril. And that was the moment he took the traditional advertising route and I dove into the digital world. I was so happy at that job for as long as I was there. And little did we know that not only we would work again a decade later, but we would have a side gig that would create the best memories we could have.

The transition to music

While we were there, hustling through the first few years of our careers and working to finish Uni, this guy had a band. He was always in a band since school. He always had a guitar in the trunk of his car. He was always very committed to the work so he could leave to play. And he always took music damn seriously. He still takes.

At this time our group of friends, all from the same school, had this band together. They were putting songs out, playing in shit holes and starting to get to enough material for an album of original work. They were playing stoner rock. Nobody even knew what the fuck was Stoner Rock at that time. I started to hang out with the band, hit their jams every weekend, go to their shows and quickly became sort of an extra member of the band, helping out with anything I could but mainly just third-wheeling that whole thing because it was fucking awesome.

Being a sidekick to your friends’ band (I gave myself the title of artistic producer haha) was an immersion into their creative world. The bands they listened to. The pedals, tones, effects, gear… the sound. I was their external pair of ears that would ensure the live sound reflected their vision. I was immersed in the most exciting world that allowed me to learn so much about my favorite thing in life. At this time I started flirting with songwriting and a couple of lines ended up in their tracks. All because this guy opened the door and of course all our other friends — that deserve their own texts — allowed me to be part of it.

As I got more and more involved with the band, I started to give them unwanted suggestions and persistent and restless presence in all their sessions and gigs. One day, their lead singer couldn’t get to the studio and they asked me to sing. I knew all their songs anyway and the expectation was just for me to track the vocals so they could play along and practice. Holy shit, I can feel it right now. I remember all so vividly, because that silly ask revealed something about me that I might have never discovered. I didn’t know I could sing until that moment. And that moment alone changed my life.

As I started my voice wasn’t really projecting and they asked for more. I don’t know if anybody reading this ever sang, but it’s an experience grounded in fear. You are exposed, vulnerable and very much prone to be judged and humiliated. The fear of letting it out and singing out of tune or making a fool of yourself is there all the time (and probably still is). They were not worried as I was and they were my friends — “Fuck this, shout if want to, we don’t care. Let it out!” — and then I did. And a few minutes later I was singing and they were shocked — which was the most reassuring feedback I could ever get. They were the highest bar I knew, and somehow I got game.

One jam session became every jam session and it was so inspiring that there was no other option than to gather some other friends to make our own music too. And 2 studio hours every weekend became 4h and 6h as both bands were sharing the drummer and studio space. We would spend our weekends drinking, playing, laughing and making music amongst our best friends. What could be better than that? We brought our design chops to the band, and making posters and flyers became our playground. And on my band’s side, we worked hard to after some time open for them — which is still one of the most unforgettable nights of my life.

In the next years I followed their band in gigs all over Brazil and opened their gigs many times. We spent months in a studio recording their album. I got to record some backing vocals which is still something I’m super proud of today. We also recorded our first demo. Always together. There’s so many stories. All the great stories actually. This experience prepared me to then start my 2nd band, which for the following 8 years put me every weekend on my favorite place on earth: the stage. All because of this guy.

So, for over 20 years he has been this influence on rigor, focus and perfectionism. On studying your craft and applying all your energy into doing the things you love. He made me appreciate the grind of the process. The intensity when it comes to work and fun. The labor of carrying sound gear and the humming sound in your ears. He gave me hangovers, experiences, playlists and highs that I might never have gotten if it wasn’t for his generosity in sharing every bit of his knowledge, skills and art. I learned commitment. I learned rock n roll.

Peruche, thank you for giving me an extraordinary youth.

Love you my friend.
Z

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Life lessons from my friends

This is a project of gratitude, and an effort to improve my english writing skills.