Insch have been confidently asserting themselves in alternative rock circles for a number of years now in their native Portugal. But Insch’s very own Tiago, Manel and Migalhas will happily point out that it hasn’t all been roses and that from time to time it has been an arduous journey getting there, especially because they perform all their songs in English. But this fortunately hasn’t stopped them from being able to command a steady groundswell of support from hardcore fans to curious onlookers like myself. To be quite frank, it’s hard not to like these guys, especially their debut album Safe Haven. Interestingly, their influences are wide and varied, something that I like and look for in a band. Furthermore they are quite humble, simply striving to be the best that they can be.
That said, I recently contacted Insch’s lead vocalist and guitarists, Tiago Duarte. To my surprise, I found out we had a lot in common, especially our admiration for 90’s alternative rock. I asked him if we could talk about Insch and he was thrilled by my inquisitive nature for reaching out. Without further ado, here is what we talked about.
Where did the title of your album Safe Haven come from? Does it have any significance in meaning to you?
“Safe Haven” is actually the closest meaning to the word “insch”. The name derives from the Scottish Gaelic innis, meaning “island”, “haven”, “sanctuary” or even “an island where you can be safe from your enemies”. It just felt natural to call the album Safe Haven.
What was the inspiration behind why you wanted to play music?
Tough question! I guess we wanted to play music because we grew in the 90s and it was just a normal thing, the way things were. You listened to punk, to grunge, to metal and you related to the message, to the music, to the urgency of making a difference. And every kid was in 3 or 4 bands, obviously. Even though we come from very distinct musical backgrounds (Migalhas, the drummer, is more pop and ska punk; Manel, the bassist, is more indie and alternative; Tiago, guitarrist and vocals, is more grunge and nu metal) I think I can recall the three of us being on stage, with tens of other guys, playing some small high school gig.
What are some of the earliest and/or most influential bands you have seen in concert?
My first really big concert (Tiago) was Smashing Pumpkins in 2000, I was an early teen and luckily a cousin of mine snuck me out and took me to see them. But the most influential bands I’ve always tried not to miss live were Deftones (6x), Incubus (5x) and Pearl Jam (5x). For Migalhas, his all time favorite band to see live is Dave Mathews Band, he really likes Carter Beauford’s style and technique. Manel’s most influential concerts were Nine Inch Nails and Tool, he really enjoys those types of songs with heavy basses on the rhythmic construction.
I’ve had the the pleasure of listening to your album repeatedly over the last week. It reminds me why l love alternative rock so much. Safe Haven has a full compliment of great riffs and basslines. Tracks move from forthright authenticity on ‘Spring’s Concrete‘ to emotional vulnerability on ‘Home’. Did you guys intend it to sound that way or did things just naturally progress to that?
Pure luck, we guess. (laughter) We never intended to even record an album, the songs kind of grew on their own, the public reacted to them and before we knew it, the album was born. We created the songs, first and foremost, for ourselves and just for the pleasure of playing, as friends. The album came almost like a natural consequence, and it’s so pleasing to know someone ~18 thousand kilometers from us can relate to it. It’s almost magical, thank you.
There is a maturity to your sound that, although influenced by grunge elements, you are still able to include your own elements. What do you invisage your future music to sound like? Will it differ in style and/or incorporate other rock influences?
Well that’s a really nice question because we ourselves fought with that question. “The album is done, the songs are out there. What do we want to be now? Who do we want to be next?”. And because Portuguese radio absolutely does not air rock music sung in English (no national radio accepted any songs from us), many people tried to give us advice we should “be more pop” or “sing in Portuguese” and so we did what we felt was right: the opposite. We are already recording the first songs of our second album and they’re heavier, with more of a “metal” feeling to the instrumental construction, even though always with a rock-ish style of singing.
How do you craft your songs?
Always together, always free jamming. We strongly believe this is the best way to make the songs special to all three, to have everyone in on it since the first chords or riff. Probably it consumes a lot of more time but it feels just right.
A good gauge of a wonderful band is how well they play live. What are the most important factors that help you on stage?
Being close friends. We’ve been friends long before being a band and we’re good friends outside being a band, our girlfriends are also friends of each other and we know all of our parents! (laughter) We’ve been friends for 15 or more years now so every show is so special because you’re sharing something really deep with your best friends, and that chemistry gets to the audience, we believe.
Which album track(s) do you most love playing live?
100 shows later, I think it’s safe to say “Whenever You Call My Name” and “Home”.
What is the music scene like in Portugal?
Is it influenced by trends from around the world?
The music scene here absolutely follows international trends and because we have a small country (10M people) with not so many big radios nor venues, it’s very tough to counter trendy acts like ours. Just to give you an idea, we did it all by ourselves: no label wanted our record, no booking agency, no promoter, no national radio. Even though we have some of Europe’s best and biggest summer festivals, at this point the industry is mostly open to afrobeat, reggaeton and some psichedelic rock. But it’s fine because we never did it for the money, we’ll be fine as long as we keep our day jobs. (laughter)
What is Insch’s motto in life?
We don’t really have a motto, we try to do what we feel is right at each given moment. Along these 15 years of friendship we’ve grown so much together and have endired so many different situations that having just one motto even seems a little silly. Be silly, that’s a good motto!
Insch’s debut album, Safe Haven, is out now through Farol Musica, under license from Insch. Also check out Safe Haven on iTunes.
You can connect with Insch via their Facebook page or twitter feed @inschmusic. You can also visit or contact Insch via their website.
Photo credits: The header image of Insch is copyrighted Catarina Anjos and used by me with permission of Insch. It cannot be copied or re-used for any purpose without their expressed permission. I am not the uploader of You tube clips embedded here.
Great interview, Robert, and they seem so thoughtful, honest and down to earth. It was interesting to learn a bit about the Portuguese music scene, such as it is, as well as the challenges they face trying to get their music heard. But face it, English is the way to go if a band wants to be heard worldwide (“Despacito” notwithstanding lol).