Behind The Brand: Gustavo Pereira / Neopop Festival | Soundspace

Behind The Brand: Gustavo Pereira / Neopop Festival

Behind The Brand: Gustavo Pereira

Gustavo Pereira is a Portuguese festival owner who back in 2006, launched Neopop Festival. Since then the festival has brought hundreds of DJs to Viana do Castelo, a town just north of Porto.

The 2019 edition of the festival takes place a little under two weeks from now, with headline acts including DVS1, Laurent Garnier, Maceo Plex, Jeff Mills, Underworld and Richie Hawtin.

We had a chat with Pereira about the early days of Neopop, what struggles a festival might face in the beginning, and of course, what the future looks like for one of Portugal’s finest celebrations of dance music.

What made you pursue a career in the music industry? Why a festival?

It’s actually funny you ask that as when I was a teenager first I wanted to be a doctor, I was fascinated by science and medicine but always with music on the background while studying or dreaming about the future. Later on, I found my passion was music and I felt this was what I wanted to do and what I really believed in. I’ve always been following and supporting my music idols, going to shows, then clubs.

At a certain point, I was in the middle of the music industry and working on it. Through the years I’ve started to be more and more involved programming what turned to be the main after-hours event in Portugal, then managing Industria Club in Porto and so on.

The idea of the festival started when I and my two good friends Raul Duro and Filipe Rodrigues were talking about doing a kind of best of from the past club season (as the underground clubs in Porto were closing in August at that time). I was inviting international artists every weekend at Industria and I wanted to compile the best at this event and so everything started in 2006, the first edition of Antipop Electronic Music Festival that was later renamed Neopop Electronic Music Festival.

What was the biggest challenge you faced at the start?

We lost money for some years and I had to make miracles happen to keep surviving. The financial issues were probably our biggest challenge in the first years but that was also due to the big crisis Portugal was facing and because dance music was not actually so big yet here in Portugal. There was some scepticism about these kinds of events and some lack of info about it. So the biggest challenge was keeping the festival alive and turning it into something successful and known (for good reasons).

And what’s your biggest challenge now?

I believe it’s to keep it alive and growing slowly without losing the essence and also doing better every year as we’ve been doing since the start. Every year people talk about the lineup and ask me what am I going to do the next year, that it’s impossible to do better than that, I don’t agree on that but I must confess it’s hard and is a big challenge for me year after year. Surprises will keep coming and we still have a lot to do here.

Talk to us a bit about the Portuguese scene. How would you compare it to the rest of Europe?

Portugal has a history and an important one I believe. It’s not the best scene cause we sometimes face a lack of crowd here and there but nowadays I can’t complain as we are probably in our golden years, not only in tourism but in what refers to music, event attendance, promoters, music producers, Portugal is doing pretty well, fortunately. Can’t compare it with any other as it’s a particular one, the crowd is well informed and demanding but it’s not a massive one.

How do you approach the line up each year? What comes into the decision of whether or not to book an artist?

I try to keep the festival DNA and my vision for it since the first day of the festival. We have some of the usual names who, in my opinion, were responsible for the development of electronic music, who are legends and who I respect big time, then I also mix them with some new and unknown talent that I want to support and I feel combine well and will deliver a good show in between the big names of the line up.

Lately, we have been inviting some of the big live shows that influenced me and most of the electronic music lovers and also we have the Theater stage where we present the most exquisite and forward-thinking acts. I only book an artist that I respect and I believe in for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s not my personal favourite but there is always a strong reason for that artist to be booked.

What’s your favourite memory from a past edition of Neopop?

I have many and it’s not easy to pick one but when Kraftwerk ended their show and smiled to the crowd that was super special to me. I have to say that my favourite memories are the ones when I see the artists smiling and happy with the venue, the hosting, the crowd. That makes my day!

What about future plans, do you still have a vision for the festival 13 years in?

Sure thing, I can’t talk about them now but we have plans at least for another 13 years. Next year it’s going to be a good one as it’s our 15th edition, so prepare yourselves.

Finally, how important is it that you always promote Portuguese talent at Neopop?

Super important, we have a lot of Portuguese talent, DJs, producers and some of them nowadays play more outside than in Portugal and that makes us proud as we try to promote them as much as possible, giving some nice slots for them to show that they aren’t any less good than the artists that people idolize and follow big time. That’s something we will keep doing more and more, year after year.

Find more information and tickets for Neopop Festival here.