(This feature originally appeared in issue #65 of Shindig! magazine. For the full unpublished Q&A click over the jump at the bottom of the post)
The Vicenza-based band have a dark and impassioned take on '60s Americana. Duncan Fletcher checks out this Italian renaissance.
“Can you imagine crossing Venice through its canals on a little wooden boat, late at night while the city sleeps? ... When you see the moon mirroring itself in the water while a Mexican guy is bringing you, with his boat, to an after-show party... you know you’ll remember that moment forever.” So says vocalist Anita Formilan explaining the inspiration behind the title of the group's second long-player Wet Moon. Following on from 2015's
Cosmic Pyre, this latest work contains echoes of US acts such as The 13th Floor Elevators and The Doors, along with tracks which favour a more expressionistic, textural approach.
What holds it all together are Anita's vocals, reminiscent of San Francisco sirens Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, which spar with the twang 'n' tremolo guitar of her band-mates. “My favourite singers are Billie Holiday, Karen Dalton, Diamanda Galas, Nina Simone, Memphis Minnie. My approach is shaped by different elements - the golden decadence of jazz and blues, the raw energy of punk and the smooth elegance of Italian movie soundtracks from the '60 and '70s.”
Along with the obvious love of American sounds, there's a passionate Italian heart at the core of their work. Anita explains - “We love Vicenza: art, architecture, history and events make this area interesting and alive. Venice, Padova, Treviso and Verona are less than one hour from here, all beautiful cities. Entertainment and culture are easily available everywhere.”
The album was recorded with friend and producer Matt Bordin in his Outside Inside Studio, where the band made full use of its analogue sounds and vintage instruments. “Working with him is always funny and intense. We love recording there, it allow us to retreat in a hideaway where we can switch off from our daily lives and focus on what we love the most.”
Wet Moon is out now on Go Down Records.
(Click over the jump for the full Q&A.)
The album's title came from a post-concert walk, can you tell us what made that night so special?
Can you imagine how it could be crossing Venice through its canals on a little wooden boat, late in the night while the city sleeps? We remember that pretty well. Venice it’s a breathtaking city and sometimes we forget about that because it’s only a hour from home; that night we became aware of how perfect some circumstances can be: when you see the moon mirroring itself in the water while a Mexican guy is bringing you, with his boat, to an after-party in Venice, after a gig…then you know that you’ll be remembering that moment forever.
How does the new album differ from your previous recordings?
Wet Moon is much more direct and cohesive than the previous one. We aimed writing something with simpler structures. We were interested in building atmospheres, in transferring to the listener what each song may suggest. Eventually, what came out is an album with pop traces, and with a strong connection with the unconscious that’s on our minds.
I like the way the album shifts between traditional songs structures and more textural pieces. Can we expect more of this in the future? How do you see your music progressing next?
We are currently working on the new album, and we can say we’re still close to that unconscious world we told you about. But probably it’s gonna be faster and some structures are gonna be less simple than the previous one. We’re not premeditating anything this time, we just felt the need to create something new as soon as we could, and we’re working hard on this.
There's a dark psychedelic Americana feel to your music. How did you first get attracted to the '60s US sound?
We are really attracted to the ‘60s, and not only to the sound. It’s something we inherited from our parents, from our childhood. When we decided to form Mother Island, we wanted to resurface these dawning influences we’been been carrying since we were children.
A little background on the band – How/when did you you all meet and how did the band come together?
We didn’t really meet and said “hey, why don’t we put up a band together?”, it’s more like we got in the same train at different stations. Each one of us came across Mother Island on his own, for disparate reasons. We came at this line-up around the end of 2013, after some months we were recording our first album. Since then we’ve been spending lots of time doing what we love the most: exploring the forms our creativity may acquire.
Nice video for 'On Days Like These'. What's the song about?
The song is about escaping everyday’s life. We used a classic topos, a traditional cliché, that is getting away through a journey.
What's the music scene like in Vicenza? Does coming from this region influence your music in anyway?
The music scene is prolific, we know many cool bands we’ve built strong friendships with, and when we’re together we know how to have fun. Somehow we love Vicenza: art, architecture, history and events make this area interesting and alive, you can find beauty in many of its forms. Venice, Padova, Treviso and Verona are less than one hour from here and all of them are beautiful cities, entertainment and culture are easily available everywhere. Maybe we weren’t that aware years ago, but we feel lucky being here.
How was it working in the studio with Matt Bordin? What did you learn from him and how did he help shape the record?
Matt Bordin is first of all a friend, so working with him is always somehow funny and intense. We love recording at Outside Inside because it allow us to retreat in a hideaway where we can switch off from our daily lives and focus on what we love the most.
We chose him for both albums because his technical approach and his taste well fit our music. His experience and knowledge actually gave us prompts which became part of our cultural baggage, and of course raised the quality of the records.
Do you find songwriting easy? Is it craft or inspiration?
We could say it’s 50-50. It depends on the song itself, the mood we have and hundreds of other things. Some songs can come out from a jam session, some others require days before they take their final shape, forcing us to explore different solutions. Lastly there are songs that come out after particular events which may occur in our lives. We can’t tell whether songwriting it’s easy to us, surely we love spending time on that and all of us take part at the process, making the whole thing quicker.
The vocals are great on the album! Who are your main influences as a singer?
Thank you! Well, for me it’s always hard to mention my influences because the list is sooo long cause I’ve been spending my whole life listening to different kind of music and artists.
I should say that my favourite singers are Billie Holiday, Karen Dalton, Diamanda Galas, Nina Simone, Memphis Minnie. Not only singers are important for me. My approach involves and it’s shaped by different elements such as the golden decadence of jazz and blues, the raw energy of punk and the smooth elegance of the Italian movie soundtracks from the 60/70s.
There's a cathartic quality in the vocals. Is singing a form of therapy for you?
Yes, absolutely. Singing for me is a cathartic way to explore my inner world, bringing it to the surface and sometimes letting it flow out.
Any gigs/tours coming up? Any plans to gig outside of Italy?
We are currently touring Italy quite a lot, all weekends are booked for the next months. We’d love to gig outside of Italy, actually we should be touring Europe by the end of the year.