Smuggler Brothers

Roberto Orlando


Photo by Ariele Pitruzzella


There's a great new record that's haunting our Basement over the last month... A record that comes from neighbouring Sicily, from its primary town Palermo, in particular. A super highly talented and inspired quintet (that used to be an octet) has just given us their sophomore effort - it's Smuggler Brothers with "Musione" (means "Movement" in the Sicilian dialect). An adventurous and thrilling creation that magically fuses Mediterranean 60s and 70s era library music, Italian soundtrack recordings, together with funk and jazz. 13 instrumental tracks that during the 42 minutes of their total duration firmly build an absolutely innovative and highly addictive musical world.

We are honoured and happy to welcome Roberto Orlando, guitarist and founding member of the band, for a very interesting and illuminating chat...    

 

Musione by Smuggler Brothers

 released May 8, 2019 

Roberto Orlando: guitar, mandolin 
Vincenzo Nuzzo: bass, percussion 
Claudio Terzo: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophone 
Giovanni Di Martino: piano, organ, synth, triangle and marranzano 
Giorgio Bovì: drums, percussion, marranzano 

Recorded at Blue Spirit Studio in Milan, 
Italy, between Oct. 22-28th, 2018 

Produced by Massimo Martellotta 
Engineered by Marco Olivi 

Photography: Ariele Pitruzzella 
Design: cutandpaste.it

 

 

 

The Basement: Hi Smuggler Brothers! We would like to congratulate on your great new album! But, before we focus on “Musione”, let’s begin from the… beginning: How and when did the whole thing start for the band?
Hi guys! First of all, we want to thank you for your enthusiasm for our music, we really appreciate it. Well, everything started back at the end of 2011, when I decided to put on a new project inspired by the huge heritage left by Italy’s soundtrack golden age composers, strictly linked to the 60s’ and 70s’ thriving cinema industry, and also inspired by afro-american music, in one word: funk! The aim of the project was to play instrumental music for imaginary film scores. Therefore, I started looking around at Palermo’s underground scene to find musicians interested in getting involved with the project and, bit by bit, with the help of the very first members, the whole thing came out.
 

The Basement: What about the band’s name? How was “Smuggler Brothers” chosen?
When the first line-up of the band came out it consisted of 8 elements, including two trumpets and one saxophone, so we started writing down our original music without taking care of the band’s name. When our very first show was scheduled, we realized it was time to make a decision about that. I can assure you that get together to find such as an important decision, when you have 8 different point of views, it’s not that easy job. For this reason, in the end, we agreed that we were smuggling “groovy stuff” and that every member involved in the band was like a “brother in arms”. It was carved in stone, Smuggler Brothers was chosen, even if it’s not very original, it sounded good to us and that’s all.
 

The Basement: It’s been four years between your s/t debut and “Musione”. Huge changes to the line-up took place and that the band decreased from an octet to a quintet. What happened and how these changes affected the final outcome of the album?
I like to say that our brief story could be split into two different phases: Smuggler 1.0 and Smuggler 2.0. When our live-show activity started to intensify, back then, we felt it was time to get into a recording studio. The result was our self- titled first album. We’ve played many promotional shows in the city area and we gained the sympathy of the audience. However, as sometimes happens, we suffered a period of instability due to personal reasons of some member that, albeit reluctantly, decided to quit. The band continued a fluctuating activity with a renewed line-up of 6 (or sometimes 7) elements, but the force and the willingness of the early days weakened, so the surviving members considered to stop to reflect about the future of the project. This is what happened between 2011 and 2016.

In the summer of 2017 the second part of our story takes root, with a line-up of 4 of the original members, we recruited a new drummer to join the gang and, slowly but surely, Smuggler Brothers started rehearsing again with the purpose of writing new material and coming back to stage in a short time.

We realized that a decreased line-up was the best way to manage ourselves and, obviously, this rearrangement forced us to revisit our approach with composition and the way we used to play. We liked improvisation in rehearsing room, so it seemed cool to us to contaminate our sessions with a natural “Sicilian touch”. This feeling, somehow, brought us to a mindset that is what you can hear in “Musione”. It should be said that the contribution of our producer, Massimo Martellotta, has been crucial in this new compositional horizon.
 

The Basement: How would you describe your new record and how does it differentiate from its predecessor?
The prevailing feeling, listening to “Musione”, is definitely about ethnic vibes. During the studio sessions, we’ve made use of traditional instruments like mandolin, marranzano (Sicilian Jaw Harp), friscaletto (Sicilian homemade flute) and other percussions which refer to a folk-like imaginary. Actually, there is more than just this ethnic side, because our influences are always mixed up together in a form that tends to focus on groove so that you can hear funk, soul, prog or even jazz! 

The difference between our debut album and “Musione” is about two different bands playing, in the light of what said about our line-up story. In my opinion, our first album sounds like a compilation of very different styles with a pinch of genuine naivety and, ultimately, like a real “Library Music” anthology. “Musione” seems to be compacter as a whole, from start to finish. We’ve really committed ourselves to achieve this result and we’re satisfied with it.
 

The Basement: What about your influences -musical or other- during the making of the album?
As I said, we tried to put our roots and culture in music without being excessively celebratory. Generally, the creative process lead us to tell about characters, situations, places and sights of our island, Sicily, for better or worse. However, the first influence is always the cinematic stuff of course.



 

The Basement:  There’s a new label for you this time, that is “Schema Records”. How do you feel about that and how did this partnership occur?
Yeah! We're very proud and honoured to be released on Schema Records. It's a funny fact because it happened almost by chance. I mean, I got a phone call at dinnertime and the voice on the other side was Luciano Cantone in person telling me that he was just listening to our first album and that he was interested in putting us under a contract, so I said “Wait, what? Really?”. I immediately contacted the rest of the band to give them the big news and they started to cry out of joy. Sometimes dreams come true.
 

The Basement: And, of course, there’s also the collaboration with Massimo Martellotta of Calibro 35. How did this collaboration take place and how was the experience working with Massimo?
Sure. The opportunity to work with such as a great musician and composer has been a further “gift” that the label made to us, because of his experience with Calibro 35 and a respectable “know how” about making cinematic music. He has taught us a lot in different aspects. He has a vision about making music, and he uses to apply this vision in every single project he's involved with. Essentially he's an experimenter, with a strong attitude. Anyway, we became friends, he's a very nice person, like a big brother to us.
 

The Basement: We would like a few words from you on the great artwork of the album… Who is responsible for it and what’s the story behind it?
We're glad you liked it. The artwork has been made by a local artist, Igor Scalisi Palminteri (I recommend you to look further about his personal story and art) and it depicts St. Benedict the Moor (or the Black), co-patron of Palermo. The cover photo doesn't do justice to him, because it's very huge! It has been realized near the famous market of “Ballarò”, in the old town district “Albergheria”, one of the most multicultural quarter of Palermo, during an urban regeneration of a square. It's a powerful image, and we like to think that the front cover, somehow, sums up the soul of Palermo and, at the same time, the meaning of the album.
 

The Basement: We read the song titles “Val Demone” and “Kemonia”, the river that crosses Palermo. At which point is your hometown an inspiration for your music and how’s life in Palermo?
Palermo and Sicily are our first inspirations because this island offers several insights, it’s like a neverending movie we’re living in. If you listen to “Kemonia Flow” or “Lost in Val Demone” you can hear our Arabian/North African heritage, while other tracks like “Siciliana”, “T’Anno” or “Sciarra O’Scaro” sound more Mediterraneans. Even the title of the album, “Musione”, is a tribute to our language: in fact, it’s the Sicilian word for “Motion”.

I like living in Palermo, I love my hometown! The city is alive, there is always something to do and I can say that things are a lot better than what it used to be 20 or 30 years ago. Obviously it’s not all sunshine and roses over here, the city has its dark side, like everywhere in the world, but, all things considered, it’s a charming place to live in. Usually, I like to be a “local tourist”, I mean, we have a huge heritage of monuments, churches, delightful seaside and I use to roam around, there is always something new to discover. Moreover, we have a thriving musical scene crawling with talented musicians, even popular outside the national confines.



 

The Basement: We regard Smuggler Brothers as worthy continuators of the great Italian cinematic era. For which movie/movies would “Musione” be the perfect OST?
Thanks for your consideration! Anyway, this is a hard question to answer. I like to think that “Musione” might be everyone’s imaginary movie perfect OST. I mean, it might be the perfect OST for your daily rides, relaxing on the shore, a car chase after a bank robbery or even when you’re making love, why not? Life is a movie and we decide our perfect OST, do you agree?
 

The Basement: The heritage that composers such as Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, Stelvio Cipriani, Armando Sciascia, Gianni Mazza, Carlo Savina have passed on us is huge… Do you think that similar great times of glory and mastery may come back for Italian music?
Hard question n. 2! Jokes aside, I think that those composers were the natural reflection of the times and the society they were living in. Unique moments for timeless music. It must be said that, at the time, Italy’s cinema industry was at high levels thanks to great directors and producers, so those composers were in the right place at the right time and their work helped a lot to determinate the success of many movies (actually sometimes happened that the OST was way better than the movie itself!). 

Just try to imagine Sergio Leone’s “Dollar Trilogy” without Morricone’s music or Federico Fellini’s masterpieces without Rota’s contribution. Just impossible! In my opinion, today things are very different, in our liquid society, even if you can find talented composers or superb directors, something is missing and I don’t know what. Maybe it’s internet’s fault, I don’t know, sometimes I have this feeling that we have an overload of contents where it’s hard to leave a mark or became momentous. Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t think that similar great times might come back anymore, but I want to stay positive and imagine that we’re planting the seeds of a new era. 
 

The Basement: We read that you are about to release a new album very soon. Is that true? 
Who told you so!? Well, we are working on new material as a natural consequence of our new approach with composition, but it’s too early to talk about a new album. Anyway, stay tuned. Everything is possible.
 

The Basement: What about live shows? Are you planning some gigs supporting the new album? Should we expect you some time in Greece?
Oh yes! Apart from some gig we’ve planned for the summer in the Sicily area, we’re working on a tour for the first weeks of October 2019, and we’re trying to cover Italy and some European areas. We’d love to come to play in Greece! Honestly, I’ve never been there and it’s in my “to do list”, I used to study old Greek language in high school and I fell in love with your culture and your history. Come on, let’s set it up, guys! 
 

The Basement: What is your ultimate dream as a band?
I guess that our greatest wish is to have the opportunity of writing an original music score for a movie, of course!
 

The Basement: Smuggler Brothers thank u sooooo much! We wish you the best!
Thank you guys, it was my pleasure! Hope to see you soon in Greece. Ciao!


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