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WOW

Leo Non


photo by Barnaba Ponchielli


It was last September when I first listened to the music of the Italian (Rome) band WOW and it was definitely a love at first sight situation. At "first hearing" to be more precise... Their album "Come La Notte" (meaning "Like Night") was just released back then and was really outstanding. A magically-crafted piece of art, with a strong cinematic basis, and with a minimal, but at the same time thick, ethereal atmosphere. Within its seven excellent tracks, the record gradually and methodically builds its strong and distinct identity that sooner or later catches and mesmerizes the listener. Reaching the end of the year, "Come La Notte" easily found a place in my Favourite Albums of the Year list (check here).  

Having the band's guitarist Leo Non for an interview in The Basement was a great joy and honour. Below you can check our very interesting and illuminating conversation...

 


Come La Notte (out 30/8/2019 via Maple Death Records)  


 

The Basement: Hi WOW and welcome to the Basement - it’s so nice to have you. Your music is a new discovery for us, as we got to know you with your latest outstanding album “Come La Notte”. So, we would like a bit of the band’s history and line up details. Who are WOW and how did the whole thing start for you? What was the project’s development and course till we reach the release of your new LP?

Ciao the Basement! Thank you, and thanks for this interview. We are a band, China is the singer and keyboardist, I'm (Leo) at the guitar, Thibault is at the bass and Pippo is the drummer. WOW started around ten years ago, we were playing house concerts with friends, just for fun. Then we released two LPs in English, we played a sort of garage rock, before switching to Italian. Right at the start, China had written this song in Italian, Dove Sei, that we incubated for some time. The Italian songs changed our approach to the music, I mean also the way we play our instruments: we slowed down and started playing less “noisily”. We released our first ‘Italian' LP, Amore, in 2014, and then another one Millanta Tamanta. With Come la Notte, we radicalized the approach, trying to do less, and I guess that this minimal approach has given more power to the songs. In the end, the songs are the most important thing, even more important than ourselves.
 

The Basement: Focusing on “Come La Notte” we would like to deeply congratulate you - it’s a wonderful album. How would you describe it and how does it differentiate from its predecessors?

Thanks again! We took more time to think about what we were doing. I guess that slowing down the beat, playing more softly, and trying not to use ‘special effects’, all those things give you a sort of a path, that changes your approach in a sort of paradigmatic way: also in the search for the right music labels, the approach for the promotion, the imaginary of the artwork… We gave the songs the space and the silence they needed, essentially we tried to follow them.
 


The Basement: How was the album made, please tell us about the period of songwriting and the recordings…

China started writing some of the songs three years ago. We had a bunch of those, we went recording, but at the end, we were still dubious about the songs, and then we started working with an Italian theatre company, Deflorian/Tagliarini, who was working on a pièce, Quasi Niente, inspired by Il Deserto Rosso, Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece. This gave us the time and space to rework on our music: the mood and the words China sings in those songs (especially in Niente di Speciale) were perfect as a musical correspondence to the play, this allowed us to take the essence of them and not be afraid of the silence, which is so precious, isn’t it? 
 

The Basement: What about fellow musicians that contributed to the release?

We recorded the album with Thibault at bass and Pippo at the drums. We played for years with Thibault (he’s part of the cool Strasbourg scene named "La Grande Triple Alliance Internationale de l’est", he played in a lot of cool bands: Parebuffle, 1981…), as soon as he transferred to Rome. We found Pippo because we knew the garage band Sweat he was playing with, he’s a great youngster drummer. Both are part of Wow, it’s the band we’re touring with, it’s like family. On the record, the beautiful sax on "Niente di Speciale" was recorded by Kyle Knapp (of the Canadian band Deliluh). We met him because he was touring with Cindy Lee (another great project from Canada), and the collaboration went really smoothly. On the record, "Vieni un po’ qui" was the only song recorded during that previous session, with a kind of super band, with Michele Gufglielmi at the Fender Rhodes, Tato at the bass (formerly in Movie Star Junkies, now plays with Andrea Laszlo De Simone), Simone Donadini at the drums (he plays with me in another project called Trans Upper Egypt and in Rainbow Island), and Ambra Michelangeli at the viola.
 

The Basement: We would also like some info about the outstanding cover artwork…

Yes, it is outstanding! Tab_ularasa, aka Luca Tanzini, made it. He’s an old friend, he is a poet, a musician, an artist, a DIY warrior. He released also our very first record on his label, Bubca records, (with its artwork too). We’re big fans of him, we gave him the album to listen to and his first draft was already the final one, perfect for the mood of the record. You should check his artworks, his postcard collages are unique (https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/), and his music too (https://tab-ularasa.bandcamp.com/music).
 

The Basement: Which bands or artists would you consider as your major influences?

Whoa, a big question. There are so many… As a garage band we were a lot into Beat Happening, Violent Femmes, Country Teasers, Young Marble Giants, Demon’s Claws, Os Mustantes… we loved the Intellectuals, from Rome. For the italian wave… Milva; De Andrè; Tenco… but let’s cut it to Mina (the greatest Italian singer), she worked with Morricone for the greatest Italian tune (https://youtu.be/x6fpSiE953w). More unknown it's the work of the musician Nora Orlandi (https://youtu.be/jlrWXGmTxAs). More recently we really loved Marisa Terzi’s Canzoni Perdute (https://youtu.be/D_ZenrATDUc).

But I have to say that more important than the past influences, for me, it’s the new music we keep finding playing around, sharing stages with, the people we meet… We are part of a nice and super energized scene in Roma, evolving around music spaces and clubs like Fanfulla, DalVerme (now closed), Pescheria… There are some independent Festivals that really formed our tastes and attitudes over the years: Baba Festival, Handsmade Festival, Here I Stay Festival, Musica Nelle Valli above all.

So it's like our major influences are yet to be discovered (don’t know if that makes sense to you…)

 

Domani official video 

 


The Basement: How would you evaluate the current Italian music and scene?

It’s hard to talk about the whole of Italy. We come from a small scene (even if you end up in an abstraction, trying to define a scene) based in east Rome, around a club called Fanfulla. The people around it and their music, and most importantly: their attitude, are always a great inspiration for us. Maria Violenza, Holiday Inn, Steve Pepe, Mai Mai Mai, Acchiappashpirt, Cascao & Lady Maru, Eva Won, Grip Casino, Kawamura Gun, Metro Crowd, Maximillian I, Heroin in Tahiti, the early Calcutta’s releases… it’s a lot of really good music all coming from our neighbourhood!

More generally speaking, thinking about Italy, I guess that the most interesting music is, let’s say, the least known, like the underground scene, when there’s no money involved, hahah. In Turin, there are a lot of great bands such as Movie Star Junkies, Gianni Giublena Rosacroce, Krano, Succhiamo, Mother, Oaxaca, Heart of Snake, Natura Morta (we recorded around there for a reason!), but also in some small cities there are some nice scenes, I think of Espada, or Tormenta 3000 in Foligno, Jonathan Clancy and J H Guray in Bologna, Alos and Cacao in Ravenna, Blak Sagaan in Mestre, the scene around Cagliari… there’s a lot of good music if you look deep.


The Basement: Your music has also a cinematic essence. For which movie/s would you like to have written the soundtrack? 

I don’t really know what to answer to these questions… We’d like to work on an original one! We did some collaborations with a cinematic duo that we love, Cinéma Fragile, from Lyon. We love cinema as an obsession. Ad absurdum I’d say an Antonioni’s film (even if each one has already a great score…)
 

The Basement: We read that you participated in the theatrical piece “Almost Nothing”. How did that happen and how did you experience the whole thing? How was it like being on stage?

It was great. China’s studied and worked with the Deflorian/Tagliarini company since 2013. They were producing a play that was, in some ways, similar to the songs we were moulding, we realised we were driven by the same thoughts, so it has been a sort of epiphany. Also to rehearse and then tour in some of the most historical theaters, in Italy and abroad, with such a great acoustic, with such spaces… Ultimately this experience gave us the chance and tranquillity (we had a job!) of looking deeper in some of the questions that interested us for this album. 
 

The Basement: How did you start playing music and making songs in the first place and which were your dreams and visions back then?

Gee, who knows… ‘why you do what you do’ is The Question. I guess, for us, it has something to do with how we try to live our life… Music is experience, freedom and share.
 

The Basement: What about now? What are your ambitions and expectations for the future?

The best strategy is to expect nothing, but keep doing what you do. We’d love for our scene to try and keep being amazing and alive, and to connect with all the other little underground scenes around. Its a niche, but its everywhere...
 

The Basement: We see that there is a series of gigs ahead. Looking forward? Will there be more dates? Any chance of coming to Greece?

We went to Canada for some gigs last year. We did a small tour in France, now we’ve almost finished our Italian gigs. We will be in Austin in March, to set foot on that enormous soundscape, and we hope to tour some more in Europe soon. China would love to live in Athens… Invite us!
 

The Basement: WOW thanks so much! We wish you the best! 

 All the best to you too, thank you!


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