Interview published on Impatto Sonoro – 08/03/2017
by Simona Strano
(translation by Esmeralda Vascellari)
original Italian version available here
Statements of esteem, an international sound and attitude: Sonic Jesus returns with ‘Grace’, the upcoming new album to be released on March 10th via Fuzz Club Records.
The long-awaited sequel to debut ‘Neither Virtue Nor Anger’ features ten tracks written and performed by Tiziano Veronese along with the lyrics provided by live touring guitarist Marco Barzetti (formally Weird.). Here’s Tiziano, the main founder and the mind behind the band, talking to Impatto Sonoro about the new direction of the project while uncovering what lies beneath the sound of the incoming album.
‘Grace’: this album sees a new incarnation of Sonic Jesus.
How it was born? How will the collaboration between Tiziano and Marco Barzetti work? And what about the live performance?
It was a chance meeting: I was in Latina at the Circolo H and Marco played an opening concert for the US band The Veldt. His set was just guitar & voice, so I was really impressed by his approach to the instrument, the sound he was able to pull out and his courage to stand on the stage alone, despite his young age. Some time later, as he was back from touring Europe, I contacted him and I proposed to rehearse the new songs together.
We soon found out to be in sync, both musically and personally.
The project Sonic Jesus is linked to my name, but I want to give space and freedom to any external collaboration, depending on the need and inspiration.
If the old records were stuck to the guitar, especially on open tunings, the latter one is strongly focused on the bass guitar, which has been the main tool I used to draft and shape the new songs. For this reason, I was looking for a guitarist with his own sensitivity that could balance the rhythm parts.
On stage I will play the bass and sing, Marco will play the main guitar and other members will add a second guitar, synths and drums. The performance will be of great impact as always!
To deal with music and texts separately was your desire or did it happen accidentally? How much of Tiziano is in the lyrics? How much of Marco is in the arrangements?
As a multi-instrumentalist since the very beginning, even in the previous collaboration, I wrote, arranged and played all the music, while Marco Baldassari took care of the lyrics. When I met Marco Barzetti, the album was finished, but actually the texts were still undone… So he tried to write one and the result was fine, we liked it right away and given his familiarity with the English language, we continued to experiment together.
Of course in the texts there is a lot of ‘Tiziano’, as I have forged all the vocal sounds, but Marco was able to follow step by step all the melodies that I had created, drawing from random musical syllables a real, meaningful text that express this new direction. He was present in the studio with me and recorded some of the guitars too, enriched by his own sound, even though all of the arrangements are mine.
The new album seems to be slightly different from the last acclaimed work ‘Neither Virtue Nor Anger’. The basic attitude is unchanged… but the sound, for many aspects, insists on several trends of the latest years: especially a NYC-late 90s/Wave attitude. How do you manage to keep up the balance between the old Sonic Jesus identity while cranking out an album so rich and full of nuances? Generally speaking, how do you face the ‘recognition’ factor of making new music?
Compared to the first album, written during a never ending Winter, this one was born in Spring, in a moment of natural and personal rebirth, which clearly influenced me a lot.
There is a real need of not having a predefined direction behind, I didn’t want to follow a path already beaten, but rather desired to express my multifaceted tastes in music. The nuances emerge from this new-found freedom and the many experiences made over the past five years, which have certainly dug deep inside me, bringing out with more determination than ever the different shades of my music. Where the strong identity of Sonic Jesus lies the most is in my opinion within the dark, distorted, highly emotional voice, that’s like a thread linking and gathering all the works together. However I think recognition is not a hurdle… or a goal to reach, otherwise it would be artificial and forced: to be recognizable is a natural element, which arises spontaneously when there is artistic and creative sincerity towards oneself and the others. Innovations involve mostly the writing, in terms of composition, since the new tracks play more with the bass lines, including 80s synths and wave/post-punk oriented rhythms, rather than liquid guitars or the traditional 60s psych distorted organ.
Is there a precise key to interpret this album? What lies behind the “grace” after which it is named?
For me it’s all about ‘grace’, that’s what I’ve been seeking the most over the last years. By that I mean a state of inner grace that allowed me to open myself and write freely, without any boundary.
It’s a sort of conversation with myself, a push to reach an inner balance that is independent of who/what surrounds me; right now I can claim to find myself in a slightly state of grace, especially since there was this click… growing bigger than in the past, towards a full expressive emancipation. Still, the order of things is actually cyclical, so that this ‘grace’ is not a static condition, but a fluctuating, dynamic state in a constant motion… a true detente springs out from tension and anger, that’s for me a real state of grace.
Some time ago, when I reviewed the split Sonic Jesus/Black Angels, I focused a lot on the increasingly, undeniable strength of the noisy wave within the neo-psych scene, also and especially because so much outside the usual “circle” of the aficionados of the genre. What in ‘Grace’ is definitely different, for example, from the single “Lost Reprise”. Was it a normal evolution or a rational desire for change?
As I said before, the development was both natural and rational at the same time. The neo-psych label was useful to discover and collaborate with several imposing scenes. But if you listen carefully to the early works that difference has always been there since the very beginning, garage tracks, some darker, other folk, some more noisy… Just think, let’s say, about the end of Lost Reprise: in some ways it reminds me the final of the new single ‘I’m in Grace’, while the words say exactly ‘We will find the grace’. There’s always been an ever-changing attitude, the more reasoned aspect was the courage to change… attitude and courage sometimes do not go together, but when it happens then yes, a true metamorphosis occurs. Everything depends on the limit you impose.
What about the cover art? You went from the dark, expressive artworks signed by Maracci to a severely geometric cover, more regular and brighter…
The cover was made by Emanuele Manco, a great friend and artist, who works with me since the beginning of the project. Emanuele, has been exploring for years the minimalist architecture, studying perspective and urban geometry; he was among the first people to listen to the new LP. Looking at his pictures I found a faithful visual translation of my music, the uprightness and the regularity of the lines impressed me, but above all it was the all over brightness to enchant me. The explicit, rigorous and symmetrical opening of the cover album incorporates the precise geometrical structure of the new songs. It’s an ascension, such a both physical and metaphysical elevation; unlike the old imagery, no human figures appears on the album, but lights and colors.
So let’s talk again about the title, is there a global “state of grace” for those who currently work in this scene? In Italy, however, how are you doing?
Well, being understood that for me the ‘grace’ is indeed an inner state, I do not see Sonic Jesus as being part of a particular scene, as the psych label represents only one of the many aspects. Globally the psychedelic scene in my opinion has already had its moment of maximum splendor and I would say that somehow it is experiencing a downward trend, dictated perhaps by the saturation of the musical offer during the recent years.
Instead I can see a new light in Italy, there are many new proposals and there’s a strong desire to experiment, learn, play, in general… to find new directions, to go outside, abroad just think of the many Italian bands that will join the next SXSW or Primavera Sound, to name a few.
Do you think the Italian press takes a different approach to the project if compared to the foreign press?
Surely the attention abroad is greater, partly because our language is English, partly because most of the collaborations and the long tours we made were in foreign lands with foreign people and finally, of course, because we are on an English label. It’s impossible to make a comparison between one country and the rest of the world, if you add up all the foreign niches the result is clearly unfair… all in all Italy stands up for itself pretty well!
And what about the live / promoters / events? How much room there is for artists like you?
With the releasing of the first LP we toured a lot, perhaps more in Europe than in Italy and we were lucky enough to be invited even at several international festivals right from the start. The foreign audience is very active, it is attentive and very responsive, venues were always full and many gigs have gone sold out … I can’t really complain. There is enough room for exp music, sometimes what really lack is professionalism, a bit of luck and support from local realities. Now I’m curious to find out how the audience will receive this new work, several gigs in Europe and Italy were already closed due to the incredible work of Pentagon Booking. I can not wait to play live!
Does touring abroad really help? What are the pros and cons? Is there any funny story about touring that you can tell us?
Going abroad is essential and everyone, especially bands singing in English or playing experimental and international genres should give it a go. Particularly at festivals you can face new ways of working and higher levels of professionalism than the average Italian ones. The vision is completely different, it is not a game or a hobby, playing music there is a fully-fledged job… when we (and I mean us ‘Italians’) go abroad, we strive hard for such a recognition and tend to be too serious, slightly less spontaneous.
The cons are the usual difficulties for the Italian people abroad: long journeys, not-so-good food, lack of sleep, eventually going on tour is a craft demanding lucidity and concentration. There is still this myth of being rock’n’roll , messy and drunk … well, holidays are beautiful, but when you have to face hours in the van, soundchecks and performances, I starve for some sleep.
One of the most absurd memories I recall was the day when we were stuck in the Spanish desert with our broken van. We waited hours for a taxi to collect us from that nowhere land and we stacked up 900 kms plus spent all our earnings to come back home. The van stayed there for two months to be fixed, but when it was sent back we could not wait to leave and go touring again!
Actually Sonic Jesus is ready to be back and hit the road. At the end of March the first leg of the new tour will start from Greece and Italy via the Balkans.
Soon more Italian and North European gigs will be revealed so stay tuned!
28/3 Death Disco • Athens [GR] 29/3 Rover Bar • Thessaloniki [GR] 30/3 Aigli • Serres [GR] 31/3 MKC Skopje [MKD] 01/4 Agora • Kumanovo [MKD] 02/4 KC Grad • Belgrade [SR] 05/4 Kino Siska • Ljubljana [SLO] 06/04 Astro Club • Pordenone [IT] 08/04 Subbacultcha • Alibi | Release Party • Roma [IT] 14/04 Workshop • Teramo [IT] 15/04 Smiting Festival • Cider Club • Savignano (Fc) [IT] 28/04 Arci Dude • Soliera (Mo) [IT]