Sunday, 10 July 2011

An interview with Husband: Lusty pop-noir from Bologna

First published in Loud and Quiet

Maybe it's no coincidence that one half of pop-noir duo Husband, the bedroom producer and musical director Gianlorenzo, is called Giallo for short. The Italian horror genre most famously affiliated with Dario Argento is a tidy hook on which to peg the band's lusty voodoo rock, which has more than a touch of the George A. Romero about it too. Their debut single 'Love Song' lurches into view like a Zombie Pride parade, beating fleshy drum skins with half-gnawed thigh bones and tapping dead-eyed rhythms on your skull, sending a short, sharp dose of the heebie-jeebies down your spinal cord.

Picked up by Robot Elephant Records after the No Pain in Pop blog spotted their Myspace page, Husband’s output so far is minimal but striking. After putting out a couple of tracks backed with a handful of remixes and playing their first live shows, they're now back in Italy to work on more material and play a stretch of shows on their home turf over summer, including a support slot with the rejuvenated Battles.

Based in Bologna, Husband came to life when Giallo asked friend-of-a-friend Chiara to lend her voice to a few songs he was creating at home. The Italian-Australian singer was more used to being on the other side of the stage as an organiser of the electronic music festival Dancity, held in a medieval town in Umbria. “It's been quite chaotic because I've been learning how to play the drums and how to use my voice, pretty basic,” Chiara tells me, speaking on the phone from the Venice Biennale, as you do.

So while Giallo is the bedroom-bound producer, spending long hours obsessing over organ dynamics or percussion fills, Chiara seems to be able to step in with fresh ears and call time on the incessant tweaking. “Being an artist and being more into your own music, it's not like you spend a lot of time listening to other people's music, you spending time trying to perfect your own,” she says. “I think sometimes he gets obsessed too much with certain things and I'm able to say, no, that's fine, or I think you should work more on that.”

The songs are dense, weighty, layered. What's the writing process like? “I'll start with a line of drums or voices, then try to add something,” explains Giallo. “But at the end the usual thing I do is to erase things, a lot of things, and that's the way I like it because I record at home in my room, so I have the time to understand what I really want from a song. To focus and redo a song – and sometimes the song changes completely.”

It must be tricky translating that to a live performance though. “Basically we just play very little – we have synthesisers and a sampler, and a floor tom and snare. That's because we are only two people, and also the elements in the songs are sometimes very basic,” says Giallo, while Chiara adds that she is still finding her voice: “I've never had a music experience before, being part of a band.”

Bologna itself sounds like something of a musical hotspot, with its own small indie scene and a variety of venues. But how easy is it for bands to break out of Italy and reach an international audience? “I think that things are changing because we are becoming more conscious of ourselves, of our music,” says Giallo. “Italy used to follow other music and trends that came from outside, but now we are just trying to be more personal, taking from the outside but also giving something to the outside. And I think a lot of bands are now coming out from Italy.”

Chiara agrees that something exciting is happening in Italian music right now, as the scene looks both inwards and outwards, triggered by the turbulence of contemporary Europe. “We are in a strange moment culturally, I think we are breaking some boundaries. There's probably less people trying to emulate things outside, but at the same time that coincides with people being more open to an international experience. Strangely it's a good moment for Italian music, even though there's the economic crisis and Berlusconi and all that. Music is a kind of reaction. A lot of people are doing things artistically because they need to do them, they need to make a statement.”

And what exactly is Husband's statement? “It's certainly not straightforward pop, even if there are pop elements to it,” says Chiara, as though the shamanistic spookiness of their output so far was only a hop and skip away from 'California Gurls'. Another EP and a debut album are said to be in the pipeline after a summer spent playing and writing, but Giallo adds that UK performances are likely in early Autumn: “We are very happy and excited about it because when we went there it was amazing.”

Chiara agrees. “I'm really hoping to meet great bands and have a great experience. The best scenario would be to keep going the way it has been up to now, and get a good album out.” With the undead forces they've roused through those graverobber rhythms, Husband would find it harder to put the black magic back in its box.

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