UMBRELLA BURNING FESTIVAL: Italogaze from Rome
I was introduced to Umbrella Burning Festival by Sara, their bass player. A pretty good one too!
We first connected around Japanese Shoegaze. I was looking for a Japanese translator to help collaboration with Japanese bands that had little English. After a few short and unfruitful contacts with various people, Sara kindly offered to help.
That was a year ago. We have since worked together on Shojoskip, Plant Cell, and have a few more things in store. We get along well and love Shoegaze. With Nicolas Piere Wardell, we are a team, contributors I love working with.
I did not know she also was a bass player in a band. One day, shyly, I was told so and was very impressed by what I heard. You should be too.
One thing is certain, her bass playing is very similar to mine, a mix of support and melodic lines, trying to find solutions, patterns and varying them. She plays better than I ever did, but the intention is still the same.
And the rest is at the same level, with various influences from great indie bands, mixed with their own approach.
I invite you to discover Umbrella Burning Festival, one of Italogaze best, through this collaboration where they present their music and themselves.
"Our band’s birth dates back to 2012. However, our lineup has changed a lot so far.
Sara met Luca Barboni, our former guitarist who left the band shortly after Poems in Braille recording and started to play with the aim of forming a garage band (!). As former drummer Francesco Gangeri joined the band the shoegaze idea came in. Gradually we realized how bad we needed a voice and Edoardo joined too. In 2013 Francesco left the band and was substituted by Marco. Since then, we have been writing and playing a bunch of songs and finally put 5 of them in our first EP.
Our only regret is that we could not tour as much as we would have liked, for Luca left UBF. We have been doing literally anything so far to cope with this lack of shoegaze guitarists here in Rome (as a matter of fact we have been trying out like 20 guitarists so far!), at the moment we’re still trying so hard to find another guy to make guitar sound loud, fuzzy and not so guitar-ishly.
We have never given in to this loss, recently Edoardo has decided to put his hands on a guitar and start singing and playing until our man appears. We are still confident he will!"
The line up is:
- Edoardo Lelli – vocals, guitar
- Sara Massiah – bass
- Marco Scarcelli – drums
"As said above, our songwriting process is deeply rooted in the rigging. Most of our songs, including Poems in Braille tracks, were created starting from an improvisation we had recorded (yes, we have a bad habit of recording basically any rehearsal we do).
We would listen to the recorded material later at home, isolate some interesting sections and study our single parts. Then the effective process is kick-started: it could take weeks, months or just a couple of rehearsals until each part is composed, lyrics are written and everything is fine-tuned and arranged as a whole.
However, this is not the only way we compose. Sometimes one of us steps into our cozy studio with some kind of draft, a good riff or vocal line in mind, so everyone starts playing along and if we still like it when we listen back home the song is launched.
Either way, it’s a meticulous process, each of us is quite hard to please and we definitely cannot stop until everyone is satisfied."
"If you google UBF you can read of somebody who claims that our name has something to do with the murder of a prostitute, but please don’t trust him. We can say "it’s wrong!"
Music that is important to them
"We have quite different music tastes. Obviously, we share the love for the 90s Shoegaze scene (Slowdive, MBV, Ride, Swervedriver, Pale Saints, Drop Nineteens etc.) and broadly for the 90s sound we grew up with (Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve, Nirvana, Placebo, Deftones, Foo fighters and so on).
However, Edoardo is more into the 80s alternative scene (The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, The Smiths), experimental music (Brian Eno, William Basinksi, Harold Budd), Berlin years Bowie and songwriters (among which Nick Cave and David Sylvian), while Marco doesn’t mind Britpop bands as well as heavy stuff like Tool, SunnO))) and Einstürzende Neubauten.
As for Sara, recent dream-pop artists (The Bilinda butchers, Wild Nothing, Beach House, Radio Dept.) and various groovy-yet-not-that-pop bands are essential (i.e. The Smiths, Interpol, Warpaint, A Perfect Circle, Phoenix, The xx, Japandroids, just to name a few)."
Why the name of the band?
"Marco: I guess Sara knows better where does the UBF name historically come from. I personally like to consider it a joyful refusal of protection from any kind of weather condition. If it's rainy, then let's get totally soaked. And when the sun hits... she'll be waiting.
Sara: If you really ask me, it came up randomly while I was making research for my Bachelor’s degree thesis. I’ve been studying as a Japanese linguist, so one day I came into this photography book and while flipping through I read about some kind of traditional local festival they hold in Kanagawa prefecture, which is called Soga no Kasayaki Matsuri (namely, the Soga’s Umbrella Burning Festival).
They commemorate a historical event, the attempted murder of a feudal landlord by two young warriors belonging to the powerful Soga family whose father had been deposed. It was a matter of honor, so the two brothers were busted and taken to death but at the same time, their act was seen as a supreme gesture of filial piety. That night, on their way to the landlord’s shelter in the woods, they had burnt their paper umbrellas as to light up their way, therefore it seems that every year since then the local community celebrates by making a huge pile of colorful paper umbrellas which they burn at nightfall in the fourth Saturday of July.
Actually, this medieval revenge story has quite nothing to do with shoegaze music, but I found the photo of those burning umbrellas pretty evocative and fascinating. I showed it to my band fellows and we agreed upon this curious name. "
WHAT is your music about?
"Marco: I guess the sound part, detached from lyrics, is about contexts, and space/time. I really like when guitars don't actually sound like guitars. We rig up a lot when we meet and play, so we are just stuck and focused on what's going on in that particular moment, and we crave to do what seems to be magic instead of just what has to be done. We are looking for a giant, howling, and yet invisible ghost. We know it knows that we are there, the only way to catch it is to record its voice.
Sara: Well, about that ghost… I guess some of us just call it creativity. Rather than specific messages or stories, our aim is to suggest some kind of emotional landscape. While playing, we are constantly trying to reach a particular climax, which doesn’t necessarily mean the wall of sound (well, it does mean that more than often though). It’s some kind of emotional peak, the release of something we probably could not express any other way.
We like to think that our audience, especially those longtime Shoegaze fans, are able to grasp it and relate, but personally, I consider this aspect a nice side effect better than a specific aim of the songwriting process. Our music is a pure expression, secondarily the more can relate to the product, the better.
Edoardo: Sara has already said it perfectly: our aim is to set up emotional landscapes. Apart from that, a peculiar aspect of our work is that there's often something hidden or intentionally left unclear so that the listener can give its own meaning to the music or to the lyrics. I guess this is some kind of natural approach to us, as we tend to use ourselves as the test subjects to the evocative power of our songs.
Talking about lyrics writing process, what I'm always looking for is to go beyond the limits and create some reaction in a hypothetical listener. More than telling stories, images depicting. The verses I prefer are the ones where sensitivity and fury collide giving birth to something different, could it be bittersweet or fascinatingly disgusting. I think As Everything Falls Apart is a good example of this approach."
Why we like them
- The influences: Pale Saint, Ride, My Bloody Valentine! All drips into UBF' music.
- The basslines: The line on Losing myself again is a killer, and the rest is as good
- The voice: It is rare in Shoegaze and Dream Pop to hear powerful yet melodic voices. Edoardo pulls this out beautifully.
Poems in Braille, EP, May 2016
1. Intro 02:14
"We were looking for a short track to work as an introduction to both the mood and the sonic landscape of the EP. We just wanted it to tell the listener something like “This is where we’re going to be for the next 20 minutes. So get ready and let yourself go.” We’re very satisfied with the result, as we think we’ve reached that aim pretty well."
This intro brings a vast palette of sounds. Some part reminds me of Ride's Grasshopper, some of some Japanese bands. A great introduction for the listener.
2. Track 5 02:52
"Track 5 is Umbrella Burning Festival’s take on the classic Shoegaze song: it’s straightforward, melodic, blurry and psychedelic. It’s a bad trip, both musically and lyrically."
This song reminds me of the first Pale Saints album, Comfort of Madness. Edoardo vocals are on par with Ian Masters. The title, track 5, for the second song is quite nice as it misleads the listener.
3. Stargazer 05:24
"When thinking of Stargazer an image always comes to mind: floating in space. Sonically speaking, this song places somewhere in between the space rock of The Verve's first album and the dream pop of Cocteau Twins."
The start of the song is also in the sonic universe of the same Pale Saints album. It is a calm song. It invites you to contemplate de sky full of stars, building tension slowly, without exploding. Subtle.
I love the title. In the 90's, I played often with a band called The SIgh. One of the best I heard. They had a song called Skygazer.
4. Losing Myself Again 05:12
"Losing Myself Again is a bipolar song. In the first part, with its in-your-face attitude, it's still lucid; in the second part, where it's pure chaos, it goes completely crazy."
This song has one of the best basslines I know: round, powerful. It is like getting into a warm whirlpool of sound.
This song has psychedelic sire to it, in the way it pulls the listener into it, both physically and mentally, and keeps you there, happy in the sonic chaos you are surrounded by.
Edoardo's voice adds a great intensity to a song already intense in all the right ways. I love this song.
5. As Everything Falls Apart 07:30
"This is the most intense track in Poems in Braille. Its slow, sinuous pace is meant to be trance inductive as if it was conceived as the soundtrack of a collapse."
In 2017, my favorite album was Camille Claudel 's eponymous album. This song could belong in this album in so many ways: the sound, Edoardo's voice and voice melody that so much like Frederico's, the intensity and trance-inducing. To understand, just listen to the following song. It is difficult not to find similarities. Did I say they were my favorite album of 2017? Maybe a hint as to why I love UBF too.
Tell us about the artists you have worked with
"We have had the pleasure to mix and master our EP at WAX Recording Studio in Rome, which is run by Alessio Pindinelli who happens to be the talented guitarist of La Casa al Mare. I guess many of you Shoegazers around the world know his band and we are really thankful to them."
The band's presence on the web
Listening / buying their music:
"Marco: I saw Human Colonies live set last year, and it was really good. Out of the ItaloGaze scene, I MUST recommend you all Musica Per Bambini, BRUUNO, and Lantern.
Sara: I absolutely agree upon Human Colonies. Then if you’re into alternative genres and don’t mind some Italian vocals I would say Verdena is a good band to discover. I grew up as a teenager and a musician with their music. Their second album (Solo un grande sasso, 2001) has some Shoegaze influences too.
And if you’re looking for something closer to the shoegaze classics, with lyrics in English and sharp riffs, my suggestion is In Her Eye. Even though I’ve discovered them not long ago I love their works (especially Borderline, 2015). I’m looking forward to their upcoming release (Change, off on June 1st) since I’ve listened to the launching single Closer to me.
Edoardo: Speaking of Italian music, I would suggest Verdena (especially Solo un grande sasso), our friends La Casa al Mare (This Astro is such a great album – listen to M and tell me I'm wrong!) and Port-Royal from Genova (I've listened to their 2009 album Dying in Time at least a thousand times!)."
Our friends and families. Mervyn Peake. Modulated reverb. 2290.