STELLA DIANA: Italogaze craftsmen

STELLA DIANA: Italogaze craftsmen

As the band say themselves on their Bandcamp page, Stella Diana is "Hailing from a city more known for pizza and opera than Shoegaze and new wave addicts, and possess not only the spirit of late 80s/early 90s British bands like Ride, but also the dark wave seeds of Joy Division and the stylistic underpinnings of new wave artists like Psychedelic Furs and The Chameleons, all of whom number among the band's influences. Others include Pale Saints, Lush, Catherine Wheel, The Stone Roses, Codeine, Christian Death, and Talk Talk. 

Since their inception in 1998, Stella Diana has gradually become recognized by the Italian press as one of the best Shoegaze bands in the country with their intricate, brooding and textured mix of Shoegaze, Post-Punk, Dream-Pop and new wave. They have managed to grow a sizeable international following despite singing entirely in Italian – an unprecedented achievement for an Italian indie band in these respective genres. "

It is true. Stella Diana is a band that has evolved, progressed and their latest album, Nitocris, is a jewel.  In this article, we will explore that band and their music, in a very collaborative piece. We hope you enjoy.

 

THE BAND

"The band was born in 1998, but settled in 2002 and the name comes from the title of an ancient Neapolitan song. this is the only link we wanted to emphasize with our city, a place where music has a historical tradition.

In fact, all the music of the 1700s passed through Naples with composers such as Cimarosa, Paisiello, Scarlatti or Pergolesi, so it seemed right to note this. About the rest, music-wise, we are as anti-Italian as can be.

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Stella Diana are:

  • Dario, voice and guitar,
  • Giacomo, bass,
  • Giulio on drums.

In all these years we have made, I think, more than two hundred concerts and played in half of Europe and our music is more appreciated in Europe then in Italy.

We always had a problem with the drummers. we had at least a dozen and now, we hope that with giulio everything is fine because we are also very good friends. Giacomo and me, have known each other for over twenty years and we have our way of composing and communicating in an automatic and profitable way.

In fact we spend little time in the rehearsal room. Just once a week for two hours. Because we know what to do and how to get it.

We have our well defined sound and this is a great thing. usually we improvise on a bass line, then we create the melody and eventually I add the melody of the voice  and the words.

I never bring a complete song in the rehearsal room, it would make no sense cause working together it's what we love.

Stella Diana  live.jpg

After all these years, we have reached almost 250 concerts between Italy and Europe and we hope to play a lot more even in other continents.

However we are not only interested in playing: we created our own records label, Vipchoyo sound factory, focused exclusively on Shoegaze and New Wave and we hope to release a lot of new albums from talented new bands.

At the same time, from our own recording studio, every Monday I'm the DJ with a radio that we have created ourselves, Shoegazing your waves radio, with interviews and bands from all over the world and some even better-known names."

 

THEIR MUSIC

 

WHAT is their music about

"It's hard to explain. there is no real direction or a message. basically what we try to do is to communicate feelings, emotions and try to, how can I say, paint colors. Yes. We use this imaginary canvas and put colors on it, often a little in the dark shades.  I wish our music was like an impetuous sea: Simply, a pure sound in which you can lose yourself."

 

WHY we love them

  • They have evolved. Unlike some bands who are a one trick pony, Stella Diana have thrived to improve their music, to find their sound. It's obvious when you listen to their musical work in chronological order. Their sound is better, their composing and arranging is better. Fair play to them.
  • The bass player and the drummer. When you listen to Nitocris, you can hear the experience of the rhythm section. On every song, they bring something different (rhythm, melodies, textures) that make this album so rich. And the change in drummer shows in the last 2 LP (Nitocris and 57) in a very good way.
  • The variety. Shoegaze, Pop, Psych, Italian, English, Raw, complicated ... the band have released so much material with so many different genres' influences. Not an easy thing to do.
  • Their music. Dario's composing is superb and did thrive over time. He is getting better all the time.
  • Their musical tastes: their covers include Kula Shaker's Govinda and Ride's Leave them all behind, 2 of my all-time favorite songs. Tasteful.

 

The comparison game

It is a difficult one. As described in the previous section, the band has thrived in composing using many different influences. As such, there would be many comparisons possible.

So instead of comparing their music, I thought that it was better comparing the spirit in which they are doing it. As a result 2 bands jump into mind:

Both are very talented songwriters with a passion for details, and whose writing has evolved over time. Stella Diana is in the same league.

 

Their musical work

"Even if I love everything I've done, I don't like to talk about all the albums, apart from the last one: Nitocris. Simply because they are all sung in Italian, a beautiful and ancient language, but not always suitable for Shoegaze or Post-Punk."

 

Supporto colore (2007) & Gemini (2010), Albums

As explained by the band, these albums may not represent what Stella Diana are now. As such, they decided not to put them on streaming and social media, apart from Gemini, that can be found on Spotify.

 

41 61 93, Album, February 2014

Stella Diana 41 61 93.jpg

"41 61 93 is the first album recorded and produced by ourselves in our studio and I am very proud of this. Musically it's beautiful, but I can't hear it for a long time because of language.

I love the use we done in songs like Navarre or Motel Sagrera with the saxophone of our friend Giuseppe Colucci, a great napolitan jazz musician, and also the voice of Annalisa, another beloved special guest. There are some great songs, but it's a transition album."

This Album is indeed a step in Nitocris' direction, arrangement wise and composition wise. Their sound on some of the songs  would benefit to have the same production quality that their latest production, though are still very well done.

Here are 3 of our favourites.

1. Isabeau  03:17  

This song bounces beautifully, delivering a superb Noise Pop song. The round bass on one side, and the crafty vocals from Dario on the other create an hypnotic texture. Take it and have it remixed by Mark Joy and you have an indie hit.

 2. Navarre  07:34

 Dark and menacing at the beginning, the band brings us in a land of despair and pessimism. When the break happens, around mid song, the music transform itself in an optimistic post-rock part, telling the listener that there is a sliver lining. The saxophone that helps concluding the song adds to this effect very nicely, with bright notes of mad optimism.

4. Edward teach  03:41

 Big bass sound as an introduction to the song, later joined by a tweeting guitar that carries it all to the end. The female vocals (only occurrence I have heard in their music) suit the song very well.

 

Alhena, EP, December 2015

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"Alhena was a sort of “the best of” with the production of Mark Joy a producer and sound engineer who worked with oasis and primal scream."

It shows,. The sound quality and mixing have improved and build the foundation for Nitocris, their next LP.

1. Shohet 03:13

Big sound straight away with the theme song  

4. Mira  03:58

An efficient Noise Pop song. The work on the guitar sound is both obvious and really well done. They give a Ride-like colour to the song that suits it well.  

5. Govinda (kula shaker cover)  04:26

I was lucky to see Kula Shaker in concert a couple of years ago. Their rendition of Govinda was exceptional and the (small) crowd was ecstatic, chanting along hands in the air. A magic moment with one of my favorite songs. Stella Diana did an excellent job in this cover, with a modified but always big bass line. A must listen for all cover aficionados.

This EP was mixed and mastered by Marc Joy of Ferndale Productions, except track 5, which was mixed and mastered by Alexander Kretov at Ummagma Studio.

 

Nitocris, Album, April 2016

Stella Diana Nitocris.jpg

"Workings with Mark Joy, producer and sound engineer who worked with Oasis and Primal Scream was for us was a big honor and a great opportunity. if I have to say it all, I think that Nitocris is, for now, the best musical expression of Stella Diana. A perfect balance of post-punk, dark and Shoegaze. Bass lines always in the foreground, a reverberated voice, guitar melodies with warm and sharp sounds and a cold and pulsating drums.

All of these things are the perfect idea of a new modern Shoegaze for me. Songs like Orionis or M9 or also Psychedelic Furs explain perfectly what we have in mind."

This album is excellent. The production that Mark Joy put Stella Diana's music through brings it to another level. Also, the band shows their experience in each doing a brilliant job in their parts (melodies, textures, dynamics). When all come together the result is remarkable. The change of drummer seems to have also benefited the band.

There is no surprise that the band is proud of this album. They deserve to be.

1. Sofia  05:14  

For me, this a perfect slow song. A soft caressing loop with Dario's dreamy voice. Drums and Bass are kept at their simplest, just sustaining the simple reverb guitar.

The intensity increases when the distortion hits with a melodic guitar line that harmonises with the vocals. And the song continues to unfold, flawless... Just superb. 

2. M. 9  02:32  

"It's all about the bass" on this short song. Round, playful, Giacomo's CocteauTwins sounding bass is just amazing. The other instruments and vocals are really there for company (excellent one too).

3. F.u. Orionis  04:33  

This song really shows how the band has evolved from previous albums. The song itself is very similar to previous work in its composition. Nevertheless, the sound and arrangements are better crafted making the song shine.

Darioforceful voice really enhances the piece, giving is a forceful power that is then joined by the other instruments that unfold their rhythmic and melodic lines halfway through the song. It gives a great end, that would be excellent in a live situation. The closing cello adds a nice touch.

4. Sulphur  03:34  

This is a progression song, starting slowly and building momentum. The dynamics work well and all instruments participate.

The regression is also very well done at the end. "I see you through Sulphur" sings Dario. Nice way to colour your life in Yellow.

5. Aphrodia  03:54  

An outstanding bass line from Giacomo that brings the song to a higher level. The Giulio bouncy drums are the perfect complement as are the soft vocals from Dario.

Everything works to perfection in this song. I could go on for a while, but the best thing is for you to listen.

 6. Psychedelic Furs  03:33  

What I like in this song is very personal: the recurring crystal clear guitar arpeggios. They are so similar to the arpeggios in one of my favourite songs, Winesomeness, from one of my favourite bands, The Sigh. They were the best Shoegaze I heard in France in the 90s. Our bands played together several times and their music is second to none. Were they playing in England, their fame could have been on par with some of the good bands from the time.

Well apart from that, it is a great song.

 7. Dedu'n  04:05  

A small detour in reverb-drenched altrock with this song.

 8. Aya Ray  02:33  

Starts with a hypnotic bass line, soon joined by its comrades drums and guitars. While the loop stays the same, there is a change in texture and sound from the instruments that make the second part of the song more intense and dramatic. This work on the dynamic of the song is really good and works perfectly.

 9. J. Carpenter  03:59 

This song closes this superb album. The work on dynamics is just excellent.

The guitar work in the background is moving, by its intensity and by the dramatic texture it brings to the song. The progression from bass and drums is slow and builds up slowly.

This is a song that could go on forever, building more and more momentum, adding distortion and so on, a classic Post-Rock progression. But cleverly the band decided to go against this need to immerse yourself in the loop, in the sound again and again. And they kept is relatively short, leaving the listener with the need for more, creating a withdrawal symptom. Clever indeed.

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57, Album, May 2018

"The title is short as our tradition. The number 57 means a lot of things, but above all, it's easy to remember. In this new album, every song has been composed in total freedom, without pressure, and without schemes, simply supporting our dream pop side.

We wanted to be more direct and create a more dreamlike, delicate and unreal sound. Dreamlike as the lyrics, more hermetic texts, used only as an extra colour in each song, even if, in general, what they describe is always the loneliness and the lack of communication between people.

As in the past, even 57 was recorded, produced and mixed by Giacomo Salzano, the bass player, and the whole band, in our recording studio, Vipchoyo Sound Factory based in Naples. This allows us to have complete control over our music.

The obsession with simplicity is present in the cover art. A blood-red number on a black canvas, but a number that is not immediately clear, seems almost a sign, a graffiti or something ancient."

I was one of the lucky one to ear the album before its release. The album is indeed more dreamy, slower, but with the same quality of sound and arrangements than Nitocris.

The album's single is Der Sandmann. Dreamy, lo-fi, with a cello joining Dario vocals, it is like a dream, like floating in your headspace. It builds a bit in intensity for a little while before subsiding, like waking up and having the dream escaping from your mind, unable to remember what it was about.

 

And also

Stella Diana did several covers, most of them being for tbtci's great compilations.

Ride

Boo Radleys

Lush

Tamaryn

 

Tell us about the artists you have worked with

"Just last year we had the great honour to meet (and play together ) Patrick Duff, the frontman of Strangelove a cult band I love so much.

He came to Italy for some acoustic concerts alone, with his guitar and we were the support band. Patrick is a sweet and humble person and you can imagine how I felt when he asked us to play on stage a Strangelove song.

We did “freak” and I tried to not to pass out for the excitement."

 

WHERE to find their work

They are on all the music platforms:

And on social media:

 

Some good videos to watch

"I suggest: Sulphur, and Shohet from our Youtube channel":

 

What other have said

Perhaps the most interesting shoegaze phenomenon emerging from Italy. Unique in the world of Italian shoegaze… nothing short of fabulous
— The Record Stache
Walls of Sounds from Naples. Get lost in this cool wave of noise
— 50thirdand3rd (NYC)
Stella Diana possess not only the spirit of late 80s/early 90s British bands like Catherine Wheel and Ride, but also the dark wave seeds of Joy Division and the stylistic underpinnings of new wave artists like Psychedelic Furs
— Tribe4mian wordpress blog
I have found my new sonic nirvana in the audio that is Stella Diana. What I find fascinating is that this is an Italian band and not a group formed on the streets of London or even NYC beautiful words
— Jammerzine 

 

Other bands they recommend

"There are a lot of bands we love so much: Whimsical, High Violets, The Morelings, Ummagma, Wozniak, Stellarscope, Blankenberge, and many more from the rest of the world.

Not to mention at least thirty of them, I wanna mention just these Italian bands:

  • Rev rev rev, very psychedelic and noisy,

  • Clustersun (also on Noise Artists), they are absolutely cool and do a real wall of sound,

  • Kimono Lights, Shoegaze and also very pop,

  • Electric Floor, first band from our label. Check their first work: Fader, a great summary of new wave, synth pop and gaze guitars.

  • Then I  mention In her Eye from Milan together with Mystic Morning and Novanta, all of them are cool projects.

  • The “Italogaze” scene is so full of talented bands: Umbrella Burning Festival (soon on the blog, Sara, their bass player is also a regular collaborator of Noise Artists), My Invisible friend, Tomorrow Forever, and many more. But I can't forget our fellow Neapolitans: Mary's restless dream, a young and talented band from Naples."

 

Thanks to

"First of all thank you so much for this opportunity. Then, we want to thank our press office, Shameless Promotion, our booking agency, elephant Booking, and all those who support and love us and our music around the world."

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