REV REV REV: when Noise meets Psych somewhere in Italy
Thanks to their enchanting music, with mesmerizing atmospheres full of vintage psychedelic vibes and crystalline sing-songy vocals, and their distinct image, Rev Rev Rev have possibly become one of the pillar of the Italogaze scene by now.
The band's aesthetics - where dark shades of 80s, 90s lo-fi echoes and a mysterious sense of nostalgia are mixed - can actually be experienced throughout the three works they released so far.
You can see it both on stage in the kailedoscopic videos projected during their gigs, and off stage in their artworks, and you can hear it through the diverse inspirations in song arrangements which range from classical wall of sounds to slowed desert rock moments.
As you may have read in our first Italogaze Guide, the growing community of Italian Shoegaze fans can count on some artists whose name is possibly even better known abroad.
Since their formation in 2013, Rev Rev Rev have actually made a name for themselves throughout the European continent and have become particularly popular in the UK.
Thanks to several long tours and lively self-promotional activities - which actually have turned into professional activities, as we've learned - their last release, a fascinating 12-track record titled Des fleurs magiques bourdonnaient (author’s note: Magic flowers buzz) has also been appreciated in the US.
We had the pleasure to talk with guitarist Sebastian Lugli about Rev Rev Rev project as a whole. He told us about their history, ideas and inspirations behind the unique blend of their music and everything you should know while listening to it.
REV REV REV line-up is:
Laura Iacuzio - Guitar, vocals
Sebastian Lugli - Guitar, vocals
Andrea Dall'Omo - Bass
Greta Benatti - Drums
Can you tell us more how you came to have the band’s name?
There was a meme about this, it's funny because time after time we came to realise so many possible references that we hadn't thought of initially. But we don't want to fall into the trap of intentional fallacy, do we?
Nobody cares what we actually intended to mean, let's play with curious possible references that include, but are not limited to: reverb, rêve (the French word for “dream”), “rev rev rev” as an idiomatic expression for “stepping on the gas”, reverse, reverse reverb, Martin Rev, Reverence (JaMC), raving, Rev (album from Ultra Vivid Scene), revolution – as a political wish but also as the planets revolution hence alluding to cosmic rock, recurrence - the word “rev” is sort of looped, therefore the band Loop can be mentioned as well, 3 words of 3 letters each therefore some theosophic meaning I can't mention because it's esoteric (and probably I don't know it either) and/or Spacemen 3, each letter recalls the 3rd letter of a great album title (Perfect Prescription, The Velvet Underground and Nico, Loveless).
If you've read until here, chances are you're disattached from the social dogma indeed.
Could you tell us what you music is about, what you want to do with it, …?
It's about repetition and noise, like in a trance ritual, whom the audience takes part to, to create a temporary fissure between conscious and unconscious.
And it's about about avoiding all that impedes the flux, whether it is requests for the audience to move forward, or virtuosity of sorts, or unnecessary changes or whatever.
There's a deep unconscious common ground that binds us together, and we only happen to trigger it, viz. We officiate the sonic ceremony, but the only player are the magic properties of certain sounds on our nerve endings.
Rev Rev Rev’s discography (so far) includes a self-titled first work which was released in 2013 on Fuzzflower Records
Rev Rev Rev is our debut, and as it happens we're not totally happy with how it turned out. The sound guy didn't really get what we wanted to do etc., it's quite a common story isn't it? Still it features some songs that we never let out of our live sets, and our poppier tunes to date - two singles were in rotation on BBC 6, which would have been very unlikely with the anti-pop songcraft of DFMB.
followed by their renowned 2016 album, Des Fleurs Magiques Bourdonnaint, released jointly on Neon Sigh, Northern Light Records and Custom Made Music. In Sebastian’s words:
DFMB on the other hand is an album that fully represents us - as we were at that particular stage at least. It's hypnotic, fuzzy, dreamy, punk, psychedelic. It features Indian tanpura drones and isochronic beats, alongside the guitar reverie. None of the 12 tunes is a single, and at the same time all 12 are. No pop trickery, just hallucinations declined in 12 short genuine noise tableaus.
A pleasant cover of Polar Bear was also featured in 2015 Ride tribute compilation on The blog that celebrates itself
However, the band seems to have more in store for us:
The new one (sorry but we'd like to keep the title veiled for now) is very different. It's extremely dark. It's a ritual descent to the underworld, but also a flight through the cold spaces amid the stars. Guitars are no longer center stage. As opposed to the first two albums, this time I've started from drum rhythms and/or bass lines, and only later added the guitars – and also some vintage synths, for the first time. Lyrics sort of explore the relationships between chaos, cosmos and us
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Do you have a message that you want to get across in your music? If so, what are some of the messages you want to spread?
Our music itself is a, although non-descriptive, message.
In this sense, paraphrasing the main character of the 70s Nanni Moretti film “Io sono un autarchico” (A/N: “I am self sufficient”) - whom you've probably never heard of if you're not Italian-, we could say that musicians are the bourgeoisie, music is the proletariat; and music, as proletariat, has to seize the power in the songs - Nanni Moretti's alter ego was talking about cinema, but it's the same as for music isn't it?.
So, basically, we try and disappear from the scene as musicians. As long as we're able to leave musicianship and technique out of the picture, listeners can focus totally on sound, and mind can float with the maximum degrees of freedom.
Who writes the song and the music and how do you get to the final song? Is it a community process, do you have leaders in composing or arranging music?
Well, this question can be answered at different levels of detail from vague to pedantic...You choose where to stop me! I'll start by confessing to you, and to the sympathetic readers of Noise Artists, that I'm guilty of most of what you hear on our albums: structures, arrangements, melodies etc...I plead insanity and throw myself on the mercy of the court!
Jokes apart, I by no means see myself as an author (whatever it means), I'm only instrumental to carry on a certain idea of music, which was before me/us and will continue after me/us. As I told you before, musicians are the bourgeoisie and music is the proletariat and the latter must take the power in the songs: so it's really not about me nor anybody else, I'd like the focus to be on music and on how certain sounds can make us feel.
Also, some vocal melodies on S/t and DFMB are Laura's, including but not limited to the verse of We Can But Dream and Nightwine; then I remember that the central part of the song “Blame” was mainly Greta's and Andrea's, and that Andrea did a couple of bass arrangements on DFMB as well; and a track of the forthcoming album was mainly composed by James Aparicio, the producer of the album. It's basically an improvisation track where Laura, me and James himself played several instruments, and he's the one who was aware of where we were supposed to go.
By the way if you ask me at the end of the day our songwriting is still a community process, and everyone in a band is pivotal w/r/t it. I mean, even if I tell my bassist what I'd like him to play in a given part of a song, still Andrea's interpretation, abilities, idiosyncrasies take a big part in the creative process as well. Ditto as for the drums.
These kind of individual biases are a key ingredient of any band's gestalt, regardless of who's considered the leader in composing. I for one – but I guess most people work this way - try and play to my fellows' strenghts, figuring out parts that I imagine as consistent with their style and attitude.
This sounds complicated to tell though actually it flows very spontaneusly when there's such a connection like there was with Andrea and Greta. Unfortunately last year Greta had to leave the band and also Andrea wasn't able to play on the new album due to work commitments, so we went the other way: we chose a drummer whose attitude and playing style fits perfectly the parts I had arranged, and it worked great as well.
Sergio Pomante (Ulan Bator, Lay Llamas) played over programmed drums I had first recorded with my laptop but he interpreted perfectly the parts with that kraut minimalist attitude I was looking for, bringing them to a whole new level.
There’s a degree of unconventional songwriting with you guys. Was it kind of intimidating going to record knowing people might not be engaging with the songs in terms of hooks and such and trying to deliver an engaging sound on record?
Of course, as you said, in DFMB we completely eschewed the basics of pop/rock songwriting, from several points of view. Song structures are very streamlined, we kept it simple and dirt – yes, there's a strong punk aesthetic at the core of it- and we also avoided all sorts of kosher balance between repetition and variation. We either keep repeating the same part in an infinite loop, or only present parts once and never repeat them.
In the new album as well we've made no compromise, especially w/r/t the rhythms, and also as for the sounds. Again, song structures are extremely streamlined, even choruses rarely happen. Everything is direct, short and noisy. But it's simply what we believe in, so it can't be intimidating.
Did your listening habits changed over the years and does it affect what you write?
Of course they changed and they'll keep changing, luckily...Although I see the relationship between what you hear and what you play as a very non-linear one, lately among other stuff I've listened to a lot of kosmische music and neo-psychedelia, and probably you'll feel that in the drum patterns and bass lines of the new album (trust me, until we release it...). But I always try and draw inspiration by bands I'm into at a conceptual level, rather than in formal terms.
How is your recognition going worldwide? Is it growing? Are you happy with it?
Well, if somebody had told us that people in foreign towns would have driven a couple of hours to come and see us play live, maybe even missing bigger bands they're into to see us (we feel a perverse pride about things like these), or that in USA young bands would have mentioned us among their influences, we probably would have made fun of him.
Nor we would have believed that a pedal manufacturer overseas could have written asking us to become their endorsers – I suspect that an average non-shoegazing band wouldn't find this detail so exciting...
Anyway, yes, we're really happy about how things turned out to be.
Then there's a single thing that also means a lot to us: a guy from the US wrote us telling how our music helped him getting through the days after his father died.
It may sound sentimental, but I mean, that's what music is about. As long as we're able to help people feel better and get though tough days, we're doing our job.
Why the title and some songs title in French on the second album?
The title DFMB comes from Arthur Rimbaud poetry. We found that verse's synesthesia, and the whole poem Enfance (Childhood), somehow resonating with what we were doing. Its dream-like, hallucinatory poetry is a fuzzy voice from the subconscious. Quite a shoegaze thing, isn't it? Also, in our modest way we plunged into the language of Myth – which, just as subconscious, is always rooted in childhood.
Finally, Rimbaud's "Illuminations" are made up of self-contained idylls, like our album, where each song is quite apart from the others.
“Je est un autre” song title as well comes from Rimbaud's poetry.
THE PATH TO MUSIC
Did getting the live experience across on record create any pressure for yourselves in the recording process?
Not at all. As you said, live is more of an experience, a ritual we take part to together with the acolytes, so it would be quite pointless to try and get the same thing on a record.
Working in the studio is a totally different thing, has more to do with alchemy and we love it as well. Each of the two elements, live and studio, has its roots in the other one and exists in its relationship with the other, like female and male.
How did the recording work differ over time?
We used to live record our albums. When I say “live record” I don't mean that all you're hearing was tracked at a time, though the core of what you're hearing was. Drums, bass and main guitar. It's a very 60s approach, but it was also the way most Creation albums were recorded – no, Loveless was not among those. Our recording session have always been very brief, like 3 days for the forementioned core of the songs, then another day for voices and overdubs. This was the exact timing for our forthcoming album as well, though we haven't live recorded this time. It's our first time to record track by track so we were a bit worried about losing some of our live feeling. But it turned out to be extremely natural as well. After all it's not about method, it's the madness...
A question for a future paper I have in mind: if you use often a Fender Jaguar, could you tell me more about what makes it good to play (sound, neck, …). I find there are lot of noise artists that are using this guitar and I am interested to know why.
Yes, I'm a Jaguar guy. My main guitar is a Japanese Jaguar with a Mustang type bridge. We could talk for hours about Jaguars...But basically, it's something of a short scale version of the Jazzmaster (even if pickups and circuits are different), so it still has the unique tremolo arm which allows you to pitch bend continuously while you strum, but at the same time it's bloody jangly. A Jaguar set up like the one I play is a one-way ticket to leave the Western twelve-tone equal temperament, since the bridge is always floating at least a bit.
That fits perfectly my concern of being a “sound generator” (like Kevin Shields said of Joey Ramone) rather than a musician.
Do you have one favorite instrument or do you change often?
Yes I do, a crafted-in-Japan Fender Jaguar. It's my favourite and will always be. That said, on many tracks of this forthcoming album I've played a black Epiphone Dot 335. Very cheap but perfect for feedback and minimal dark riffs.
Tell us what you are looking when trying to achieve your sounds. Do you experiment a lot or have a clear idea of what you want?
In terms of the studio work, we usually have a clear idea of what we want – which doesn't mean saying no to experimentation anyway. On the other hand, when it comes to live, we go with the flow of ephemeral emotion, therefore we experiment a lot. We like to play like if that single show was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Who is the more knowledgeable with pedals? You use them a lot, to great effect.
Thanks. Like many fellow gazers I'm a pedal freak, and from 2013 I build my own pedals, through which I've managed to better express myself. During DFMB tour I've been playing, among other stuff: two of my DIY fuzz pedals (one of whom is extremely scooped, while the other is smoother), a weird feedback effect that I called “Fear and loathing” which allows me to produce feedback and modify it on-the-fly even touching guitar pots, and also an on-the-fly variable tremolo I called “MushTrem”. Although I'm not a professional builder and I don't sell pedals to other people, I'm really happy with these circuits because I couldn't find on the market anything like that. Maybe the punk ethic of do it yourself is popping in again...
How many concerts a year would you do on average and what would be the size of the venue?
Like 25 gigs per year, on average. We tipically alternate medium-sized clubs, like The Shacklewell Arms in London or The Cluny in Newcastle, with smaller venues.
Would you mind sharing some good anecdotes from your concerts/touring?
That's a question we can't actually answer... You know, the best anecdotes can't be told publicly, and “whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent”... But please come say hi after a gig and we'll tell you some!
What are some places around the world that you hope to take your band? Do you have any plans at present to tour in other countries?
We'd love to play Far East one of these days. It would be great to tour America as well – we had several requests as for playing shows in the U.S. and we really intend making it but it's very difficult these days because of the tightening on visa. Many indie bands have been repatriated, one we know even spent a night in jail and that's not exactly how we'd like it to be...So until we'll find a secure way of doing it, we'll keep touring Europe/UK.
Italian Shoegazing is not very well known internationally. Could you tell us more about it?
Yeah Italy isn't really on the map of indie music, though from the rising of the 10s a very interesting shoegaze scene emerged. Although we are quite sprawled across the country, a certain team spirit has been building up among the bands, most of which are brought together in Mutiny Collective, constantly keeping in touch to exchange ideas and organise indipendent events. We really love being part of this thing.
Is it easy for a Italian indie bands to be known internationally? Do you have any example?
We don't really think that it matters if you're Italian, Peruvian or Russian. More than 99% of DFMB copies have been sold out of our country. Ask our neighborhood post office employees, who probably hate us since we regularly pop in with these stacks of parcels to ship each one in a different country...
Music has no borders and nowadays it's not difficult to be known abroad among your genre's fans. Where's the point in only focusing on a single little, marginal, bloody self-referential country? Get yourself a second hand CNG-fueled van and hit the road, tour the UK and Europe like we did it several times, or even tour the US like our friends Clustersun did. At a bigger scale, you may have heard of Sonic Jesus, Soviet Soviet and/or Be Forest.
Has the scene changed since you began, and if so how?
Yes! When we started we felt like aliens, people were like “shoe-what?!? Did you mean...Rock?”. Only Stella Diana were already doing something like that – and not badly indeed. There had been a couple of very good bands in the nineties, but nobody remembered them in the first half of 2010s. Now shoegaze has eventually gained momentum even in Italy and many new bands call themselves shoegazers, and also very cool webradios and webzines emerged including but not limited to ShoegazinYourWaves and Shoegaze Blog.
Is there any band(s) you want to recommend in the indie/shoegaze/post-rock genres (or other) from Italy (the more the better)?
Well, I expect Noise Artists readers to be very knowleadgeable, so I'm sure you already know amazing bands like Stella Diana, Be Forest, Clustersun. You probably already know also In Her Eye, who recently released a great album called “Change” which we really recommend to Swervedriver / Dinosaur jr / Sonic Youth / Cure fans. If instead of gazing at your shoes you'd like to gaze at the ceiling, Milan-based Novanta is your new favourite project, crossing post-rock, ambient and dreampop.
Hailing from our area an awesome post-rock act is called Baffodoro and listening to a live set of theirs is very immersive an experience to say the least, it's like getting lost into the wild up on the mountains.
Another band worth discovering is Kimono Lights, who no longer are unfortunately, but two of the guys gave birth to a new outfit called TV Fuzz which sound awesome as well. Electric Floor are manning the synthpop side, and The Gluts the psych-noise one.
Worth being kept in the loop also on Allie's Dope, an up-and-coming act from Parma.
Last but not least, Gianluca Marian aka 86 Sandals (and many other avatars actually) is an indie lo-fi alchemist of sorts and his role in Italian Shoegaze scene can't be overlooked.
Could you tell us a bit more about your record label and your relationship with it?
We're not bound to a single label. DFMB was released with three different ones: Northern Light Records from Canada, Neon Sigh (couldn't believe to be label-mates with our idols The Telescopes and amazing Ringo Deathstarr) and Custom Made Music from the US, and it's been a pleasure to work with them.
As for the new album we're currently in touch with a couple good ones as well, will keep you posted...
How did the funding worked for the LP? Did you invest a lot yourself? Was your label supportive in that respect?
Get yourself a chair and order a beer, it's a long story...The short version is that, as for DFMB, a certain guy, former member of a famous psych band (btw the band has nothing to do with his behaviour), signed us for a then-new English label called Kinotone.
The contract stated a lot of benefits for us including but not limited to: a UK tour completely at their exprenses (but with all incomes going 100% to us), two thousands CDs and 500 vinyls (half of which duo-coloured) at their expenses, promotion and radio plugging at their expenses...We wouldn't have paid a cent, we were only supposed to have incomes.
We were at least surprised by such a good offer, but we were like: okay, it's weird though he's well known in the scene, everybody knows his former band, so we can trust him...And to accept his offer, we said no to an offer from an important shoegaze label, whom we are big fans of.
But it turned out to be a scam. Obviously it was. He only sent us the vinyls (late and not in the number they were supposed to be), he actually put us on the bill at Cosmosis Festival but then he completely disappeared. People who ordered our album from the label wrote us complaining they never got it. More mental than con man, if you ask me. At the end of the day, he hasn't earned a single penny from the whole thing.
When we understood it wasn't going to work, we looked around for a label again and luckily we got the interest of some serious ones (first Northern Light Records and Custom Made Music, then we did a CD reprint with Neon Sigh whose roster included legends The Telescopes and another band we're really into, Ringo Deathstarr).
How do you sell your recordings (shops, online, …)?
Bandcamp is the best bet for indie bands in our humble opinion. They take only a small cut, 10% or so, and all the rest goes straight to the artists. Then obviously we sell at live gigs, and through our labels' shops, and in good-old records shops as well.
I know that Laura has started a PR agency (doing a very good work), Kool Things Promotions. What lead to this? Can you tell me more on how it started and progressed?
Yes, we started Kool Things together, it's Laura and me. At a certain stage we noticed that most PR agencies were focusing on a single country. That's weird if you think about it. Where's the point in paying money to be heard only in Italy, which is such a small part of the world?
Also, most PR agencies don't give a damn about the kind of music the bands play as long as they pay their fees. As opposed to that approach, we only work with bands we're totally into, belonging to the same scene as us, and promote their music all around the world. Instead of defining ourselves in terms of geographical borders, we identify ourselves in terms of music genre.
Furthermore, we feel that working with music you truly appreciate is a big asset for getting higher results.
We started Kool Things in early 2017, so we're just one year old, but we've been lucky enough to work with some of our favourite bands and labels: Saint Marie Records, Secret Shine, Pia Fraus, Amusement Parks On Fire, Lotte Kestner, Stella Diana, In Her Eye, Heligoland...And our “promoting credits” already include artists like Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins, among the others.
What is the next album due?
As I mentioned before, new album is already done and we are really proud of it. The release is not scheduled yet but it's probably due for next winter. We can't literally wait to share it with you.
Do you plan to continue music for a long time or are you tired of it?
We can't become tired of music, ever, simply because there is something which only music can give us.
Tell us about the artists you have worked with
As for the new album, we collaborated at the drums with Sergio Pomante from the cult kraut-noise heroes Ulan Bator. He also played with an Italian psych band we're particularly into, Lay Llamas, and we love his experimental project String Theory as well. It's been great to work with him: as I mentioned before, even if he played along my laptop programmed drums, he really managed to bring it to the next level. All in all, the drum tracks are all guided by the motorik idea, but – what matters most - at a conceptual level, not in formal terms. Sergio was the ideal musician to give practical substance to this idea.
WHERE to find their work
You can follow & support Rev Rev Rev and buy their music on:
Some good videos to watch
The band also operates a YouTube channel where you can enjoy live performance and official videos, little gems made up of swirling sounds perfectly paired with altered images and psychedelic colours such as:
WHY we love them
ELEGANCE. Although a clear evolution can be seen between the first and second album, Rev Rev Rev’s composing style and taste for refined sounds is steady. The listener can actually get lost through their wall of sounds, yet he is not abandoned. Laura’s gentle vocals are somehow lighting the way and remind us that noise is quite often nothing but a feverish dream.
VINTAGE VIBES. The sonic landscapes they make suggest dusty scenarios, acid trips and whirlwinds, all at once. When space rock and psychedelia meet, nothing but a huge noise is born. Rev Rev Rev seem to love both hypnosis and ecstasy, which won’t disappoint old-fashioned psych fans and shoegazers looking for some new, dark-ish blend.
CONCEPT. A high degree of consistency and a clear (blurred, actually!) vision is featured in both Rev Rev Rev’s works. As they told us, they personally craft their sound by making their own stompboxes, and a similar attention is paid to their image. So far, the band has got solid aesthethics and presence on the web. As you have read, it really seems they know where they’re going, or better where their music is taking them and why.
What others have said
Rev Rev Rev’s international success is unquestionable. Here is a short list of some more interviews you can have a look at:
…along with some reviews of their last release:
Other bands they recommend
“Alongside the Italian shoegazers I mentioned before, a bunch of artists from different eras and genres come to mind in random order: Franco Battiato, Lay Llamas, Effervescent elephants, CCCP Fedeli alla linea, Uzeda, Mamuthones, String Theory, New Candys, Sonic Jesus, Le Stelle di Mario Schifano.”
“We'd like to thank each and everyone who came to see us live, put us on, had us to sleep, had us to not sleep, helped us in any way or simply has been nice to us.”