Stearica: “We transposed a riot within our music.”

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Many people say we’re a post-rock band,” said Stearica drummer Davide Compagnoni, “but we’re so much more than that; I can tell you, we really, really jump genres.” The Italian instrumental trio are an accumulation of exchanging genres. They’re a band that flip the coin frequently, delivering anthemic, industrial sounds at one point and then switching over to something completely different. They are so much more than just three musicians creating incredibly dense soundscapes; they’re also politically fuelled, emotionally charged and innovative, achieving so much more with the often-sterile post-rock genre.

My scheduled half-hour interview, which turned into a three-hour chat, was more than just a journalist meeting touring musicians. My relationship with guitarist Francesco Carlucci and drummer Davide Compagnoni felt intimate. Whilst we sat at a friend’s house in the early hours of Saturday morning, the members’ personalities were distinguishable, as I saw the bleary-eyed musicians voice their music’s message.

At the beginning we considered vocals. But we just got infatuated with improvisation,” said multi-instrumentalist and producer Francesco. Davide added, “it’s a shame with vocal music that people get the message right away. However, with instrumental music we can give people a scenario, and when we play, we create on the stage. It’s like a journey.

Extra lore is also found in the song names and artwork. “The last song, ‘Shah Mat’, means in English “Check Mate”. It’s all full of meaning, for us, but we don’t obviously tell this message,” added Francesco. “We found an artist from Albania called Moisi Guga, who did the artwork of the album. He also put artwork on the drums. It’s full of symbols, and some of the titles of songs have Arabic words. Some stuff represents the river Nile. It’s like translating the words of Egypt.

The band themselves have been playing, touring and writing music for almost twenty years now, playing with the likes of jazzcore/experimental favourites Zu, as well as collaborating with avant-garde saxophonist Colin Stetson on their latest album, 2015’s Fertile. Throughout their reign as one of the most visceral noise-rock bands, the difficulty of the Italian scene was a torment for them.

It’s fucking bad for all of us. In Turin, [the band’s hometown], it used to have one of the best DIY scenes. We had very good bands and lots wanted to collaborate. Right now, it doesn’t exist anymore,” said Francesco. “It’s a cultural thing, however. Clubs are being shut down because of the government.

Bewildering, Italy’s strict sound control has been as devastating to the musical growth of Italy as the UK’s cut on music education. “It’s almost like the government are making it out like music is not important for people. They don’t give any value to music or culture; culture is the last thing the government cares about.

Stearica

Fertile is a reflection of the band’s personal efforts. It’s an intense, brutish listen; multi-layered and dark, the band move from point A to B in a detour that hits point Z on the way to C. Unadulterated and primitive, Fertile is a tour-de-force of instrumental music. Its story is also heavily written into the Arab Spring uprising, [1] and as a reflection to the band’s reaction when witnessing riots in the streets of Spain while playing Primavera festival.

The Italian media did not talk about it,” claimed Francesco. “When we got to Spain, we arrived in the middle of a protest that we knew nothing about.” The band’s ultimate response wasn’t cheery. “When we came back to play in the rehearsal room, everything was possibly the loudest we had ever played.” Davide interrupted: “It was like a riot. We transposed a riot within our music.

Francesco continued. “When we were searching for titles, it stemmed for the cradle of civilisation, that although everything is changing, people’s hearts are still the same. There is still a lot of energy, and people want to create change. It’s unfortunate to see that although people are still pushing, change isn’t happening.

Quickly moving from Fertile‘s subject matter to collaborations, the subject area was considerably more uplifting. Speaking to Francesco, the guitarist clearly has quite the net of contacts, from Minor Threat/Fugazi‘s Ian MacKaye, to James Marshall’s experimental hip-hop moniker MC Dälek. “I was in a net of musicians when I was younger, of improvisers. Having these people made us more natural musicians. If you think about our albums, we’ve performed and played with Colin Stetson and Dälek. There are a lot of people we respect, and we’re lucky enough that they respect us.

We also got to play with Damo Suzuki [from krautrock artist Can]. It was an amazing experience. We did two gigs with him, improvising. I met him in the past at a festival in the centre of Italy.” Not only have the band performed with Can, but also multi-genre psychedelic band Acid Mothers Temple.

We also chatted influences, with Davide claiming rock giant Dave Grohl to be his hero. “Nirvana were a really good punk band with a pop language,” said the drummer. “They were able to write universal songs with a punk attitude. I would like to think that we incorporate a punk attitude within our music.Refused’s ground-breaking third record The Shape Of Punk To Come [2] was also a hit for Davide, with Francesco giving praise to Italian noise rock band Fluxes; “I saw them play last year, super powerful band. Two basses and cool vocals.

As the clock rolled past the two o’clock mark, we realised it was probably time to go to our respective beds. If anything was learnt from meeting Stearica, it’s that they truly are a band that deserve to be in the limelight of underground rock’s greats. As musicians and as people, they were inspiring, kind and passionate. Their music was powerful, and vocal; it was loud, and percussive. I was quick to order an LP the next day, and wore the shirt they offered me as a gift. Meeting Stearica was a fabulous experience, and having that dialogue with the three-piece made me love their music all the more.

Our thanks to Stearica for their time, and Matt for the interview opportunity.

Footnotes:
1. Arab Spring on Wikipedia
2. The Shape Of Punk To Come on Wikipedia and YouTube.

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Obsessive music listener, tea-drinking fanatic, musician, and multi-instrumentalist. I like big choruses and chord sequences that make me go "ooh, that's tasty". I also like really naughty, nasty sounding stuff that makes me throw that face that's like "that's disgusting, but I like it". Living in Nottingham and missing Yorkshire every day.

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