I had a great chat with the guys from IKITAN about their upcoming live video (the first live "show" from the band). We also talked about their debut EP 'Twenty-Twenty' and some funny stories including the origin of the band name.
Luca Nash Nasciuti: Guitar Frik Et: Bass Enrico Meloni: Drums & Cowbell
Hi, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. How are you today?
Very well, thanks. Extremely pleased to be talking to you about IKITAN and our projects. We're blessed to have had a good response from the press and so we can share our work with the world. Thanks for doing this interview with us, Kayleigh.
As you have the live video for 'Twenty-Twenty' coming out soon, I wanted to ask why you decided to do a live video for it?
It all started very low-profile: after releasing our debut 'Twenty-Twenty' on November 20 2020, and being still unable to play live, we thought: let's do something and show the band is active. So the inital plan was to do a live on Facebook or Instagram from our studio and just play chunks of the whole song. Just for the sake of doing something, really, getting ready for a concert, and showing another side of the bands life. And most importantly - show the band playing live. Then as it always happens one thing leads to the other, one of us has a crazy idea and the other two add fuel to the fire... It was the end of January when we started envisioning the project... So the first major change was that we decided to play the whole thing, and not just parts of it anymore, in an outdoor setting, and make it our first live concert. Being winter, one of the coolest things would have been to do it in the snow (luckily and with hindsight, this didn't happen). We're fans of the whole desert rock scene, so generator parties and the likes have had an impact, even visually, on us. The idea was, on one hand, to tribute that concept, and on the other hand, to play the whole song, as we never did before, showing the band in an amazing setting in the wild. Also, we saw the video Yawning Man did (Live at the Giant Rock) and it was an inspiration too, of course. On top of that, Genoa, our city, is perfectly placed between sea and mountains. The city itself is kind of between two of the major mountain chains in Italy. (Alps and Apennines), so when you talk about nature and the wild... it's the mountains that you're thinking about. And so we did: the video was shot on top of an old fort (there's dozens in the mountains behind the cities here in Liguria: not surprisingly, they were used to control the sea from enemies) and, even though it was not shot on the exact point of the fort we wanted as it was too windy, we're extremely pleased with the end result. Forte Geremia is officially the first live concert of IKITAN, a live concert which speaks of its times: there's no audience and it's only available on the internet.
What was the process like for filming the live video?
The filming of the video itself was pretty straightforward as we just had to play the song and our amazing friends from Squeasy Film were doing the shots with 4-5 cameras (and drones), even though, as with all the projects with a set date and deadline, there were some challenging moments. First of all, when we decided to go to Forte Geremia, Italy was still in what we refer to as the "red zone": you couldn't leave your municipality unless for health, work, etc. These restrictions were waved just days before we actually went up on the mountain, something which of course was decided weeks before, otherwise... we might have had to make something up to make it happen anyway, there was no plan B. Secondly, weather played a big role too. Masone, the municipality where Forte Geremia is located, is known for being a place where rain never stops, so all in all we've been very lucky to just have wind and cold weather all day long, and not a single drop of rain. Nevertheless, the moment we jumped off the car we thought "ok, do we really have to stand this weather all day long, with as low as 5°C?!"... and so we did eventually. We've never appreciated the comfort of four walls around you like the day we came down from that mountain! Thirdly, we did get the permission to do everything legally, and even got lunch in the mountain refuge that the Forte hosts (it's a frequent stop for hikers and nature-lovers, and you might spot some in the video too...), but once you book the time of so many people (video makers, sound engineers and the likes)... you really have to make it happen on that day, and thats it. You don't get many chances, also considering the completely uncertain situation we were in back then due to COVID restrictions and this kind of stuff. So it was a "now or never" thing. (as said, no plan B). Lastly, the Forte had nothing in it, just electricity. So we had to cater for the whole thing ourselves. Luckily we own all of our intruments and PA, and Luca is also a sound engineer, so he took care of all aspects of the outdoor gig from start to finish, making sure we could recreate the sound we had in mind in an outdoor setting where we could rely on ourselves only. Big thanks to Stefano Gualtieri who was behind the mixer when we recorded the song on the day. Once we prepared everything, we started filming straight after lunch, where the light is more suitable for it, and we played the whole song a few times whilst being recorded from 4-5 different angles and cameras (including drones, of course) The post-production of the video took a few weeks and we've left the music as natural as it was when we played it at Forte Geremia: we really wanted this to be our first live concert, and not a video clip. So you'll likely hear some "mistakes" too, but that's what would happen at a concert too, right? This video is a natural and faithful representation of what you can expect from IKITAN at a concert.
Why did you decide on Forte Geremia as the venue?
As said, once we agreed on doing a "proper" live video of us playing in the wild, the inspiration came from "Live at the Giant Rock" by Yawning Man. There's no desert around us, and a "similar" place, in our area, could be found at Forte Geremia, the 819 asl old military fort that's just one hour from Genoa. The location was already used for a shooting by our filmmaker friends Squeasy Film, who were responsible for filming the band playing, so this whole thing kind of matched with the idea we had in mind. There are references with the cover of the EP too, in a way: it's a rocky scenery and we're on top of a mountain, and there's a mountain on the cover too, and IKITAN is the alleged god of the sound of stones for the Aztecs (more on this below), so it all matches really.
It looked pretty cold. Did you find that this made it harder to create the video?
On the day we did suffer a bit, yes! Some of us are more used to cold weather than others: you might spot Luca with a t-shirt, whilst Enrico is fully equipped with a scarf and everything. Frik Et kept saying his fingers were unable to move properly... so yes: as mentioned before, we were very happy to be back home after one full windy and cold day on top of that mountain, and still be able to pull it off!
Now I'd like to talk a bit about the EP itself, how did the decision come about to just have it as one long song?
Generally speaking, we love jamming and improvising when it comes to playing. Even so, as much as our music was born during jam sessions (and future music might also take shape in this way in the initial phases), the end result of 'Twenty-Twenty' is definitely not a long 20-minute-20-second jam. The songs were learned and recorded in different sessions. For what concerns the final idea, as said we're very much into letting things go with the flow and follow them. So we didn't sit down and plan "let's do a long song and then connect as many dots as we can"... it really just happened to be this way, quite randomly. By the end of Spring of 2020, we had enough material to put together three different songs and, considering the overall situation caused by COVID, we said "it's our chance to put the word 'end' to the first part of the story of the band, nobody knows what's gonna happen next, so we want to set this moment in stone" or, well... on a CD. These three songs were somehow linked among them and at one point we also started thinking about just releasing the album as one single song and debuting with a one-track EP. It was all very random and things clicked one after the other quite surprisingly. Also, we're very happy about the final result sound-wise: as said, Luca is also a sound engineer and a music producer in his "real" life, the whole album (except for the drums, recorded at Mattia Cominotto's Greenfog Studio in Genoa, one of the most renowned in Italy when it comes to rock music) was recorded at his private studio so we could do things at our pace and in a stress-free environment. The end result is very much planned, meaning that we spent a few weeks working on these three songs only, making sure they had meaningful connections and the whole thing was interesting to listen to ( you know, not so many repetitions of the same thing and the likes).
Do you have any funny memories from creating the EP that you would like to share?
Of course! Some days before the actual release date, and after creating a whole concept around IKITAN being the god of the sound of the stones in the Aztec culture... We found out this was not true! Or at least not verified. We even wrote to a university professor who is the go-to expert in pre-columbian cultures, only to find out that: no, IKITAN is nowhere to be found! The power of unverified Wikipedia sources... Also, you might notice a little sausage dog in the form of a shooting star... he's Orazio, the dog of Enrico's neighbours who's been keeping us company, both with it's sounds when he walks on the roof above Enrico's flat, and figuratively, as we kept talking about him and how funny he is. So we had to include him in the cover! It was actually Frik Et's idea to combine all those elements in the cover: the God erupting from the mountain, Orazio zooming in, a nuraghe, a desertic landscape... all of it, as concieved by Luca (see, all of us contributed somehow! Lol), took shape in a visual tribute to the Simpsons episode where Homer hallucinates, gets lost in the desert and meets the spirit guide in the form of a coyote. The great Luca Marcenaro then put it all together, surpassing our expectations by far with an artwork we still get asked about after months.
'Twenty-Twenty' seems as though it was really well recieved, how have you found the recepetion of your debut EP?
We're extremely pleased and surprised by the overall response. We were not able to be "tested" as a band before the EP was released: no concerts, no social media presence, literally the three of us rocking in a room. We started promoting the album after it was released, breaking all the right PR rules, but somehow the concept and the music were picked up by a lot (well, more than we thought for sure!) of magazines, webzines and fans, all of them sending us great feedback and a mostly positive feedback on our project. Even the negative or average feedback was always given in a very respectful and constructive manner, something which has enabled us to grow even more in these weeks and months. So yes, we went from zero to being able to reach out to a lot of people in a few weeks, and we've started building a network of relationships, finding a lot of new friends on our way, and we're very happy we can keep doing so as we're promoting the upcoming video too.
Do you think you will continue with the long song style?
Who knows! It was definitely a challenge to put it together, even though it's clearly three songs linked together, and not a "proper" long song or suite. There are ideas that are used as glue among the different parts, giving it a prog-gy flavour, and we're surely influenced by that world and style of music, so we don't set limits to our creativity. It all starts as a jam session but then it's countless hours of listening back to what we've played, cutting, pasting, making sure each part has the right length, and so on... So we never know what's happening next , and we surely can't decide upfront if we'll stop playing longer songs or not. But something is telling us that our songs will be more on the "long song" than on the "short song" side of things...
Another thing that stands out to me with you guys is that you are an instrumental band. Do you find this makes creating music any harder or easier?
This is surely an advantage at this stage of our career as we want to focus on music exclusively. Also, we work well as a trio so adding another person to the picture is something we don't feel we need right now. I guess one of us could pick up vocal duties if we really wanted to...and it's not excluded that some parts of our songs will feature vocals. But for the time being we're very content with the current line-up. Easy to manage and 100% focussed on the music. And let's not forget about the drama vocalists tend to bring into bands! :D In this way we're all even. It also keeps things more challenging as you need to keep people's attention in a more clever and intentional way than if you had a vocalist "stealing the spot", let's say so. It's a learning experience, in a way.
What is your approach to making music?
As said, the initial and most creative moment is the jam session. We hit "record" on one of our phones and we just start playing. This goes on for a few weeks, during which we keep listening to what we just played between rehearsals, and then start building on what we just created. This means the songs are never "done" beforehand, nobody enters the room with a full song ready for the other two to learn. It all starts from a jam, and gets played, digested, refined a million times. I recently found some notebooks we used for 'Twenty-Twenty' and we really tried our best to refine it a lot- there's pages of notes and where to cut and improve parts.
What other artists would you say you are inspired by?
One that really puts us together it Tool. We started talking about them the first time we met (we were even at their last gig in Italy, in June 2019, but Luca and Frik Et, long-time friends, didn't know Enrico was there, and they didn't know each other anyway) and suddenly something clicked. We love a lot of different music but the main insprations are surely post-rock and heavy metal music, as well as their close siblings, aka stoner rock and progressive. This surely helps us in putting no boundaries when we start jamming, and that's what makes it cool. But if we had to pick one band each... Luca: Yawning Man Frik Et: Deftones Enrico: Clutch
Are you guys working on anything for 2021 that you would like to talk about?
We're currently working on the promotion of the video, with the hope to be able to play some concerts now that the COVID situation is going to ease a little bit, and we keep working on new songs for our upcoming album.
What bands would you recommend people check out?
Genoa, our city, has an incredibly lively rock scene, and we can't recommend enough our good friends and pals Isaak, CRTVTR, Burn the Ocean, Kurt Russhell, NAAT, Varego, II Segno del Comando, Fungas Family and Temple of Deimos. Each one of them plays a personal blend of rock, stoner, prog... or even the result of this mix! As for underground international acts, we must mention Gramma Vedetta and Aliceissleeping, two alt-rock and stoner rock bands from London that play really cool music and are good friends. You can check all of them out thanks to a dedicated playlist we've been putting together in these past months, featuring the best underground talents from all over the world: CLICK HERE
Lastly, do you have anything else you would like to add?
Thank you very much for your time and if you reached the end of this interview... well, double thanks! :-) Check out Live at Forte Geremia, we had a blast filming it and we hope you'll like it too. Hope to see you soon at one of our gigs - we miss live music! :-)
Connect with IKITAN HERE