As the Rimbaud’s inspired name suggests, the image of a ‘sleeping Ophelia’, you can already realize that we are dealing with a project too challenging and not easy to ‘tag’ for our fast and disposable times. However the Bologna-based Italian trio, the imaginative blend of Francesca Bono’s vocals and guitars, Michele Postpischl’s percussion and Tato Izzia’s synths, since the beginnings have patiently continued for its own experimental and evolutionary sonic path, increasingly more electronic and refined, never redundant, aimed at crafting dark ethereal, misty and melancholic atmospheres exalted by the amazing intriguing and sultry voice of Francesca Bono.
With the latest release of the ‘Howie B produced’ third album ‘Secret Fires’, Ophelia is ‘ready to wake up from the limbo’ and finally achieve a worthy international appreciation…and as for Italy, we know, ‘hope springs eternal’.
Thanks so much for the interview.
Let’s start from the beginning of Ofeliadorme, please help our readers to better understand the band’s origins, how did you meet, your early influences and inspirations and above all what are the elements that make your music collaboration so unique?
Francesca: Ofeliadorme started in Bologna, northern Italy, in 2008 as a duo, Francesca Bono and Gianluca Modica, simply two friends meeting at home with a couple of guitars. Almost immediately Michele and Tato joined the band playing respectively drums and guitar (Tato has since then abandoned guitar and now plays various synth and machines). Our early inspiration was Rimbaud, hence the band’s name, and various music genres: songwriters, rock, electronic music, wave and pop. I’ve always been very much into books and literature, so those are great influences in our writing too. Even though I happen to have a terrible memory for titles! That’s why I usually keep ours short…
Michele: Early influences… Radiohead, Bjork, Cat Power, PJ Harvey, Sigur Rós, particularly their ethereal and delicate world, the desire to pursue an elegant balance among elements.
What type of music were you exposed to at your childhood? Do you remember when and where you started to get passionate about music and your early artistic inspirations?
Michele: As a child on one hand I was exposed by my father to jazz and classical music, in particular his “pirate” recordings made at concerts, and on the other to the songwriters such as Lucio Dalla, Lucio Battisti and Francesco De Gregori.
Francesca: In my family mainly classical music, The Beatles and some Italian artists such as Paolo Conte and Fabrizio De André. When I was 11 my mother gave me a Depeche Mode cassette, ‘Violator’, and from there I started my journey through music. I started playing classic guitar when I was 10 and I always knew I just wanted to write my own stuff, even if it took me years to come to terms with it.
Tato: My family didn’t use to listen to music very much, my father liked some stuff by Trovajoli and my sister mainly listened to Italian songwriting. But I was fascinated by soundtracks, both Italian and foreign. The real passion began during the adolescence when I discovered the first punk bands, and then dark and wave stuff.
Let’s talk about our beloved/hated homeland where culture is kept in a secondary, marginal role, maybe Bologna, with Turin I guess, is the best place for being a musician at the moment. Which inspiring impact has your town had and still has on your artistic creativity? Are you as pessimistic as me? Which Italian artist/band could you recommend to our readers?
Francesca: We’re a bit pessimistic but we try not to think about that, the cultural situation in Italy. We do all we can. Surely Bologna is a happy island, and we’re very happy to share our passion with many other good bands who live in our hometown.
Please, let’s talk about your approach to the song composition? How is the songwriting process divided between all you three? Is it the capturing of improvisation or is it more structured?
Francesca: I usually bring some ideas, music and lyrics, and then we work on those ideas for a very long time, we usually have more versions of each song, details are very important to us. Sometimes we use improvisation too, but maybe we used it more on our previous records. That said, we spend a huge amount of time playing in our practice room. The live aspect is always our focus.
Michele: We always try to improve the ability to see ourselves from outside, we usually do not settle for the first idea and work very hard to explore all the nuances of each song. We use images very much, especially Francesca with her lyrics.
For your new album the experienced Glasgow’s musician and producer Howie B took on the production helm. How did you meet him and what has his contribution been in terms of energy and creativity? What are your treasured acquisitions working with him?
Tato: To never lose enthusiasm for the work that you are doing.
Francesca: Howie B is a very special guy and a great producer, we’re so happy we met him. In 2012 we sent him an email with a link to ‘Paranoid Park‘ video, off our 2011 album ‘All Harm Ends Here‘, and he decided, out of the blue, to make a remix. Since then we’ve been basically in constant contact, until we met him in Tuscany in August 2013 and he asked us to produce and release our new album. And so here we are, with an album, ‘Secret Fires’, that we all cherish very much. We spent a great amount of time in a rehearsal room playing the songs live to Howie, he is a great listener, first of all, and he tried and managed to bring the best out of everyone, he never imposed himself or his ideas, that’s why he is a great producer.
Since the electro-acoustic indie-pop of the DIY early days, you have skillfully developed your sound with a minimal approach, always taking care of the tiniest details and looking basically for building the ‘mood’, the atmosphere… Could you talk about the slow genesis of your genre-defying sound? Do you have any sensations, hints about further possible developments?
Francesca: Recently Howie invented a new word for the genre of music we produce: Dream Beat. We never felt comfortable with the many labels they attached to our music, we’re not comfortable with trying to explain it. It surely has many influences but also a uniqueness to it. Or at least that’s what we’ve been working on since day 1, trying to develop and experiment with everything we wished. I don’t know about the future, we still want to explore this newly taken path, and we are already writing new songs.
All your album have an encompassing theme: In your 2011 debut ‘All Harm Ends Here’ was a general and personal struggle and pain; in 2012 ‘Bloodroot’ the ritualism and roots; in 2014 ‘The Tale’ EP the classic Apuleius’ Eros and Psyche tale, the sensuality Vs the mentality; What’s the main theme of the new album? Francesca is the lyricist, please, could you talk about your way and sources of writing?
Francesca: The world we live in is a very frenzy one, we never really take the time to be vulnerable with each other. That’s something I’ve been thinking about while writing these songs. Fire is difficult to control and demands respect, like feelings. Like nature and human nature. We all hide some ‘fires’. The recurrent themes in ‘Secret Fires’ are loneliness, the lack of communication and burning passions. I like human beings and I’m very interested in what you can find under the surface.
Your name is inspired by Rimbaud’s poem, “Ophelie”. It’s quite clear that you draw on, or you are influenced by many non-musical cultural resources (i.e. films, books, visual art) in your creative process, from your close attention to the cover art to your amazing videos. Are there any writers or visual artists you find particularly inspiring? Which have been these suggestions for the new album?
Francesca: That’s accurate, cultural resources are many and crucial. I love David Lynch and Wong Kar-wai. While working on ‘Secret Fires‘, I’ve been re-watching all John Cassavetes‘ movies and I read books about him, interviews and so on. And I think that this thing somehow has had an impact on the process. As for visual artists, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, but also many illustrators, like Charles Burns or Lorenzo Mattotti are among my favorites. Images often make me think about musical ideas.
Tato: I like dark street art, I find it inspiring, to cite an Italian I would recommend Eron.
Your third album ‘Secret Fires’ was out a few weeks ago. Please, could you provide to our readers a deeper insight into it?
Francesca: ‘Secret Fires’ deals a lot with the ancestral nature of the human being, the instincts, the world of feelings, needs and the desires of the body.
It’s like a voice whispering in your ear.
With ‘The Tale’ EP from 2014 the electronic elements began to have a preponderant part in your songs, those recordings went also under the ‘remix’ treatment later on. Shall we expect other similar reworking ‘treatments’ in the near future? Do you have any interest in the electronic music and more specifically in the club/dance one?
Francesca: Absolutely yes! Our UK label HB Recordings has already commissioned a couple of remix. I’m interested in electronic music and ambient music, and Tato too, he’s definitely the one who listens to electronic music the most. I love Andy Stott, The Haxan Cloak, HTRK, Massive Attack, Boards Of Canada…
Tato: I enjoy the experimental side of electronic music very much, sometimes even noise, but once in a while I also like going to places where you can find some club/dance music.
On 14/15 March you’ll play at the South By Southwest Festival [SXSW] in Austin (Texas), for the first time in the USA. What’s your favourite part about playing live and your highlights so far?
Francesca: We just came back and it was an amazing experience. Austin truly is the ‘city of music’. We met so many people, and we had a very good feedback. That’s what we like, playing live and meeting people. We create a mood on stage, among the three of us, and try to convey that experience to the audience, it’s always an experience for us too. We hope to play Europe and Asia soon. We’re working on that.
Please name your favourite/ essential three records of all time.
Tato: ‘The Peel Sessions’ (Joy Division), ‘Sandinista!’ (The Clash), ‘Pornography’ (The Cure).
Michele: ‘Sea Changes’ (Beck), ‘Homogenic’ (Bjork), ‘You Are free’ (Cat Power).
Francesca: Wow, this is a difficult question… ‘Kid A’ (Radiohead), ‘Protection’ (Massive Attack), ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ (The Velvet Underground).
Many thanks for being our welcome guest and all the best for the new record, just a final question: Is there anything I forgot to ask you and would you like to say to our readers?
Thankyou, it’s been such a pleasure! Just one last thing: All info about the band can be found on our brand new website. Thanks!
Photo credits: Roberta Sardi (1st one), Cristina Dona (2nd one)