After reviewing O‘s new EP, Pietra, I wanted to know more about this italian band who seemed to have gathered some praise in their home country but seemed virtually unknown outside. Their mix of postcore and black metal is very effective and passionate thanks to some lyrics in their native tongue, a welcome change to their omnipresence of English in all metal and hardcore lyrics. Despite having a name that makes them hard to track down, it was well worth the effort to ask them a few questions about the stereotype around their home country, their evolution as a band and whether and who they feel connected to artistically.
O has been around since 2010 but I only heard about you very recently thanks to Invisible Oranges. Could you tell me a bit about the band and how it was formed?
Maurizio (bass): First of all, thanks for the interview. O born in 2010, after several musical experiences: some of us play together within more than 10 years. The initial goal was to propose a brand of post hardcore strongly influenced by black metal, blending introspective aspects of this genre with different styles like grindcore, which is more direct. In 2011 we stepped in the scene by recording a split 7″ EP with our friends Hungry Like Rakovitz and a full length called Il Vuoto Perfetto in 2012, released by Grindpromotion Records. Within the last 5 years we focused on developing and evolving our style, exploring even more our introspective side in music, which led us to our last record « PIETRA » released by Grindpromotion Records and Unquiet Records.
Your name makes you difficult to find on search engines, was this part of the reason why you have chosen it ?
Maurizio: No, it’s surely not meant for that, it is kind of an « anti-internet » name though… It came from a fascination for the idea of a non-legible moniker, bonded more to a symbol which has multiple interpretations rather than a random extreme band name. To make things easier we pronounce it « O » like the alphabet letter, even if it’s not really O, « Circular Sign », « Circle » or whatever.
The band’s lyrics are written in English and in Italian. Do you think using your native tongue makes the lyrics more personal?
Maurizio: We think it’s more « natural » than simply personal, it’s more intense when it comes to express our emotions and feelings. Maybe it’s because 4/5 of us grew up listening to Italian punk hardcore, but also because it offers several possibilities, giving somehow a poetic feel to our lyrics. You know, screaming words can only be done in our native tongue to be sincere!
Italy is a country mostly associated with a sunnier and joyful atmosphere, which is the complete opposite of what your music inspires. Do you think your environment has had an influence on the kind of music you create and if so, in which ways?
Maurizio: The idea that Italy is all about food, friends and fun is a common misconception, originated by prejudice about our country. We are not saying that it is not like that, but as we have many things to be proud we have others to be sickened, not to mention politics or economy… Besides that we all live in north Italy and we can assure you, the sun doesn’t shine quite often here! Our music surely reflects the environment we live in: concrete and wilderness all in one place. Another environmental factor that has a great influence on our music is the complete lack of a proper future, our dreams are raped from birth thanks to an old and never solved post-industrial crisis that leads people to accept shitty underpaid jobs, abuses and mass media bullshit. That’s because the average Italian guy is hopeless, he will never learn from his country’s history and will do the same mistakes his grandparents did.
Your music has moved away from grindcore on Pietra, was this a conscious move?
Maurizio: Absolutely. By changing drummer two years ago we felt the need to refine our playing, there were too many aspects that weren’t well incorporated in our previous record especially regarding the rhythmic section, like we needed a lighter form to express exactly what we had in our mind. The bursting grindcore-ish riffs simply had to go, because we wanted to add a more natural and dynamic feel by diluting the chaotic parts in a sludgy swirl of blackness. Also black metal was fitting better with the lyrics, we know is an “in vogue” influence nowadays, but we must say: as many started to admit we were one of the first Italian bands to experiment with it, even if we are less renown than other Italian acts, which work we respect and admire. Obviously this is not like denying our past, we are not becoming a metal band and we don’t even like to label our music anymore, as said before: we all grew up in diy contexts, it is a mentality (besides music) that we support and believe in, so it will always be the way we’ll play, with all our heart.
You have mostly played in Italy, do you have plans to tour more in Europe next year? Do you have any plans to play in the UK?
Maurizio: Playing live shows means the world to us, even if sometimes we manage to do it fewer than expected. At the moment, we are planning a tour across France, Austria and Swiss with our mates Lamantide to promote our latest records along with selected shows in Italy. From now on our goal is to tour as much as we can, but still we can’t afford to leave our jobs and studies for too long. We never played in the UK but we’d love to, so if anyone interested reads this, please get in touch!
With which artists, outside of music, do you feel you share a common aesthetic?
Maurizio: All five of us went to art school, some of us are working as designer or artists while others are cinema historians so it’s inevitable to draw inspiration from the world of visual arts, a lot of influences can be found in an imagery such evocative as the photos of the K2 Vittorio Sella did in 1909, the last paintings by Mark Rothko or the mighty installations of Richard Serra, Gustave Dorè’s timeless etchings… To those we must add Antichrist and Melancholia (Lars Von Trier), The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr), A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Rivers and Russell), Repulsion and Rosemary’s baby (Roman Polanski), David Lynch whole filmography, Nosferatu (Werner Herzog). Also literature and philosophy are great influences for concepts and lyrics, to name a few classics: Nietzsche, Sartre, Cioran, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Schopenhauer, Lautrémont, Kafka…
Pietra is available via Bandcamp on Pay as you want