Many might not know that Tuscany and Arizona share a geological bond, an ancient legacy of curvaceous eroded rock. The Italian cousin of the Gran Canyon is known as Le Balze and rises for 6 kilometres amidst the Valdarno countryside, from Terranuova Bracciolini to Reggello. It is in this very place, infused of a rare majestic beauty, inside a rundown farmhouse at the edge of the woods, that folk-rock outfit Flame Parade was born.
The band will be live this evening, Friday August 25, from 9pm at Flower, Amblé’s Summer venue in the breathtaking setting of Piazzale Michelangelo. Who knows, if you listen carefully you might be able to overhear a coyote calling in the distance. We enjoyed a chat with 3 of the 4 founding members: Letizia, violin, Marco, guitar and vocals, and Mattia, bass.
Michelle Davis: First off, tell us about your peculiar name, Flame Parade.
Mattia Calosci: Our name is a combination of things, two words that remind us where everything started and our music-making philosophy. We first began playing and rehearsing together in an old Tuscan farmhouse dating back to the 1800s. We’d huddle together next to the immense fireplace to keep warm, a closeness that inspired both song and discussion – thus the word flame. Parade sums up our idea of a band that lives through an ever-growing community of people and colours. Although we are four, we like to think that we can perform in multiple formations, from a trio to a full-blown orchestra.
Marco Zampoli: We have been playing together since 2012, although we officially took on the name towards the end of 2013 to participate in that year’s edition of talent-scouting competition Rock Contest. At the beginning it was me and Mattia, brought together by our love for folk music. Letizia joined shortly after. Our drummer Niccolò Failli was studying percussions in California at the time but all it took was a skype call to convince him to be a part of the band. We decided to do things our way and published our first single, “Berlin” on 7” vinyl. The design on the cover actually features the Balze del Valdarno, as does our upcoming music video, which will be a western-tinged short film. Our penchant for folk finds its realisation in this amazing landscape of ours. It’s like we were meant to do this kind of music.
MD: Speaking of this particular kind of music, contemporary folk is usually associated to the United States and is a pretty well consolidated genre. How did you guys manage to bend its conventions and make something more personal out of it?
Letizia Bonchi: Our producer, Alberto Mariotti aka singer-songwriter King of The Opera, really helped us through this process. He managed to add a New Wave edge to our sound.
MZ: We are very aware of our limits and identity. Although we could never compete with American bands, we embrace this difference and believe that our cultural background could potentially foster a new outlook on folk composition and songwriting. We’re working hard also on pronunciation since we would like to continue singing in English. Artistic license is also a big factor – knowing how much freedom you have in subverting grammatical rules or inventing new words is very important.
LB: We actually took lessons! A lovely lady from the Island of Man, who lives in San Giovanni Valdarno, helped us with the lyrics. It was very useful and she was quite outspoken when it came to pointing out our mistakes or correcting the words’ rhythmic structure.
MD: This is a very interesting moment for electronic and folk music. Although diametrically opposed to each other, their combination can sometimes be surprising. Have you ever thought of remixing one of your songs?
MC: We actually already have! A friend of ours who has moved to London produced a remixed version of one of our songs to use as the opening track of an upcoming Italian indie series called “Nursery”, which takes place in a dystopian, barren future Florence. They are currently gathering resources via crowdfunding.
MD: Which are your main musical inspirations?
MC: Without a doubt we owe a lot to Arcade Fire, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Fleet Foxes.
MD: That’s an impressive list How did you guys bump into this kind of sound in the middle of the Valdarno countryside?
MC: The Valdarno actually has a lot to offer, culturally speaking. There are venues like the Quasi Quasi Social Café, WIP Work In Progress or the BetaBar of Terranuova Bracciolini that organise plenty of musical events, especially in the indie circuit.
LB: If I may add, Terranuova Bracciolini is also home to the Auditorium Le Fornaci, which is very active on the jazz scene and promotes all kind of cultural events, from documentary festivals to theatre and so forth.
MC: Our record label Materiali Sonori’s headquarters are in San Giovanni Valdarno. It has been promoting and distributing independent music since 1977 and has worked with legends the likes of Brian Eno and Thurston Moore. As for our musical research, we’ve always been very curious… before Flame Parade we were all involved with other bands. Letizia is the only die-hard folk musician, since she played celtic music, while I had an alt-rock band, Marco played hardcore post-rock and Niccolò was a punk drummer. However, we met at a point in our lives when we were ready to embrace a music of our own and walk down the path of folk.
MD: And the result was your debut album “A New Home”, released in 2016. Tell us a bit about this work of yours.
LB: The title of the album actually brings us back to our origins, to the tumbledown farmhouse where we first started playing. Unfortunately, because of its disastrous state it has been condemned and we had to look for a new home.
MZ: The name also has a symbolic value – the desire to find a place of our own, a sound that totally represents us in which we can move comfortably and explore our limits. The production of Alberto Mariotti was essential and we’re already writing songs for the next album, which we hope to release in 2018.
To know more about Flame Parade and their music, check out their facebook page!
Also, relive this acoustic performance they did in our offices in the framework of our ongoing music feature #TFSessions!