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Candies - Interview with Giulio Calvino

  by Mark Rowland

published: 15 / 2 / 2003

Candies - Interview with Giulio Calvino


Italian trio the Candies started out a post rock group, but have now become a punk act. With their second album, 'Dense Waves Make Your Eyes Wider', just out, Mark Rowland, talks to group leader Giulio Calvino about their change in direction.

About a year and a bit ago, I did my first interview ever for Pennyblackmusic, a few months after I started writing for the site. The band I interviewed were the Candies, an Italian post-rock trio with slight art-punk leanings. The interview was with singer, guitarist and general band leader Giulio Calvino, and went really well. I stayed in contact with him. There was talk of meeting the band when they toured with Econoline, but unfortunately, the tour fell through, and I lost contact with him for a while. Having got in contact with Giulio again last year, I thought it was about time for a follow-up interview. The band had just finished recording their second album, 'Dense Waves Make Your Eyes Wider', which, I was told, was "totally different" to the first one, 'Leaving Our Homes'. Despite knowing this, I was still very shocked (and pleasantly surprised) by just how different the sound of the new album was. Withn 'Dense Waves Make your Eyes Wider', the Candies have made a complete direction change, from slow post-rock to a more energetic, song orientated post-punky sound. Though this will be a shock to the fans of the band's last album, it's really very good, and is definitely an album with a wider appeal that could see the Candies growing quite considerably in terms of popularity. The band, however. are far from trouble free. PB : 'Dense Waves...' has a very different sound to the post-rock influenced 'Leaving our Homes'. Why such a big change in direction? GC : This is the question I always get asked in interviews. It's obvious it's so different, and everyone seems to be wondering "Why this huge change in the band's sound?" The previous record was more a post-rock kind of thing because we were all really into post-rock at the time. We thought it was totally inspiring, but then after a couple of European tours, and the record and everything, we were bored of doing mainly slow music. We wanted to do a punk rock record, with my voice being a more prominent part of the music, so we decided to make new record in a comletely different style. We booked three months of studio time. We didn't have any ideas ready for songs, so we had to write all the songs in three months, which we'd never had to do. With the previous record, it took us a couple of years to get all the songs together. This one was very tough for us because we'd never worked that fast. I had to take a couple of weeks off work. I told them I was sick, but it was so I could get all the arrangements for the songs sorted out and stuff like that. We recorded the whole thing in two days, and recorded them live, which was pretty stressful and in what was a very short time period for us, which I think is pretty cool. We love the results of that period of writing, With this new music, we kind of went back to our origins when we were first starting to make indie rock. We looked to our past in a more conscious way, and we decided that we wanted to have a thin and brittle sound, but at the same time quite a thick sound, a sort of Washington DC sound. PB : Is it a relief to be receiving so much positive feedback about the new record? GC : Pretty much so, yeah. When we made this record, we said to ourselves "We don't give a fuck that all the people that liked the last record will probably be a bit pissed about this one". This is a punk rock record, and post-rock people generally don't like punk rock music. I was pretty aware of that. Mauro, the bassist, also kept saying "We cannot play the old stuff any more. We want to do new things. We like to make surprises rather than always the same music". We were happy anyway, even if everyone was going to " We don' t like you. That's too much of a change in a band. Blah, blah, blah !". The result was totally the opposite. People were even more into this one. That was so surprising for me. It was a cool surprise, definitely. PB : Can you see yourself making any more big direction changes in the future, or have you now found your niche? GC :That's tough to answer, because these kind of changes happen quite slowly, and this change was totally unexpected. We had started to take in new influences. For example I started listening to bossanova, and I was getting really passionate about that music. Mauro has always been into post rock music, but had started to listen to other kinds of stuff, so the process we went through to make this record was completely different to the way we made the old record. That's another reason why it's so different. We changed the way we made music. PB : Have you been touring the new record yet? GC : Yeah, PB : What kind of reactions have you been getting from the crowds? Are you attracting a different crowd, or are you still getting the same kind of people you used to get coming to your shows? GC :Well, we never really had much of a crowd in Italy, seeing as we tour more outside Italy, especially over the last couple of years. Of course people were surprised at the change, but they were entertained by the show we put on. I mean it wasn't wild because people didn't know the songs, but we hoped that once people knew the songs that they would go wild, so we were expecting people to listen to our music, then go see us live and have a cool party. For the first few gigs, we toured the record with the Atom Bomb Pocket Knife, and the first show was not so good, the second show was really wild but not very precise musically, and then from the third show we started to play the show we wanted. We had a presence on-stage and played the music really well. We have been getting better with every gig. I think we have already played seven or eight gigs since the album came out. The next month is pretty much full. We're playing every weekend, and for longer, which is cool. PB : You've had a lot of problems with touring in Britain. What is it that's made it so difficult to play there? GC : The first tour, we had problems because our drummer quit one week before we were due to go over there. We had a fight, and we decided not to work with him any more. There was no way he was going to get on that plane. It was around the 11th September. Everyone was scared about flying, and this guy was really shitting his pants about taking a plane. That seemed pretty absurd to me. He was trying to mask the problem,inventing excuses and stuff, so we had a fight, and that was that. I didn't come over with the Candies, I came over with a friend of mine who played guitar, and the band featured just him and me. I was backing him with a drum kit, so that was it. With this next tour, no-one is prepared to give the security that the gigs we've booked will stay there. They can cancel gigs one week beforehand That sort of thing happens all the time. That's bullshit. It's not good for people coming in from other countries to be treated like that. UK bands think that sucks also, but as they live in the same country, they can just drive to the venue. If you have a plane booked though, that's terrible. The only way you can have gigs definitely booked there is if some big newspaper creates enough hype for you so that the shows become like huge parties. It's pretty difficult, but that's the way it works there. PB :Sounds like you have certain music papers in mind. GC :What? You mean like the NME ? Yeah of course, that kind of paper. Also, I'm not sure if there's any potential kind of hype power from Careless Talk Costs Lives. I have friends working there, and I was told it was getting bigger and bigger, but I think that the hype is created by the big ones, while the smaller ones, I think they're cooler, they're more like avant-punk, avant-everything, but maybe they don't have that power. It's really important how the media treats you in the UK. If you're a phenomenon,or something like that, of course, you won't have problems doing anything there. I mean, look at the Hives. They are a typical UK hype thing. A band from Sweden that comes to the UK. They got big in the UK, and then they got big across the rest of Europe, including Italy, but only because they'd been big in the UK. Otherwise it would have been extremely difficult for them to get that kind of fame. The UK is leading the Hype market for the rest of Europe. If it's big in the UK, of course it must be big in the whole of Europe. That's how it works. And that's also the origin of the problem, because everyone wants to play in England, and then you get too many bands over there. As for the promoters, they just don't give a fuck. If you play a gig for example in Germany, they give you a place to sleep, they give you something to eat, they give you all the things to make you feel comfortable, but when you go to the UK you have to pay for your food, you have to rent yourself somewhere to sleep. Maybe, if the promoter is a friend or is into the band, you can stay at their house or at their friend's place, and that's cool, but that's totally different. If you want to tour England, you're going to lose money. If you're big, you've got nothing to worry about. That's the way it works. PB : It's a pain really, isn't it? GC :Yeah, I've heard about tons of bands that have got ripped off while touring the UK. They lose money touring Europe, but a very small amount, which they get back. They go to the UK and they lose like, 2000 dollars. It's pretty frustrating. It's not as if they're losing money by having huge parties with large numbers of people, they just play a few shows in front of very few people. That's not nice. That's why many bands choose not to go to the UK, which I think is smart. If you've got the hype, sure, go there and have fun, but don't go if you're bound to lose a bunch of money. That's an investment into nothing. I'm pretty negative about that. Sorry UK people, but that's the way it works. You probably know that already though. PB : Yeah, it can be a bit crap. GC :(Laughs) The rest of Europe is really nice. They don't have all that hype, so it's cooler. PB : You see papers hyping bands like the Vines continuously, no matter what they're doing. GC : They're still hyping the Vines?!!! PB : Yeah GC : Why?! Pretty much all they're records are crap, so why? Really? PB : Well, I was about to ask you. Do you think that perhaps these music papers should perhaps widen their scopes and look for more new music rather than writing so much much about the same bands? GC :Exactly, they don't try to look for new music. They might try to push new music if that new music is going to let them sell the hype, because the hype is the only important thing. We're talking about media, right, and we all know how the media works. They want something like a war to happen so they can sell newspapers. That's how the media works. They have to create some newhype every week or every month so people buy their paper. In Italy we have a very singular kind of hype thing. We have it sometimes, but it is totally Italian. You know All Time Religion? They're huge here. I've played with them, and there was like 500 people in a big hall. That's a lot of people, because from what I know, they don't draw that many people aroundthe rest of Europe. In Germany they draw about 15 people (per show). In Sweden it's about 20 people. I don't know about the UK, but I think it's around that many, but in Italy they were like huge, because there was a newspaper that created some hype around the band, and people were thinking that the band was good. They don't do like commercial music, or old kind of rock music, They're totally experimental, so that's kind of a weird thing, but the important thing is not really the music (in this situation), but the money and hype you can make around it. I think that's how the market works, pretty much. PB :You've changed labels in Europe. What happened with the other label ? GC : Well, the old label was pretty much me and a friend of mine that now runs Blue Tears, which is an indie rock distributor here in Italy, a very small one. It does lots of good things. It is pretty much mail order only, and he wanted to start that alone. I couldn't carry e:letro, the old label, by myself. We got back from a European tour. I got talking with some friends of mine, and one of these friends of mine plays in Lo-fi Sucks (a very good Suiteside label band-MR), and he told me he'd try and talk with Monica(Melissano, key Suiteside records type person-MR), and it would be cool, I'd already been dealing with Monica for contacts and stuff, and it came out that Monica was looking for new bands for the label, so a week later we played a gig with Feverdream, and she came to the show, and she liked us, and that was it. I was very happy to go with Suiteside, because Monica is very professional, and I couldn't handle doing everything for the band, the promotion and everything, by myself. It was becoming too much work. It's working out well for us. We're getting a lot of good reviews and getting good promotion even. In Italy she knows everyone, so, we're not having any problems doing anything. Even with doing the split with the Atom Bomb Pocket Knife (The band have recenly released a split single, with each band doing track each), I just told her, "We should do it", and she was like "Okay". All I usually have to do is record the song and do a master, and she'll take care of everything, while before I had to do everything with my friend. I really appreciate, therefore all that she's doing for us. PB : There seems to be quite a good community kind of thing going on with the label,in which everyone knows everyone else. GC :Yeah, I met with the other bands just last week. We meet up all the time,and everyone gives a hand to everyone, and it's good to have that kind of thing going on. Here in Italy, bands often hate each other, and that's not good, I don't like that, so it's good to have a community of bands that get on. People might not like each other's music 100%, but there's still respect there. It's like, "You do your thing, and I respect that, and if you need help I will help you out". They won't just hate for example the Candies because they don't do the same kind of music. They might not like that kind of music. They're all cool people. It's a family. PB : That's a good vibe to have. GC :Definitely. Monica pushes everyone into it, into sharing, into meeting, into helping each other, and she's always around with the bands. I think she's the best label manager in Italy, because she's got a totally punk rock attitude, but works in a very smart way, so it's really cool. PB :Your new direction is more vocal based, but your lyrics are often indecipherable. What kind of subjects do you cover in your songs? GC :Really, you thought they were indecipherable? PB : Well, yeah, in that it's quite difficult to tell what you're singing about. GC :Right. It's just that some of my friends already know a lot of the choruses and stuff like that, so I thought it was clear. Okay. The lyrics are mainly about the behaviour of humans with technology, and this is contrasted with the behaviour of humans with each other. That's pretty much it. For example, 'Being Together' is punk rock love song, where I repeat "being together" almost obsessively, and other songs like 'Device Power' are about devices that we hold closer to our skins. It's a kind of post-industrial kind of thing where devices start to become a part of our bodies, and our bodies are altered by technology, like fake breasts with plastic surgery, and things like that. It's a song about technology being necessary to make you cooler. They're not very personal lyrics like the last one, because I don't really like writing personal lyrics about my situation. I just observe and describe things I see. I like to keep them abstract, because the more abstract they are, the easier it is for people to interpret them, to give a meaning for themselves to the lyrics, so everyone can understand them in their own way. Sometimes, they are simply about a situation of life. For example, 'Basslines.' is more about a single situation. PB :Does the office style theme to the artwork, with the calendar, fit in with the kind of things you've written about in your lyrics? GC :Yeah, we wanted the artwork to look kind of 'geeky' with the guy staring into the lift with his handheld, and we put a calendar on the reverse side like the kind you'd put on your desk in an office. We wanted it to look like something that belonged in an office rather than in someone's home, and of course, being 'geeky' is a kind of attitude, so we kind of wanted to fit in with that kind of thing. PB :What bands do you think have influenced you the most on the new record? GC : The Robocop Kraus' 'Tiger', must be the most influential band on this record, I listen to that record a lot and I realised that their vocalist had a voice that was very similar to my voice.I realised that my voice was actually not so bad, so I tried to use it in the best way I could, to sound as good as I can on the record, so that was a big influence and also a big step in helping me find my own way of singing, and also my playing because their sound is very good. That's definitely a record that has inspired me a lot. PB : What other good music do you recommend we listen to? GC : I'd like people to listen to the Candies (Laughs). I'd like people to listen to a band called Prague as well. I play drums on that record and it's a very cool record. We recorded it in the same studio as we did the Candies. I'm listening to a lot of soul music, and bossanova of course. I listen to various things, like jazz, Stefan Gropelli and Art Blakey. You can get passionate about so many different things. In terms of rock bands I like the Robocop Kraus of course, Fever Dream, and Econoline. There's a band from England like called This Ain't Vegas. There's I'm Being Good, of course. They're one of my favourite UK bands, and I think that's pretty much it. I love the Blood Brothers as well. I think that's pretty much it but I'm sure I've forgotten some bands (laughs). That always happens in interviews. PB : Thank you.

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Candies - Interview with Giulio Calvino

Candies - Interview with Giulio Calvino

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Interview (2002)
Candies - Interview
Italy's best export since pizza, Candies are breathing new life into the European indie scene with their eclectic post-rock sound, taking in the jittery, dissonant sounds of Slint and mixing them with breakneck art-punk, grunge's sludgier moments, Aphex-

live reviews

Garage, London, 30/5/2003
Candies - Garage, London, 30/5/2003
Since interviewing frontman Giulio Calvino for the first time, Mark Rowland has waited almost two years to see Italian post-punk trio the Candies, but finds the experience well worth the wait at the London Garage


Dense Waves Make Your Eyes Wider (2003)
Excellent second album from Italy's Candies, which finds them moving away from their post rock past, and towards a new punk sound
Leaving Our Homes (2001)

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