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Smalltown Tigers - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 27 / 5 / 2020

Smalltown Tigers - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Valli, the bassist and guitarist with Italian female rock and roll/punk trio Smalltown Tigers, about 'Five Things', their debut mini-album.

Smalltown Tigers are a young female trio from North Italy who play raucous rock and roll with a 70’s punk vibe. The group, which consists of Valli (bass, vocals), Monty (guitar, vocals) and latest recruit Castel (drums), was formed out of the remnants of a Ramones cover band, and played their first UK tour last year. They have just released their debut mini-album ‘Five Things’. Lo-fi and raw in sound, it was produced by cult producer and blues rock veteran Stiv Cantarelli, and whiplashes its way through a breathless and furious eight songs in just over twenty minutes. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Valli about ‘Five Things’ and Smalltown Tigers’ career to date. PB: You can hear the sound of the Runaways, Suzi Quatro, the Stooges and the early B-52s in your sound, which you then merge together into something of your own. How did you discover these acts?’ V: Well, they have been all part of the process of growing up as musicians and as a band. It’s easy for us to say that The Ramones have had the biggest influence on us since we discovered them as teenagers. After that day everything we used to listen to before started to sound dull and slow. Since then, we became interested in which bands have been influenced l by the Ramones and which bands have influenced the Ramones themselves, and we discovered bands like the Stooges or the MC5. At the same time, being an all-female band (even when we just played Ramones covers) it led us to follow female models, and Joan Jett was too strong a personality to be ignored for the influence she had on all female musicians to express themselves, as well as Suzie Quatro. Other bands like B52s came later. Like many others. Like Motorhead, for example. I guess it’s a natural process for any band. PB: How did develop from being a Ramones cover band to writing your own material? V: We remain huge Ramones fans and we still enjoy playing their songs. I guess we never played a set without a Ramones song in it! We, however, wanted to try something new and more creative for a long time. In order for us to grow as musicians and still continue to be part of the local live scene, we needed to start a completely separate band, Smalltown Tigers, that could take the time to grow and hopefully bring our original music into a bigger scene. At first, we hadn’t a clue about how to do it, but we’ve been lucky enough to meet veteran musicians like Stiv Cantarelli and Antonio Perugini of The Silent Strangers that helped us a lot. Stiv is a respected songrwriter on the underground scene, he taught us how to write and produced our music, turning it from ideas to final songs. From that point on, we dedicated ourselves to creating our own sound. PB: You are from Rimini in Northern Italy, a city more renowned for opera and being cited in various Italian popular songs rather than its punk and new wave bands. Does it have a large underground scene? V: That old stereotype of Northern Italy being stuck in the age of opera, it always makes us smile! Italians have been exposed to foreign music since the 40s, mostly American and British. Don’t forget that we were an unofficial US colony after the WWII…Italians love all genres of music: classic rock, new wave, metal and, of course, punk. In the region around Rimini there’s always been a huge music scene since the late 70s. The best clubs and bars have always been from this area. Mods, rockers as well as the first new wave fans in Italy had festivals in this town since the 80s. Now that scene’s almost gone, most of those clubs have closed and we didn’t experience any of that because of our age, but what’s left of the scene has spread throughout the whole region. These days there’s a large DIY punk scene that developed with the help of local musicians, internet radio and word of mouth. It’s also based on a punk YouTube channel runned by Canthc, a former punk/music journalist that almost every day talks about records, shows and new releases (mostly punk. PB: Your songs are about remaining just friends with boys rather than making the mistake of going out with them, standing up for yourself, escaping your stifling small city roots and falling out with other girls. Are you writing about simply what you know? V: I’ve been told that’s the first rule of songwriting…Yes, many of our lyrics are from our personal thoughts, experiences and feelings. Everyone has his own journey through life, but we try to capture the things that our listeners can identify with. Sometimes it’s just a story for the song, something fictionarl. The most important thing, though, is that the lyrics have to match the raw musical energy of the music. We’re not poets, we’re rock’n’rollers. PB: Your songs are all in English. Did you ever consider singing in Italian or was that never an option? V: When we first started writing originals, we tried to write some songs with Italian lyrics. We quickly realized that there’s a reason why English is the language of rock’n’roll. Our idiom doesn’t really fit the metric, the pace and the feeling of our songs, maybe because all the bands we learned from come from English-speaking countries. Sure, we don’t rule out writing in Italian, maybe we will change our minds in the future. For now we just want to write and sing in English. PB: ‘Five Things’ has a wonderful, spiky, lo-fi sound and was recorded mainly live and without overdubs. Was it recorded very quickly? V: Yes, our goal was to create a raw and unfiltered sound. We recorded the whole album at L’Amor Mio Non Muore studio in Forli, Italy. It’s an all-analogue studio, where they use reel-to-reel recorders and an old 70s mixing desk. No computer tricks, just ears and a bunch of tube amplifiers. The whole process took only a few hours: we didn’t want to stack too many layers of sound on it. It has to be live, loud, fast and powerful. That’s the Smalltown Tigers. PB: Your album was mastered by Dirtbombs and White Stripes producer Jim Diamond. How did you persuade him to become involved? V: It happened that some good friends of ours, a band from Arezzo called The Cogs, went to record with Jim Diamond in his studio in France. We listened to their record, loved the sound and, since they remained friends with Jim, they introduced us. Despite the incredible stature of the bands he produced and played with, he was happy to work with us. And we knew from the start that he would be the right person to craft our sound. PB: You have a new drummer Castel. What has she brought to the sound? V: She brought her own distinct sound: she’s so wild, tight and accurate. Having Castel provide such a steady and strong beat enabled us to stay focused during rehearsals and then allows us to perform on pure instinct and adrenaline for our live shows without having to bother too much about where the tempo goes. She’s our motor, and we wouldn’t make it without her. PB: You played your first mini-tour of the UK last October. Did you enjoy the experience and what were the best things and worst things about it for you? V: We love London. We felt the spirit of punk history and that helped us to find the right attitude when we were there. You know, taking the stage in places like The Hope and Anchor where the history of rock’n’roll has been written was a blessing, and a bit scary at the very beginning, but once you’re there you forget everything. Performing and connecting with the audience was amazing. Our English friends can be a bit more rowdy than their Italian counterparts can, still they’re much more passionate for the music and this helped our performance for sure. We spent the best part of a week in town playing gigs, shooting videos, hanging around special places all around East London, we nearly lost our bags with credit cards and passports while jumping from one pub to the other but everything have been great. You know, it’s not for everybody to realize the rock’n’roll dreams you had when you were a kid. We’ve been blessed. PB: You were due to come back here in May but that has been cancelled because of the world crisis. Have those dates been rescheduled? What else can we expect from Smalltown Tigers hopefully in the near future? V: Yes, due to the crazy situation the tour dates have been postponed. At the moment it seems that November it may be good for a rescheduling and we really hope so, but you couldn’t say it for sure. We are still optimistic that when this crisis will end we can go on tour and bring ‘Five Things’ on stage all over Europe. In the meantime, the best thing we could do is spread our music as much as we could through radio stations, the web or anywhere somebody would want to have us. Continue to create new contents on social networks for all the people who follow us, rehearse in our own space, stay in touch with our amazing fans and hope for a brighter future. PB: Thank you.

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Smalltown Tigers - Interview

Smalltown Tigers - Interview

Smalltown Tigers - Interview

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