Julie’s Haircut: Interview

Italian band Julie’s Haircut have been around for a long time now. Naturally, as the years have gone by their sound has evolved into something different, a sound that doesn’t quite fit into any genre. With their new release ‘Invocation and Ritual Dance of My Demon Twin’ fresh out the Rocket Recordings studio and a tour starting in a matter of days, we just had to find out more…

How did your new album ‘Invocation and Ritual Dance of My Demon Twin’ come together creatively?

Just as usual for us. Which I guess is not the usual way for most bands. Usually we get together in the studio for 2 or 3 days and just start jamming. You know we’ve been around for a long time in Italy. We used to write songs in the regular way, you know somebody writes a song, then records some lyrics and then all together the band arranges the song. We kind of abandoned that quite a few years ago and well it’s almost 10 years now that we’ve been using this other method which is basically going to the studio with no ideas what so ever and we just start improvising and we record everything. We then let some weeks go by so that we forget what we’ve done and then we take the tapes and listen back to it, and we see what are the interesting spots. So we basically have many hours of recorded music and we try to strip that down to a few hours of recorded music. That’s where we begin exploring the sounds and seeing what are the very best bits that can become a song. Then we edit bits, add vocals or sometimes don’t and there you go. After a while you have 8 songs and you have an album. I usually compare this to making traditional balsamic vinegar. I think it’s basically the same process. You start with a very big vat and after a year or so you get some nice vinegar which is one tenth of the original amount. I would say it’s not the most usual way of making an album but it’s something we really like doing at the moment.

Could you explain a bit into the meaning of the title of the album?

There’s a humorous side to it really. The original idea came from the Frank Zappa song ‘Invocation & The Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin’. We’ve always been fascinated by this kind of ceremonial or cult music. So we really liked this formula. Of course the Frank Zappa title is very humorous and we wanted to draw from the young pumpkin thing and maybe think of something that was maybe more into the vibe that the album had. So we kind of talked about the title as a band and with the guys at Rocket Recordings, and someone suggested that short film by Kenneth Anger ‘Invocation of My Demon Brother’. He was an experimental director, he did very weird and psychedelic stuff in the 1960s/70s. We liked the idea of these two Hungarian twins, and the idea of playing with this concept of the mirror image. It’s something that has always fascinated us. It’s kind of a Frankenstein title if you want. It’s been stitched together from loads of different stuff that we’ve been playing around with. It’s nothing literal really, we like the sound of it.

We love the artwork for the new album, is the visual aesthetic in your music important?

Oh yes it always has been. When I was a kid (I’m old enough to not be a digital boy) so yes I come from a world which is very far away from now. Most of the records that I bought you didn’t  have a chance to listen to the music beforehand. The artwork was a very big deal in picking your favourite records in the shop. To us the visual aspects have always been very important in the idea of delivering the music inside it. It can also work against it, a few minutes ago I was reading a magazine and there was this model of Throbbing Gristle’s ’20 Funk Greats’ they make this very industrialist and raw music, it’s very abrasive but the title is ’20 Funk Greats’ and the cover is them in very fancy clothes in a sunny landscape and it really looks like some jazzy lounge album but when you put it on it’s something very violent and different. In this case, the cover really works against the music but it works as well. There’s not a single way to play with the visual aspects of your music, but it’s very inspiring to try and find an idea that can express what the music is like before you even listen to it.

You formed back in 1994- have things improved for the band over the years?

I think they’ve improved. We were really young kids when we started the band and there was a really different idea behind our music. We’ve been really lucky to be able to develop that and to be a group of very close friends. We’ve been around so long and it’s not common these days that the band stay together for so long. It’s even more difficult to have an experience like ours, where the music changes a lot and at the same time with so little difficulty in that. It was very natural for us. We kind of developed our own thing over the years and we were so lucky to live through it together. We’re very happy now. When you get to our age and you have so much history behind you, things improve because you can enjoy it much more. I feel so little pressure now to what I felt when I was younger. I enjoy it much more now, and I feel much more confident in the band itself. One of the main points in staying together for so long is that you develop a kind of interplay between the musicians, which you can’t learn from school, it’s something that comes with time. If you’re together for only 2 or 3 years you get good at this, but after 20 years you develop some kind of telepathy you know? That’s also the reason why we are able to make records the way we do. It wouldn’t have been possible if we were a young band that just met or at least for me it would be very difficult. We have a reliability and a confidence with each other that allows us to build a record around improvisations. I would have been so scared to do that 20 years ago.

It’s your debut for Rocket Recordings- how has it been working with them?

It’s been very cool. They knew our previous records and of course we’ve been following their work for a long time. It’s one of the best labels around for the music that I like. We got in touch for the previous album but it couldn’t happen back then. It’s always tricky to find the right time for the band and the right time for the label. You have to find the right spot where the album can be released with that label when you’re ready for it which isn’t always so easy. This time we were already in touch. When we did the first studio session, I only had with me the kind of raw version of what was going to be on the album. They loved it and they’ve been really helpful. I would say that they actually produced the album with us. The previous album was all instrumental music, we were going to go a similar way with this album but it was really the label that pushed us into singing again, writing lyrics and actual songs which was kind of surprising for us. You know being from Italy we have a strong accent when we sing and maybe we’re not so comfortable writing lyrics in a language that is not our own. It’s quite surprising to be convinced into singing again. There was just one song that I tried some vocals on, and they said you should sing all the songs. They’ve been very convincing. It pushed the album into a new direction which was very good for us, otherwise we might have done a similar album to the previous one which is never what we want. It’s really improved the personality of this new album. A good chunk of the credit goes to the guys at Rocket for that.

You’ve mentioned that as Italians you are outsiders, could you tell us more about this?

When you do press shoots, you say a thousand things and that became the centre of it. I mean Italy is full of bands who make interesting music and we’re not alone in that. The only thing we meant by that is that even in the underground, independent scene in Italy at the moment we still have many difficulties to fit in. We’re a strange piece I think, we’re too poppy for the extreme experimental scene but at the same time we’re too far out to be considered a pop band. Even with the big come back of psychedelia in the last few years, we didn’t fit in very well in that scene either. Our concept of psychedelia is a very broad one. For us it’s to do with the approach to making music rather than that trademark sound. All these psychedelia festivals that are happening all over the world right now really rely on the strict idea of psychedelic rock which means having that rye guitar sound, that drum sound and and the musicians must be wearing a certain type of clothes. That’s always been tricky for us, so we’ve been outsiders more or less to any kind of scene.

What do you think of the pysch scene of today?

Yeah, to me psychedelia has become kind of a trend in the last few years. To me, it’s not like a genre of music that Jazz or Rock can be. To me it’s an approach. It’s of course something that has its rules, like playing with the concepts of repetition, hypnosis and trying to create an effect on the listener rather than telling a story. It’s only interesting if it is stays a very broad concept. Psychedelia can be applied to any kind of music. For example, Alice Coltrane train plays Jazz music but it’s psychedelic Jazz for sure. If Alice Coltrane doesn’t do psychedelia nobody does. At the same time bands like The Orb apply this to electronic music or The Grateful Dead apply it to rock music, I could go on forever. To me it’s not only a concept that stays in the realm of music. For example in cinema, Werner Herzog, even David Lynch, or Alejandro Jodorowsky do psychedelic cinema. It’s something that has to do with playing with time and space. In the case of Herzog you have a very diluted time space, very long shots where nothing seems to happen but you have some kind of rhythmical movement in the image, while the image seems to be still and that’s very close to what psychedelic music is. Right at this moment I’m reading a novel by Alan Moore ‘Jerusalem’ and sure as hell that’s a psychedelic book. It’s a really psychedelic experience but it’s a book! To me, its not a genre of music, I’m not interested in a psych scene if we intend that to be very narrow with a specific sound and look. I found it quite boring. But if we understand this in the broad sense of art making that’s interesting.

You’ll be heading off on tour soon. Where are you looking forward to playing?

Yeah, next week we begin in Bologna. I’m really looking forward to it because I tend to get nervous, even after 20 years. My wife can always tell when we’re about to go on tour. As soon as we get on stage again I will feel much better and feel more confident with it. We will play some shows in Italy, and across Europe in May. We’ll tour more extensively in Europe after the summer. We’ve got a lot of work coming up but I’m looking forward to it.

Check out ‘Gathering Light’ off their new album ‘Invocation and Ritual Dance of My Demon Twin’ here: 

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