New Candys released one of 2017's finest player's in Bleeding Magenta, their third album for highly revered independent label Fuzz Club.
Hailing from Venice, the four-piece - Fernando Nuti (vocals, guitar), Diego Menegaldo (guitar), Stefano Bidoggia (bass) and Dario Lucchesi (drums) - formed in 2008 through a shared love of bands like The Black Angels, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. However, their brand of neo-psychedelic rock owes as much to the post-punk stylings of bands such as The Chameleons and Comsat Angels as any of the aforementioned and while both Bleeding Magenta's predecessors (2012's Stars Reach The Abyss and 2015's New Candys As Medicine) hinted at the possibilities that lay ahead, their latest record realises that potential and much more besides.
Having witnessed their incredible performance at Spacefest! in Gdansk the previous evening, DiS caught up with frontman Nuti.
DiS: What's the scene like in Italy compared to the rest of Europe?
Fernando Nuti: I don't think there's much of a scene for bands in Italy although some have reached a great level; Giöbia from Milan and Sonic Jesus from Rome for instance. There's a few others as well spread out across the country and we all know each other. Vicenza, which isn't that far from Venice, is a really good city for bands - Freez for example - although it's more related to garage rock. Italy's really difficult for bands to break through because we don't have a history or lineage to follow. There's a fashion based around music now which is mostly about singer-songwriters singing contemporary songs. I guess rock and roll isn't really in our veins. That's why we've started to look at ourselves since the second record and tried to get as many contacts outside of Italy as possible. We'll always live in Venice and have no plans to move; I enjoy it there, being part of the little music community we have here. Even though there are only a few of us everyone helps each other as much as they can.
New Candys have been together for a decade yet it wasn't until 2015's second long player New Candys As Medicine that the band started to receive mass critical acclaim from various corners of the globe. Was there ever a point where you thought the band wouldn't reach a wider audience?
We've been lucky because every album has represented a step forward for us. Not just in terms of sales but musically as well. It's helped us become more passionate about continuing to make a better record next time round. The songs have never stopped coming and we're already working on the next album. I already know it's going to be very different from this one. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. I think Bleeding Magenta is the closest to what we had in mind when we first started compared to the others. When we made the first two records we weren't experts in the studio. Also our English wasn't very good. With this one, we recorded it close to where we live and took our time which helped us reach more of what we originally had in mind.
Your latest album Bleeding Magenta was written with the intention of being a vinyl-only record with two sides. How did that come about? Was it difficult cutting the songs down to fit in with that concept?
Nicolas Winding Refn was the inspiration behind it. He's a movie director and I saw a documentary where he was talking about how he uses words rather than a screenplay to describe every scene. He then puts them together chronologically. I thought that would be an interesting process for making a record. At that point the album was almost done. All the songs on side A were finished. With Side B we approached it differently, so rather than write a song then keep on adding bits until it was finished we decided to stop and record what we had. Then we'd write the next one and glue it on to the one before and so on until that side of the album was finished. It was more about seeing how every song influenced the next one in a similar way to how each scene informs the next one in a movie.
Were there any songs recorded around that time which didn't make it onto the album?
Just one, which will probably make it onto the next record.
You've briefly mentioned the writing process in putting together the second half of Bleeding Magenta. How different was it to the way you wrote the first half of the album and both its predecessors?
Totally different, especially compared to the first two records. With the first album we had a lot of songs. Probably the same as any band when they're making their first record, because all your history is behind you up to that point. With this one we had seven songs initially which wasn't enough, and that's when I thought it might be a good idea to approach the album differently. Also to release an album with the concept of it being made specifically for that format was quite a challenge. It had so many more possibilities than just putting as many songs as we could possibly fit on a CD or in digital format.
What do you make of streaming? There's obvious benefits in terms of cost and reaching a wider audience quicker than with physical formats but by and large it's not really that popular among consumers.
I'm the same. I don't listen to Spotify or bother with streams in general. I had to learn how to stream music because unfortunately it's impossible to avoid nowadays. I hope things will change at some point because it's really hard to make any money from. It doesn't work for bands so we have other jobs because streaming alone cannot pay for the band to exist which can make life very difficult. For example on this tour, we've had to take another guitarist out with us because our regular one can't afford to leave his job for a month. So no, I'm really not a fan. What I like to do is include a pdf file containing the artwork with every download. That's what I miss most about digital releases over physical ones. With a vinyl record you can see the cover artwork how it was intended to be. There's a visual connection there that's missing with digital streaming.
The artwork on each New Candys release is quite distinctive; take the new one for example. Do you design the artwork yourselves?
I do the artwork myself. I get together with the rest of the band and discuss how we want it to look and take it from there. The first album cover was designed by me and Diego (Menegaldo), the other guitarist. With the new one I wanted a magenta shade and the glass represents being able to get hurt and bleed which is where the title comes from. I played with the colours on the vinyl itself so Side A is a rainbow and Side B just black and white, mainly because of the different concepts used when making each side of the record. None of us studied music so when we speak to each other in the practice room we're often evoking images as a way of communicating ideas. "Let's make it blurry or let everything explode." That kind of thing. It makes more sense to us then saying let's play a G or A minor. So I think we're a visual band in many ways.
I'd definitely agree with that. Your music videos too. Take 'Excess' for example. What inspired that?
Again a lot of it goes back to Nicolas Winding Refn. He was a major inspiration on everything we did with this record from the songs to the visuals. I like the blue and magenta coming from black and white then I started playing with some of the effects and found one of the lights fitted the theme of the song.
You produced Bleeding Magenta yourselves having worked with different producers on the first two albums. Is production something you see yourselves doing more of in the future?
The first record we were completely hands off and left the two guys (Pierluigi Ballarin and Stefano Moretti) to it. I was happy with the results but at the same time after we finished the record I knew this wasn't exactly what we wanted. The second one was quite tumultuous in comparison. We recorded it in one place then mixed it in another so it ended up being tweaked a lot before it was finished. For this one we recorded it with a friend of ours so we felt really comfortable. With the next one I'm not sure what we'll do; I like the fact another mind from outside the band can offer some input. For example John Wills from Loop added some bits to the second one which we probably weren't aware of before making the record.
Is John (Wills) someone you'd consider working with again?
I don't think so, no. Just because it's good to change. We'll definitely work with somebody else on the next record if only for the mixing. John had previously mixed a song off the first record which is why we worked with him for all of the second one. It's always good to have someone working on a record that already likes the band as opposed to asking a random stranger. Stephen (Lawrie) from The Telescopes was interested in remixing a song his way so maybe he's someone we might work with in the future? I don't know...
How long did it take to make Bleeding Magenta from start to finish?
Three months, but again we took our time. The actual recording took a whole month then we'd spend most weekends after returning to the studio to listen again with a fresh pair of ears.
Now you have an extensive body of work with three albums of material to choose from do you find it difficult putting together a live set, particularly when deciding what to play and what to leave out?
For this tour half the set is from the new record and the rest is split between the first two. We've been practicing a new one which we haven't played yet so that might make an appearance before we finish the tour. It's hard deciding what to leave out. Some songs we know we have to play because they always sound good and we still enjoy playing them. We got bored of some songs so there's a few we haven't played in a while. We used to play the sitar in our live set but it's too tricky so we don't use it as much now. Maybe if we reach a bigger level in the future where we can afford a sound engineer it might come back. I'd like to bring it back one day as it's good to have more dynamics and different sounds.
In terms of the European tour you're doing everything yourselves from tour managing and driving to funding the entire venture. Do you think more bands should be more hands on, especially in the current financial climate?
We've been quite lucky in that pretty much everywhere we're playing on this tour we've played before, so the promoters know us and hopefully we already have an audience. We also tend to do well on merch sales. Every penny we make from touring goes into the band's account. We don't take anything out individually. In February we're doing some shows in Australia which will probably lose a bit of money as it's our first time over there playing a new continent. There are some countries that are more hungry for new music than others.
You've played with a lot of internationally recognised bands over the years such as The Warlocks, The Vaccines, and Slowdive. Did you take much away from those experiences that have benefited your band?
From The Vaccines, no, other than playing to a larger crowd than we're used to. Some of the bands we saw live had an influence on us in the beginning. People like The Warlocks, The Dandy Warhols, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. So watching them play live on the same stage as we'd played was inspirational. Sometimes we've discovered bands by playing with them, Crystal Stilts for instance. We played with them and they inspired us from that moment onwards.
What are your overall impressions of the psych rock scene? Do you think it's become saturated?
I think it has. Especially the word "psych". It seems to be used to describe anyone who uses a fuzz pedal these days.
I wouldn't really describe New Candys as psych in the traditional sense. Especially on the new album. The sound and structure has more in common with a lot of post-punk and new wave records from the early 1980s than your stereotypical psychedelic group.
I don't consider our band as being "psych". I got bored of the sixties. I can't stand listening to that being regurgitated again and again. I'm hungry to eat new music and discover the sound of the future. That's why I really enjoy Liverpool Psych Fest more than others because they're always trying to push things forward rather than lead a revival. That festival is one of the best for discovering new music. Even the poster artwork and visuals they use don't look as if they're inspired by the sixties. That has to change first - the way promoters present a night or festival. If its presented in a modern way you're more likely to attract everybody's attention. I'm part of the audience sometimes and I get bored of seeing bands trying to revive the sixties. We're influenced more by people like A Place To Bury Strangers than any of those type of bands. Every record they make is different to the last one, and that's what we're striving for with our band.
By the same token, there are also several bands currently citing New Candys as having influenced their sound. How do you feel about that?
Really? It's a privilege!
What advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
Manage yourselves. You have to trust people but trust yourself first. Be curious. Don't be worried about putting strange or new sounds into your music. If these sounds are good for you then they're gonna be good for your audience. Don't follow fashion in any way. Also, put a lot of attention on the artwork. Presentation is key. To me, a band that doesn't care about the art and visual side probably doesn't care that much about their music either. You have to be aware now that the underground is on the web and everyone has access to social media. So when somebody finds you on the web the first thing they access is your visual world.
What are New Candys plans for 2018?
We have this Australian tour coming up which we're really excited about. Hopefully we'll record the new album next year although I doubt it will be out until 2019. We're also working on a US tour around the Levitation festival in Austin if we get asked to play there. That's our aim. We want to go to the States because we are selling records there. Then hopefully back around Europe in September. Definitely Spain, Portugal, and the UK, even though it isn't one of the hardest countries to tour. Once you've done it a few times it's good, and we've picked up a good fan base over the years. Especially in Brighton, Liverpool, and Manchester. I remember playing a city in the UK called Shrewsbury a few years ago. We'd never heard of it before and when we got there, everything was quite medieval and the venue was quite big. But a lot of people showed up and it's probably one of the best gigs we've ever played. The promoters told us no one ever plays here so when they do everyone comes out and has a great time.
Are there any new bands you'd recommend for Drowned In Sound and its readers to check out?
The Black Bones from Innsbruck in Austria are really good. Freez from Vicenza who I mentioned earlier. Kill Your Boyfriend are another Italian band I like. They're really cool on stage. The drummer is quite unique. He plays the drums standing up. Not with the snares down; it's more up. I like minimal drums. I never enjoy drummers that do too much. Juleah is great as well. She sings backing vocals on a track ('Sermon') off our album. Her solo is worth checking out too.
For more information on New Candys, please visit their official website.