Italy’s foremost dark-wave exponents, JoyCut, create mesmerizing, primarily instrumental music that’s experimental yet accessible. They interweave electronic, keyboard-driven melodies with percussion performed on found objects from the urban landscape into powerful, haunting sonic tapestries that are alternately biting and mellow. Based in Bologna, the quartet formed in 2001, taking their name from the conceptual conjunction between the Nick Drake song “Joey” and the Pink Floyd album The Final Cut.
Two years later JoyCut released the first of a long series of EPs and compilation tracks leading up to the 2007 release of their debut album The Very Strange Tale of Mr. Man. This was followed four years later by GhostTreesWhereToDisappear, which was acclaimed by critics at home, as well as throughout Europe and England. Joycut quickly garnered loyal fanbases in Italy, the UK and most of Europe touring with acts including The Editors, Art Brut, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire and Sebadoh.
Ghettoblaster caught up with vocalist/keyboardist Pasco Pezzillo during the band’s second major North American tour in support of their third album (released in September via Irma Records), PiecesOfUsWereLeftOnTheGround. This is what he told us about their creative process, Mr. Man, environmentalism, and their AudioTree session.
How do you balance being experimental and creative with delivering music that is also accessible. Is this a conscious move during your creative process?
I think we are becoming more accessible with each passing day. In fact, since we released the album, our accessibility is shown every time we’re invited to return to a venue for a repeat performance! It would seem people are getting used to and are enjoying our philosophy of sound. Ultimatley, there’s no way we can submit our creative process to satisfy any other’s needs.
Have you found that European audiences are more receptive to your sound, or have U.S. audiences been equally or more receptive?
U.S. audiences right now have been equally receptive, actually they’ve been fantastic! We have to admit that occationally someone does not understand why we don’t use guitars or bass guitars or even vocals for a good part of the show, so they leave, and probably because they are not interested in that kind of live offer. Of course there are infinitive way to approach live music, Many want to see people with technical skills on stage, presenters who entertain with stories or by introducing the title of the songs explaining this and that… They do not really want to listen to the work you created as an artist. That being said, apart from some little American towns with a great traditional and folk standard attitude, wherever we have been we had super feedbacks and encouragement.
Do you pay attention to what your peers are doing? Who are some acts that you consider to be your peers?
Not really, even if it should be important. Personally I am out of this scene, I do not care to be part of it. I am not the type of guy who follows million bands or who wants to have followers on twitter. I use this stuff just as a communicative tools. I just want to develop my sense of perception. I like getting lost in other art fields aside from the music. I do like loads of acts we had the chance to meet on stage during our tours: The Bells, Skating Polly, Diamonds Bones, Microfossils, Natas Loves You, Mr.Nô, Comausure.
What are some of the predominant lessons you’ve learned over the last 11 years of making music?
The first one is that there are few people really in love with what they do. The majority are in it for the money or for other futile reasons. The other couple of things I’ve learned: There are no rules, no successful ingredients or strategy; those are bullshit. The most important thing is to be your self and care about the authenticity of the art you spread.
Where did the idea for Mr. Man come from?
Passing the magic childhood beauty period, growing up, we realized this world is falling into pieces. Individuals are completely alone. People get in touch just for personal purposes and interest. Environmentally speaking we are collapsing. So we imagined what an alien could think of our life system watching it from another point of view. Here Mr.Man comes. He is an alien, with this dichotomy in his name, he called Mr.Man and even appearing so different and afar from our culture, at the end of the day he is the only one who maintains our forgotten human sensitivity. He takes care of beauty, of others, of the planet.
Do you consider yourselves environmentalists? If so, how do those concepts leach into your sound?
Nowadays to consider ourselves environmentalist is pretty hard. We are forced to fall into contradictions even playing a fair part in this game. But yes, for a certain point of view we are environmentalist. We are first of all, citizens of the world community, so we have to respect the place where we are hosted and at the same time we gotta defend it. We seriously pay attention to our mission also through our music. We would like just to make our experience valid and curious for other people. It is possible in this over spending time to respect some little and useless rules in order to make the world a better place.
Who was Domenico Lorusso and how did he inspire PiecesOfUsWereLeftOnTheGround?
Domenico “is” a childhood brother from our hometown, one of the good guys who died too young! A very authentic bloke, a talented engineer who was achieving his professional aims in Monaco [Germany] where he used to live. One day meanwhile he was getting back to his house by bicycle with his girlfriend, she was attacked by an unknown dodgy guy. He run to defend her and this ignoble one came out with a knife and passed Domenico’s life away. That’s horrible and still unbelievable! All our feelings and sweet thoughts are for him. PiecesOfUs is for him. We won’t forget his sense of peace and his marveled energy.
Do you have to rent or borrow specialized gear when you tour the U.S. or do you bring it with you? Is it extremely difficult to work out the logistics of a tour abroad?
The first time we came for the massive six weeks spring tour we just brought with us our personal instruments and not substitutable particular machines. We’ve flown shipping in cut-to size flight cases and once in the U.S. we bought all the rest, all we needed. We left everything in storage and at this second stage we were already set. Of course we do not live with our usual musical conforts, but the set is still powerful and functional. We usually ask for sharing some back line [amps] from the venue or with the other bands.
You recently did an amazing AudioTree session? Did you feel good playing that and were you happy with the results?
That place is so cool! It’s been a fantastic experience. Apart from playing, we must admit it, all the staff were absolutely kind and enthusiastic. They do love what they do. I discovered great acts through AudioTree sessions, one of them is The Pines! Love them. We are pretty happy with the results, we were so tired that morning, you can tell watching at our faces cause we were coming after five weeks on tour, but the live recording was so comfortable and magic. When we play we get relaxed, it’s a sort of therapy, it digs you inside but at the end you find your peace. At the end of the day it was just like recording a record. Once more we were in Chicago!
Can you tell us a little bit about your contribution to the Visa World Cup online music celebration?
We have been asked to write this sort of hymn for the world cup… representing our country, our culture, our roots. Using instruments such as violin or mandolin. We used both, reinterpreting them in our way, giving an actual image of our nation, through our personal sound, considering nowadays Italy is a place full of art and cultural polygamy. Modern and hopefulness.
Have you ever had Cincinnati-style chili, or do you plan to try it during your stop there?
Never had yet. Ready to try it.
(Visit JoyCut here: http://www.joycut.com/.)