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Interview: Francobollo


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“I guess there's something quite nice about it being such a beautiful sounding word in Italian, like really playful and bouncy, and yet it means something so simple and basic. It's like we sound lovely but we're very simple at heart.”

Francobollo don’t just have one of the coolest sounding names for a band; they also have one of the most charming and down-to-earth personalities.

A self-proclaimed “live band” (one year alone saw them playing over 200 gigs), the London four-piece are currently on tour in promotion of their debut album Long Live Life. The name is Italian, found on a postcard in Italy by a former bandmate, but the members themselves are predominantly Swedish - save for bassist Sam Bailey, who met his bandmates at a gig around six years ago while performing with another band. Since then, they’ve built up an impressive catalogue of over 50 tracks, many of which lie dormant for the time being, though the ones which did make the album’s cut do an absorbing job of showcasing their talent for different variations of rock and roll.

“We’ve always kind of stuck to playing music that entertains us and keeps us lively and happy. ‘Wonkiness’ is what people seem to keep describing us as, which is quite nice.”

Their sound indeed has drawn comparisons to slacker, riff-driven alternative outfits such as Pavement and Grandaddy, but their influences stem mostly from hip hop and “glitchy” rock.

“We obviously listen to Pavement; all of us grew up with it, being born in the early-mid-80s, so they definitely sneak in there in that way. But in terms of music, I don't listen to Pavement so much anymore. We do listen to guitar bands, but nothing particularly current. Everything we listen to at the moment is mostly beat-based, and I guess it cross-fertilises in that way. But we're influenced by so many different things which is why in terms of being a little bit schizophrenic in how we write and make our music.”

“The fact that we've all been brought up with bands who we get cited [with] like Grandaddy, Pavement, Built to Spill, Weezer, I think it can't help but come through in that way. But also I always see that kind of music as really joy-filled, like they just didn't give a shit, did they? They didn't care. You look at Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, he had such a blasé attitude but then they play really joy-filled, upbeat stuff that has that real counterpoint in it, which I think appeals to us and our psychologies in that sense.”

Having fun is a core philosophy for Francobollo - the title of their album, after all, is Long Live Life - and it’s one that primarily stems from the gloom and doom sentiment the world is sharing right now.

“For us it's a really dreary downbeat title. I think it's the Swedish translation, but for us its more like "life is fucking long". I was chatting to someone the other day, we were on the tour and we were joking, saying there’s another calendar coming up where there was a day where the world was supposed to end again. And it was quiet for a moment, and someone just piped in with, ”It's probably about time, to be honest." You know what I mean? Like, "we've had it, we've had our time now".

“George Carlin said it beautifully: “We peaked our evolution a century ago and we're just circling the drain now.” So the idea is not to be already morose, but Long Live Life exists in both ways. You see us having super fun when we make this music and play it, but we've all got that real cynical downbeat feeling in what we do as well.”

It’s a sentiment which transfers well over into their live shows, whose sheer energy and jubilation have caught the attention of Marika Hackman and The Big Moon, both of whom the band supported on tour this year. Of course Francobollo are grateful for their success, but the ultimate charm of them is rooted in how humble their beginnings were - playing at open mic nights with “really trashy” DIY equipment - and how that’s shaped them into the kind of performers they are today.

“We just have a lot of fun together. We've been through so much together, the four of us, coming from a really grubby background in music. We started playing to bar staff, the promoter - sometimes they had to leave, as well, so it would just be us. So we started just having so much fun together, playing games with each other on stage, and as the shows grew people really appreciated and enjoyed the fact that we were just having fun.”

“I think too many people put a censor on what they're doing in that they're too conscious of what they look like, or what they seem like, or how they're being perceived by their audience. With us, we try to be as un-pretentious as possible and just lose that field and just have fun, like “Fuck it, it doesn't matter!” We end up stripping off a lot, and none of us are really athletic; it's more a statement of “Let’s just have fun.”

These carefree antics aren’t just reserved for the stage, either, as Sam recalls the story of how their producer, Charlie Andrews (Alt-J, Madness, Marika Hackman) went about the recording process.

“One evening he said, “Right, just bring all your mates down tonight”, then piled us down to his studio, this really expensive studio down in Brixton, and we got hold of all those silent disco headsets and receivers. He gave everyone that. He brought in a whole load of booze, got everyone pissed and we all just had a party together in the studio and recorded the songs live. So we basically played gigs. Me and Shaun were in one room, Simon and [guitarist] Petter were in another room, and there were just people littered around everywhere getting drunk recording songs.”

“It was really great of him to do that, but thats why the tracks have got [a spontaneous quality]. Some of the tracks on the album were one take. It was just done and we thought, “Right, that's captured something, even though there's bum notes here and there and bits messing around, that’s got the song, there’s a song in it, so that’s going on the record.” And if you listen you can hear people knocking into the microphones and talking quietly in the background and this stuff like this. There's one you can hear, I think it's 'Waiting', at the very end of it you can just hear Charlie chime in over the talkback mics and saying “Yeah, its good, but could be better!” We've included him and his critical ears on there as well.”

For a group that thrives on buoyancy they’re phenomenally hard workers. Despite still being on tour they already have their next album written, and have pretty ambitious plans for further releases down the line.

“We really wanna get into the habit of picking up the pencil and being releasing two, three albums in a year rather than holding back too much. We're all big fans of King Gizzard and love their model of just release, release, release, release; it’s a really brave thing to do. It's done wonders for them. And I think people shouldn’t be afraid to do that more.”

That being said, they’re still very much a band whose creativity blossoms from being in the moment.

“I think if you focus too hard on something you lose sight of it really quickly. It has to come from your hands, through your body, it has to be a reaction rather than too intellectualised, because we hate that. We've got too much of that in music and in life in general. We need to go back to being more instinctive.”

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