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Escape Velocity

"It's Like Being Naked": An Interview With Husband
Simon Jay Catling , June 28th, 2011 08:40

Italian duo Husband tell Simon Jay Catling about musical freedom, inexperience and not being swayed by clamour

"We only played our first gig at home in Italy a couple of weeks ago," laughs Husband's Chiara, perhaps slightly incredulous that, having been summoned by old Bologna University friend Gianlorenzo to join him in taking his solo project live last autumn, she's already facing questions from the Manchester, England end of a phone line about the pair's creative process, their debut EP 'Love Song/Slow Motion,' and their aspirations for the future.

The Quietus is talking to the Italian duo separately today through a variety of communication devices, a slightly cluttered arrangement that's pretty indicative of the rather disordered way they've found themselves nudged into the public conscience. Based in the thriving student city of Bologna, Gianlorenzo also submerges himself in the gritty psychedelics of three-piece Buzz Aldrin but began Husband last summer in order to explore his more electronic and industrial penchants. To attempt a solo project was to break free of stylistic conventions and stereotypes predetermined by his group's previous output. "I get to approach songs in such different ways," he enthuses. "Having this project gives me the freedom to go in different directions. It's like being in a place where everything is possible, an emptier place in which I'm guided by any kind of inspiration. It is like resetting everything to zero and being completely naked."

This epiphany came last summer, a time of year when, Chiara says, Bologna is "a horrible place to be". Equally typical of any university-dominant city in the UK, the fresh impetus of wide-eyed, zeitgeist-chasing students that occurs each September dies away in the summer as dorms are emptied and the area's new movers and shakers return home. "It's terribly hot and there's nothing to do when the university closes and everyone goes to sea. We were stuck here, I was working and Gianlorenzo was doing his own stuff, mucking around, and after playing me these songs he asked me if I wanted to help out."

Nothing too unusual there, except Chiara had no experience playing live before finding herself on stage with keyboards and drums in the duo's motorik pop-noir. It was a turn of events that, as a political science student, she admits she hadn't really envisaged. "It's exciting and it's strange," she says. "I still don't really feel used to it; it's always a funny feeling when I get on stage. I enjoy it though, definitely." It's clear, then, that the simplistic rhythmical drive of the two songs that form their debut EP comes out of limitation more than design. Working around this, though, Gianlorenzo takes this necessarily simple foundation and surrounds it with swarming atmospherics, droning synths and juddering signals. If it sounds like Chiara is largely marginalised throughout the process then it's only because her role appears to be more abstract, acting as something of a muse for her male counterpart to throw his ideas against and observe which ones rebound. It may not be an ability that permeates on record so much, but it's a vital component in Husband's fledgling manoeuvres. "She is a good adviser when I play her ideas, I trust her taste!" enthuses Gianlorenzo.

The pair were only just beginning to scratch the surface of their joint endeavour when they were spotted by the No Pain In Pop blog and, before they knew it, they'd been contacted by London label Robot Elephant and found themselves playing in the English capital's Corsica Studios in November - all before they'd so much as played in their home town, never mind released a note of music. Chiara admits that the sudden acceleration forwards "scared me. We were so surprised, pleasantly of course, but there does feel like there's a bit of pressure already." Gianlorenzo, however, is more bullish: "I think we're honoured to receive such attention, and personally I like it – it confirms to me that what I'm doing is right," he asserts.

Indeed, if such a sea change affected them the first time round, it evidently didn't show. They signed to Robot Elephant, returned for five more shows in March and released their aforementioned debut EP on May 17. Far from the fast-track nature of their rise, the two original tracks on 'Love Song/Slow Motion' (three remixes are also included) already feel startlingly fully-formed in their cultivation of razor sharp tension. Both 'Love Song' and 'Slow Motion' feel like they've plummeted down into the darkest crevasse, the ensuing dark chill surrounding their macabre pop with a sinister hue that harks back to the likes of Suicide, Cabaret Voltaire and others of such serrated ilk. 'Love Song' perhaps takes from the psychedelic leanings of Gianlorenzo's previous work with Buzz Aldrin, but on 'Slow Motion' he distances himself from that fully. A sniping, coldly hypnotic blitzkrieg, it keeps melody to a minimum in lieu of the sort of uncomfortably neutral glottal stops that would turn the heads of even England's current premium purveyors of claustrophobic noise, Factory Floor.

Husband - Feelings by Robot Elephant Records

If there is an emerging group of artists who take credence from the machine-like hostility of turn-of-the-80s industrial in Britain, back in Bologna, Husband walk a rather more isolated path. "There's a lot of what I guess you'd call 'classic indie' bands in Bologna, and there's a lot of punk and screamo stuff," says Chiara, "and, yes, there is a lot of electronic music, but we're kind of in the middle of that, and trying to put the two things together. We want to appear as a band but also use a lot of electronic elements and in truth that's probably the hardest thing for us. It's been really hard to do that live."

"Most of the songs are based on drum patterns," elaborates Gianlorenzo, "and at the moment it is impossible to represent them live, so we forcibly have to use samplers and play over them."

It is perhaps only live where they're still noticeably in their chrysalis period - but then, such has been their rapid rate of evolution elsewhere that you'd wouldn't bet against a sharp transformation on stage as well. They're already booked to support Battles in Italy next month, and even at this point it feels like Husband are a band destined for bigger and brighter things, a pair set for a longevity beyond the rest of the usual flash-in-the-pan blog sensations of the moment. "I just have this uncontrollable need to make music," stresses Gianlorenzo, "to experiment and find new ways to do it. I feel this constant challenge." While that passion burns bright, Husband's relationship looks set to continue unabated.

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