Bar Italia just want to have fun

today29/01/2024 3

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When inquiring about their own tastes through a Mixmag lens, Fenton says they’re “not avid followers, just lazily” into dance music. Before Cristante abruptly claims the strongest ties. “I was a massive raver when I was 15,” she announces. “It was when I was back in Italy. I was just going to… raves, in the countryside. Every weekend with my boyfriend. He used to make beats and stuff. I used to dance for hours and hours and hours at raves, for quite a few years. Then I wanted to regain some neurons.” Her languid delivery feels a bit like she’s making it up on the spot, but perhaps those memory neurons are still in recovery, as you might expect from a retired raver.

At other times they engage openly with the topic, like when I describe the dancey, almost Madchester energy conjured by the fast snares that open ‘worlds greatest emoter’. “I remember thinking after we’d made that track, and listening to it again, about that moment when guitar bands realise they’re very conscious of dance music,” replies Fehmi. “Primal Scream is a good example. They never necessarily made dance music after ‘Screamadelica’, but there was always an awareness of dance music in it. The way we make music and the way that the drums sound, as soon as you go up to a certain BPM, it will start to sound like dance music, because it’s not some complicated speed jazz drums or whatever. They are repeated bars, so I think it ends up sounding like that purely by accident.” Fenton agrees: “Perhaps because it’s so normalised by this point, there’s no fetish or ‘other’ in using dance music tropes anymore, so it feels normal to us.” Cristane adds: “We’re also inspired by the production of William Orbit and stuff like that, which is an example of a really interesting way of using guitars within a dance-y pop context.”

Partying is also traceable through their music, from the video for the punchy ‘my little tony’ to the lyrics of the more melancholic ‘que surprise’. “I think we make party music in a way that I understand party music, which isn’t necessarily how everyone else does,” reflects Fehmi. ”A big way that we all started is just going to a friend’s flat and listening to bands and drinking or whatever, having a bit of a party like that, as opposed to someone understanding party music as putting on a dance banger and everyone dancing around.”

“But every now and then we get this really strong urge to make a song that you could put on at a house party that would just tear off, that gets everyone to take their shirts off,” adds Fenton. “For sure,” agrees Cristante. “Wanting to dance to that music, rather than just listening to it. Yesterday there was so much of that, there was loads of dancing, which is great,” she continues, lighting up while discussing their gig the night before in Vienna, which inspired scenes akin to Bermondsey. “I get to see quite a lot because obviously I’m not playing an instrument on stage, so I’m just scoping around, and there was this couple that were very handsy. The guy was holding the girl, and every single time there was some sexy lyric—“They just started snogging,” Fenton says finishing her sentence. “Snogging!” Cristante exclaims. “But like hard. Jumping simultaneously and kissing. I was like this is so teenage, I’m totally up for that.”

While every Bar Italia gig is beginning to sound hornier than a high school prom, they’ve had their lows as well. Touring, which has basically been their life for the past six months, is “simultaneously something that’s tedious, and rewarding at the same time,” according to Fehmi. “It usually gets to like: Why the hell am I doing it? To the point of almost never wanting to do it again,” agrees Cristante. “And then sometimes it surprises you, and you’re back to a normal level.” A recent review of their biggest London gig to date declared “A cool band alienate a bored crowd”, but as we speak, they still sound charged from playing to the packed out room of 250 last night in Austria. “It was so good,” enthuses Fenton. “One of my favourite gigs ever,” agrees Fehmi. “They loved it!” says Cristante.

Musicians having good days and bad days is nothing unusual, though being in a “good mood” sounds particularly important to Bar Italia. “We’re definitely not a band that makes good music under torturous atmospheres. It’s important that we’re having fun,” says Fehmi. “Trying to get each other excited and gas each other up,” adds Fenton. There’s a definite playfulness to their music, and how they name it. ‘Real house wibes (desperate house vibes)’ sounds like the kind of arbitrary track title you might find on a sprightly 12” of instrumental club cuts. Knowing about their background in art, I ask about their album ‘Tracey Denim’ and the presumed reference to artist Tracey Emin. “It’s just a lol,” begins Fenton, as they bicker about the details — it was in a car, in a tent, at Green Man, on the way back from End of the Road — before landing on the specifics: “I was really drunk and just couldn’t say Tracey Emin,” explains Fehmi. “He kept going Tracey—” Cristante says before tailing off into incoherent slurring sounds. She then slips further into piss-taking mode. “I also think denim was really cool at the time? That’s why we had to roll it out so quickly,” she deadpans. “Denim was cool. Newsflash – denim’s out!” Fehmi jokes. “Honestly it’s the stupidest thing in the world but it cracked us up for ages. Then we ended up calling our first album on the label that, so you know, that’s kind of the way we work.”

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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