Ones to Watch: Banjo Or Freakout

There isn’t an adequate genre to describe this...
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Afro beat, punk, Italian pop... There isn’t an adequate genre to describe this - just think of it as a cracking trip on a sea of synths.

That the ethereal beauty of this Italian-born bedroom artist’s output is difficult to define is not particularly surprising given the strange route taken thus far by Alessio Natalizia, AKA Banjo Or Freakout. From his much-discussed recording method (one take and it’s done, albeit with editing on the trusty Mac), to his choice of covers that first garnered attention (‘Baby I Love You’ and ‘Love Lockdown’ being this writer’s favourites), unpredictability is par for the course. Think of a resolutely independent yet remarkably collaborative Spacemen 3 translated into the resurgent electronic music scene and you’ll not be far off.

“Ultimately I make music for myself, but of course I’m part of what’s around me... collectively sharing songs, getting ideas out quickly without hoping that someone would do it for me.” Not much danger of that; the Banjo aesthetic is distinctive without being awkward, and the expectations for next year’s album are high: “I’m really happy with the way it’s shaping up... it’s quite pop, in a good way.” Not the only material Alessio is working on either, he’s been transforming Banjo’s current portfolio while on tour. “Every show has a different story to tell, and we try to make it all sound a bit more like a band even if it’s hard sometimes.” The effort has paid off thus far, and although Alessio freely admits to be still learning, he is achieving his aim. “I always love it when bands I like sound different live than on recordings.”

And what of the punk and Italian pop labels? “I grew up in the ’90s when punk rock was back and everyone was sharing mix tapes, sending letters and fanzines. Now this attitude is back again, but in different forms - it feels pretty natural to me being involved.” The geographical influences are not so apparent. “It’s difficult to quantify something like this. They [London and Italy] have both bought different things to my music. Banjo was randomly born in London, and then actually started to become true in Turin, and funnily enough the songs I’m happiest with were born in my hometown in the south of Italy.”

How about the now-famous covers, is it true there’ll be no more? “I don’t want to be seen as the guy covering other bands, and I prefer working on my own songs, which I think are better!” There are striking similarities with Arthur Russell here - let’s hope Banjo Or Freakout don’t have to wait so long for the recognition.

Words by Colm Field

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