By Jordan Mooney.
As I sit down, ladies and gentlemen, with a hot peppermint tea, dressing gown on, crap films on the television, it’s instantly clear that Christmas has been and gone, and 2014 is rapidly encroaching ever closer on what has been a year-long look at some of the finest, most talented musicians and bands we could ever hope to meet or speak to.
This is to be Cat on the Wall’s final feature of 2013, and I think you’ll agree it’s a fine send off for the old year as we move into the new.
Allow me, ladies and gentlemen, to take you into the dark, harrowing but incredibly artistic world of The Francesco Fonte Band and their EP, ‘Arousal Addiction‘.
This EP is a leviathan, a great big lump of great big music making great big sounds. I could quite easily leave the review at that, but the reality of this release is a lot larger and a lot more thorough. And a lot louder.
‘Arousal Addiction‘ is the sort of EP you come across very rarely. It’s larger than its tracklist, it’s larger than your average album of twelve tracks – I’d dare say it’s larger than a lot of band’s entire back catalogue.
It’s a release with so much aspiration, so much magnitude and so much sheer power and strength behind it, it’s rather difficult to review adequately in-between. This is the sort of release you expect a band to come out with decades after their beginnings – it feels so outright mature it’s quite terrifying in its size and shape.
This is the sort of album that seems quite happy to take us on a veritable whirlwind of a journey, constantly making us feel a touch inadequate, but willing to show us more of a seemingly post-apocalyptic – or perhaps somewhat more close hitting – land of a world obsessed with the fake and unfeeling.
From the incredibly harsh, reverberating tones of the EP’s title track, that plummets us into a hellish world of temptation pointing towards the things we cannot touch, to the rathermore gentle, melancholy and meditational vibe that spreads through the final track, ‘Blue Seagull‘, wherein the we watch over the scene in a vessel many miles distant, we have near cacophonic guitars blaring away in some cases with such strength one can imagine speakers blowing up in the strain – and in the next providing a perfectly melodic tune. Throughout, we have surprisingly gentle, sensitive vocals that have a great range and seem to tie everything together.
The subjects of time’s influence on life, the subject of relationships and love with those whom, of course, do not – perhaps are not – capable of sharing the feeling, the lists of themes, subjects and ideas go on for considerably longer than the release that preaches them.
The entire album feels a touch lost – not in the negative way, however. It wades and forces its way through a series of surprisingly contentious foes, trying to find sense – a direction in it all. All the way through the album, acting as a form of omnipotent narrator, seems shocked and appalled, sickened and affronted by the things he witnesses in this strange, bizarre land. It remains distant, echoing in the madness, and incredibly melancholy and mournful.
Mixed beautifully, well laid and complex, the release is of practically biblical proportions for a band of but three people – I’ve heard groups of far larger number, often with far longer careers, whom are unable to adequately capture such power and scale successfully.
It is, however, not perfect. The concept of the album isn’t, I feel, exposed sufficiently. Now, on one side, this is excellent – releases should be free to interpretation and I think it’s very important to strive to make your work something capable of study. On the other side, I fear the point may well have been missed by a few listeners – which is a shame.
Ultimately, I’m tempted to point this EP to one of the finest I’ve heard, not just in 2013, but perhaps in all of my years! It’s one of those releases you can hear once, and it’ll stick with you. If, of course, it’s your thing.
I feel this may well end up being an acquired taste, as with any music, of course, but if you’ve got a taste similar to mine…
Well. Let’s just say it shan’t be leaving my top picks any time soon.
So impressed was I that I decided to sit down with Francesco, the vocalist of the group, to answer a couple of questions about this daunting yet continuously impressive collection.
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, and welcome to Cat on the Wall! Would you care to introduce yourself and your band to our readers?
The Francesco Fonte Band are based in London, and we started in 2011 with what was called Doublef8 – for each of us, this was effectively a parallel music project – as we were all into different bands and genres. The band got a great reaction from crowds straight away from our very first gig, and in 2011, with a brand new name (chosen by our co-producer, Mr J.K.) we released Blue Omens, the debut album of what we now know as The Francesco Fonte Band.
COTW: Tell us about The Francesco Fonte Band. How did it all come to be?
Francesco: A friend who knew about my music – I had dropped off a demo to him a few days before – invited me to a jam session, In the heart of London, down some stairs, through a little door in Dean Street that held a very small basement, wherein I heard the best blues, jazz and fusion. The place was called The Black Gardenia, which vanished long ago – I never found out why. There I met, and played for the first time with, Wayne Casserly and Roy Keys, whom was the bass guitarist in Blue Omens.
Wayne and myself carried on with festivals and gigs, although accompanied by another bass player, until Douglas Wheeler had his first performance with us. He brought the band into playing without any chains or red tape, and drew us into a new journey in the wink of an eye. After a year of practise, performance and recording, we eventually released Arousal Addiction, our new EP.
COTW: What are your main inspirations? Do you think they carry into your music?
Francesco: We look up to the darkness of the night, and we can see that we’re less than a dot in an infinite universe. We love to explore through new sounds and write about anything that catches our thoughts during the day. There are many things that can be inspiring, especially people, society.. and when I say society, in particular, there’s a lot to write about! We love nature, so I think our music comes from some kind of tribal instinct, perhaps, mixed with the knowledge of the technology now so easily accessed in music. We look around and inside ourselves, and we get inspired by life. That’s why we’re a post rock band.
COTW: Your new EP, Arousal Addiction, is a very formidable piece of work – full of, in my opinion, very raw and open emotion. Did you specifically aim for this when you sat down in the studio?
Francesco: Thanks for that, very happy to hear it from you, Jordan! It’s a proper ritual to get together in the studio, we just free our minds and make it visceral. There’s an atmosphere which comes from anything that has ever been introduced to us, paths to walk through to get to the holiness of Music. What comes out is very spontaneous.
COTW: How was your experience recording the EP? How long was the process, and are there any memories that stand out from it?
Francesco: The idea was to do something different, leaving behind anything that could be directly related to Blue Omens, but keep the concept of it, the journey.
I would put some electronic beats together, then guitar and vocals, just to give some kind of structure to the songs, then I’d bring them down to the studio in New Cross and go through it with Wayne and Douglas, getting each song more.. psychedelic, much more intense and emotional. I decided to give a date to the release of the EP after we’d been working on it for five months.
Our co-producer and official photographer Torturett, voiced her appreciation of the electronic beats that we were working on as preliminary – it was a new expression of our music without driving out the concept of it.
So we decided to release Arousal Addiction as a fusion between Rock, Drum & Bass, Trip Hop and even Dubstep – and kept the studio we used with the full band for the future album, which we are now working on.
Francesco: There is a bed and a chair, both are offered to you to have a nap. You choose the more comfortable one, the bed, you start dreaming. Until you fall deep asleep and forget about the fact it was just a nap.
Something is happening, but you’re just working automatically, and you’ll never be awake again cause someone took over your dormant brain, that someone – or something, will make you a sleepwalker – or perhaps, more accurately, a “sleepworker”, and your sleep becomes oppressive, it turns into slavery. This is how I see people that are addicted to computers, smart phones (I find these are often smarter than those using them!) Social networks, TV, and anything that takes their mind away from reality.
This is the main theme of the EP, and the last track, Blue Seagull, has a special meaning to me. It’s dedicated to my uncle, someone who was the opposite of these people, he loved the sea, and fishing in his free time, he named his boat after his daughter, Valentina.
He fought corruption and didn’t care about the consequences, loved to be there to help people without any personal interest or gain… He never lost himself into the unreal. He used to work for the administration of the city he lived in. His boat is kept on the main quay there as a monument.
COTW: And what do you feel on the EP bests sums up yourselves as a group? Is there anything you’d change or improve given the chance?
Francesco: The fourth track, Time Weapon, is a little anticipation of what we’re aiming for in the future. But really, This entire EP is hugely satisfying for us, and we proudly present ourselves with it.
COTW: If our readers were to visit one of your shows…what could they expect?
Francesco: You said it best yourself – expect a show, not a simple gig! We love to connect to people, get their vibes, and, as a consequence, they get dragged into our sound.
COTW: Is there any music you’ve particularly enjoyed over 2013? Anything you’d recommend to those whom really enjoyed your own release?
Francesco: There are many big names I’d love to mention, but I’d rather suggest something that I have been personally involved with, and, in the process, support one of my best friends and favourite artists – for a good cause! All the money raised from this record will go towards helping the victims of conflicts in the developing world – The album is called Djevarian from The Ante’ Dote, you and your readers will be able to find it on Bandcamp, on a profile called Djevara.
COTW: Thank you very much for sitting down with us for our final band feature of 2013! We hope you’ve had a pleasant festive season, and we hope we’ll be hearing more from you very soon!
Francesco: Thank you Jordan and thanks to Cat On The Wall. I’m honoured to be the final band feature of 2013 from this amazing webzine – we’ll be back soon with our new album! All the best for the New Year!
I have to say that Francesco and his bandmates seem connected more thoroughly to their music and ideals than any other band I’ve spoken to. These people, as I’m sure you’ve noticed yourself, positively ooze passion. They’re true artists, ladies and gentlemen – and I think you’ll really enjoy what they have to offer.
Arousal Addiction was released on the 16th November 2013, co-produced by Torturett.