IN CONVERSATION WITH BAR ITALIA
Interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari
Portrait photographies by Yaël Temminck
Bar Italia is all about Rock & Roll, and let’s be clear, they’re not the shy type. This London-based band didn’t intend to cultivate an air of mystery; they simply chose not to force a narrative. When we asked Sam, Nina and Jezmi to define Bar Italia’s music style, they started by listing what they aren’t. They’re not your typical grunge or post-punk enigma, they’re certainly not trying to replicate The Cure, and their musical inspirations go well beyond the ’80s and ’90s, ‘But we’re the next Arctic Monkeys,’ quipped Jezmi.
They are great friends, and yes, they named their group after a bar in Soho ‘for no particular romantic reason,’ said Nina.
In a nutshell, Bar Italia effortlessly exudes a sense of cool and style. We recently had the privilege of catching up with them in Brussels, engaging in conversation, and taking some fantastic photos, captured by Yaël.
MP: Your band, Bar Italia, has been known for maintaining a mysterious and low-key online presence. What’s the story behind this decision, and how can we remain discreet in the age of social media?
Nina: We didn’t aim for mystery; at the beginning, we simply didn’t have much to discuss. We didn’t intend to avoid any topics. It just happened that people noticed our silence, and that’s when we realized we should start talking. We didn’t want to make a statement through anonymity.
Sam: The whole mystique around us has become a bit of a gimmick, and we acknowledge our role in that. We’re hoping that by doing interviews, we’ll appear less mysterious now! (laughs)
MP: How do you feel about the anticipation and buzz surrounding your work?
Nina: I mean, if you’re asking whether we can sustain ourselves by making music for a living, going on tour, and producing albums, well, that’s all positive.
Jezmi: It’s nice if people appreciate what we’re doing. Support is beneficial; it helps me sleep at night. (laughs)
MP: Could you tell us more about your individual musical backgrounds? Nina, you released lo-fi pop songs under the alias Nina, while Jezmi and Sam had a grunge-inspired EP as Double Virgo. You had your own musical projects before joining the band. How did these experiences shape Bar Italia’s music?
Jezmi : Our individual musical backgrounds do influence our music in Bar Italia. We are essentially the same people who were involved in those previous projects, although we don’t dwell on them too much. When we initially set out to create music, the idea was to combine elements from different genres. We all had our separate musical lives, but we came to the decision that if we wanted to do more, forming a band together was the right way to go.
Nina : Yes, I agree. It was more enjoyable and better suited to the music we were creating. It didn’t sound exclusively like my solo project or their individual projects, but it made sense because it involved the same core group of people. There’s a natural synergy in our music.
Sam: If we had limited ourselves to just one instrument, like the violin, our sound would probably be quite different. We embrace a variety of musical styles.
MP: Could you share how you first came together and formed Bar Italia?
Sam: We kind of live together with Jezmi. The three of us became friends because we had friends in common, we used to go to parties together.
MP: Your album, “Tracey Denim,” delves into themes of troubled identity and unstable relationships. Could you please expand on the inspiration behind the album’s concept and its name?
Sam: We often use relationships as a metaphor for something deeper. It may sound like a love song, but it’s actually about something entirely different. Romance lyrics work well with pop music, and that’s one of our inspirations.
Nina: I don’t really think about it that much, and we don’t discuss it much among ourselves. It’s open to interpretation, and I like to leave it that way.
Jezmi: My biggest inspiration comes from my exes. They just keep on giving (laughs).
MP: You’ve recently announced a new album titled “The Twits.” Can you tell us more about the creative process behind your new album? How did you approach the songwriting and recording, especially in your makeshift studio in Mallorca?
Sam: We chose a pretty cool destination because some friends of ours were there, although it didn’t feel much like a vacation. But it’s true, the place is undeniably beautiful, almost poetic, you could say.
Jezmi: We decided to use the time we had, especially since we had already signed with Matador. We didn’t have a solid plan, so we thought, “Why not go away for a couple of months?” We had the resources now to record.
Nina: We had a friend who helped us secure a place and everything, and it was circumstantial in that sense. We didn’t just choose Mallorca arbitrarily and think, “Let’s make the retros here.” This turned out really well because we didn’t have any preconceived expectations.
MP: Did this approach feel more serious in a way than for your previous album?
Sam: I definitely felt more serious about this one. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but there was something about it that felt more serious than the last one. I think it might be because we had more control over the circumstances, which made it more ideal for what we wanted to achieve. As a result, I think the outcomes have more depth to them.
MP: The band’s DIY ethos is a central aspect of your approach to music. Do you plan to maintain this spontaneous, creative approach?
Sam: For now, that’s what we’re doing. However, if we meet the right director, we’re open to different approaches. There are no strict rules. We’ve already trusted certain individuals who have a coherent vision, and we’re willing to let them take the lead, just as we did before.
Jezmi: We’re open to collaboration but waiting for the right people to work with. We don’t rush into partnerships; we wait until we find the right collaborators.
Nina: But we do have collaborators in the process already! We have cameramen like Simon Mercer and friends who have been involved in filming our gigs and video clips, so it’s not just us.