When a great independent band comes to town (especially this town), the public should take notice. Not many indie bands make it to Tampa because we’re not really on the way to anywhere. But one remarkable band, Bellini, will be performing at New World Brewery in Ybor City Sunday as part of their breakneck, 32-show, 35-day tour.
The members of Bellini are from places as disparate as Catania, Italy, Punxatawney, Pennsylvania and Austin, Texas. (The band’s name is in reference to the great composer, who shares the same hometown as half the band, and not the towelled Kids in the Hall character). Singer Giovanna Cacciola and guitarist Agostino Tilotta are veterans of the indie circuit with their band UZEDA. Joining them is bassist Matthew Taylor and his longtime friend Damon Che, drummer of now-defunct instrumental outfit Don Caballero (see sidebar).
Now that you know all that, kick it out of your mind. Forget they are from places a lot cooler than here, and that they’ve been in other bands. That’s what the band wants you to do, because all of that other stuff really doesn’t matter. They want listeners to focus all of their energy into their music, instead of incidental facts.
“The heart, the engine, has no nationality,” said Tilotta. “Everyone has a role and they are all equal, all the same.”
Bellini’s sound is as aggressive as anyone should really want, with abrasive guitar rhythms and pounding drum-work. One moment it’s a cacophonic voyage, then right when you don’t think they’re ever going to make sense, when your mind is pounding, they switch it up, going into a melody that, while still abrasive, somehow makes dissonance attractive.
Having Cacciola’s versatile voice doesn’t hurt either. She can scream with the best of them, or keep it low-key (sometimes practically talking). Cacciola also doesn’t try to mask her Sicilian accent, lending a sweet sultry tone that’s an exotic breath of fresh air compared to other female lead singers.
That she can sing over Che’s drums is a feat in itself.
As Taylor puts it, “Playing in front of Damon is kind of like running in front of that boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. You just try to keep up until he stops. It’s great.”
Che gets more out of his two arms than the drum section of a marching band, and his nickname of Octopus is well earned.
Their debut album, Snowing Sun, released this past summer, displays their stunning musicianship. Bellini creates music so full of sound it takes a powerful voice to make headway, and fortunately, Cacciola delivers. After Tilotta’s wiry, dissonant guitar intro on the first song, “A Short Tale/Medusa,” Cacciola let’s you know Bellini doesn’t mess around, half-singing “I prefer the silence to many stupid words.” Che also provides a quality pounding to his drum set.
The vaunted Steve Albini of Electric Audio recorded the album, and the production quality is top-notch. Albini, a veritable workaholic, has worked with the likes of Sonic Youth and the Breeders recently, but doesn’t turn up a snotty nose to indie bands, working with Don Caballero, among others, in the past. Each instrument is as crisp as a stack of Pringles, and Cacciola’s voice is breathtaking.
“When we were practicing, we weren’t sure how (Cacciola’s) voice would come through over the instruments,” said Taylor. “We were blown away when we heard the vocals on the album.”
Taylor’s bass-playing is also of note, especially on “Rut Row,” where he and Tilotta duel it out to start the song, and on “Marranzano,” where his groove proves to be the backbone of the song, particularly on the bridge.
“Patience and Passion in Brown Gloves” is as singular a song to be heard on indie albums this year. This song features four distinctive, alternating grooves, including a chorus with robust instrumentation, and Cacciola bellowing “Can I shout in your face/Can I print my passion on your skin/’Cause this is all I have to offer/This is all I have.”
During the final section of “We Crossed the Ocean to See the Snowing Sun,” from which the album title is taken, Che violently assaults his equipment, as Cacciola belts at a piercing note “You can’t bite my mouth/You can’t take my skin away/And spread my blood on your pride.” It’s wonderful to hear a singer with the courage to really bare her soul and not sound pretty.
Bellini is more than just a band to be reckoned with. They are a perfect square featuring accomplished musicians at all corners, who perform together as if they’ve been working together all their lives. And if you’re into the real bands who make real, raw, balls to the walls music, then Bellini is definitely the band for you.
Contact Andrew Pinaat firstname.lastname@example.org