Someone unexposed to Italy may only think of scenes from The Godfather and music from an Opera as reference, but anyone who steps foot on Italian soil could find rock bands break out original material and Kinks covers like it’s nobody’s business (have witnessed this first-hand). However, Ofelia Dorme could come as a pleasant surprise to anyone. The Bologna based rock band has a minimalist style combined with a depth of sounds entrenched in prog rock. Lead singer Francesca Bono delivers concise vocals with cunning precision over moody soundscapes that rise and fall like audio recorded inside a stormy dream. Instead of imitating music imported from abroad, Ofelia Dorme aims to create their own export. They have a self-released EP titled Sometimes It’s Better To Wait, recently played gigs in the UK, and have several more European shows lined up. When put in contact with Ofelia Dorme I was immediately interested in finding out what’s happening behind the scenes because of their home country, ambition, and most importantly the music.
Q: Tell us a little about how you all met, and decided to start the band Ofelia Dorme?
Francesca: OfeliaDorme started in early 2007, when Gianluca (g.Mod) and I, who were at that time in 2 different bands, began meeting and composing songs with acoustic guitars. After a couple of months Tato (who had already played with g.Mod) and Post (who was playing with me in another band) joined the duo, and the band started for real. We all left our previous bands and dedicated ourselves to the new project. The band started playing more acoustic oriented stuff, but nearly immediately electric and electronic incursions appeared, and right now you can attend a complete electric show. We get bored if we always play the same stuff. The band simply plays the music that we like and feel most. No matter if it is more rock or acoustic or whatever; we like to explore different genres of music, but in general we might say: it’s about the rock spectrum we’re talking about, in one way or another. In 2009 we self-produced an Ep called “Sometimes it’s better to wait” which has been well reviewed in Italy and abroad, and allowed us to play extensively in Italy. Right now we’re recording a full length, it will be released sometimes soon in 2010.
Q: Your songs are in English. What were your reasons for using English rather than Italian?
Francesca: I’m the one in charge…and I’ve always written lyrics in English. I think the language is more suitable to our music, and of course more people can understand it. We like playing, and we’d love to play more and more gigs abroad, singing in English surely helps a bit. Italian is a beautiful but quite difficult language when it comes to music.
Q: What is your songwriting and recording process like?
Francesca: We often record stuff, cause we write new songs very often, so we need to fix them somehow, or we’re gonna forget them!! We have our personal studio, run by Michele, so we’re quite independent. We do not have a standard creative process…most of songs take shape from improvised sessions, other times from some personal ideas (guitar and vocals i.e.) and we then develop them in the studio all together. Music may come first, and words later, or vice versa. Sometimes I write lyrics on small pieces of paper, receipts, whatever; other times I just find the words while we’re still playing or during rehearsals. It depends, maybe it sounds a bit chaotic, but we’re fine with it. Everything’s quite free and democratic! When composing and rehearsing we choose to play one instrument or another, the one we feel more comfortable with, in that precise moment; choosing who usually plays guitar, plays drums, bass, and so on.
Q: You self-released your EP Sometimes It’s Better To Wait. When do you expect to release a full-length album? Have you had any contact with record labels?
Francesca: As I told you, we expect to release a full-length during 2010, more likely in early autumn; we got some contacts with a bunch of independent labels, but we don’t know if it will be produced by a label or self-produced by us, yet. We’d like having a distribution, better if European…we’ll see. Yes we have [contact with labels], but we’re still working on it. We’re about to finish recording the first 5 tracks, we’re gonna think about labels when we got something good to show and/or send.
Q: Italian culture is rich in the arts, including music, but it’s not known internationally for producing rock bands. Can you tell us about the rock scene in Italy?
Francesca: The rock scene in Italy is very interesting, there are some good bands who are also quite known abroad (I’m talking about the alternative scene of course) but there’s few considering the big number of bands we have here. I’m thinking about bands such as Jennifer Gentle (licensed by Sub Pop, USA) or Zu (who played extensively in America). But you’re right, we’re not known for producing rock bands…someone should invest in our country! The fact is, unless you are a very popular band or a solo artist (which in Italy usually means singing in Italian, and singing ordinary pop) life is quite hard for a band.
Q: Which musicians are you fond of and have influenced your music in some way?
We do listen to loads of different bands and musicians, so it’s difficult to tell. Right now I might say Radiohead, Scout Niblett, Velvet Underground, old Beastie Boys stuff, Josè Gonzales, Bon Iver, Joy Division, The Smiths, Pixies, P.J.Harvey, Dead Weather, Portishead, Battles, Beatles…
Q: You recently played shows in the UK. How was that experience?
Amazing! The audience was interested in our music, a lot of people wanted to talk to us after the shows. It’s been such a nice experience we hope to repeat it as soon as possible.
Q: Do you have a funny story from the UK that you would like to share?
Yeah, more or less…when we were about to play Manchester, one of the guys arrived just during the soundcheck, and he was coming from Holland, which happened cause he had to take another flight later on. He forgot his Passport at home! So we decided that he needs a manager just for himself from now on. Anyone interested?
Q: Do you have plans to tour with other bands?
Not now, but that would be a good idea. Thanks for your suggestion!
Q: Ofelia Dorme translates in English to “Ofelia is sleeping”. What is the meaning behind this name? Would you consider your music dreamy or even dark?
Francesca: I would say both dreamy and dark. Lke someone wrote “Ofeliadorme is part shoegaze, part ambient with a shake or two of dark ominous on top… they are clearly aware of post-rock and are taking its influence into quieter, more structured areas..” that is to say, I don’t know how to define it. The band is called Ofelia Dorme, because of a poem by Rimbaud entitled “Ophelie” and is partly inspired by Sheakspeare’s Hamlet. Even if our music might seem quite dark and haunting, we’re average optimistic people. We would just prefer Ofelia to dream, or sleep, rather than to be dead!
Q: Can each of you recommend an album, film, and book?
That’s tough because there would be many. Let’s say:
Post: Album, Adore by Smashing Pumpkins. Film, Milk by Gus Van Sant. Book, Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
Tato: Album, The Rise and Fall of Academic Drifting by Giardini di Mirò (well known Italian post-rock band). Film, The Consequences of Love by Paolo Sorrentino (one of the most interesting young Italian directors). Book, Petrolio by Pier Paolo Pasolini (unforgotten writer and film director who was murdered in 1975. His life was one of almost constant controversy. His contentious views on religion, politics, and culture aroused the full spectrum of emotions in Italian society)
g.Mod: Album, The Queen is Dead by The Smiths (everybody knows it, but still). Book, Gomorra by Roberto Saviano (a young Italian writer who had the guts to write a word play on Camorra (a kind of Mafia) and a reference to the disastrously lawless situation of Naples).
Francesca: Album, The Lioness by Songs: Ohia. Book, London Field” by M. Amis. Film, Blow Up by Michelangelo Antonioni.
— Ian Lewis
Check out a video for the song “6:15” below, more music can be heard on their MySpace. Ofelia Dorme’s EP Sometimes It’s Better To Wait and other releases can be purchased on their website at ofeliadorme.it