With the re-release of a selection of tracks from their back catalogue, Music Feeds spoke with Rome based neofolk outfit Spiritual Front, who believe Open Wounds is more than just a re-issue, but an all new album of its own. The band discuss the different areas considered when they chose to sing in English rather than their native Italian, and the influences on their music.
Music Feeds: Tell me how you came to the decision to write lyrics in English rather than your local dialect. Was it a decision based on your ability to market yourselves to as many people as possible not just the Italian speaking market, or more of an artistic expression?
SF: Well, we never pretended to be English or American or whatever, no one would ever believe it! We just wanted to use a common language in order to spread our messages, something understandable to as many as possible. We felt the urge to be understood by more people. Why mark a boundary?
MF: How did the Italian music critics handle your decision to write in English? Was it harder initially to build up a fan base that excluded so much of the market?
SF: It could sound strange, but we perform more abroad than in Italy; most of our fans aren’t Italians, so it wasn’t a big loss. Italy’s ‘alternative’ fans are used to listening to Italian bands who sing in English, it’s not shocking at all. Of course, part of the Italian market automatically is cut out if you don’t sing in your mother tongue, but we are not interested in that kind of popular market. If you start to play music because you want to join that ‘market’ well, you start to reconsider your plans and your conscience.
MF: Comparing that to now, do you feel as though your decision to write in English has helped make Spiritual Front more unique and identifiable?
SF: Absolutely yes. It gave us the chance to be appreciated everywhere, from Mexico to Russia, from Norway to Greece, from Germany to Spain. It is probably because we mix together different elements like folk music with alternative sounds, vintage popular cinema, dark suits, sensual lyrics, dark irony etc… and because we never tried to be this or that. We put ourselves and our culture in a playground that was universally run by the Anglo-American culture, and a natural nice mix came out.
MF: Having seen your live show a few years ago, there was definitely a cult following with the artistic community. Do you feel as though that following has expanded through word of mouth into other markets?
SF: I think so. Sometimes it’s enough to perform in the right moment at the right place to reach automatically another big portion of a different audience. Word of mouth, especially in the underground, is fundamental.
MF: I understand that there will be a re-issue of older material over the coming months; can you tell me about what we can expect from the re-issue, as well as what other work you will be doing for the rest of the year?
SF: Yes, exactly, it’s named Open wounds. It’s a re-issue of old material, but despite the appearance, all the tracks are re-done, re-arranged and re-mastered; it sounds like a new album. Well, the old fans would recognise all the tracks easily, but I m pretty sure that the new listeners could start to appreciate Spiritual Front even with this album. I admit it’s a little bit darker if we compare it with the last album, but it gives the idea of what Spiritual Front were. And why not? We are what we are. A white 10“ will be out this year too and also a side project. It’s a sort of Fassbinder tribute album; it’s more chamber music oriented: voice, strings and piano, nothing more!
MF: The connection between the different elements of the arts is something that I see in your music videos and in your lyrics. Are there specific connections that you feel most strongly with? What do you see influencing your writing the most? Does the influence of Italian film and cinema help you create visual outlets for your music?
SF: The link with cinema is strong. I grew up watching tons of movies; it’s the art that influenced me the most. Since I was kid, I loved to go to the cinema and lose the contact with reality through the many movies, and I still do it! Watching (good) movies always gives the chance to analyse different aspects of reality, to see different sides of feelings or history or fantasy or sexuality; it’s the most stimulating art ever.
MF: For Australian audiences unsure of what to expect from your music, can you describe to them in a few words what Spiritual Front is all about?
SF: We can describe it as nihilist ballads for heart-breaking nihilist youth! Or simply, a mixture of dark catchy ballads with tango elements, Western vibes and retrò love vibes.
MF: You’ve toured fairly extensively through Europe; where do you see the band exploring next? Will English speaking countries such as Australia, the US etc be seeing Spiritual Front any time soon?
SF: We are planning to go to the US; some promoters asked us to play out there, but we don’t know when we can make it. Australia sounds great…but too far to reach at the moment. But never say never.
Official website: http://www.spiritualfront.com
Official facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/spiritualfrontofficialpage
Official twitter: http://twitter.com/spiritualfront
Official Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/spiritualfront
Official Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/SPIRITUALFRONTTV/videos