Cascao & Lady Maru: “Dancey” and “Darkness”

It’s slightly sad that Cascao & Lady Maru’s sophomore LP doesn’t hit shelves until September 18th because it’s the best summertime punk record since YACHT’s Shangri-La (of which it...

It’s slightly sad that Cascao & Lady Maru’s sophomore LP doesn’t hit shelves until September 18th because it’s the best summertime punk record since YACHT’s Shangri-La (of which it definitely shares some sonic sensibilities).  The album, which boasts songs reminiscent of the most intellectual dance rock and synthpop of the ‘70s and ‘80s and the most tropical brands of punk every produced, is actually quite dark in tone, hence it’s title, Spleenism.  The band, which hails from Rome, is actually a “supergroup” of sorts, which first began in 2008.  Cascao has been a sound engineer, producer, and player in Rome’s underground scene for ages, while Lady Maru is a techno and house DJ.  I recently got a chance to chat with them both and they told me about what brought about the sounds (and themes) on their new album and the kinds of things that currently get them excited.

Izzy Cihak: So first of all, I understand that the band was born out of Rome’s no-wave underground scene, so I have to ask: What is that exactly, for those of us from elsewhere?  I’m quite intrigued and am a fan of the no wave scene that came out of NYC.

Cascao & Lady Maru: We are the generation of 1978 and 80, so we were in our early twenties, for example, when Skingraft first came out; they brought the nice “avant-garde” taste mixed with noise with a performative attitude, that we could at least enjoy live, for we were too young to be able to experience D.a.f, Malaria , Der Plan,  Dna, Contortions, etc. live in their best period. There must have been cool bands in Italy too, like Gaznevada, but when we were young Italy produced mainly normal hardcore, punk, and post-rock bands. So I think we had to take inspirations from abroad.

Izzy: You’ve been playing and recording together for a while now.  What have been some of the highlights of the band since its start?

C&LM: When we first came out live in 2010 it went really well. People were excited to see a live performance with some “theater’s characters” (Cascao climbing everywhere like an ape.) and some real funk dancing beats, but after a couple of European tours, we decided to change a little bit… To play with less prerecorded loops (just bass and drums) and to put other live elements in the performance.

Recently our figurative arts friends Onze and Insetto Stecco propose us to play behind a screen with their fantastic live visuals on the front, and us staying in the back like shadows. This is the new “live concept.” Unfortunately, we can’t take it all the time with us… It’s not easy to get a big screen everywhere and to take one of them with us all the time… But when we did it the first time it was one of the best experiences we had in the last two years. Everybody was so excited, it gives so much more to the performance…

Izzy: And what was it, specifically, that brought the two of you together?

Cascao: Lady Maru wanted to do some dancey tracks for her DJ work, and asked me to help her with the production, but the music that came out was a hybrid with poppy elements, so we decided to turn the tracks into songs for a real live band…

Izzy: Your new album, Spleenism, hits shelves mid-September.  How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases, whether in regard to the sound or the process of writing and recording it?  Does it feel like an organic evolution?

C&LM: This is a really difficult question: we’d actually written about 12 songs more than what is on Spleenism, from 2011-to 2015.  Four songs came out for an Italian electronic house label, the ones with a faster bpm and with a more dancey structure, others we still don t know how and if to release them.

Apart from the first track of Spleenism that is more “cosmic,” and the faster funny garage one, we tried to focus on slower rhythms and more “tribal” melodies, just because we thought they could be more interesting for an album that shouldn’t be just dancey, but even slightly dark and evocative. That’s why we’ve chosen that title, which can represent really well the bad period we are passing through in the underground culture, and in general in life, as you have mentioned in the other question.

Gong!, our first album, is probably happier and funkier… faster and “poppier,” but we thought that trying to release Spleenism could be an interesting experiment. The live performance is still a mix between older and newer stuff, though.

Izzy: What were the biggest influences behind this particular album, whether musical or otherwise?  I’m guessing that the title is an allusion to some of your recent non-musical influences, is that true?  I’m a humanities professor and a big fan of Baudelaire, so I definitely appreciate the reference.

Lady Maru: Well, you got it right because I think that we are both pretty weird and meditative people, interested in other disciplines as well.  Cascao works recently as a theater actor, and he has been writing tales and video clips, whereas I have studied philosophy and German literature before starting to work mainly with music and club DJing . My studies were focused on Baudelaire’s times. We are still fans of this avant-garde spirit and the decadence that I think has never stopped, but we have chosen this word because it was good to describe the feeling of not fitting that well in the ordinary world system.

Izzy: So I really dig the entire album, but “Only One Place” and “Burn My Feet” are definitely two of my favorite songs I’ve heard this year.  “Only One Place” kind of sounds like Joy Division-meets-YACHT to me and “Burn My Feet” is what I imagine it would’ve sounded like if Poly Styrene had been in The Slits with Ari, Viv, and Tessa.  What can you tell me about the origins of those particular tracks?

C&LM: Glad that you loved those two songs that have a reference to Rome in their lyrics: positively and negatively… It’s for sure not the best place to do a project like this (and probably music in general, as there is no help, neither from clubs nor from the government), but sometimes the audience is really nice, and we feel really appreciated. So you get your feet burnt here, but on the other hand it seems to be impossible to escape and to live somewhere else. “Burn my Feet” is definitely a funny electro garage song that we’ve  put in the middle of the album to cheer up the spirits, whereas we liked a lot the darky shaman ‘s atmosphere of “One Place,” that is closer to the general intention of this album.  Anyway we love YACHT, Joy Division, the Slits, and X-Ray Spex, so we are very proud that you found some references of them in our music.

Izzy: And finally, what’s next for you?  How do you hope and plan to spend the rest of 2015. Anything you’re especially excited about, in addition to the release of your new album?

C&LM: Yes, we hope to play and tour the more that we can, if possible with the visuals, then we’d love to write a couple of new songs, and to adapt one more of Spleenism for the live performance, and then of course we really hope to improve artistically in all directions and with our other bands: Lady Maru as well with techno and house DJing , Cascao with his other artistic projects. The more we are active together and individually, the better it will be for the band… It’s going to be our first vinyl, so we are pretty excited… So happy to do it with Cochon Records!

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.