I guess you could say Italian duo Dumbo Gets Mad’s third LP is both a concept-and-tribute album… The album, Thank You Neil, was inspired by Neil deGrasse Tyson’s documentary series, “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” and hit shelves earlier this month. And although the band’s first two records were largely categorized as psych-rock, their latest is a bit more complex and varied, often conjuring up the sound and spirit of ‘70s soul and funk and the kind of dream pop that I’ve often characterized as sounding like “a lounge act in Alphaville.” While the psych is still there, it would seem to be a little too whimsically mellow to quite qualify as “rock.” (Think The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s less rambunctious BFF.) And it’s hard to argue that the album is, indeed, their most accomplished effort. I recently got a chance to chat with vocalist, guitarist, and one-half of Dumbo Gets Mad, Luca, who told me about their latest release.
Izzy: Not to start with kind of a big question, but you’ve been a band for five years now, which is definitely a milestone of sorts: What have been some of the highlights of Dumbo Gets Mad so far?
Luca: Maybe the beginning, when we released the first single and then the album, the response was totally unexpected. I think that our music is a very personal composition and it’s beautiful when you realize that your same vision is shared by other people, other music lovers. Now it’s our third record, and it’s different but still, very personal, and I’m really happy to think that there’s a little community in the world that can relate to it and like it.
Izzy: How do you think Thank You Neil compares to your previous releases? Were you trying anything new on this one that you haven’t experimented with before?
Luca: Thank You Neil has been recorded almost entirely live. It was a completely different approach for us, but the final result is what I had in mind. I think the dynamics of an album are the things that we are not allowed to enjoy in most part of the new worldwide discography. It must be loud, without imperfections, always on time. Well, I didn’t want something like that, so I decided to adopt some rules (no compression, all the drums, piano, and bass has been played real gently, allowing the dynamic to be an essential element). Plus, I discovered the pleasure of pre-production, avoiding too much of post.
Izzy: And since this is a “concept album,” I’m curious, do you have any favorite “concept albums” of musical history?
Luca: Yes, I think my favorite concept album in history is Mort Garson’s Zodiac.
Izzy: At the moment, do you currently have a favorite song off of the album, whether one you’re most proud of or one that’s just especially fun to play?
Luca: I love every track of the album equally, but let’s say that the most fun to play is “Thank You Neil,” the second track of the album!
Izzy: “Haters Paradise” is one of my favorite songs I’ve heard this year. How did that particular track come about? It reminds me of a lot of my favorite dream pop of the 21st century, most notably The Bird and the Bee’s first record (Hopefully that’s not insulting.)
Luca: Not insulting at all… The making of this song was fun, because for the first time ever I started to compose it starting from a cappella vocals. Then I tried to fit a good piano harmony with the voice melody. I knew how I wanted it to sound, so it’s been like filling a puzzle with the harmony.
Izzy: Since we’re nearing the end of 2015, I’m inclined to ask bands about their favorite musical entities of the year. Have there been any songs or albums to drop or performances you’ve gotten to experience in 2015 that you found to be especially impressive or inspiring?
Luca: Well, this year did not satisfy my musical curiosity. Not so many good records I think, with some exceptions of course. But the most important thing for me is that in Los Angeles jazz musician are creating this new movement, free, fresh, maybe a bit nostalgic, but in a good way. Kamasi Washington sold out over worldwide clubs. It’s like a signal, maybe the beginning of something.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you? What are you hoping and planning for 2016? Any chance we might get to see you here in the states?
Luca: It’s a dream for now, let’s see… I will go back to Los Angeles in May, and who knows… Maybe I’ll get the chance to work on a new album. I’d love to make a record in 2016, but the problem with me is that I am a perfectionist, a slow one. I already have a few ideas.