“The secret names of the city”. An interview with ROMA AMOR

by Gabriel Szünder

The metalheads attending the third edition of the Dark Bombastic Evening festival, will have an interesting experience because ROMA AMOR’s music is as far from metal – or rock – as it can be. ROMA AMOR comes from somewhere else. The band’s minimalism can be considered a celebration of purer musical roots. Those attending the Dark Bombastic Evening will have an interesting experience because ROMA AMOR is an interesting ensemble.

You declared in an interview that some of you come “from punk 77–new wave bands”. Could you tell me about these bands please?

“Both of us have got a background in new wave music experience, we grew up listening to all the new wave scene of the late 70s and early 80s. Euski, for example, recorded some electronic homemade stuff with a project. Only Candela played in some punk 77-new wave bands, he was the singer. It was a long time ago, a formative experience but it split with the teen years and nobody can remember those bands anymore. We’re trying to maintain in ROMA AMOR all that matters of our musical past, the rest is already done and we consider it as a accomplished past.”

While we are on the subject, could you talk a bit about the Italian music underground?

“Italian underground music is a big part of the musical scene in Italy. As it is happening in most countries, there aren’t many labels that invest money and energy to help and produce new artists, so they find alternative ways to try to express themselves and become known. It is very difficult to speak about it, as the subject is quite variegated and wide.”

When you chose the name for your band, didn’t it bother you that there is another band called ROME, more or less on the same scene?

“ROME and ROMA AMOR are not the same name. Anyways it is hard to find a name that doesn’t resemble any other one. We didn’t actually think of ROME when we chose the name for our band. ROMA AMOR is also the title of a great song by Married Monk, but our intention was another one. We liked the story of Roma, that in ancient times it was forbidden to be uttered. There were some secret names of the city: one was Flora, another was Valentia, but most scholars found the secret name to be Amor, which is a two-faced word for Roma. The interesting thing is that also in the Serbian language Roma and Amor are two-faced words: Rim (Roma) and Mir (peace).  Furthermore, love is an important component of our music in all its aspects, especially the somber ones.”

You might find this question stupid, but why are your albums so short?

“Because Euski is short, so she wants ROMA AMOR’s albums to be as short as her [laughs]. Jokes apart, the length of a song or an album has never been an important thing to consider during composition or recording. Once you express yourself the way you like, it doesn’t matter how many minutes it lasts.”

You said in an interview that the cover songs on your debut album are „a »manifesto« of your musical intentions and feelings”. A manifesto of / for what exactly? And how come David Sylvain – and only him – made it to your second album?

“On our first album we tried to introduce ourselves in some ways, we wanted to get a picture not only of us, but also of a bit of our pasts. It was very hard to select something, as we are fond of a lot of songs. But every album can’t be a <<manifesto>>. Our second album was a study of the feminine world in the history of Romagna, so we explored that side of our tradition. Nightporter is something we are really close to. The story of the song involves a woman, so we thought it could be a good idea.”

Could you explain your relationship to the English language please. I mean, on your first album you recorded a Jaques Brel song in English – and not in French. Then, on your second album, apart from the aforementioned David Sylvain song, English disappeared completely.

“The reason why we chose Next in English is because the first time Euski heard that song, it was sung by Marc Almond in his record Jacques, and then there are the versions of Gavin Friday and Scott Walker. That was long ago, and it is such a beautiful memory for her that in our version we tried to keep the sound of it. We like to play with languages and to use them as much as we can. In our last work the stories of women, real or legendary, of our tradition, led us to use mainly our dialect. In our next album there will be some songs in French, as the atmosphere recalls the times of the French chansonniers.”

In several interviews you talked about your influences. But I never heard you speak about Fellini. So, I’m curious, do you consider him an influence?

“Maybe it is because we consider Federico Fellini as a <<natural>> influence, someone that is so close to us that we don’t even realize it. Fellini came from our region, Romagna. In his most famous film Amarcord, which in our dialect it means <<I remember>>, there is a picture of Romagna of those times, and we think that in Candela’s accordion there are some memories of that, especially in a song that will be enclosed in our next work. We were associated with Fellini also in a radio programme of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Radio Cultura, whose theme was Italy”.

As far as I know – but correct me if I’m wrong – at the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 you will be playing for the first time in Romania. Do you have any knowledge about / interest in Romania?

“What we know about Romania is the result of our relationships with people we know that are from there: some friends of ours, some of our students – we both work at school – their parents. We know it is quite a magical country, and we know some Romanian legends. But it will be our first time in Romania, and we are very glad to come there and take part of the festival.”

You don’t seem to have much to do with metal music, but since Cartea de Nisip is a metal site, I will ask you: how do you feel about sharing the stage with metal bands at the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 festival? Is this the first time you will be doing this?

“We shared the stage with metal bands on other occasions, in Lithuania at the Menuo Juodaragis, for example. This has always brought us extra occasions to listen, meet, know and share things.”

Why do you think Italy never had a really great or important or at least internationally successful rock band? Let’s not consider Eros Ramazzotti for the moment.

“The musical tradition in Italy has never involved a great part of rock. Nevertheless Italy has had its age of it, that is actually quite interesting. It is hard to believe, but in the 60s there were also some English bands that performed some cover songs in Italian! In the 70s progressive rock was also deeply explored. But Italy has mainly other roots. To think of Italian music is to think of <<musica lirica>> performed in theatres, operetta, cabaret, traditional folk music, composers like Ennio Morricone, linked with several famous soundtracks of films, or Luciano Berio, linked with avant-garde and electronic music, jazz orchestras and the great composers from the 60s, Italian chansonniers like Fabrizio De André or Franco Battiato. But it would take too long to depict the Italian history of music. Of course it is not easy for certain countries to spread their music abroad, is it?”