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The Vickers interview with Andrea Mastropietro, Federico Sereni and Francesco Marchi


The Vickers have been quietly amassing an array of releases in their hometown Florence, Italy for the last four years however their newest release, She’s Lost, marked a dramatic turning point in the bands history.  Extremely reminiscent of Rubber Soul/Revolver era Beatles, this psych is the real deal.  With just enough of a jangling hook to sink their teeth into you the distortion, feedback, excessive echo and reverb that drips from every pour of your speaker prove The Vickers shouldn’t be going anywhere but up from here!  I needed to know more about these guys.  Where they were from, what they were planning on doing, it’s not every day you come across a band like this after all.  I don’t do a lot of pop-psych as it bores the hell out of me.  These guys though, they take all the good parts of that whole pop-psych thing and curb-stomp it right into waves of gnarly distortion and noise.  I know I’m not great at describing music, but I do know good music when I hear it and The Vickers are good music; it’s like The Beatles got stone drunk and went on a psychedelic bender with a tub of acid or something.  Maybe I’m beating a dead horse but check out their SoundCloud page for some tunes, pick up a copy of the new 7” and check out the article because The Vickers are one of my favorite new bands!

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this your original lineup?

Andrea:  The Vickers are Andrea (guitar/vocals), Federico (bass/vocals), Francesco (guitar/vocals), Marco (drums/backing vocals).  This is the original lineup!

Are any of you in any other bands?  Have you released any material with any other bands?  If so can you tell us about it?

Andrea:  No, we're all focused on The Vickers.  Every single day is dedicated to this band you know?  It's like a faith.


How and when did you all meet?

Andrea:  Federico and Francesco were schoolmates, I met them six years ago here in Florence and we formed the band.  Marco arrived later to complete the group.

What led you to start The Vickers and when was that?

Andrea:  A passion for good music led us to play together.  We felt like we needed to create something, and we still feel that need.  We formed the band officially five or six years ago and started playing covers of The Kinks, Syd Barrett, Neil Young and Blur, after three months we were working on our own original stuff.

Where are you originally from?  Where are you located at now?

Andrea:  We're all originally from Florence, Italy and we still live there.

How would you describe the local music scene where you are located at now?

Andrea:  At the moment in Florence there are a lot of good bands, we have a lot of talented guys and the scene itself is really good.  The only problem nowadays is there's no space in Italy for good music, and the situation is getting worse day by day.  Only people who really care about the music and musicians can fight it but thankfully Florence is actually one of the best places to play with a band in Italy.


Are you very involved in the local scene?

Andrea:  Yes we are we like to see a lot of the other bands in Florence play.  We're friends with most of them.

Has the local scene played a large or important role in the history or evolution of The Vickers?

Andrea:  Yes, I think that the place where you grow up, live and play has an important role in your career, it’s not everything but it's quite important.

I hate to label or classify music, can you describe your music to our readers that might not have heard you before?

Andrea:  Well, The Vickers are a psychedelic pop band influenced by the sounds and big tunes of the 60's with a touch of 90's Splean.  I think that’s the best description I can think of at the moment.

You’ve got a seriously psychedelic Beatles feeling to your music but there are so many layers of sound it’s hard to pick out all of the individual parts in there.  Can you tell us who some of your personal musical influences are?  What about the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Andrea:  If you write and play music and you like some specific things there’s just some things you can't escape.  The Beatles produced the greatest music in the history of rock.  Obviously we listen to a lot of other bands from the past and present but we’re influenced by bands who know how to write a tune and the right words for it.  We believe that a song should be sincere.  We love the 60's production style with a tight rhythm section, driving bass, reverb laden guitars and spatial vocals.  I love the little recordings mistakes on those albums.  In the last year we’ve listened to more and more music on vinyl and I think that’s influenced our recent recordings.


What does the name The Vickers mean or refer to?

Andrea:  We were a band for five or six months and we hadn't come up with a serious name.  As time passed it started to become a problem.  One day Federico came up with this fascinating 60's pop era name "The Vickers".  He saw the name written on an old airplane museum catalogue and we thought it was perfect.  Vickers were a brilliant British airplane produced during the early years of the twentieth-century. 

Can you explain The Vickers songwriting process?  Is there someone who comes to the rest of the band with a polished idea or riff to work out or is there a lot of exploratory jamming?

Andrea:  The process is easy.  Everybody proposes their new song to the rest of the band and then we play and arrange the song.  Sometimes we play it live over and over in our studio and sometimes we make a demo version of the song immediately for a more meditative arrangement, it just depends on what type of song it is.


You’ve previously released two full length-albums.  Can we talk a little bit about your first album Keep Clear, where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  When was it released?

Andrea:  Our first album Keep Clear was recorded at Alpha Dept. Studios near Bologna, Italy.  Alpha Dept. was a great place to create and record music, it has a great ambiance.  You can find a lot of vintage instruments there like 60's keyboards and guitars, a Vox Super-Continental organ, a Wurlitzer, an old Vox AC30 amplifier, analogue effects, compressors, two vintage tape recorders and other great stuff, and we used all that stuff during the recording sessions.  The album was recorded in seven days and produced by Francesco Donadello, a very talented Italian guy.  It was released in February 2009.  We were young and honestly we didn't expect to record a full length album.  I remember we wanted to produce an EP but Foolica Records convinced us that a full-length album would be better for the Italian market.


How did you choose it and what does the title Keep Clear mean?

Andrea:  It happened in Liverpool.  We were there to play at the famous Cavern Club and the album didn't have a title yet.  We thought that Keep Clear was a simple direct title for a sincere and direct album, that's all.

After Keep Clear you released Fine For Now in 2011.  Where was that album recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

Andrea:  One year after Keep Clear we released a free digital EP, Sofa Sessions, an intimate acoustic collection.  We recorded it at our studio and we learned a lot of things during the sessions, how to use microphones, double tracking, percussion, and for the first time we produced and recorded everything.  It was a great time and we still think that the Sofa Sessions EP is one our best albums.


Tracks like Speak To Me (https://www.youtube.com) and A Summer Gone are clear examples.  That experience was a great help when it came to producing our second full-length Fine For Now.  Fine For Now was recorded at Savonarola 69 Studio with Francesco Taddei, who’s like the fifth Vickers member.  He's an extremely cool guy and we learned a lot from him.  The album was mixed by Steven Orchard (Paul McCartney, Pulp, U2, Iggy Pop, Travis) and mastered by Jon Astley (The Who, Stereophonics, McCartney).  Steven was very kind and gentle with us, his mixes were fantastic and he definitely gave Fine For Now everything he had.  With Fine For Now we tried to create an LP full of singles, catchy tunes and jingle jangle guitars and we think it's a really good record.  It was well received in Europe.  We toured in England, Ireland and France with that LP.


Where did the title Fine For Now come from and how was it chosen?

Andrea:  We were conscious that Fine For Now was a transition into another era, the end of that particular period and those three words perfectly indicated that feeling.  We had to make that record and it felt great when it was finally done.

Do you all enjoy recording or does it drive you crazy?  Some bands love it and others loathe recording like no body’s business.

Andrea:  We love it!  We think recording is a very important process for a band and we love to stay in the studio playing with sounds.  For our next release we mixed the tracks ourselves and have been very involved in the entire process.  We like recording a lot and we’re very curious about every aspect of it; if you’re not interested in it you're not a complete musician/artist.  We love to work with other people but most of the time we have a very clear idea of what a song should sound like and we just need somebody to give us a little help to get it there.

You just released your debut 7”, She’s Lost, not too long ago; let’s talk a little bit about that.  Where and when was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  Was the recording of She’s Lost very different than your previous two albums?


Federico:  The recording sessions for She's Lost, like the other songs we recently recorded, were very different compared to our previous experiences.  We recorded a lot of demos to explore ideas but when we started "the official recordings" we figured out that “official” doesn't mean anything, so we used some tracks that really rocked from the demos.  We recorded the guitars, bass, loops and vocals by ourselves.  Drums were recorded in the studio in the space and setting we liked.  We’ve generally used this method for all of our recent stuff.  This left us with a lot of time to explore new ideas, which have been possible in part because our sound engineer, Francesco Taddei, from Savonarola 69 Studio.  During the recording of the album he had to leave to work abroad, and learned a lot travelling around the world.  When he came back we entered the studio to finish recording the album and mix it.  We used digital and analogical stuff, computers and tapes.  When you record you gotta limit yourself when it comes to time, but not creatively.  We could talk for hours about recording...


The She’s Lost 7” was printed in two pretty limited editions.  What are the differences between the two editions?  How many copies was it limited to?

Federico:  The first pressing is limited to 300 copies.  The two colors were actually a mistake.  The purple ones shouldn’t really exist.  It was a mistake that occurred during the printing but we liked it a lot so we didn't ask them to correct it.  So, the purple vinyl isn’t the original design but they’re rarer.


Where’s the best place for US readers to get a copy of your music after the recent international shipping rate increase?  Where’s the best place for our international readers to purchase copies?

Federico:  We really hope to have a distributor in the US in the very near future, for now though, you can get our music digitally from Amazon, iTunes, etcetera.  If you want to touch and possess real physical music you can check our website www.thevickers.eu.  We also hope to get the US as soon as possible for touring so we can sell music at our concerts.

From what I understand you all are working on an upcoming full-length album.  What’s the deal on that?  When is it due for release?  Are you trying to do anything significantly different with this record than with the She’s Lost 7”?  What can our listeners expect from the album?  Who’s (going to be) recording the album?  Where was it recorded?  How is recording going?

Federico:  It's almost ready.  It was recorded in the same fashion I described before and we are following the kind of sound we exhibited on the She's Lost 7”.  We are hoping to release it in late autumn.

Foolica Records has released everything you’ve put out up to this point.  How is your relationship with Foolica, it seems like you all have to get along pretty well for you to have released your entire catalog through them, at least thus far though Cybertree Records was also involved with the latest 7” release.  How did you originally get involved with Foolica?

Federico:  Yes, it's one of the best indie labels in Italy where nothing is easy or “normal”.  Cybertree Record was the label who pushed to do the 7", we’re with Foolica and we appreciate the staff working there, for now that’s the situation, but who knows.  The music environment is unpredictable.  We’re looking for something better all the time and so is Foolica.  How did they find us?  They liked our stuff on the internet so they came out to a gig and see what we were able to do live.  They liked us live also, boom!  Signed and recording men at work.

What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?

Federico:  We have a few gigs coming up and we’re rehearsing the live set right now.  From autumn forward we hope to be touring a lot.  We’re also finalizing the dates in and around Europe for the first part of a tour as well.

© Eleonora Birardi

Who are some of your personal favorite acts that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with?

Federico:  John Power (The La's) in Liverpool.  Man, that’s a magic place with great people.  Awesome!

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows that you’d like to share with our readers?

Federico:  A lot of stories would be censored in a live interview and I don't know if you have bleeps on a keyboard!  So this is quite a weird story, and it’s short enough.  Once, after a gig, a totally fucked up tour manager lost the keys to the house where we were going to be sleeping.  So, in the middle of the night, he smashed a window out of the house with the help of two friends and told us to go inside.  But “be careful, there’s a guy sleeping inside the house.  He’s a deep sleeper but he usually sleeps with his gun beside his bed.  Don’t be noisy” he said.  In the morning that guy really was there and he did indeed have a gun!

Where’s the best place for people to keep up with the latest news from The Vickers like upcoming shows and album releases?

Francesco:  On our Facebook page you can find all the latest news about gigs, reviews, videos etcetera and if you want to know more about us you can take a look at our website www.thevickers.eu.

Do you have a music collection?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Francesco:  Yes, we have big collections.  We have a lot of records with all kind of genres from 50's to present day and specialty vinyl.  I think that to be a good musician and find your own inspiration you have to listen to a lot of music.  Because of this we buy new records whenever we can and when we can’t we use streaming services like Spotify or the good old YouTube.

I love having a digital copy of an album to listen to wherever and whenever I might want but there’s something irreplaceable about physical releases to me.  Having something to hold in your hands, having art to look at and liner notes to read makes the listening experience more complete, at least for me.  Do you have any such connection to physical releases?

Francesco:  We feel the same!  We love vinyl.  It gives you the illusion of being able to touch something that by its very nature is intangible, like music.  The digital format is good, like you said, for allowing you to listen to your music collection wherever and whenever you want, but the best way to really enjoy what you're listening remains vinyl!

As an artist releasing music in during the reign of the digital age what is your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Francesco:  As an emerging band we think that digital distribution is a very good way to make your music available everywhere and for everyone.  Paradoxically though it throws you into this digital sea with thousands of other bands, making it more difficult for you to be noticed by anyone.  It's a complicated situation but we try to make the best of it and look on the bright side of things.

In the vain hope of keeping up with all the amazing music out there I have to ask, who from your local scene or area should I be listening to that I might not have heard of before?

Francesco:  Definitely Go!Zilla, a Psych/Garage band from Florence.  They just finished recording their first album and they have an amazing single out.  Watch their video for I’m Bleeding (http://www.youtube.com), we promise, you won't regret it!

Is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to talk about?

Francesco:  We just want to say thanks to you and to all the people like you that work so hard to spread good music around the world.  As you said there's a lot of amazing music out there waiting for someone to find it and you make the job much easier!!!


















© Eleonora Birardi

DISCOGRAPHY
(2009)  The Vickers – Keep Clear – CD – Foolica Records
(2010)  The Vickers – The Sofa Sessions – digital – Foolica Records
(2011)  The Vickers – Fine For Now – CD – Foolica Records / Flake Records (Japan)
(2013)  The Vickers – She’s Lost – 7” – Cybertree Records/Foolica Records (Limited to 300 copies: 250 copies with regular cover, 50 copies with Limited Edition Purple Cover)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013

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