“The more noise, the better,” says His Electro Blue Voice frontman Francesco Mariani about his outlook on music. “I only listen to music that’s loud.”
And that world view is something he and his bandmates reflect right from the opening pummel of “Death Climb” — the lead track off the Italian noise-rock deconstructionists questionably titled debut, Ruthless Sperm. It feels like the audio equivalent to a gut check. Bassist Claudia Manili and drummer Andrea Napoli hammer away at their instruments to nauseating effect, while Mariani howls about submission and survival, before they approximate the sound of angry bees swarming. “The hardest song for me to play was ‘Death Climb,’” Manili says via email. “I studied the guitar, not bass, and this song drove me mad during the recording sessions!”
It’s visceral, fervent and primal in a way that evokes memories of the Melvins, Fugazi and Neurosis, but the best part is that it sets up the rest of the album, which sounds like a noise-rock free jam. It’s a sound they decided to reflect in the name His Electro Blue Voice, which Mariani dreamt up as sort of a mission statement before even forming the band. “I picked the word ‘blue’ to indicate sadness, the more intimate side often accentuated in the lyrics,” the frontman says. “‘Electro,’ instead, is part of the outburst, the electricity, the distortion, the dirt, the revenge, and ‘his voice’ is the frame, inspired by Morrissey’s label, His Master’s Voice.”
Part of the reason why Mariani put so much thought behind the band, as free as they are, is because they’ve seen Italy’s indie scene change and grow into something that the singer says “has nothing to do with the original attitude — just fashion, drinks and one more excuse to pick up on girls.” Based in Como, a town of about 80,000 in northern Italy between Switzerland and Milan, His Electro Blue Voice have focused themselves on the cultural and musical base that the Italian scene is missing, and they’re starting to get acclaim for the diversity of their music.
The seven tracks on Ruthless Sperm run the gamut of hard rock, noise and even moody, keyboard-driven Joy Division-like mood pieces. Falling into the latter category, the album’s final track, “Red Earth,” serves as a cool-down, a disengagement after the previous tracks’ audio assaults. “We wrote that song during the winter of 2010, inspired by the cold of those days and by my sedentary lifestyle,” Mariani says. “Until then, His Electro Blue Voice had never written a song like this, without guitar, so we worked on it and expanded it and I loved it. It’s the most peaceful song on the album, despite the jitters that come out here and there, and the way its coldness and static nature worked with the heat of the vocals was exactly what I was looking for.”
And as for the meaning behind that title, Ruthless Sperm, Mariani says it “derives from the desire not to keep anything inside, to let off steam without caring too much. In the case of His Electro Blue Voice, this is done with aggressiveness.” But, in regard to that title, there’s still the matter of how it works with the cover — a tangled mess of slippery-looking strings that could be food or something…organic. But according to the frontman, much like the group’s music, it’s all up to the beholder to decide how he or she feels about it. “It’s spaghetti on a title, painted with a Montana Hardcore spray can,” he says. “If someone confuses them with tangled cords, it’s OK. It’s pretty much the same stuff.”
Ruthless Sperm is out August 20 on Sub Pop. Stream it below.