Exclusive Interview with Bella Figura
Bella Figura (meaning a good impression or fine appearance in Italian) is a truly impressive and memorable outfit. Their sound is that of an intensely soulful groove with enticing lyrics and alluringly deep soft vocals. When you have heard this band just once you won’t ever forget its sound. Bella Figura is very appealing and does not at all fade into the wallpaper. Poignant guitar riffs and rolling jazzy drum beats that will make you switch off from life, lay back your head and just get lost in its vibe and messages.
[Never Learn vid:
Listening to this band reminds me of David Bazan’s Eating Paper http://youtu.be/MNw1Fj0NGsY which I absolutely love and return to quite frequently. At times I’m reminded of the rhythm and blues of the Jimi Hendrix sound. If you throw on Red Light you may hear similarities to Foxy Lady with that psychedelic groove. The Bella Figura sound is more than cool. It’s infectious.
This band is head turning.
This band stands out and is ever so richly unique.
Like a great movie that stays on your mind for some time afterwards so too does the sound of Bella Figura.
I’ll just have to make do with a chat on the phone. For now.
Bella Figura are:
Justin Gartry (guitar and main vocals)
Mikey Cooper (bass and vocals)
Jack Morford (drums) but was Rhys Maslen (drums and vocals) at time of phone chat.
Current EP: Never Learn 17th April.
Here are some questions answered by Justin Gartry
Bring me up to back when. Back when you guys met. What did you get up to beforehand?
We all met studying music production. The guys and I all have a broad interest in music, and we all play a few different instruments (in all kinds of styles)… Our bassist, Mikey is in fact a classically trained viola player, but also plays harmonica, banjo, and the bazouki. Rhys, our drummer, is pianist and a singer/songwriter in his own right. Before meeting the guys, I played in a few different bands here and there, on drums for Elephant (Memphis Industries) and did a bit of songwriting and acoustic accompaniment for other musicians too. I currently still play bass for Dark Moon, and in my original band The Joker & The Thief (Active 2009-2013) I played the guitar and kick drum (at the same time!).
Bella Figura. What a name 🙂 How did you come up with that one?
The story goes like this: I was at a small house-party in Archway, North London, and things were winding down (as the sun was coming up). I got chatting to a friend of a friend who I hadn’t met yet that evening. We were both a little worse-for-ware, as you can imagine, however we managed to have a very pleasant, interesting, and civilized conversation… He then described the conversation as being “Bella Figura”… BOOOM! I hadn’t heard the phrase before, but I really liked it and it stuck with me… A month or two later, when the band started, we were thinking of a name and we went for it! The philosophy is a good one. We use it on many levels as a band, whether it’s about our look or about our music. Ironically we can get a little scruffy in our attire, but it still works. Apparently in Italy if someone drops a plate everyone shouts “Bella Figura!!”. At the heart of the phrase, moving away from the literal “beautiful figure” (also ironic!) it’s taken to mean “be respectful” to yourself and the people around you… But also, it sounds cool.
The lyrics can cut close to the bone. I love them. They’re very honest with no ambiguity in your messages whatsoever even when you’re questioning yourself, it’s very clear to the listener what it is that you’re questioning. An experienced soul right there. A bit of a thinking woman’s crumpet 🙂
So, how do you work mostly because your lyrics play a massive role in your tracks as do the vocals? Lyrics come before the sound mostly or the other way round?
It can totally work either way round… Sometimes I worry the lyrics are too ambiguous! So that’s a relief. But I think the direct nature of the lyrics come from my lack of ability to write very many words, so it naturally stays short and to the point, allowing more space/time for an extended guitar solo.
Let’s get to these gorgeous vocals. In the case of Bella Figura they definitely make up the 4th instrument of the sound. I had seen the Somebody New vid a while back and the vocals struck me. When I put on Never Learn from your new EP I dropped what I was doing and at the 28 second mark I believe I went, “Hawwwwwww yyyyeahhh” 🙂 I actually went back to the start again 🙂 Do you get a lot of that kind of reaction from the crowds at gigs particularly from the ladies? 🙂
It’s hard to tell whether the crowds are really feeling “the voice”, during the gigs, as most people tend to just stand and stare (which at least is better than chatting away) but I do get complimented on the lower tone… Usually from the ladies, yes.
When you switch off from work, what do you like to listen to?
Oooooooh, where do I start?! A couple of things have really grabbed me in the last few months, things like: The War On Drugs, The Barr Brothers, Future Islands, and even the new Ben Howard album… Older favourites (without going too far back into the roots) are The National, Band Of Skulls and Band Of Horses.
Gigs. I see you have been grafting away on the gigging front. You kick started 2015 playing the Bike Shed Theatre in Devon, followed by the Proud Camden then The Barfly followed by Under the Bridge. The EP launch night is 17th April at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. What’ya got going on between now and then?
We’re playing a lot less than last year, which is nice. We really stormed the circuit playing anywhere and everywhere, but now we’re making each gig really count, so we’re not planning anything until the launch on April 17th , apart from the music video release, and other bits of promo for the EP release (same date as the gig).
Any festivals to play at in mind this year?
I’m booked in to do a solo acoustic show (which is a rare treat for any fans) over at 2000-Trees this year, then for full band stuff, we’ve got The Great Escape, Standon Calling and Wilderness. I’ve been working at Larmer Tree for a few years now, so we might make a cheeky appearance there, fingers crossed.
Any gigs/festivals you’ve got your eye on to attend this year just as a punter?
Gotta find a way into Glasto’… Usually do! I was building brightly coloured windmills in the Kidz Field last year, and before that I was a fire-marshall at the Strummerville Campfire, and before that The Joker & The Thief had a slot! Hopefully Bella Figura will be on the bill one day.
And finally, do you think you’ll ever learn? 🙂