Mellow Mood Interview

Mellow Mood Bandfoto

Interview Mellow Mood (Giulio Frausin), 10.06.2014

by Gardy Stein

Trying to pin down one of the members of Mellow Mood to hold an interview is not an easy task. These lively artists seem to be on a mission to discover the world, and while the twins have been doing some shows in Mexico, the two Mellows who stayed in Italy were busy working on their own projects. Irie Ites was finally able to trace Giulio Frausin, who enjoyed a short holiday in Finland before the summer tour starts.

Bonasera! Thanks for taking your time to talk to us. First, please introduce the band members!

The band Mellow Mood consists of five musicians now. We have the twins, Jacob and L.O., who are somehow the brand image of the band. They are the singers, songwriters and also guitar players. Then there is me, Giulio, I play bass. On the drums we have Federico, he is a great drummer and he is also having some electronic side projects. Then there is Filippo who is the keyboard player, web master and he is also assisting our producer, Paolo Baldini, with the programming for the album. Paolo is like the sixth member of the band. He has been producing us ever since we started, so he is some kind of ghost member of the band. I like to think about him as the George Martin of Mellow Mood, hoping that we will be as successful and as lucky (laughs).

You mentioned some side projects… can you tell us more about that?

Well, as I said, Federico is doing electronic music under the name Ioshi (www.ioshimusic.com), he is also touring with that. I have a solo project which is called The Sleeping Tree (www.thesleepingtree.com), it’s singing and song writing. It’s somehow based on Reggae themes and lyrics, but I play like American Folk Music with a Rasta Message. It’s another way of expressing what I have inside. I released my third album last November and I’ve been touring for the whole spring. Now I’m on pause because I have the tour with Mellow Mood.
Then we also have some kind of side project of the band called the Dub Files, together with Paolo Baldini. It started on Youtube. We wanted to make some footage on what was happening in the studio when a singer is going to the studio to voice a tune. So we started filming and releasing these videos on Youtube and we got really good feedback, so we are now having a live project of the Dub Files. It’s Paolo with a mixer and several singers, the twins, of course, and me from Mellow Mood, but also others. We have Sr. Wilson from Spain and Forelock, who is also featuring on the album, and Andrew I, who is also a long-time collaborator from Paolo. He is a good singer from our region.

Your region, that’s Pordenone, right? Do you all live in the same city?

Actually, no. Most of us are in the area, but Filippo is living close to Rimini, a bit far from us… which makes the logistics even more complicated for the band. But he is a very good-hearted guy, so he is willing to come to rehearsal, even though it’s far.

How often do you rehearse?

It depends on the period. Like, when we are on tour, we do not rehearse that often, but when we prepare a tour we rehearse for like two weeks, every day. And then, usually, just to keep updated, once a week.

Do you also hang out in your free time?

Yes, we are good friends! The band started as a group of friends actually. The twins and Federico were good friends, they were at school together and they got me when we were in what is like Highschool… when I was 18 or 19. They are younger than me, so they were just these kids from the school, already having a Reggae Band! They were doing covers of Bob Marley mostly. Then we got together for a school party one day. I never played the bass before, I was only a guitarist, but for that event I switched to the bass and I… well, I was sticking to it (laughs). That time Filippo was already working with Paolo Baldini. We had a keyboard player back then, but after we recorded the first album he left the band and Filippo joined us.

When was that?

Well, the band started in 2004, with no expectations whatsoever. The first album was released in 2009, so it took quite a while to realize that we want to be musicians and make music for a living.

And the name Mellow Mood, when did it come up? You said they were doing cover songs of Bob Marley, was that one of the reasons?

I was not in the band when they picked the name but yeah, mostly. Mellow Mood was one of their favourite songs. Also because the twins had an Audio Cassette with a compilation of songs from Bob Marley they got from their mother, so that was like their soundtrack every day. They really liked the song and we of course loved Bob Marley, he is such an inspirational character… I think most of us are doing this kind of music thanks to him.

What is the Italian Reggae scene like? Big, small… do the artists know each other?

It’s a nice scene! I like it and I think we are all quite comfortable in it… For example with Train to Roots, we did a 16-gig-tour together to celebrate the 30th years memory of Bob Marley. It was organized by Rototom Sunsplash back in 2011. We have a very good connection with Arawak too, the band of Forelock. Also KG Man, who is featured on the album as well, he is a good friend of us. There is a good connection and I think that the scene is… well… fruitful, I would say. It is however not any mainstream. We don’t have big names who go on television. The only one is Alborosie, but I think that he is not an Italian singer anymore (laughs). He has been in Jamaica for so long, he somehow belongs to another country now. Or probably he’s just so famous that he is in another scene.

And how do the Italian people support you?

People come to shows quite often and we have very good festivals like Venice Sunsplash, then there is the One Love Festival, Sardinia Reggae Festival… They are very good venues with a good amount of people, but probably less than in Germany. For example, we have nothing similar to Summerjam or Chiemsee Reggae or that kind of festivals. We have a good club scene, for example in our region. We were very lucky, because when we started, we were playing in small bars and pubs, of course as you do as a young artist, but we got a good connection with the people. So there were plenty of events and people generally liked to go out and listen to Reggae. There were many DJ-sets and live shows… it’s very good public. Also the scene in the south is very big. Reggae is very popular in Salento, you know, it’s been there for more than twenty years now thanks to Sud Soundsystem. They have been promoting Dancehall bashments, that kind of thing. They are very famous and popular down there.

Going back to the band, the lyrics are mostly done by the twins, right?

Yes, they write all the ideas. They are very creative, and being brothers, they also challenge each other who is writing the best songs. They have been doing that ever since I know them. But we also jam a lot with the riddims. I would say they bring the melody and the lyrics first and then we arrange all the music together. So they are very big brains and they do most of the job, but we can bring in our inspirations too.

Do you ever write in Italian? All the songs I found on the internet are in English or Patois.

Yes, it used to be only in English, now it’s mostly Patois. We had like very silly songs in Italian when we started, but we switched to English because we like it most. We listen to Reggae in English and especially in Patois, so it’s easier to handle Patois most of the time. I know that it has some negative sides also, because we are losing a bit the touch with the Italian public…. For example, Sud Soundsystem which I just mentioned, they are singing in their dialect from the south of Italy, so they are very rooted in the community they live in.
We are happy that we sing in English and Patois, because in that way our crowd has no barriers. I think that we were one of the first young Reggae Acts from Italy to go and play abroad, if we skip Alborosie, of course. We played some first gigs in Slovenia, some in Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, so that was an important part of our first public.

You have toured extensively for real… which crowds were the nicest in Europe? Where did you have most fun?

Well, I think that every crowd has a different flavour. We like the Italian crowd because they are very close to us and we have good parties with them. We love the Polish crowd too, cause they are very good-hearted and very welcoming. The German public has a weird flavour, because they are very interested in the music. They listen very carefully and they want to be sure that the artist they are listening to is a good one. And also the German bands are very good, technically speaking. German musicians are extremely good musicians, so coming to Germany is always a pleasure because we face a reality of a very high quality level and that’s very nice. Also Spain was amazing! We had a very good time in Brixton too. The crowd wasn’t dancing that much, but listening intensely. Then the following day we were in Belgium, the crowd was dancing more than listening. So everywhere we go, we get a good feedback from the crowd, and a very different one actually, that’s also part of the game.

Cool. And now you have a big tour ahead of you… You will play at the One Love Reggae Festival close to your home town on the 12th of July, which is the game for place three of the world cup. What if Italy plays that day, will you still do the gig?

Well, I personally don’t think that Italy will make it to the semi-finals this year (laughs). We will have the concert in any case, I think we are playing with Kabaka Pyramid and Anthony B that day, so those are great acts and the people will certainly come to see them. Some festivals even organize maxi screens so you can have both!

What were the biggest stars you ever shared stage with?

We performed with Shaggy, twice actually, and it was very good. But there were many others, like Linton Kwesi Johnson, Barrington Levy, Mr. Vegas… I don’t know why but we did a lot of shows with him, he’s a great guy. We also opened for Alborosie quite a few times.

I’m curious… Performing on stage or working in the studio, can you always tell the twins apart?

I can, I always do. It’s tricky when they turn their backs, but then their dreads are very different, so I can recognize them 99% of the time. It’s very funny touring with twins who are attracting everyone’s attention. We have a whole collection of funny stories and anecdotes about touring and having them meet other people… Like, when they got their badge or backstage passes, they swapped and were addressed as the other. Also, on Facebook it’s funny because people always tag the wrong person in the pictures (laughs).

Mellow Mood

Well, I won’t let you go without saying a few words on the new album TWINZ…

We are very happy that we are having this record, especially because the first one was somehow… it just happened! We were a young band and we met this guy who was a young producer back then and he somehow wanted to take an audio picture of the band. We had absolutely no expectations, but then we got a very good response from the crowd and the critics. So, when we prepared the second album, we had a lot of pressure because we knew that we had to deliver more… you know, to like confirm to the listeners that we were actually good in the music and not just lucky. But it came out very good, more a mix of every kind of Reggae, the Roots, the Rocksteady, the Dancehall… a bit of everything!
And now with this third one, we felt very free about doing the music that we liked so… this one is more our own way of playing Reggae. We really had a good time in the studio, we had plenty of material. For example, when we were recording Oh Mama, we were like “Let’s put some beatbox here!” or “Let’s add some acoustic guitar!” or “Let’s do one-drop drums”. For the first time we felt very free and also quite powerful during the recording, because every idea that came up turned out to be a good one, so we are very happy.

Rightfully so! Any final words?

It’s worth staying tuned in to us! We are coming up with an EP called something like Mellow Mood meets Jamaica… We have several singers from the Jah Over Evil movement, young artists from the Roots Revival scene, voicing on our riddims. We are trying to collect an EP, we already have twelve singers now. We would like to create a bridge between European Reggae and Jamaican Reggae, providing riddims to Jamaican musicians. That should hopefully come before the end of the year. And then… no, that’s a secret. Just watch out for another surprise!

Karsten

About Karsten

Founder of the Irie Ites radio show & the Irie Ites Music label, author, art- and geography-teacher and (very rare) DJ under the name Dub Teacha. Host of the "Foward The Bass"-radio show at ByteFM. And, most of all, father of three wonderful kids.