Interview with Sonicatomic
From Tortona in north-west Italy and created by bassist, Andrea Gualco, Sonicatomic, is a four-piece instrumental band drawing from a wide-range of influences from krautrock to psychedelic rock via jazz and stoner rock. The music, described by the band as “post-atomic groove”, is the soundtrack to an interplanetary journey discovering apocalyptic wastelands and unexplored landscapes.
Driven by Gualco’s pulsating basslines, he forms a solid rhythm section with drummer, Paolo Quaglini, to allow his bass playing and saxophonist, Federico Lessio, to take centre stage without the need for a guitarist in the group. Matteo Bugnolo, whose role is known as “Rumours”, completes the line-up by helping develop Sonicatomic's musical identity.
Having released their first album, “Vibes Addiction”, on PsyKA Records in 2016, the band have been supporting the album recently with a series of concerts in Italy and the United Kingdom. The band, who have already shared the stage with Acid Mothers Temple, Yawning Man, Sonic Jesus and Mike Joyce (ex-The Smiths) among others, will be in Paris for their first time on Saturday 14th October as part of Hidden Frequencies’ “Cosmic Rodeo” series at the Olympic Café. We caught up with Andrea Gualco to find out more about the band before their show in the French capital.
Tell us how your formed your group?
Sonicatomic (Andrea): The band was formed by my will to create something different which was purely instrumental and kinematic. It was a gradual recruitment of the members, starting with Matteo, as “rumours", with Daniela on drums and Paola on saxophone. Following a change in the line up, Paolo took up drumming duties and Federico entered into the fold as the new saxophone player.
One of the members, Matteo, is described as “Rumours”, what do you mean by this?
S: We label his input as “rumours" because he’s not really a DJ and he does not use synthesizers whilst on stage, so we did not know how to describe his role. Plus “Rumours" is a funny nickname.
What sort of sound does he bring to the band? How does he add to the sound in the studio and live?
S: Matteo uses these virtual instruments that are chosen personally by the band according to the style of the song. He uses Ableton with other plugins - for example, we used rhythmic sequences, various virtual synths, and effects like Twisted Tools Chaos. The sounds are added after creating the body of the track and refined in studio, when we play the songs for several times.
Concerning the other instruments, what setups do you have for the bass, drums and saxophone?
S: TOP SECRET! For the bass guitar, we use several sets of effects and we double the high frequency signals in a guitar combo. There is no particular setup for the drums and the sound of the saxophone is distorted and harmonised through an effects pedal.
How do you write the songs? How does a creation begin?
S: The band is centred around the bass guitar, in fact, the songs always start from the bassline. Later on, we add the rhythm and the electronic pads. Finally, we insert the saxophone parts, that are mostly solos and sometimes accompanied. Everyone brings their tastes and experiences to the songs. Although the starting point has always tended to rock. We recorded “Vibes Addiction" using the same method, we recorded the bass, drums and sax live, and then we added the electronic patterns and arranged the songs.
Speaking of "Vibes Addiction", how did the recording of the album go? Where was it recorded? Who produced the record and what do you think of the end product?
S: We recorded the album in only two days at the Elfo Studio in Piacenza, a very ideal location in the middle of the countryside. It was mixed and mastered at Retro Vox in Parma by Carlo Izzo. We were pleased with the work done by everyone and the final outcome. The next time we’ll go to the studio we will do it more relaxed and will take further care of the arrangements.
As a band which is centred around the bass playing, who are your bass playing inspirations?
S: I’m not really inspired by any bass players, maybe I could say Mike Kerr of Royal Blood for ideas on bass / guitar sounds. But there are groups I generally love and my background and style is the synthesis of all my listening preferences such as Supergrass, Kyuss, QOTSA, Tool, Russian Circle, The Black Angels, Ufomammut and lots of others.
You mentioned that the bass guitar doubles up as a guitar, was it intentional not to have a guitarist? Was there a guitarist in the group at the beginning?
S: Sometimes we think we could add a guitar, even if the bass sometimes doubles itself and also covers frequencies attributable to the guitar. However, for the future we have some changes in mind. There will be evolutions within the group. We have also thought of sampling guitar riffs and inserting them through computers as we already do for the spoken phrases.
The album is mainly instrumental, would you add vocals in the future? Would you expand the lineup with further instruments if you had the possibility?
S: Our idea is to continue composing prevalently instrumental songs without using excessive parts of vocals and spoken word. For now, the intention is to keep the original concept of the group. The new album, which will be released in April/May 2018, will be more structured and heavy.
Does that mean you have started working on the new album? Will we hear some new songs in Paris or would it be too early?
S: We are ready with all the tracks for the new album. We’ll play some of these in Paris, yeah!
You have already shared the stage with Acid Mothers Temple, amongst other groups, what has been the most surreal or best experience that you have had so far?
S: Whenever we play with someone, it is an experience that opens our minds. Besides the Acid Mothers Temple being stratospheric artists, they seemed to come from Mars, a different world!! Vibravoid too, they arrive directly from the 70s. Yawning Man, who are strongly desert-influenced! Their leader, Mario Lalli, confessed that for years they hadn’t shared a stage with an original band like us and this was a great honour for us!!
Will it be your first time in Paris? What can we expect at the show?
S: This will be our first time in Paris, we are very excited and proud. We want to create a special atmosphere and energy for our Parisian friends!! We’ll be waiting for you!!!