ARMONITE: Breaking Barriers

Armonite

Armonite, a new band by composer Paolo Fosso and violinist Jacopo Bigi kick off their disruptive rock project with the release of their album, The Sun is New Each Day available for free on the band’s official website.

Produced by the first producer of Muse, Paul Reeve, and mastered by Geoff Pesche at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios in London, The Sun is New Each Day is an exciting mix of electric violin, keyboards, bass, and drums, including amazing participation by Porcupine Tree‘s bassist, Colin Edwin and Dutch drummer Jasper Barendregt.

Prog Sphere talked with Paolo and Jacopo about their work on the album, and more.

How did you go about forming Armonite? Define the band’s mission.

Paolo: I had been working in music administration for quite a while and realized that I was really missing being a part of the creative process. Every day I would work with these talented musicians and it was like this constant source of stimuli. It was influencing. Next thing I knew I decided to get back to my lifelong first vocation: composition and songwriting.

Jacopo: I’ve been a violin teacher and classical performer for a long time, but that doesn’t really describe me 100%. I grew up listening to all these different genres and bands. Bands like the Beatles all the way to Muse, were all so influential and important to me. We formed Armonite with the idea to write and play the kind of music we would like to listen to.

You have just released an album titled “The Sun is New each Day.” Tell me about the creative process that informed the record.

Jacopo: Ask Paolo; he’s the composer of almost the entire album!

Paolo: That may be true but honestly Jacopo is a great arranger and a severe critic of my music! I would say he pushes me to better. But typically, I start from a situation from my life or a place I’d like to live, or someone I saw, like in a movie sequence. Sometimes it’s just an abstract feeling, but whatever it is, I go right to the keyboard and try to fix it down. If I like how that sounds, I put it on my computer and try an arrangement to see if I’m going to keep it or not. When I get stuck, I go for a walk and start over.

The Sun is New Each DayDescribe the approach to recording “The Sun is New each Day.”

Jacopo: Armonite came together as a transnational project. Paolo and I live in Italy, Colin in UK, and Jasper in the Netherlands. The production was scheduled to allow the recording of all materials remotely. Parts were almost fully written, we worked online, and over Facebook and emails to forge the sound we had in mind.

How did you document the music while being formulated?

Paolo: Any means we had offhand depending on where we were playing: laptop, smartphone, sticky notes, toilet paper. You know when you have a great idea but nothing to write it down so you lose it? That’s terrible…!

How long “The Sun is New each Day” was in the making? Tell me about the themes this release captures.

Jacopo: We’ve been working on parts and bits for over two years. Once we had enough tracks to make an album, we went straight to work and set the production up.

Paolo: It’s hard to say what an instrumental album is about, but there are a few topics I tried to cover. The name comes from one of my favorite Heraclitus’ insights, “The sun is new each day.” It reminds us that nothing is permanent and we shouldn’t become slaves to our assumptions. This is true especially in these days of economic crisis, with the world changing dramatically. Poverty is increasing, there are no more jobs, and those people with jobs are asked to work 12 hours a day for little to no pay. A good work-life balance is one in which you work to live, not live to work. I go for the concepts of happiness and well-being. I consume less and devote more time to art, music, family, culture and community.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when working on the album?

Jacopo: So far it’s been fairly painless. The challenges we’re facing now are with the marketing and the promotional tour of the album. This is where we need help. We released our tracks for free to instantly share this music we all love so much, but we really want to bring these tracks live. In order to do this, we need to show how great our fan base is. So follow us on Twitter and YouTube, ‘like’ us on Facebook and download our free album. The more people get involved with us, the sooner we can go on tour and share our music live!

Speaking of challenges, is there a creative challenge to deal with in that the members occupy similar sonic spectrums?

Paolo: The amazing Paul Reeve took care of the engineering and the mixing of the album. He decided to enhance certain instruments over the others on the same sonic spectrum, but the general outcome is an exciting wall of sound.

Jacopo: Yes, he’s truly a gifted producer. Every choice he made had these proper reasons in the frequency spectrum but were also perfectly in line with what we were looking for, which is this aggressive sound, strong but clear.

Armonite

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

Paolo: This is the most instinctive writing approach I’ve ever taken. Years of conservatory taught me to rationalize, dissect all components and build a structured form that needs to make sense. But that’s only the rational part of composition. Composition is also instinct, and we’re losing the ability to catch the impulse when it’s pure and not contaminated with rationality. This whole process has been this giant discovery for me.

Provide some insight into the group’s chemistry that allows this music to emerge.

Jacopo: Each member of the band has a different background that contributes with something unique. Our alchemy mixes up the hard rock genre with electronics, classical, and world music, with topping of progressive metal and a pinch of pop culture. Some people say we’re original due to violin in place of the voice, but rock violin has existed since the late ‘60s and there’s no novelty in using a violin in a rock band. I prefer to say we are original because we take a few snippets from the world and try to stuff them all in a box.

Where do you draw the inspiration from and how do you go about channeling it into writing?

Paolo: Life and people offer a boundless supply of inspiration. Channeling concepts without the support of lyrics might be hard, but it’s also very universal. These songs break down the language barriers becoming visceral and direct. We also use a few samples here and there and try to give the album one sonority, but also characterize each track with a different setting.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

Jacopo: Besides music, the band passions include movies, technology, videogames, books, philosophy, travel, and pop culture. When you read a book or watch a movie, imagination is stimulated and new ideas come to mind in a sort of domino effect.

What kind of gear did you use for recording songs from “The Sun is New each Day”?

Paolo: As a DAW we used Cubase, with VST sounds for the keyboard parts (XLN Audio Addictive Keys for the piano, LennarDigital Sylenth1 for the synths, EastWest Ra Virtual Instrument for ethnic instruments, just to name a few). Jacopo uses an Alter Ego electric violin. As for the drums, MEINL Cymbals & Percussion, Lignum Drums snare drum, Pearl Session Custom drums, Sonor SQ2 kick drum, Evans drumheads, Czarcie Kopyto drum pedals, Maxonix drum gear, Vic Firth and Balbex drumsticks. Colin used a Wal Mark 1 fretted bass made in 1984 and a USA Spector Fretless NS 4H2 MM with EMG pick-ups and an unlined ebony fretboard.

What is your view on technology in music?

Paolo: We’re not just tech-savvy, we have a major nerd love for technology! I started when I was a child, pretending to program music in Basic on Commodore-64 with a list of POKE instructions (If you know this, you’re a real geek like me). Then I went on to editing mod files with samples on a 4-channel basis. That was geological eras ago.

Jacopo: Yeah, we use this expertise and try a more electronic / synthetical approach in the future. Also, knowing what to do with your DAW software is the only way to control your material until the end, especially in our case, as we arranged the recording remotely.

Do you see the band’s music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Paolo: This is a dense album, which makes it difficult to sync, but we would like to move towards a more post-rock and soundtrack solutions, which are suitable for this sort of idea.

Jacopo: Violin, inclination to instrumental works, our background, everything takes us to soundtrack music. That’s something we definitely want to do in the future.

Armonite

What is your viewpoint on the struggle bands are facing today as they try to monetize their output?

Paolo: The market today is incontrovertible: global culture has changed, people think that content is no longer worth paying for, be it video games, news, movies, music, porn. You expect to find everything online for free. And for a digital native, this is the norm.

Jacopo: The idea is we’re going to maybe pay for the box but not for the content. We might pay for a subscription to Spotify but not for a single song on iTunes.

Paolo: With the Creative Commons licenses, copyright as we know it is dead. It’s taking some time to realize it and move forward, and (honestly) I don’t know if it’s good, but it’s a one-way street. So we realized musicians will only get paid for their gigs and maybe some online attention / advertisements when they get popular.

Jacopo: That’s why we released our album for free…

Paolo: Labels also… When I was a teenager, I used to buy CDs produced by indie labels that took care of everything; they paid for the recording, the graphics, the promotion, etc. Their job was about scouting for great artists and investing on them.

Jacopo: Now it’s up to the artists, some artists even pay the labels! This is a dead end… We believe we should monetize with live gigs and try to play the most we can.

What are your plans for the future?

Jacopo: Shortly, we’ll be releasing a few soundtrack covers, which will be included in our live show. And then, after the summer, we’ll be arranging the dates for “The Sun is New Each Day” promotional tour. Meanwhile, the best way for us to convince booking agencies to schedule a show, is to prove to them how awesome and huge our fan base is. So please get involved and show your support by liking us on Facebook. Thanks!

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