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VA FA NAPOLI ITALIAN TOUR & SUBCULTURE LOCALITIES

Va Fa Napoli Italian Tour & Subculture Localities

Vienna 12.03.2024,

Francisco Valenca Vaz.


Va Fa Napoli | Photo: Davide Miniussi @davideminiussi | Astro Club, Pordenone, 2023.


In March 2023 the Viennese band Va Fa Napoli published their first and self-released EP, including five songs with references to Mid-west Emo, Punk, Hardcore, and other genres. The EP has characteristics related to freshness, solace and nostalgia, comparable to the things I used to hear as a teenager. Some songs supported a feeling of belonging; while hearing four vocals at the same time, I felt as if I could be part of the group. Other arrangements remembered me of Modern Baseball, The Hotelier or American Football. For a moment, their music reinforces my insecurities of getting old, remembering sensations I used to have, opening possibilities to rethink new and older aesthetics in the present. Also, growing up in Brazil only allowed me to relate to these music genres through television, internet, sounds and videoclips.


In October 2023 I accompanied three performances by Va Fa Napoli, while playing together with my band Trauma Glow. Promoting their new EP, the band played eight concerts in Italy. Conflicted with my impressions driving back from Pordenone to Vienna, I found myself comparing the Austrian scene with the Italian one. I spoke with Jonas from Va Fa Napoli to discuss their music and loudness during his worktime in a library, a place of silence and reading. I had this funny thought that maybe it is only through this stillness that he is able to write new songs. We started our conversation about why Emo, Grunge, Shoegaze are coming back again.


J: I think on a wider perspective guitar music is probably doing better the last couple years. Hardcore, Emo and so on, have always been there but now with a new generation growing up on huge bands like Turnstile or whatever, they are getting into the subculture as well and shows are almost everywhere crowded these days. I presume young people dancing to American Football on tiktok contributes something as well and now that generation can experience the real deal. When we played in Klagenfurt, we heard that it was the first concert for a lot of kids, which is kind of cool to play stuff like that. Just hope they will stick around. Shout out to the internet but please get off the Internet.


F: Can you still remember your first concert?


J: Unsure but I would guess The Offspring when I was 11 or 12.


F: Maybe nostalgia is one of the magnets. In your first EP there are different influences, how do you actually start working?


J: It varies but most stuff we write collectively in our rehearsal room with some guitar or bass riffs on the table plus we talk a lot about the structure and vibe of a part or song. All four of us share some kind of DIY history and many preferences but at the same time we all draw from various personal backgrounds. Starting an emo band, we were aiming for something catchy, comfy and fun and to stay focused on a sound to be recognizable while keeping it interesting.


F: Italy is not the first country Austrian bands have in mind while planning a Tour. I am curious about it, for instance, where did you start?


J: That’s true, the usual choice of a next step for Austrian bands is often Germany, since it seems pretty convenient in many aspects like language or already existing contacts. At first, we just joked about touring Italy with that band name and so on but that idea grew on us and the sound we play is quite a thing in Italy. They have a huge history of Emo and Screamo with some legendary bands down there and we decided to try it. I was responsible for most of the booking and started immediately after the EP dropped. And wow, that worked out quite great for us. I did not expect such a good feedback on all the mails I sent! Everyone in Va Fa Napoli has toured before but pretty unanimously everyone was sure about this one being on a totally other level. The shows were wild and we met so many kind and giving people, some of them I can consider my friends now. We played with a ton of great newer bands like Stegosauro, Bulgarelli, Monteluna or F4, just to name a few. Often, we were told that there aren’t many bands touring Italy besides some parts of the north, but we were going quite south in what were all together 10 days. We also shared a stage with the legendary Raein in Napoli. It was some Halloween gathering at an amazing place called Scugnizzo Liberato, a huge building in the city center with its own football field, art or workshop spaces, apartments and other stuff. Never before we have played in front of so many people - the called out numbers varied from person to person but I think there must have been around 600-700. It was quite the experience since the audience was really motivated and kept dancing, stagediving or even singing along to this silly little band from Austria. Because of the Halloween-thing many came in costume and whenever I think of that show I just see this huge bear in the first rows with some sick psychedelic dance moves. I hope that guy is still living his best life!


F: In Pordenone when we played together, I overheard that some people have travelled from other cities to see you perform, some even went to two different venues. Do you think this could have been similar in Austria?


J: We were amazed by that as well! I think Austria is just different than Italy, geographically compared. Italy has a lot of shows going on in the north with some mid-sized cities and they’re not that far apart. In Austria it is probably more focused on the few bigger cities and after all most of the times it just comes down to Vienna.


F: A lot of starting bands wish to organize a tour like you did. There are a lot of different strategies and possible issues, for instance how did you actually finance it?


J: I am booking, promoting and hosting DIY shows in Vienna myself so that definitely helped when it came to booking this tour. Focusing on promoters who “get it”, who “get us”, the sound, the vibe, the scene, was really important to us and I think that’s half the deal. Those interested people will always take good care of you and they are giving their utmost best to organize a great show for everyone involved. That really worked out great for us and after selling quite the amount of merch we were definitely fine on finance. - At one show we wanted to split some of our money with the cool local supporting band but they told us to “Take a gelato!” and it became an oftenquoted catchphrase in the tour van. I think that comfy phrase really captures a lot of our experience being on tour in Italy.


F: What about SKE and other government-oriented support?


J: Nah thanks, this is a punk band.


F: After this tour, how are your next plans in Vienna?


J: We are focusing on writing songs for a future release and want to take our time with it. But we might play a show here and there! Touring in Italy gave us a lot as a band and we’re looking forward to more adjacent moments.


 

Attached to Jonas experiences, I called Hanna from Pordenone, she is part of Cielo Perso DIY Collective, together with Davide Miniussi and Valentina Corocher. Since the last two years, they have been working with bands like Ojne, Lantern, Flowers and Shelters, Reverie, Malerbae, and Futbolin, also hosting our concert with Va Fa Napoli. Reaching out to her, I wished to understand more about how smaller collectives act and shape an independent scene.


Photo: Davide Miniussi | Astro Club, Pordenone, 2023.


H: Va Fa Napoli did a pretty good campaign about their new album and a friend of mine recommended them. Our Pordenone concert had a lot of guests but we were anxious because of a red alert about a storm, the schools were closed and the center was empty. Fortunately! The weather got better and we had a lot of guests. In the crowd I recognized some people I already knew, but there were younger and new faces as well. The whole Italian scene is quite active, which makes it easier to find out about concerts, and people are eager to travel to attend them as well. I am, myself, one of these people that for instance just jumps into a train to Milan, which is only four hours from my home. We have right now so many talented artists in Italy and it’s always worth seeing them.


F: How do people get informed about your concerts and how connected are these kinds of venues?


H: Through social media it is easy to find out what is happening. We mostly promoted the event through that, as well as posters around the city. Italy also has systems like Arci which is a membership card. You pay once a year something between 10 to 15 € and are able to visit different concerts exclusively for cardholders. It gives you basically access to all Arci events even in the smaller DIY venues. For example, Astro where you played in Pordenone, uses their own independent card. Those cards are very important as they help to finance DIY projects and smaller events.


Hanna, Cielo Perso Collective | 2024


F: That´s quite interesting, I don´t think there is something like that in Austria or in Germany. Why did you focus that evening on Emo?


H: Music comes in waves, there was the Punk, Hardcore, and I think right now the scene has also renewed its interest into Emo. People are in a nostalgic way rediscovering it, and others are hearing it for the first time.


F: How did your collective finance our evening?


H: The club invested in the evening and fortunately we didn’t have any money issues, we could pay the bar, the bands and didn´t lose any money. Especially because of weather conditions, a lot of people even drove one to two hours to get there as I was telling you before.


F: Pordenone is not big, and small cities in the country side can be quite conservative. Did you ever had any bad experiences, like people calling the police or somehow annoying the events?


H: That night nobody called the police as everything was legally organized, from that point of view there is no risk and Astro club will not go above its loudness limits. Fascists and right-wing people are not very welcomed and we fortunately didn´t have any issues. But other associations in the past had. Pordenone, generally Italy, is rightoriented. It’s very important for us to share common values, we want to create a safe space where you find your friends, you know, you would be moved away if you harassed anyone.


F: What stays in the city after the concerts?


H: Although the concerts are gone after one night, the connection with people remains. Your friends stay and that´s why you want to repeat it. You have this sense of reconnection with other people, and you feel less alone, as a lot of other people like the music you like. I have been attending events and participating even more, maybe in the last two years because of that. The more concerts you go to, the more people you know. For me it is just about this wholesome feeling that I have to meet my close ones. Common sense of sharing.


 

Meanwhile in the south of Italy, as Jonas mentioned; Va Fa Napoli also played in an event from the collective Napoli Direzione Opposta (NaDir) in Naples. I talked with JD, one of its members. Their collective is not only involved in different social programs, but built a concept that helps new musicians to merge, creating and giving them space to perform.


Napoli Direzione Opposta, Scugnizzo Liberato | Photo: Guglielmo verrienti @guglielmoverrienti | 2022.


F: How and when did your collective start?


JD: NaDir started in 2016 as an independent music festival. Its agenda wasn't very political as it turned up to be after its settlement. We are based in the Scugnizzo Liberato, an occupied space recognized by the city of Naples four years ago. NaDir stands literally for Napoli Direzione Opposta (Napoli Opposite Direction). With that we wish to go in the opposite direction and book bands that aren't being booked by the main venues and give them dignity. There are small venues you can play as a beginner musician which aren't good for the artists, and we believed everybody should play on a good stage with professional equipment. Dealing with this difficult, we have an ongoing project called Gravità 0 (Zero Gravity) where we allow new projects from very smalls groups to come and all the entry money in these evenings is completely given to the artists. It is a kind of volunteering for music. We support social problematics, we have a table called Nessuno Escluso (like everyone welcome, none excluded) every week, which gives food for homeless people. We also have English classes for children who can't afford it, different workshops: ceramics, basketball. It has a gym, a soccer field, and the money coming from these activities is used to keep the building alive. The actual recognition is still in a gray area. Nowadays the space is totally independent and organized through volunteering. Basically, never winning or losing any money, we just try to make everything fit.


F: I believe it is comparable to the Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus in Vienna. Which difficulties did you have while establishing an occupied space?


JD: We are very lucky that Naples, or actually the hole south is in a way different then the north. The south is less controlled. The space was occupied eight years ago, the first collective participants broke into the building and slept in it for a month or so, and the past major wanted to kick them out. But thanks to Luigi de Magistris (Naples major between 2011 until 2021) seven to eight communities and occupations were legally recognized. Since then we haven't changed and the people are the same. Now we are using the government funding only for structure issues. Naples has a lot of problems for space and midsized concerts. Buildings don't have large rooms, you can only play in a tiny bar or in a really big arena. Our building has a theater founded by Eduardo De Filippo, a famous author and actor, which was only founded because the Scugnizzo used to be a juvenile detention center that was used for the detainee’s education.


F: It is really interesting to think about how spaces can change with time. From a detention center to a concert space… How are your plans for the next years?


JD: For the future, we have a series of fixed activities but since the space has to be closed for the structure work, we do intend to continue the activities in other places; keep it going. After 8 years, it is literally part of the community, which is mostly Punk, DIY and amateur bands.


Va Fa Napoli | Milano, 2023 | Photograph: Luca Secchi oni_bakuu.


Gluing together Jonas performer perspective; Hannah´s production in offside places, as well JD´s political engagement and statements, they shape the landscape of this article. Through social ideals and choices, they generate a space for musical growth as well a cultural economy. These interviews may reinforce that the development of musical subgenres is less dependent on streaming platforms than compared to other kinds of music. It is more based on localities and individuals, being a product of plural desires and methods of collaboration, simultaneously influencing each other.


Capital is small and our artists do not mainly exist from these activities. This precarity builds certain neutrality over capital extraction, as there is no form of music unrelated to capital currency. Not producing music as a main income, can have a concrete effect over its production. At the same time, subcultural music genres often find consistent support from privileged youth. These individuals not only contribute to trends but also shape the fashion associated with these genres, creating consumption patterns that influence other youths. A striking example is the trajectory of Grunge, originating as a social activist movement in 1980s Seattle and evolving into a mainstream cultural phenomenon in the 90s.Therefore, the economical precarities related to DIY primarily prevent music production in its beginning to already be influenced by consumerism. This economic factor shapes a scene grounded in collaboration, rejecting the notion of a singular genius. Nobody is really interested on that. In line with Brian Eno's concept of "Scenius,": we can only be better working together.


Subculture also relies on circular influences, as the epicenter of western subgenres of music is strongly influenced by the Anglosphere, afterwards spreading to other continents. This is caused by an American music industry, able to canon its own products, recently losing its power through the democratization of internet access, making music communities and subgenres more plural. Therefore today, these influences can navigate easier between opposing directions: local music developments and the influences of intercontinental music streaming platforms.


This paper didn´t manage to focus on the returning of Emo. It mostly elaborates on infrastructures that influences the return of subgenres of music. The revival of Emo, is a multifaceted phenomenon with various intersecting factors, which I am freely, poetically and irresponsibly relating to the realization of false capitalistic promises and hedonistic behavior in the context of the environmental crisis, things we weren´t completely aware of in the 2000s. For me, Emo is more relatable today than during its beginnings in American white boy minority suburbs. It is now more linked to a form of rescue, comfort and nostalgia, at the same time prisoned in modernity. Which might additionally explain why in its core, Emo and Goth are nowadays more relatable to a youth than Punk. While Punk embodies a spirit of rebellion, Emo is fatalistic, more incorporable into perspectives on modernity over a nihilistic future. Emo also supported an extremely needed development on gender identities. What was in the late 2000s seen as an “emo masculinity crisis” could nowadays be read as an attempt to deconstruct male standards within mainstream media. Maybe this is what I feel while hearing Emo again, enjoying it with a layer of pain and clarity. As like other music genres, it moves between time, starting here but ending there, a malleable form going through narratives, space, countries, keeping something to be determined as its essences, but occasionally breaking it and surprising our ears along the way.


 

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Nailhead Magazine


Author: Francisco Valenca Vaz.





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