Interview by Si Smith

 

Not many bands get to say they have inspired a musical genre; fewer bands too get to say they have collaborated with a legendary composer on their work. But Belladonna, formed in Rome, Italy in 2005, can lay claim to both of these accomplishments. “Rock noir” bands began to spring up after the bands “Noir” album was released in 2009. More recently composer Michael Nyman has become involved with the band, and it can be seen that this band is quite unique. Femme Metal spoke to dramatic vocalist Luana to explore the band’s uniqueness…

First of all thanks for talking to us again and we hope you and the band are all well. Last time we talked to you, you had just had an exciting trip to the UK thanks to a volcanic ash cloud. And here we are again, another year, another ash cloud – hopefully not obstructing your plans this time. How have things developed with the band in the last year?

First of all thanks a lot to you for this interview and for your kindness!! That van journey was a true odyssey and whatever happened or will happen to us after that will inevitably be less epic! Last summer we came back to the UK for another tour and then in August we holed ourselves up in our tiny rehersal room to start working on our new album which we then recorded in November in the legendary Stagg Street Studios in Los Angeles.

You have said before that your story is like a dream – and you never want to wake up. Are things still as dream-like now that the latest album is forthcoming? Have you had to wake up yet or are you still enjoying the ride?

Actually we are still enjoying this ride through our own Dreamland! Our story totally feels like a dream and as if it is guided by an astral design… it is certainly not guided by some record label design since we are still totally independent and selfproduced!

I think Belladonna are quite unique in that you seem to have kept the same line up now since 2006. Does it get easier as time goes on working with the same people each time? Are all members still 100 percent committed to the band or do other things sometimes get in the way?

Well, me and Dani wouldn’t settle for anything less than 100% commitment from our band: we feel it would not even be a band if everybody wasn’t totally committed.

Yes, all this time on and people are still naming their music “Rock Noir” after you – are there any of these bands that you particularly have heard and can recommend to us? Any that you have met or talked to?

We’ve heard of lots of Rock Noir bands having been formed on our wake, especially in the States. In particular we’ve always been in touch with The Divine Madness from California, a really lovely band.

As your fame and success grows, are you still able to be as free an individual as you would like to be? Are there any constraints put upon you by those you have to work with outside the band?

As I mentioned before we are a totally independent band. That means we are absolutely free to do what we want with our music and our lives… and that means that we deliberately avoid collaborating with anyone that wants to put any constraint on what we do and what we are.

Ok, I suppose we must eventually get down to the business of discussing the new material. Since we last spoke you released a single “Let There Be Light”, a single written in collaboration with legendary English composer Michael Nyman. You must have been greatly excited about it! And Michael plays piano on the piece himself…How on earth did this collaboration come about?

It all began on Facebook! We kept writing to each other about many topics, such as life, music, politics… then he came to se us playing in London and I can’t describe how great was our absolute disbelief and sheer joy to see him there in a rock club watching us play! After that we decided to collaborate on a song, and “Let There Be Light” is the result of this collaboration and it’s based on his “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”, from the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning movie “The Piano”.

Rolling Stone magazine said of your music “They’ve created a mysterious, romantic, erotic world”. How do these three qualities apply to the new album would you say?

These three qualities are the main ingredients of what we are wont to call “Rock Noir”. We wouldn’t even be able to conceive our music without them… and yes they do permeate the new songs’ inner spirit.

The latest news is that the new album has entered the Italian ITunes top 100! Congratulations! This must have been felt as a great achievement for you all….?

Everytime things like this happen we feel a great sense of surprise and wonder! We’ve also just found out that “And There Was Light” has been the N°1 best selling rock album in the world on CD Baby – again, to our utter amazement: we still are a self produced band and all this is way beyond our wildest dreams.

It is great to hear your voice as bright and sexy as ever – for example on the saucy “Stiletto” – how have you managed to keep your voice this way? Are there any trade secrets to that sound?

I’ve never taken any vocal lesson in my life, so I suppose my singing voice was – and is – only trained by me using it on stage. The one thing I always do my best to always do, day after day, is to try to keep my voice connected – in as strong as possible a way – to my inner, secret self.

The songs on “And There was Light” are broken up with a number of one and a half minute dramatic interludes – how do you settle on a final tracklist for the album, and where to put in all these little artistic flourishes? Does anyone have the last say or is it a highly democratic process?

We did talk a bit about the tracklist while we were recording the album but then eventually it became clear that the music itself was suggesting the songs’ order, in a sort of mystical manner….

The idea of “blues” seems to play a large role in your creativity – there are two songs named as blues (although the music is not strictly blues). What is it about your music that so masterfully communicates emotion to the listener do you think?

Our music is totally at one with our very life… so maybe the listeners are just witnessing something real, our real bare emotions… our inner pyromantic self getting out and dancing with reality.

Although the music is noir and the emotions raw, there is a positive vibe to the whole thing – from the ballad “I Feel Life” to the rocktastic “Be My Star”. Would you say that your outlook becomes more positive all the time, or does your involvement in the music industry get you down sometimes?

Many people told us about this very positive vibe although – as you said — the music is still very noir. As a matter of fact, with the use of the word “noir” we’ve never wanted to mean something negative, but something related to the dark side of reality, to whatever is hidden and mysterious… and sometimes if you try to explore that side you could find it shines even brigher than the so called bright side…

I have to ask about the “Song for Tania” – who is Tania and how did her story inspire the song?

Tania was an Argentine revolutionary (her real name was Tamara Bunke Bilder) and she was the only woman to fight alongside Che Guevara during the Bolivian Insurgency where eventually she was shoot down by Bolivian Army Troops. Tania’s story is the story of the perennial fight between darkness and light… she’s a kind of noir hero and the song is our tribute to her and all those that devoted their lives to an Ideal.

You are back in the UK in July this year.What is it about the UK audience that seems to warm to your music do you think?

Maybe it should be us asking you this question, actually!! But yes. we do think that whatever we do musically is amongst other things also deeply rooted in British culture – from Blake to the Beatles – so it’s probably only natural that there should be an emotional connection there.

Finally can I say it has been a pleasure to listen to the new album and I hope all listeners feel that way too. Have you any message for your fans out there?

Thank you very much for appreciating our album and for your wishes! To all our fans and friends out there we’d just like to show our deepest love and gratitude for their awesome support! Please keep in touch with us on www.facebook.com/belladonnaband and feel free to write in: we always answer to everyone personally.

Thanks again, and may the album bring you even more success!!!

Thanks to YOU again!!

 

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