Ok, I can stand jokes about the way we wave our hands. I can bear people boiling pasta with oil or throwing it to the ceiling to test if it’s ready. But knowing that, among all the cool artists Italy cranks out, the only ones known abroad are probably Laura Pausini and Tiziano Ferro, well, this makes me sad.
I know: language might be a barrier. But it was not for me when I didn’t speak english. During the 90s I was loving bands like Nirvana or even rap songs by Eminem, even if I wasn’t probably understanding a single word. And a lot of people keep telling me Italian is a beautiful language so, why not?
There are many noteworthy examples of non-english native speaker artists that managed to reach popularity outside their country. Think about Daft Punk (🇫🇷), ABBA (🇸🇪). Ok, you’re right, all their songs were all in english. Then what about Manu Chao (🇫🇷\🇪🇸) or Rammstein(🇩🇪)? Even Panjabi MC (🇮🇳\🇬🇧), with “Mundian To Bach Ke”, reached top 10 positions in Europe and US with a track sang in Panjabi language. How many of you know what that song was about? (Here’s a translation)
So why Italian bands aren’t known abroad? Maybe they don’t even try, resources for indie bands are so little that it’s better to use them in a well known environment. But I’m stubborn, I believe there are bands that deserve to be known, even abroad. Especially abroad: maybe we’ll finally go above the mustache and pizza stereotypes. This is why I decided to do my part, writing about cool Italian bands you probably don’t know
Let’s get started with:
I Cani (The Dogs) is a one man band from Rome. Their style can be defined as lo-fi electro-pop and their forte are definitely the lyrics.
Everything started in June 2010: a guy uploaded on Youtube a couple of lo-fi, naive songs. The video was actually just a static picture of dog, probably with some Instagram-like filters (at that time Instagram didn’t exist yet 😱). Nothing special, right? But they were incredibly catchy and quickly went viral.
Finally, in 2011, the first album “Il Sorprendente Album D’esordio Dei Cani” came out. The title can be translated with something like “The surprising debut album of I Cani”.
Defining that album as just surprising would definetely underrate the earthquake effect it had on the Italian indie scene: every show they made was sold out, every single person attending his concerts knew the lyrics by heart, and, mouth watered by the perspective of an easy success, many carbon-copy bands tried to replicate the story, pitfully failing.
“Vorrei vivere in un film di Wes Anderson, vederti in rallenty quando scendi dal treno.”
But along with popularity come the haters. At that time Niccolò was a not-so-skilled musician that quickly went from his bedroom to festival stages. And haters love to judge successful people ( // TODO: write a post about how boring haters are).
I assume Niccolò felt that; I think it was hard for him. But I also think there are insincts you can’t stop following, even if they cause you pain. And so did Niccolò: in 2012 he released the EP “I Cani non sono i Pinguini non sono I Cani”,in collaboration with Gazebo Penguins, containing one of their best songs, “Asperger”.
The same year something quite funny happened: I Cani, during their live shows, were often performing a cover of “Con un Deca”, a song from 883. That band was very popular back in the days, basically every 80s/early 90s Italian kid sang their songs, at least once. Don’t even try to hide it!
That cover version was so popular that I Cani, along with other bands, decided to record a compilation of songs from 883 performed by indie artists, giving them a second youth.
But I think Niccolò wasn’t looking for easy popularity, he had things to say and he needed time to refine content and medium. He basically disappeared for another year, until the 11th of October, when he posted “Non c’è Niente di Twee”, a new song anticipating the new album.
To be honest I didn’t like the song and, when the album came out, I gave it a cold reception. I’ve never been so wrong.
“Ma basta che mi prometti di andare in giro con la pistola per difendermi, e di tagliarmi la carne da mangiare nel piatto, come Vera Nabokov.”
Basically, I wasn’t ready for it: scars from the past and fear about the future aren’t enough to fully appreciate this album. You need to accept them, to embrace them.
The first album was an incredibly sharp and clever view on Y-generation’s life. Ironic and funny to the right point. “Glamour” was completely different: deeper, more personal, more intimate. I think only here we got to meet the true Niccolò. It wasn’t perfect yet, the production was still coarse, some of the songs weren’t really amazing, but at least three of them were pure masterpieces.
During 2014 he appeared in some gigs, promoting the new album, until September. Then, again, silence.
Niccolò is not a social network star, I follow him since the beginning and I noticed he posts only the essential things. This is why the page remained silent during the first 9 months of 2015. So silent that people started to think that maybe it was over. Nowadays bands born and die so quickly that wouldn’t have been so surprising. The second album got positive reviews and good reactions, but wasn’t a bomb as the first one. People started to think that maybe Niccolò exhausted his creativity, that maybe he said everything he had to say so it was time to say farewellto I Cani.
But then, on October 5th 2015, the great news: the new single “Baby Soldato” would have been be released soon, along with a new album. Here’s when i started to think that maybe Niccolò was following me, or maybe that I was part of a sort of The Truman Show.
“Veniamo dalla polvere di nubi interstellari e ci ritorneremo per il prossimo big bang.”
No, Seriously. At that time I was living in Lisbon, feeling blue and missing my family, and the first single was exactly about that.
The second single, Il Posto Più Freddo, came out right after I came back to Milan. I was feeling sad and overwhelmed by my new status of grown up. Guess what? The song is about sadness.
Finally the third single and the album “Aurora” came out. Few days before I had just finished to read Carlo Rovelli’s book “Seven Brief Lessons On Physics”. It made me think a lot about our irrelevance in the universe, that one day is going to die. I was trying to speak with people about these things, but they we just bouncing me, feeling like the end of the universe wasn’t going to affect them. When I listened the first time to the album “Aurora” I couldn’t believe it. Most of the songs were saying basically the same things I kept thinking in the few days before. It was so intimate and personal I felt like I was chatting with an old friend. And seeing so many people appreciating the album made me immediately feel less alone.
This is, essentialy, what I Cani are. Their music is simple but effective. To fully appreciate their music, I suggest you to look for a translation of their lyrics, because that’s what makes them special. Their songs are a perfect snap-shot of our lives today. They have this incredible ability to flip upside-down the perception we have of reality: sometimes just boring, explainable, and predictable, sometimes so incredibly romantic.
I hope you enjoyed our quick trip through I Cani’s story and aestethics. I’ll come back to you soon with another Cool Italian Band you probably don’t know. In the meantime, i’d like to know what your thoughts are about the article and the band!
Follow I Cani on Facebook
Bonus for the few braves that reached the bottom: Niccolò wrote this song for a movie, “La felicità è un sistema complesso”. I like it so much I felt bad in keeping it out.
Cover picture by Patricia Keleher
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