Bobby Moore Talks Shop with the Italians Who Love ROCK
At a time when most bands pick through the post-punk rubble for inspiration, there’s still a handful of ‘70s rock purists staying true to pre-punk glitz. Stateside, bands ranging from L.A.’s Dr. Boogie and New York’s Wyldlife to Atlanta’s internationally touring forerunner, the Biters, flaunt period-specific rock influences without sounding dated. Rome, Italy’s Giuda (pronounced “Judah”) has built quite the reputation on both sides of the Atlantic by paying homage to the UK’s many pre-punk musical legacies and youth cultures. Unlike American peers, the Italian five-piece shuns modern influences for the most part, creating sounds that could’ve easily been recorded 40 years earlier.
The Italian five-piece formed in 2007 from the ashes of singer Ntendarere “Tenda” Djodji Damas and guitarist Lorenzo Moretti’s previous punk band, Taxi. With the help of drummer Daniele Tarea, bassist Danilo Valerii, and guitarist Michele Malagnini, the band has churned out three full-lengths since 2010.
Numerous stomp-along hits such as “Number” and “Wild Tiger Woman” match grimy, powerful glam riffs and clap-along bubblegum pop beats with lyrics that capture a ‘70s teenager’s fascination with rock ‘n’ roll and sports. The former is about soccer, as we call it in the states, and has an accompanying video that really captures how children in a pre-internet and smart phone world really had their imaginations shifted into overdrive just by looking at stickers of their favorite players. The latter isn’t a cover of the Move’s late ‘60s hit, although it wouldn’t be surprising if the band enjoys the rawer end of psychedelic rock. In both instances, listeners don’t need knowledge of rock’s past or foreign sports to clap and shout along with Tenda and the boys.
As with those two example, each new song rolls back the clock to a time when rock was in between the ‘60s garage underground and the big stadium shows that’d eventually water down glam-inspired music’s mystique – the era that gave us Cockney Rejects, Cock Sparrer, and the earliest seeds of cock rock. “We grow up listening to punk rock, but there are many different things that have influenced us as musicians and songwriters,” Moretti says. “Bands from the ‘60s like the Move or the Equals, ‘70s groups like Slade, the so-called junkshop glam of minor bands such as Hector and Iron Virgin, or the rough sound of Third World War and Faces.”
Giuda aren’t just Anglophiles. Some of Moretti’s punk influences dating back to his childhood are from the home front – a short but stout list of early Italian punks such as Tampax, Hitler SS, and Ice and the Iced. “We grew up listening to punk rock, so of course we listened to some Italian stuff too,” he adds. “My favorite Italian punk act was Gags, a ’78 band from Milan who were heavily influenced by Adam and the Ants.”
One upside of Giuda gleaning so much from period-specific influences sonically and aesthetically (they look like an old-school gang of soccer hooligans who are motorcycle mechanics on weekends) is the indirect cultural history lessons they bestow on younger fans. “I think that our small-scale success has helped make young people aware of bands who’ve been unjustly forgotten over the years,” Moretti says. “I really love to find DJs who put bands in their playlist that were only known to a few people until quite recently. I also noticed that fanzines on this subject are slowly growing in number.”
This embracing of music initially aimed at teenagers doesn’t just speak to today’s youth. Browse 50 or 60-something U.K. punk lifers’ blogs, social media posts, or message board ramblings. Chances are, a majority of your non-scientific case studies love Giuda’s musical representation of their teenage experiences.
Despite the widespread love for Giuda from those in the know, surely some naysayers question why five Italian men are for the most part celebrating the music and culture of another country. Questions about theoretical detractors didn’t faze Moretti. “We are definitely Italians who love Rock. Take it or leave it,” he says. “The value of rock ‘n’ roll is universal, and that’s why tons of people enjoy it without caring about its country of origin. It’s like where you eat spaghetti, you don’t have to be Italian to appreciate the goodness… Our songs talk about our daily life, what’s happening around us, but they’re not necessarily about a specific country. It’s just like any other rock band. Look at ‘Mama Got the Blues’ – the song takes place in Italy, but it could be set anywhere else.”
Currently, the band is in the midst of its most ambitious U.S. tour to date, in support of 2015 album Speaks Evil (Burning Heart Records). The 18-date, cross-country trek includes the band’s first stop in the Deep South, June 7 at 529. “It’s true we’ve never been to the South, just like we’ve never been to a lot of places we’re going to play along this tour,” Moretti says. “This makes everything really exciting. Atlanta has a glorious musical tradition, so we are proud to have the chance to play there and we’re curious about the feedback from the audience.” With rowdy rockers DINOS Boys and fellow working class band Antagonizers ATL as the two local openers, their crowd alone should provide plenty of feedback, including between song applause and congratulatory after-show chats, for Moretti and his bandmates.
When asked about recent developments and future plans, Moretti focused on touring. The band spent a solid five months touring Europe after Speaks Evil dropped last November, and now they’re spending the first half of summer in the states. Planning the next tour stop hasn’t completely halted the creative process, as the band still finds time to seek decade-specific inspiration. “It’s still too early to talk about a new album, but we have plenty of ideas about it,” Moretti says.
What is Giuda’s appeal, beyond nostalgia for those who were there? As someone who wasn’t even alive in the ‘70s, chatting with Moretti had me thinking more about everyone who’s out there trying to make it as a rock ‘n’ roller in 2016 than anything I might have learned in my early 20s, searching download blogs for the lost Brett Smiley LP. We live in a time when rock bands citing all kinds of different interests aren’t given a fair shake by the mainstream, forcing the creation of a varied and vibrant small club and D.I.Y. scene. That’s likely the appeal for us younger listeners – our favorite hole in the wall hosts a bill with a broader musical palette than you’ll find on many larger stages when imaginative acts like Giuda comes to town.
The lack of big stages for bands with a huge sound doesn’t demystify the undeniable appeal of ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll. On last year’s debut LP Electric Blood, Biters front man Tuk Smith praised a golden decade for music, fashion, and culture on “1975” – “when all the kids were cool, and breaking all the rules.” Surely the Giuda guys have heard the song, and likely replied to the chorus with a heart-felt “amen!” Neither band can go back in time, so they’ll just keep kicking down doors and chasing the rock ‘n’ roll dream that, despite going from a stadium-filling phenomenon 40 years ago to a mainstream afterthought, will never die in the hearts of the faithful few.