FIL BO RIVA
“If the music doesn’t work we’ll open a bar”
“If the music doesn’t work we’ll open a bar”
In Berlin, in a cozy Italian cafe, we catch up with two Focaccia-munching members of soulful folk-band Fil Bo Riva. For Filippo Bonamici and Felix Remm their debut album ‘Beautiful Sadness’ is a dream come true – but they’re realistic dreamers.
Sarah Osei: Filippo, I read that you were born in Rome, moved to Dublin and then moved to Berlin. Was this a musical journey?
Filippo Bonamici: It started as a personal journey, but with this little idea in the back of my head that I always wanted to do music. My dream was always to be in some city where I would actually fulfil my dream of becoming a musician – and Berlin was the city that in the end gave me everything that I needed for the music. If Berlin didn’t give me what I needed, I probably would have moved away.
SO: What about you, Felix, when did you decide to be a musician?
Felix Remm: Um… Last year, haha. No, I think the main point was when I decided to start my studies – I studied music – so that was the point where I decided to try and make money doing what I love. That was four years ago, before then it was just a normal hobby and nothing more.
SO: How did you meet and get together to start making music?
FB: I recorded an old demo in January of 2015. The song was on Soundcloud and I was sending it to a lot of friends asking them to please post it on their walls – five years ago young people were still using Facebook, today it’s just our parents – and then Felix wrote me through a friend and we agreed to meet. We met at the Schwarzes Cafe, a very old cafe in Charlottenburg, we talked the whole night and decided to give it a try. We met again a few days later, had a jam and… yeah, it started slowly, like a normal friendship.
SO: The music, it’s really unique because it mixes so many different genres. So I’m curious to know what you actually listen to.
FB: Nowadays it’s very unusual to find people who just listen to one genre. If you think about the 60s or 50s, you just had a few genres – blues, jazz and then rock ‘n’ roll started. So you were either the rocker type or the mod type, but nowadays there’s so much music and it’s much more of a mix. The more I go on, the more I listen to and like the experience of listening to a lot of music. But I grew up listening to The Beatles, I started singing and playing because I wanted to be like them. That was the main inspiration, then I went over to the Doors, Libertines, Pete Doherty, the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys – that was my development.
FR: I also listen to a lot of the bands that Filippo mentioned. Because I studied music, I listened to so many different styles of music, purely out of an interest to hear how different genres are produced and arranged. It’s safe to say that we’re not really techno-lovers, even though we live in Berlin, haha. It also depends on whether I want to use music as background noise or if I want to sit down and really listen to something – then I listen to bands like Radiohead, where there’s so much interesting stuff going on. When I’m cooking or cleaning I listen to very easy music.
SO: You have obviously been touring a lot and performing at festivals. When you’re making a record do you think of how it is going to work live?
FR: After the EP came out three years ago, we wanted the album to sound more like a band’s album. This meant using more real drums and more dynamics, to make it easier to play live. Because with the EP we had the problem that the songs were written in the studio and not as easy to play live in the same style as they were on the record, so we wanted this record to translate better live.
SO: You’re at the start of your musical careers, are you concerned at all with curating an image?
FB: After listening to the finished album I realised that people will probably question why we sound so different from the EP. People sound different when they develop. We’re still very young in our musical development. We just started three years ago and since then this is the first time we’ve found the time to finish an album. We just thought let’s experiment, let’s do a song with a beat machine, a full acoustic song, a song with a piano ballad and synths – we put together a lot of influences and ideas. So it wasn’t really trying to create a style, the image we’re trying to create is actually just the dream to make music and perform more.
SO: Is there a story behind the album or was there a point of inspiration for you?
FB: Most of the time I write about love and the problems that come with love, because I just find it natural to write about sadder things than happier things. I was inspired by momentary situations with my girlfriend and situations that I’ve had in the past, combined with the problems of trying to balance making music and having a relationship. We also thought a lot about the tracklist. The intro is called ‘Sadness’, the outro is called ‘Beautiful’ and the album is called ‘Beautiful Sadness’ – we thought it would sound and look cool, haha.
SO: How do you know you want to put together a body of work? Does it happen organically or is it a conscious decision?
FB: With this album it really was a decision. Maybe it’s because we grew up with albums, but we thought it was time for an album. The idea was always to make an album – thinking about how the lyrics sound, how the album titles look, how the the artwork looks. It was the biggest motivation to create an album, something for us to hold in our hands.
SO: There’s a song, ‘l’impossible’, where you sing a refrain in Italian. How different is it to sing in your native language?
FB: It’s my first Italian song. I never wrote Italian songs – never ever – so this was my first attempt to put the Italian language into music. I usually write songs around melody and try to develop the lyrics from there. It was actually easy, like writing in English. I’m very proud of it, as an Italian man and a musician.
SO: What inspires you about Berlin?
FB: The city is always very dark, kind of depressing and heavy – where I grew up in Italy is a complete contrast, from the architecture to the people. I realised that this is what had been missing all along from me making and recording music: it’s this kind of atmosphere that pushes me to stay inside, in a room, and have enough freedom in my head to say “I’m going to stay here and make music, because I can’t go outside because it’s ugly.” I don’t wanna go outside, the houses are ugly, the people are looking grumpy and it’s raining, what can I do? So I only go out in the summer and most of the time I write songs in the winter. That’s the real answer.
FR: For me it’s not as hard as it is for him, because I’m used to these depressing German winters (laughs). Berlin is the only city in Germany where you can really exist as an artist and create something, where you have everything you need around you. It’s the place where people from all over the world get together. We met here and we would never have met if we both hadn’t moved to Berlin. And I really like Berlin, especially in the summer, it’s one of the greatest cities in the world. So much freedom, you can really do anything you want and this means everything – to do whatever you want and find people who will join you and just have a good time.
“If the music doesn’t work Felix is gonna open a bar and I’ll open a coffee shop.”
SO: What do you guys dream of for the band and for the future, what are your biggest goals?
FR: The dream is to continue what we’re doing. For people to continue buying tickets to our shows and when the album comes out we would be happy if everything keeps on growing so that we can make a living out of it, haha – to eat and drink and smoke and continue to make more songs. If nobody in the band dies and we can do another album, haha.
SO: You guys are so positive…
FB: And if the music doesn’t work Felix is gonna open a bar and I’ll open an ice cream and coffee shop.
FB: Yeah, so we can have lunch and drink coffee at my place during the day and then hang at his place during the night. So it’s the same feeling as a band on tour, but we’re just in one city.
Fil Bo Riva’s debut album ‘Beautiful Sadness’ is out on 22nd March. You can pre-order it here.
Interview SARAH OSEI