The Genoa, Italy-based IKITAN surprised music journalists and fans around the world when they released their debut song—a 20-minute epic entitled “Twenty-Twenty” (you can catch our own review here).
Well-received by critics, “Twenty-Twenty” showcases the band’s ability to craft beautiful soundscapes within their own brand of Prog Rock.
Luca Nash Nasciuti: Guitar and Effects
Frik Et: Bass and Effects
Enrico Meloni: Drums and Cowbell
We recently sat down with the trio via Zoom to discuss their work.
Our Conversation With IKITAN
Here’s what we covered with IKITAN:
Monster Riff: Twenty minutes is a lot of material to play through at once. Tell me about the recording process. Was it tough capturing 20 minutes at once?
Luca Nash Nasciuti: That’s a problem we’re thinking about right now, actually, because we have to relearn it before we start playing it live. In the recording session, we could spend time repeating parts we didn’t know. But now we have to relearn the full song.
Enrico Meloni: Exactly. It is a challenge. There are some parts we learned right before entering the studio. We had the idea in mind, but we never went through the whole thing. Part one and two, we’ve always played them together straight away, but we never played the entire song.
Another thing: Being only the three of us, we were not thinking about a live performance. Back when we started the band, COVID happened. So, we decided to work on a record instead of playing live shows. Working in the studio gave us an opportunity to write some more complex things/arrangements than what we may have planned to play live.
Monster Riff: You took a risk not bringing in a vocalist, especially on a 20-minute song. That puts a lot of pressure on the band, and especially the guitarist, to create melody and movement. Did the lack of a vocalist create any challenges for you while you were writing?
Luca Nash Nasciuti: The vocals do guide the listener, but we felt liberated without having a vocalist because we could play whatever we wanted in any style or tuning.
Enrico Meloni: Yeah, let’s say you have an aggressive riff, and people say, “Oh, now I’m expecting James Hetfield.” Now we can write a riff without worrying about what sort of vocals will be there. We would have been a different band altogether if we had a vocalist.
Of course, all of us have had bands in the past with vocalists. Sometimes it was a help. Sometimes it wasn’t.
This time, when I joined the band—Luca and Frik Et had been playing together for many years already—they already had the idea of an instrumental band. And it was like, “OK, let’s try this new path for everyone and see where it takes us.” So far, so good.
A New Album In the Works
Monster Riff: What can you tell me about the new album?
Enrico Meloni: Some of the ideas on there were actually left out from “Twenty-Twenty” once we settled on its exact length. So, we’re working on a lot of the riffs and grooves from those sessions, plus other newer things that have emerged along the way.
There is still that same jam attitude and focus. There are about four or five songs ready, I would say. It’s still going to be curious and interesting, but it won’t be as intense as a 20-minute song.
Reactions to ‘Twenty-Twenty’
Monster Riff: It’s unusual for a band to form and then put out a 20-minute odyssey as their first project. What has the overall feedback been from people discovering you for the first time?
Luca Nash Nasciuti: In one of the last reviews, somebody says it’s 20 minutes but feels like 10 minutes or less. The fact is, it’s long, but it’s easy listening. I don’t know how or why, but it seems like it works in the end. We’re thankful for the response we’ve received because we didn’t expect anything like this. It’s the first release of the band! This was a step into the void.
Enrico Meloni: That was shocking, to be honest. As Luca said, we popped a cork on good reviews like yours because who would have thought you could do something you like, which is a 20-minute song, and people like it.
It’s not the most original music in the world. It’s not revolutionary. So, to find out people like it, even though it doesn’t have the vocals… All of the reviews are very positive. And one thing we like is that everyone seems to find something about it that we didn’t think about or realize. Everyone has a different background and a different approach, so everyone sees and hears something a little different. Some people find connections that are very curious to us, and we say, “Oh shit, I didn’t think about that!” Or we’ll go and check out a band they’ve referenced and it’s really cool.
On the Album Cover
Monster Riff: Your album cover by Luca Marcenaro is awesome. There’s Ikitan, and he’s breaking the stones. How should we read his emotion here?
Enrico Meloni: He’s very upset. The idea was for him to crash the stones above his head. We are calling him to come out of the earth. He has this vortex of flames, which is a bit cartoonish, but we like the result.
Monster Riff: And the dog?
Enrico Meloni: Little Orazio! That is a funny story because it ended up there quite randomly. The main concept of the cover was the invention of Frik Et. And at one point, he said we should have Orazio flying from the sky.
Now, why Orazio? I’ve had some upstairs neighbors for a while, and they have this sausage dog named Orazio. He’s always making walking noises above my head in the house. I’ve always had bad neighbors in the past, but these neighbors are quiet and lovely except for little Orazio. I always tell these neighbors that I’m so happy because the only thing I hear is them and Orazio walking around. Since then, we’ve always jokingly glorified Orazio.
Actually, at one point we had planned to call the album Orazio Never Dies because last summer I didn’t hear Orazio for a few weeks and I was starting to get worried. Well, it turned out that they were just on holiday, so Orazio came back.
Monster Riff: It matches the experience of the music as well. There are lots of different emotions in “Twenty-Twenty,” and in looking at the album cover, the first glance shows you this huge guy breaking rocks over his head. And then you notice this little dog who’s just happy to be there.
Enrico Meloni: As a sausage dog, he’s also the protector of the gods in Colombia. A friend I used to play with is from Colombia here in Genoa. And one day, he told us that the sausage dog is often found in the paintings of Colombian people to protect the gods. He said, “I thought you did it for that.” And I said, “Yes, of course.” [Laughs]
There have been a lot of non-existing connections that eventually make sense. People have asked us, “So, why is the number 20 so recurrent?” It’s not like we are in love with 20 by itself. It just happened to be the length of the song, and when we were at the beginning of November, we said, “OK, we should publish the album. When do we do it?” And then I read that all albums should be published on a Friday. Then we looked at the calendar, and we have November 20 of 2020, so there you go. It’s another connection.
‘Twenty-Twenty’ and 2020
Monster Riff: Is the song supposed to be a reflection of the year 2020?
Luca Nash Nasciuti: Kind of. Actually, it’s more of a result of 2020, but in the way we put it together, we found out it makes sense.
Monster Riff: How should people listen to the song? Are the movements within the song reflective of individual events in the real world?
Enrico Meloni: A guy wrote a very detailed review about how part one is like when people don’t realize what is about to happen, part two is the crushing moment when COVID strikes, and part three is kind of liberating and uplifting. That one actually surprised us because he had such an interesting approach to the song that we hadn’t expected. But I wouldn’t say we wrote one part or another as a reflection of a certain part of the year.
Recording at Greenfog Studio
Monster Riff: You recorded part of the song at the Greenfog studio, which is a huge studio in Italy for Rock. What did it mean to record there?
Luca Nash Nasciuti: It was really cool because the studio has a vintage drum kit and a lot of nice microphones and everything we needed when we went there.
Enrico Meloni: When we got there, Mattia Cominotto, the owner, told us it would cost him more money to repair and refurbish this Ludwig from 1968 than it would to rebuild the whole studio. It was like a museum piece. It’s not something you see every day.
It’s like when you have a good instrument and you see how your ideas can actually be produced. It’s like, now I see why this instrument became a classic.
The Italian Music Scene
Monster Riff: Tell me about the music scene in Italy, especially as it relates to Prog Rock and Stoner music.
Enrico Meloni: There is a lot here, especially where we are in Genoa. There is a huge tradition of Prog Rock from the ‘70s and it’s still going on now. There’s a lot of Stoner, Psych, and Post Rock as well.
The sad thing is that even before COVID, some venues were in huge crisis. We’ll see what happens after all of this is over in regards to live music. A lot of people were pushed to release stuff and let it out somehow.
One thing we always say about ourselves is maybe if this didn’t happen, we might have focused on concerts instead of actually making an album. Who knows?
Getting back to your question, the music scene is quite vibrant. Luca has been working as a studio engineer and a producer for a couple of years now, and he also has a variety of bands he works with, whether it’s more Folk or Jazz or Rock or whatever.
There is a lot in the underground and albums get released a lot. We decided from the get go, of course, to not have lyrics, and that has helped us a little bit to reach an international audience. Language can still be a barrier, so that is not a problem when people from Australia or Finland hear us. That seems to have helped us in a way.
Monster Riff: Totally. Your music is already universal simply by lacking a vocalist. Any Italian Stoner/Fuzz bands you would recommend?
Enrico Meloni: We are putting together a playlist of music from Genoa and around the world to capture the community (including, but not limited to, Il Segno del Comando, Ottone Pesante, Naat, Kurt Russhell, La Coscienza di Zeno, Burn The Ocean, CRTVTR, Iosonouncane, and many more). These are lesser known bands, some would call them (and us) “underground,” but they rule nevertheless and the world deserves to know about them.
We have a lot of groups in Italy. A big one, of course, is Isaak. There’s also Temple of Deimos.
We would also like to do a shout out to Gramma Vedetta. They’re a London-based band doing a mix of Stoner Rock and Alternative. They’re really cool and have an EP out. They’ve been an inspiration for a number of things, including how to make our first moves in the marketing and social media part of things.
Monster Riff: Here’s a question just for fun: If you wrote a song titled “2021,” given that we’re only a month into this year, what do you think it would sound like?
Luca Nash Nasciuti: Wa wa waaa.
If you’d like to learn more about IKITAN, check out their Bandcamp page.