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From The Past To The Future: An Interview With Clustersun

photo credit Claudio Litrico

From The Past To The Future: An Interview With Clustersun

Hailing from Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, Clustersun is a band that combines the sounds of early Pink Floyd with the textured, pedal-filtered guitars of shoegaze.  They’ve appeared on a few compilations and covered Slowdive‘s Morningrise for TBTCI’s Just For a Life Slowdive covers collection. Surfacing To Breathe is their striking followup to 2014’s Out of Your Ego. Clustersun’s blending of their influences is masterful, leaving the impression with the listener of a group in love with the drama and power of music.  At the end of 2017 I sent guitarist Mario Lo Faro questions to get into the mind of this singular and thrilling group.

You cover some ground on your new album, from spacey Pink Floyd in their more psychedelic era up to Wish You Were Here.  One of your songs even has lyrics that sound like Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun.  You also get into the same realm as many shoegaze bands and are quite progressive in your arrangements.  Who did you grow up listening to and how do you think you and the band are continuing to bring listeners challenging and emotional music in the same way some of your musical heroes did in the past?

You totally hit the point, Bret. Indeed, all of us grew up listening to The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground. Then we fell in love with bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Swervedriver, Chapterhouse, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spiritualized, Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, Spacemen 3, The Depreciation Guild, Neu! and Can. As you can see we’ve always loved trippy, psychedelic and noisy soundscapes, so what we try to achieve in our music is to mix our different influences, moving from post-punk (especially in the rhythm section), shoegaze (all the guitar work) and psych, to reach a more personal, and hopefully “signature”, sound and expressive canon. Really hope this approach, that starts from the past and look to the future, is capable to capture the attention of listeners.

What guitars do you play and what are some of the pedals and effects you use? What part are you proud of and what song is it in?

Speaking of guitars I totally rely on my Fender Jazzmaster AVRI ’62: lots of tones from jangly and sparkly to thunderous and roaring, and also that amazing tremolo unit that goes from gentle vibrato to hard detuning. About pedals, I use Pete Cornish effects for dynamics and gain: OC-1 (optical compressor), SS-3 (overdrive), G-2 (germanium distortion), P-2 (muff), NG-3 (fuzz), CC-1 (clean boost and active eq). On the modulation side EQD Grand Orbiter (phaser), Moog Moogerfoogers Cluster Flux (chorus/flanger/vibrato) and Midi MURF give me endless possibilities of sound manipulation and experimentation. The  ambience section features Strymon El Capistan tape delay, the super powerful Strymon BigSky multidimensional reverb (the ultimate reverberation machine, with 12 studio level algorithms) and the Electro Harmonix Super Pulsar stereo tremolo. The foundation of my sound, finally, is built on the clean headroom provided by Hiwatt amp: the DR 103 100w head with matching 4×12’ cab (Fane speakers loaded) grants all the volume and power I need and more. Also Marco, for bass, relies on a Hiwatt DR 201 head and matching 4×10’ cab for his huge sound.

It was so much fun tracking down guitar parts on our latest album Surfacing To Breathe and I was super happy of how things came out. Especially super proud of the guitar mayhem on Raw Nerve and Antagonize Me, of the Slowdive-y layered sound of Lonely Moon and of the trippy atmospheres of the title track and The Whirling Dervish.

Piergiorgio Campione plays some amazing keyboards throughout, sounding at times like John Paul Jones on No Quarter.  He also helped out in the recording studio.  What other aspects of putting the music together are you and the band capable of?  Are you familiar with mixing, and the technical side of production? 

Thanks, we’re all so happy of how the keyboards contribute in giving those special nuances to our wall of sound. Piergiorgio did also a great job recording all the tracks at his own Studio12 in Catania (that is the place where we rehearse) so we had total control and great room for experimentation, without the pressure of time. We all learned the basics of recording, miking techniques, use of DAWs and that helped a lot for sure. But the great goal for us was having Alessio Pindinelli (also guitar and vocals in La Casa Al Mare) and Fabio Galeone mixing Surfacing To Breathe at Wax Recording Studio in Rome: their work in giving shape to our sonic ideas was simply outstanding (Alessio also co-produced the album with us).

 

I love La Casa Al Mare!  As the main vocalist and guitarist for that band what did Alessio Pindinelli bring to the Clustersun sound?