Remember last week when I mentioned in passing that Italy has a fun Indie Rock scene, but that would probably be another blog post? Well when I wrote that I had no intention of actually writing said blog post…but well, here it is. I was specifically referring to an Indie Rock band based in Rome called KuTso.
One of our programs is an internship with this awesome band, and since we’re highlighting our Italy Music programs right now (if people apply before April 15 they get a $500 scholarship) why not tell you a little bit about these crazy wackos? It’s not all opera and Gospel Choirs in Italy you know! (Hmm, the Gospel choir thing may have to be another blog post still.)
To prepare, I’ve spent the last few days listening to KuTso and reading up on them and I’ve reached a few conclusions:
1. They are ridiculous. You get a great sense of fun from their music, but when you start watching their videos or live performances you have to ask… “huh?” Between the costumes, the dancing and the music itself you start to wonder “who let these 4-year-olds into these grown men’s bodies?” It’s ridiculous, but it’s a studied ridiculousness which makes it so enjoyable. Here are a few screenshots from of their music videos. My question is, why don’t we see more bunny suits on MTV these days?
2. I freaking love them. I’m not saying you will, but I think it’s some of the most fun music I’ve ever heard. They’re not a novelty joke band. They rock and they rock for real. But they’re not afraid to have more fun with their music than most bands would dare to. After listening to KuTso for a few hours I turned on the radio and everything sounded so laughably sincere, and frankly a little boring.
3. The lead singer can wail. I always joke that I’m a baritone in a Tenor’s world, so there may be a bit of range envy on my part, but when Matteo Gabbianelli opens it up, my jaw drops.
4. I don’t speak Italian. I already knew this.
5. I wish I spoke Italian. I want so badly to know what they’re saying! I don’t always care. There are plenty of English songs I can’t understand for the life of me. But with KuTso I wish I did, because they sing clearly and crisply, and I assume the lyrics would make me chuckle at least a little and I’d love to be able to sing along. Also because my nieces and nephews read these blog posts and I’d feel terribly embarrassed if it turned out that their songs were just brimming with insanely vulgar profanities. (I once had a French friend who loved rap music. He asked me to translate some of the lyrics, and the look of horror on his face when I did was hilarious. He just kept saying “why would someone sing about that?” Anyway, moving on.)
5. Google translate still has a long way to go. There are plenty of interviews, articles and reviews about KuTso, their shows and their music, but in Italian. Luckily, this little guy appears: and gives you a… sort of translation. I’m sure Gianni Santoro from La Repubblica is quite elegant, but when reading a Google translation of one of his articles the best you can do is get a kind of sense of what he means.
Best kept secret, they say Anglophones. Those secrets kept very well. This was the Kutso until some time ago. The secret guarded it especially Roma, who for a few ‘years knew there was this outstanding rock band crowds, a concert at a time, it was getting an important result, a loyal audience that was handed down the secret swelling the ranks of worship. Went home and then altered by the experience live spread the word: “Oh, the Kutso are proper crazy.But strong. ” Because usually this is the chain reaction. You see them you shoot kung fu poses on stage, make fools, with guitarist whenever tanned in different ways, now Twirling and now as a superhero. Good for a laugh, think smugly smiling. And then you realize that to do the soundtrack to the show is a visual rock cheerful, fresh, light-hearted, that works because it sounded good.
6. These guys work hard. They just released Musica Per Persone Sensibili (Music for Sensitive People)—their second full album in 5 years, not to mention singles and a mini-album. On top of that they perform in concert a LOT. The name of their current tour translates to The Perpetual Tour. They played over 120 dates cross Italy in 2014 and aren’t slowing down.
7. I’m not the only one who likes them. KuTso is poised for major breakout year. They were the runners up in the Newcomers category on the Sanremo Music Festival, but all the articles I read called them the “moral winners.” I assume that’s a weird literal translation, but since I don’t know what the non-literal translation of “vincitori morali” is, I’m going to assume it’s something like crowd favorite? In any case, they were apparently the “real revelation” of the festival, and are very quickly amassing a dedicated cult fan base. I of course knew and liked them through our partnership long before Sanremo, which gratifies my inner hipster to no end.
Actually, do you know what? I think in making that last joke I realized part of why they feel like such a breath of fresh air to me. So much of American culture today (as manifest in this concept of hipsterism) is about being superior, sarcastic, ironic and disdainful. KuTso is none of those things. They are absurd and ridiculous, but they’re doing it whole hog, not with a knowing, condescending wink. They’re having a grand old time and invite the audience to dive in with them and not worry about looking stupid. American and English bands would be too cool to be this silly. They might indulge in a bit of quirkiness, but it’s with such a heaping slab of irony that you have to laugh “knowingly” and not too much. KuTso’s childishness isn’t about being ironic, it’s about making you feel the joy and silliness of childhood, and THAT is remarkably refreshing. At least it is to me, but then, I’m from the 90’s so take that with however much salt you want, and get off my lawn!
So that’s KuTso. Do yourself a favor and check them out. They may not be your style, but then again you may love them. (For our hearing impaired readers, they even made a sign language version of their first big single. How can you not love that?) At any rate, it’s nice to know there are still fun rock bands out there, even if they haven’t come and made it big in the States…yet. Good Luck getting this one out of your head by the way:
Ben Abbott is the Outreach Coordinator at Performing Arts Abroad. Blog posts like this make it even harder to explain to his parents what that means exactly.