Interview with Pocket Chestnuts

I know, winter is still on (in Italy the weather itself is still quite unpredictable, but oh well), but I’d like to introduce you to a band that will instantly make you think about autumn (at least for the ones who know about the tradition of heating chestnuts as a snack during the coldest months of the year). Pocket Chestnut hails in Italy, it is a really friendly band who makes the thing all of you like the most I reckon, rock music. Therefore, I’d like to share with you this lovely chat I had with Tum, but before do not forget to read my review of ‘Bedroom Rock’n’ Roll’

Welcome to When the Music is Over, Pocket Chestnuts! I’d like to start with the origins of your name. I read about the connection with the traditional superstition that your Dad told you, but I’d like to know if there is something more behind that. Can it be also connected with the imagery of autumn, the pleasant melancholy left by the summer and and an intimate atmosphere? 

Hi, I’m Tum, glad to be your guest.  I grew up in countryside of north-west Italy and my father transmitted to me this popular belief: If you put a chestnut in your pocket during hard winter  you will keep illness-cold away. My mother instead put me Holy Saints card in my pocket. I still have this image of me sitting in a desk at primary school with my pockets full of chestnuts and saints…

In your music a listener can hear country, folk and a bit spaghetti-western at the same time, therefore I’d like to know which are the bands you grew up with, do they tie in with these? How much did they influence your music? 

I grew up listening to a lot of Brit stuff, I went to London at the age of 13 and came back with a lot of sounds never heard before….then I saw the light with acoustic sounds and fell in love with blues and country, from Hank Williams to M Ward. I guess that is my cup of tea.

I liked a lot the importance that you stress on tradition. You seem really attached to your dialect and origins, as for example states the setting of “A Bell Tolls”. How can be traditional Italian music connected with country music from Nashville? Could we say that your music has both an Italian and American core? 

“A Bell Tolls” was written for my beloved grammy Wilma, she nourished me & always spoke to me in dialect telling me weird  popular stories about her adventurous life. She made me dream a lot and kept me connected to my tradition. I guess I subconsciously mixed up the place I belong to (Mortara PV) with the place the music I love belongs to (Nashville/Tennessee or any place in Lavelland). I’m a -‘son of the Internet’, mind can travel fast in an unpredictable directions 🙂

If you had to describe “Bedroom’s Rock and Roll” with three words, which ones would you use? 

Love/Pain/Love again.

I know you like covers, you’ve played different songs live (from Eels to Pavement), but also “Long Black Veil”, which we can find in the EP. Is it better in your opinion to readapt the classics without losing their essence, or to implement your own creative license?

That song was a joke for me. I confess I recorded it without haven’t been heard before.  We were tired as hell after a session and Pol made me sing, thus took home just one take. When we listened it was love at first sight and back home when I googled it I said…oh fuck!

 Even if you’re more under the indie-rock influence, would you like to create your own version of songs outside your genre? Any examples? 

When you listen to music it’s convenient to put music in genres, but when you play your own feeling trying to get across what is hidden in you…well it’s hard to describe what you do exactly. We’re recording a new album this days, we will have a new digital EP out on springtime. We’re listening our new stuff and  it changed a bit from what we did before but  we all like it so it’s ok whatever ‘s gonna be.

Where did the idea of recording a Christmas song come from? What was your attitude toward “Christmas in Your Pocket”? 

Last year I had a visit to a huge & crowded mall during Christmas time in Corso Buenos Aires in Milan. I came home like petrified and I changed the words of an old song called “Cold Nite Wish Wash” converting it into a X-mas themed song.  This song will be included in our new album.

Thinking about the name “Bedroom’s Rock and Roll”, I found a connection to the DIY recordings in someone’s bedroom, which is what actually happened if I am not wrong? In your opinion, which are the pros and cons of being completely (or almost) independent?

Pol & I recorded everywhere including my bedroom. It’s great ‘cause you don’t have any pressure from anyone & your sound is really what It’s gonna be live: no tricks. Without a production  you can leave a big part of the cake.  Mixing & mastering can be weapons to drop, that’s why we’re currently recording our new album at home but we will have an help from William Novati in Pavia for the mixing and then we will send our songs to Carl Saff in Chicago for the mastering.

Which is the aspect of the self-production you enjoy the most? 

You do whatever you want, whenever you want to.

You played alongside some quite famous Italian acts such as Gang of Four, My Awesome Mixtape, Home and Julies’ Haircut. Which is the aspect of live performances you enjoy the most as musicians? Which is the one you enjoy the most as part of the crowd instead? 

Once we played Ypsigrock festival, any other stage is so empty.  That experience in Castelbuono was really a turning point for us. As listener I have plenty of big experincences but on 7th August 2005 me, pol & teddy was in Urbino to see Yo La Tengo live in a festival. That was amazing!

 What does the future look like for “Pocket Chestnut”? Any last word to the readers?

We will release this EP during spring, it’s gonna be a digital appetizer for our next album that will be released in 2012. Sound is getting richer, Umberto on bass and keys joined us these days and we’re going to rehearse hard. We really looking forward to hit the road again with these new songs. Hope to meet you soon, thanks for your curiosity, really appreciated.


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