Ahead of their headlining show at London’s Birthdays, we caught up with upcoming psych-pop four piece: Cairobi, to learn more about their heritage and of their opinions on what needs to be changed in the music industry, from the un-sustainability of free digital downloads, to the lack of investment into developing signed artists.
Would you mind introducing yourselves, the part you play in the band and share with us a little background to Cairobi?
We’re a four piece group, we have Aurelien on drums, Salvador on keyboards, Alessandro on bass and Giorgio (myself) on guitar and vocals. Alessandro and I have been playing together since high school back in Rome. Then I moved to London for uni and that’s where I met Salvador and together we started playing around town with different line-ups. When we needed a bass player Alessandro joined us in London and we recorded an album under the name Vadoinmessico. When we got kicked out of our studio and realised we couldn’t afford another one we decided to relocate in Berlin. I was the first one to move, but once I was here the other guys had to modify their plans and I ended up being the only one to move. Salvador stayed in London, Alessandro moved back to Rome, our drummer left the band. No problem, we just needed a new drummer and we’d be ok. So when I met Aurelien and realised he was a fantastic drummer I suggested he joined the band, and he did.
We discovered you through BBC Radio 6Music (thanks Lauren Laverne) and your sound stuck us something vibrant and summery – the psychedelic vibes running though ‘LUPO’ has an almost Tame Impala, Django Django feel… Has the reception of your latest single ‘LUPO’ been better than anticipated?
Yeah definitely. 6Music is being very supportive, especially Lauren Laverne, I think we have similar taste in music, so I guess she understands well what we’re trying to do.
We noticed you’re performing at Liverpool’s Psych-Fest, it looks to be a fantastic line-up. Who are you looking forward to seeing?
I personally want to see Cavern Of Antimatter, Acid Mothers, Temples and Brain Washington, a myterious character that only seems to have one song out (but a very good one).
Having been at various new music festivals; SXSW, The Great Escape…what has been your favourite experience to date and why?
I think recently Field Day and The Great Escape have been our favourites. Field Day has a very chilled vibe, the sun was shining and we got to hear see some great shows. The Great Escape was the opposite, very hectic, stressful and grey, but we had a great crowd and it’s amazing to see people hungry for new sounds.
At what point did forming a band occur to you (as the best idea ever)?
I wanted to form a band even before I could play an instrument. I remember watching “Back to the future” when I was a kid, at like 5, that scene where he plays ‘Johnny Be Good’ and then kicks the amp, that really got to me. So when I started playing guitar at the age of 12 I immediately started looking for a band, it was hard though, there were no drummers around. I guess forming Cairobi has been my objective since then.
Did any of you study music? If so, how important are the theoretical side of things?
Salvador studied sound engineering at SAE, and I graduated in Jazz guitar at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Salvador’s skills have been obviously very useful for the whole recording/mixing side, and I also got to learn a lot from him. For me personally I feel that having studied and played jazz means that my ears are trained to a certain harmonic precision and detail, so I still play and write by ear and I often don’t really know what I am doing, but my ears do. Alessandro joined us in London and we recorded an album under the name Vadoinmessico. When we got kicked out of our studio and realised we couldn’t afford another one we decided to relocate in Berlin. I was the first one to move, but once I was here the other guys had to modify their plans and I ended up being the only one to move. Salvador stayed in London, Alessandro moved back to Rome, our drummer left the band. No problem, we just needed a new drummer and we’d be ok. So when I met Aurelien and realised he was a fantastic drummer I suggested he joined the band, and he did.
With a very multi-instrument sound and multicultural background, can you talk us through each of your influences and backgrounds that have helped shape your sound?
I am very influenced by Italian music, especially from the 70s/80s/90s, I love Lucio Dalla his music has had a strong impact on my songwriting. Also Vasco Rossi. Other than that, some bands that we consider influential to our sound are Can, Syd Barrett, Flaming Lips and Lee Perry.
When it comes to songwriting are there any particular poets that awaken inspiration?
In the last couple of years I have spent more time reading then listening to music, but I don’t read much poetry. Recently I am really into Ennio Flaiano, Borges and Cortazar. Also C.E. Gadda. Their proses have a lot of poetry.
Are you involved with any other creative projects: painting, graphics?
Of course, we are in a band so we had to learn some basics of video, photography, graphic design, which we always need for the project, but we don’t really do it other than for the band.
How important is social media to you as a band? Does the demand to be involved with social media often detach you from the beauty and the creativity of the music?
We like to be able to speak to people and show them what we do, but it can get very distractive, so we tend to focus on the music and sometime we end up neglecting our pages. Personally I am not really a social media kind of person, I never post on my personal Facebook.
Is there anything you would you like to change about the music industry, and if you could, what would you do?
I think the music industry is a victim of the way the fruition of music has evolved. It had to adapt to the situation, making life quite hard for emerging acts. So yes, there are many things I’d like to be different, but I understand that they can’t be. The main thing that worries me is that labels are not investing into developing artists, so you have to do that by yourself, which means you need to have sufficient finances to fund your music until it works commercially. So I think while on one hand the current situation is very democratic, making music available for everyone to listen for free, on the other hand making music is becoming an activity that is exclusive to people who can afford it.
Do you think the direction of the way music is distributed is ever going to move away from free digital downloads?
I think once you are given access to a pretty much unlimited catalog of music for free it’s hard to go back, but the way it is now is not sustainable.
What are your thoughts on Spotify?
They need to pay more royalties to the artists, with all the advertisement and subscriptions they get I guess they are making a lot of money, an insignificant amount of which goes to the people who make the music. That’s why I use platforms that pay more to the artists, like Apple Music, or Tidal.
And in that, when it comes to challenges of surviving as musicians, what is the biggest challenge you face?
It’s hard to make a living with music, but it’s still possible. I guess everybody’s story is different, you just need to adapt and find a way to make it work.
What city has had the greatest impact upon your production?
London for sure, that’s where we started.
When it comes to production – where do you find home is to record?
We don’t have a proper studio of our own, the space we have in Berlin is small and you can hear the bands next door. However, we still managed to do some recording there. Our friend Javier Weyler has let us use his studio in London quite a lot, so we recorded there, and also at another friend’s studio in New York when we where there for CMJ. So I guess the answer to your question is: there is no home for us to record (yet).
Does it take a long before you are at peace with a recording?
It depends on the song, sometimes everything works straight away, but more often we have to tweak the mixes quite a bit and adjust the arrangements. It can be a long process.
We’re really looking forward to your album – have you plans to release it soon?
Yes, we should be ready to release in September.
Birthdays is going to be amazing – how have you prepared for the big show?
We just had a three day rehearsal in Berlin, which was a lot of fun. We’re going to try some new arrangements, so we’re really looking forward to the show.
Apart from touring, what else can we expect from Cairobi in the year ahead?
There will be some videos, remixes, and lots of new tunes.
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