Hailing from a small town just outside Rome, Diego and Alfredo Salvati now ply their trade as Colourshop, a 2-piece band with influences ranging from Pink Floyd and the Beatles to Italian pop and world music.
Like so many, they were introduced to music by their parents. Returning from a business trip in Hungary, their father brought them a well-loved, but heavily beaten, Magyar guitar. So important was this instrument, no more than a wooden board with a few badly strung strings, that the brothers declare it to be the only guitar they would never get rid of. Meanwhile, their mother was a child of the 60s, introducing her sons to the likes of John Fogerty, David Gilmour and George Harrison. The boys openly admit that the first songs they wrote had some ‘very strange influences’, a concoction of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Italian pop, beaten out of an old red guitar.
Whilst they first wrote in Italian, it was a desire to sing in English that prompted their move to our shores:
Alfredo: Because of the peculiarity of the genres we were playing, it wasn’t 100% Italian music, so we tried to start writing in English. We wrote the first album in English, but it was a sort of scholastic English so we wanted to confront ourselves with the reality.
And so they came to London. Alfredo arrived first, receiving regular visits from his brother, before Dingo joined him permanently 2 years later. They played every gig and open mic night they possibly could, but the realities of life as a musician in London soon became apparent:
Alfredo: When you imagine something, it is always different in reality. I thought that if I went to London I’d be able to play music every day. But then you come here and you see that there are so many people doing this. At the same time, you grow with that very much; the rate of growing in terms of experience is much faster than in Italy. Obviously there is a lot more competition so it’s not easy to progress. It’s easy to start because there are lots of open mics and a good base of people that follow what you’re doing. But to have an extra step, to make it professional, that’s much more difficult here.
Diego: There are people 18 or 19 years old who had far more experience than us when we arrived. Young people have opportunities to grow up in a musical environment far faster than we did. There are a lot of good bands in Italy but they think just about Italian music. It’s important to go out and compare yourself to other bands.
Alfredo: In London I’ve seen many crap bands, but generally British bands have something much fresher and newer than Italian bands. But now with the internet, this has changed even in the last 5 years. New music is much more accessible.
The brothers are keen to tell me about Colourshop’s new EP, a collection of a few new songs and analogue remixes from their last album, ‘Sparks’, released in September 2012. The tracks were recorded in a back-to-basics studio, with every member of their band playing at once. This desire to recreate the atmosphere of a live performance is accurately represented in their summer tour,‘no artificial colours added.’ Their desire to keep their music pure and clean seems to be a continuous theme, but their views on their own style are interesting:
Diego: We have found our style. I think it’s important to evolve every time you write some songs. We have a good range of influences; when I write, my songs have a more boppy style while his (Alfredo’s) songs are a bit different, maybe folk or pop. So when we merge my influences and his influences, the result is a mix of styles. It’s difficult when people ask what style we are because our genre is difficult to define. It makes more sense to say we have a direction but we are willing to change. We try to introduce new instruments too – I’ve just bought a melodica!
Continuing in this vein, Alfredo is about to head out to Bali in search of new instruments, sounds and influences.
Alfredo: You have to surprise people; I don’t want to become background music with the same value as a CD.
Despite the difficulties of life as unsigned musicians, Diego and Alfredo choose to dwell on highlights. Their 2 albums are obvious moments of elation, but Alfredo points out that nothing is quite as satisfying as people singing along to their songs.
Alfredo: The joy of people understanding what we have tried to achieve through our songs keeps us going, even when the days are long and we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the Salvatis’ dedication to the atmosphere and sound of live music. Their new EP promises to be an accurate reflection of their recent performances around London, as well as upcoming festival spots in Poland and Russia.
Colourshop’s new EP is launched next month. See www.colourshopmusic.com for details and updates.