This ugly old world: a chat with IENA

Remember hearing Rixe for the first time? It felt like a lightning bolt instantly pulverising a world of facile pop-punk ‘Oi’ bands – within seconds, any notion that they had a ‘right’ to exist was put to rest.

The debut EP by IENA hit us in a very similar vein. Although not actually a skinhead band, IENA certainly sound like one. That’s partly down to Marco’s vocal delivery, which one may describe as more domineering than punk singing – more “one step closer and you’re dead” than “fuck you, I won’t do my homework”.

But it’s also because the band fires dark, ultra-aggressive blasts of Nabat ’82 style Oi. Let’s hear what this pack of starved IENAS from Florence has to say, though.

Text: Matt Crombieboy

31453723_171822076856509_6562484216087445504_nWho are you guys, then?

Alex: We’re IENA, and we play rock ‘n’ roll! Marco on guitar and vocals, Ivan on bass and vocals, me on drums and vocals. We’re all in projects that indulge in more ‘modern’ shades of punk and hardcore, so we decided to play something more old school. We’re from Florence, Italy. That’s it.

Your EP reminds us of early Nabat and Rixe. No guitar leads, no gang vocals – just short, shouty blasts of high-energy Oi. It almost feels as if there’s some ‘concept’ behind it.

Alex: When we started the band in September last year, we had a concept of sorts: to write fast songs with catchy riffs all played in pure old-school style. The result of our rehearsals are the eight songs on our first EP, Condanna A Morte. It does seem, though, that there’s some kind of ‘dark’ feel all the way through the record. So rather than a concept, maybe there’s a thread running through the songs that we never thought about, but which emerged anyway.

Do you feel you’re part of a backlash against the overproduced pop Oi that has been dominating the European festival circuit?

Alex: Yes, we think that Oi and punk in general must have the sound of the 80s: as natural as possible. Most modern Oi just sounds like pop songs; it seems that the genre has lost its way.

Are Italian hardcore bands from the 80s such as Raw Power also a reference point for you?

Alex: Of course! But we listen to many other genres too. Heavy metal, post punk, new wave, even progressive rock. Maybe we’ll add new wave influences to our sound one day, who knows?

Marco, you’re also playing in Bomber 80, which must be the Oi-est band name ever. Tell us a bit about it and any other bands you guys play in!

23559447_1749722238393625_5929970462122094659_nMarco: I play in Bomber 80, Ivan plays in Carlos Dunga, Alex plays in xDeloreanx. You can write that Marco didn’t reply to this question but the other guys said that Bomber 80 are one of Italy’s best Oi bands… Check out our latest album, Contro Il Tempo.

The difference between Bomber 80 and IENA is that IENA is more raw and direct. As for our other bands, Carlos Dunga do a mix of 80s Italian hardcore, thrash metal and Iron Maiden riffs, and xDeloreanx is a powerviolence band. With these bands, we tour Europe a lot, and we’ve played in the US and Indonesia too.

So is IENA just a project or a band meant to grow and evolve?

Marco: We wouldn’t define IENA as a project. What’s probably the case is that coming from very different backgrounds, we found something like a ‘common ground’ – and on that ground we do what we’re passionate about. We’ve all been into early Oi growing up, and we all took this formative experience in different directions. No idea if we’ll evolve any further, we’ll just take it as it comes.

Given your different backgrounds, what kind of crowd do you get at your gigs?

Marco: From what we can see at our gigs, people into us are very diverse. We probably aren’t ‘officially recognised’ as a traditional Oi band in the Italian skinhead scene, but now that we’ve been gigging for a few months people are starting to get to know us.

Have you ever been skinheads yourself?

Marco: I’m the only one who was a skinhead, at least in terms of style.

Do you think it’s possible to be an authentic skinhead in 2018, or is it just historical re-enactment now?

Ivan: I think it’s hard to be an authentic anything now because everything is going to shit. In order to be an authentic punk or skinhead you’d have to live in the period when those movements emerged.

10458116_900369233328934_639478726058797940_n
The grass is always greener…

If someone wants to be authentically this or that, I’m happy for them to believe in what’s essentially a good thing in a world that really sucks. The best thing to do is destroy everything and rebuild, though. That’s what I think: be yourself, but take on board the crucial aspects from all alternative and leftwing culture, as well as skinhead culture.

Your EP is available on cassette, and even the digital version sounds like an audio tape. Is the recent trend for cassettes some kind of return to old-school values or just hipsterism creeping into Oi and punk?

Ivan: I feel this is linked to your previous question. Maybe it’s a trend for some, but for others it’s more about ‘believing in something’—a sort of tribute to a way of doing things that worked in the past.

When I was a kid, I used to record vinyl onto tape so I could play it on my walkman. In my view, there’s no point in using modern sound for old-school punk and Oi. If you like the old Nabat stuff, you also like the way it’s recorded – it just wouldn’t be the same with Blink 182 type production.

Hipsterism begins when you’re into a certain sound or aesthetic, but you don’t agree with the content or spirit of that sound.

IMG_5151_1024x1024
Keeping it real

So how did you record the EP?

Alex: We recorded it in our rehearsal room in one day. We used stuff that Alex brought – he has a mobile recording studio, by which I mean a PC, an audio card and microphones. Can’t remember how many takes for each song, but we did it all very quickly as we’d rehearsed the songs many times. We certainly didn’t edit the mix too much – I’m sure you can tell.

What are some of your lyrical themes?

Marco: Well, the lyrics are extremely raw and simple. We don’t waste time trying to look deep or original. The tracks often depict a dark world, the violence of life, revenge, escape, and misery. I guess you could say we romanticise this ugly old world. That’s more or less what we do.

Is Florence a favourable environment for a band like IENA?

Marco: We don’t really play here that often. We’ll be gigging again in September, and in November, we’re going on a Balkans tour with Satanic Youth, a hardcore band from La Spezia.  Florence is a strange city. Punk and hardcore are supposed to have a strong ‘tradition’ here, but reality doesn’t always reflect this.

TheStendhalSyndrome2
Asia Argento at the Uffizi Gallery in ‘The Stendhal Syndrome’ (1996)

I hear that life is getting expensive there, too. What can we expect when visiting Florence – will we suffer from Stendhal syndrome?

Ivan: The great Stendhal famously started feeling ill when he saw Santa Croce church, just as we feel ill when we see our town being sold out to tourism. In our song ‘Firenze Nord’ (north Florence), we refer to Florence as “città vetrina” – a shop window city. We want to smash that window because everything here has already been sold.

Yeah, I did make out the words “paura del futuro” (fear of the future) and sensed some bleak overtones in the music…

Ivan: See, you can now read in Lonely Planet that San Frediano is one of the prettiest, chicest and coolest neighbourhoods in the world -– the most obvious sign of gentrification. San Frediano used to be a plebeian part of Florence, some would even say an ill-reputed one – but now all the tourist want to visit it.

So you can easily imagine how expensive the city centre is. Still, you can expect to see one of the most beautiful cities of the world. It was the richest Italian town during the Renaissance, and the ruling Medici family wanted everyone to know, so they built beautiful palaces and churches. Write to us if you want to visit, though – we can host you so you don’t pay money into the tourism system.

What’s next for IENA, then – are you preparing a follow-up album?

Ivan: Yeah, we’re recording a new album with IENA as we speak. It’s another eight-song EP, darker and rawer than the first [that’s the spirit – Editor]. We’ll probably call it La Morte Chiama, which means ‘death calling’.

Are you looking into playing abroad?

Ivan: Well, there’s the tour with Satanic Youth I mentioned earlier. We would like to play everywhere, so if you want to book us get in touch. Next year we’d love to tour the US. The label that released our tape is based there, and a we’ve had many people from the US writing in to tell us they liked our music.

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