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Go west, young band: Jennifer Gentle

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This month in Kunming has been a good one for going out and catching live music of all kinds. This week Italian band Jennifer Gentle are playing two shows in Kunming, bringing the city one of its first looks at an international rock act. The touring band, consisting of Marco Fasolo, Liviano Mos, Francesco Candura, Andrea Garbo and Paolo Mongardi, gets its name and a good deal of inspiration from Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd, but their blend of psych-rock is clearly heading in its own direction.

163Cinaoggihttp://www.cinaoggi.itPSI commercial#http://www.subpop.com/channel/blog/jennifer_gentle_video_stuff_condoms# promoting condom use among young adults.

GoKunming sat down with Jennifer Gentle founder/singer/songwriter Marco Fasolo to find out more about this unlikely band on an unlikely tour.

GoKunming: How did the PSI commercial and the west China mini-tour come about?

Marco Fasolo: Well, [CinaOggi founder] Matteo Damiani set up the commercial to promote the use of condoms against AIDS and HIV and they put our song on the video. And then they found some gigs around China.

GK: Did you have any interest in AIDS prevention or contraception beforehand or was this more of an opportunity to seize once it came up?

Marco: Yeah, I'm not so into social issues, but it's a very noble cause. Anyway, it's an opportunity to play around the world and see what happens.

GK: What's your impression of China? How did the Chengdu shows go?

Marco: It's been very good. I mean, people seem very interested in the music and they're having fun. You can feel that it's kind of a virgin place to play, you know what I mean? People aren't overloaded by music and bands and technology. It's pretty exciting. The venue was crowded. We had a lot of fun and the people wanted to talk to us and meet us. They're excited about what we're doing.

GK: How about any other impressions of China in general?

Marco: I didn't think China was so Westernized. The Chinese seem obsessed with the West. It's a bit sad, because they're missing out on a lot of Chinese things... maybe. The historical culture of China seems a bit lost, a bit faded. But, I was impressed with the people on the street: eating and shopping. So many people, it's incredible.

GK: After this mini-tour you're heading back to Italy - do you have any other touring plans?

Marco: We'll do a bunch of gigs in Italy, but the new album will be released by the end of June, so until then we don't have a proper tour. The first week of May, we're going to the UK for a week and then we're going to play in the States obviously. As Sub Pop will put out the record, we'll start in the States in June, I think. Usually, there're a lot of shows when the record comes out.

GK: The new record, The Midnight Room, is the first one without [drummer] Alessio [Gastaledllo]. It was all written and performed and produced by yourself. How was the process of making this album by yourself rather than collaboration?

Marco: I built a brand new studio in the countryside - very isolated. Up in the hills, very far from the cities. Yeah, I worked on the production for an entire year, writing the lyrics and recording sketches. The album as it exists also exists as a demo version. Then, I recorded the proper version in the studio. I've also written by myself. But yeah, obviously it's different than before. It's hard to explain. I love to focus on my music very deeply. It was very hard and intense, but I'm really happy about the result.

GK: With this album, was there a different sound or goal you were after or was it more of a natural progression from Valende?

Marco: Both. It's a natural progression from Valendeand previous albums. This time I focused more on it being cohesive, more fluid. I worked a lot on making it a proper album. There are ten songs and I tried to make them work as an album. Valende is more of a collection: there's an acoustic song, then an instrumental, a jam, a pop song. This record is more of a record. There's a beginning and an end and through it, you can have a more cohesive experience.

GK: I was reading a description of The Midnight Room and some of the words used to describe it were "nocturnal", "personal" and "darker" than before. Are these accurate descriptions?

Marco: Yeah, yeah. It's like being in a very old house at night and you don't know what's going on behind the door, something like that. Very dark, in a way.

GK: What music are you listening to these days?

Marco: Not much music. But mostly I like 50s rock n' roll, some psychedelic rock bands, obviously Pink Floyd, 13th Floor Elevators, Captain Beefheart. I like everything that is very, you know...blood-driven. Anything that is genuine. When I listen to a rock n' roll classic like The [Johnny] Burnett Trio or Carl Perkins or Elvis, I feel so excited every time. I like this kind of vibration. And then I listen to a lot of classical music. I like so many different records. I like everything.

GK: How about any new bands?

Marco: Really, I listen to the same records I did as a child. I'm not so into today's music.

GK: And, finally, do you have any plans to take home any Chinese instruments?

Marco: Yeah, our drummer Paolo bought a gorgeous cymbal. I'd like to find some really cheap effects or something. There are some really amazing instruments from Chinese culture, but I haven't had enough time to take a look around.

Jennifer Gentle will perform tomorrow, 8pm in the Yunnan Art Institute's Performance Hall. Entrance is free of charge.

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I'm not very familiar with Jennifer Gentle's music, but I was quite impressed by their three-song acoustic performance at the Halfway House open mic night yesterday. Most of the audience seemed to dig it. Should be interesting to catch them tomorrow when they're plugged in...

The Jennifer Gentle show at Yunnan Art Institute was quite an experience. The auditorium was filled to capacity and there were also more than 100 people outside the auditorium waiting to get in.

Luckily those of us on the outside could at least hear the show well. After the set was done, most students left immediately, obviously unfamiliar with the concept of an encore performance.

Once the band came out again, there was enough room for all the patient folk outside to find a seat. What followed was more than just a tight band rocking out hard, it was a few hundred youth driven into a screaming, writhing rock beast that wanted more, more, more. Great fun, much respect to CinaOggi and PSI for organizing this awesome event.

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