By: Mut Asheru
Alrighty…here’s the vitals. They’re Scottish, the music is gloriously good, and lead singer Donna Maciocia’s (that’s Ma-cho-cha) voice is amazing! I might have to beat you down if you disagree.
One day, I was wandering around the Ilike.Com landscape and I came across a sound that stopped me cold. It was a song called ‘The Comedy Stops Here’ by Amplifico. The rest is history…or should I say the rest is an interview via email. Read up. Enjoy.
Knowshi – Firstly, the name Amplifico does look pretty, but what does it mean?
Donna – It’s Latin for ‘to amplify’ or ‘grow larger’. Hence the penis enlargement product of the same name! We didn’t realize at the time! D’oh.
Knowshi – I read in your bio that Donna discovered her vocal chops kind of late in the game. Is this accurate?
Donna – I always sang in my hairbrush in front of the mirror as a kid, but I think I was trying all that Mariah Carey warbly stuff and my mum said I sounded like a cat with a fork up its bum! Then urged on by my mates at high school, I dabbled in a bit of musical theatre and got some lead roles… I thought I must be able to hold a tune ok then. But it took till I was about 22 to realize my voice had something unique worth pursuing properly that was when I started to take on front woman duties.
Knowshi – Donna, please tell us what methods you used to make your voice so flexible and expressive?
Donna – Umm I don’t really have any methods or tricks… But when I fell in love with a song as a kid, I was kind of obsessed with copying every nuance in the singer’s voice. I would listen to it over and over, until I could repeat every detail, a bit like Jane Horrocks in Little Voice. And I had a varied music taste, so that’s a lot of different voices and styles I was imitating. That stuff sticks with you for life.
Knowshi – Is the songwriting done primarily by one person or is the responsibility spread out amongst all of you?
Donna – I tend to be the primary ideas generator & lyric writer, but as a band we go through phases of working on my own songs or writing songs from scratch together. Since I moved to London last year however Ross has been motivated to get his teeth properly stuck into song writing for the first time. He’s come up with some lovely ideas we’ll no doubt be working on soon. It’s a very open creative cauldron here at camp ‘fico! The more people working on ideas, the better.
Knowshi – Since we hate pigeonholing groups ourselves we’re going to leave this task to you…uhh so what would you call your genre of music?
Donna – Quirky pop theatre? Someone else said it once, I quite like that. Everyone has problems defining our sound – it’s a good thing in my opinion!
Knowshi – Can you give us some background into the song ‘Logic Kills the Fire’?
Donna – It’s a kick ass song about head versus heart, logic versus emotion… How the ‘right thing to do’ dumbs down your passion and dreams. It’s a frustrated dialogue with someone.
Knowshi – How do you approach your songwriting?
Donna – Personally, so many ways I couldn’t write them all here! I try to constantly challenge myself because I lose my spark if my creative environment stays the same all the time. Sometimes I start with an interesting rhythm programmed into my laptop, sometimes I mess about with chord progressions on piano or guitar, just start singing and see what comes… other times I even pick up the bass guitar and start with a fat bass line! (I am such a wannabe bass player) I love playing on different pianos too.
I have never owned a real piano (just electric ones), so when I sit down at a real upright or grand, the organic sound overwhelms me. It is a completely different playing experience. And each piano has a totally different personality. Sometimes I find myself having written 5 new song ideas within half an hour of sitting at a new piano. New, unfamiliar instruments are good things to spark creativity. Last year I bought myself a cheap ukulele, I got a beautiful mandolin for Christmas and just this week I invested in a melodica as a late birthday pressie to myself!
Knowshi – I spent a great deal of time looking for your music online. Seems kind of hard to find, why is that?
Donna – We have been working quietly behind the scenes, setting up our own record label, finding out the best avenues for getting our music out there. Come 3rd March 2008, we have our brand new digital downloads store going live, merchandise shop, and itunes, napster, rhapsody, emusic and sony connect won’t know what’s hit ’em! You won’t have any problems finding our tunes after then.
Knowshi – Where can ‘The Comedy Stops Here’ be found?
Donna – It can be found on our debut album ‘See Heart, See Muscle’ released 3rd March 2008, available via all the usual digital download outlets (see above answer) and physically via our internet merch store (see shop link at www.amplifico.net)!
Knowshi – What’s the ultimate goal for your music?
Donna – We dream of making a living out of our music. Nothing big, just pay the bills, put food on the table, and maybe buy some new musical toys once in a while! We like it when people get in touch saying the songs have touched their lives too. If we can bring a wee bit of momentary happiness to people in this crazy world we live in, then that’s a good thing and makes it all the more worthwhile.
Knowshi- What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far regarding your career?
Donna – Try hard not to have expectations of anyone, you’ll not get disappointed. And trust your initial gut instinct more often. Also to remind myself everyday – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!!! You can sometimes forget that when you get immersed in the shallow minded, money obsessed side of the music industry. You’ve got to look right, dress right, talk right, and have the right image blah blah. But to keep grounded and sustain any sort of career in this industry, you have to focus on the tunes and be yourself.
Knowshi – What drives you artistically?
Donna – the dream of writing a song that does for someone else, what my favorite songs have done for me… music that gives you goose bumps all over, brings you to tears or fills you up to the brim with the most almighty feeling of happiness and determination ‘I can take over the world!!!!’
I remember going through an incredibly low patch in my first year of art school after a bad relationship break up. Every morning walking on my way to class I would play Tori Amos’ ‘Cornflake Girl’ on my mini disc player full blast on repeat. It filled me up with that overwhelming feeling of determination every time, until I felt like my chest could almost burst. I’d well up with tears of joy.
It is just sheer brilliance that song, and there are so many others out there and even more waiting to be written. In my opinion music is the most powerful & emotional art form.
Knowshi – How do you strike a balance between the business of music and your creativity?
Donna – We don’t! I think we’re still learning how to do that. The business side of things undoubtedly stifles creativity big time, but it’s such an important part of the process if you are hoping to make music a career. Luckily, my passion for music has always been a pretty unstoppable force; it instinctively draws me to the piano or guitar.
Knowshi – How personal is your songwriting? Can we get an accurate view of you through your lyrics?
Donna – Most of the time it’s very personal yes, although I occasionally experiment with putting myself in other people’s shoes too. I often write in a very heart on sleeve manner, but also have a tongue in cheek side I like to play with.
I still have so much to learn lyrically, I think I need to push my boundaries much more. That’s not to say I am not pleased with my lyrical explorations so far, I am. I just have this stupid, fear of words I have to get over. I think it stems from an awful English teacher I had in very early high school who would ridicule me in front of the class! Its funny how things like that can stick with you forever.
Knowshi – Tell us about your label?
Donna – It’s a family run label set up with the kind help of my Dad. We took some time out after recording the album to review our options for release. My Dad was on the phone to pluggers, PR companies, PRS/MCPS, record labels, publishers etc researching the ins and outs of releasing a record.
We had a few meetings with these industry types and thought long and hard about taking it to a third party to release for us, but what with the current industry being in a bit of turmoil at the moment, we decided to keep our options open and release it ourselves. It leaves us in complete creative control and still allows us to pursue options as the industry goes through this unstable period.
Knowshi – What’s next for Amplifico and when can we expect your first video?
We are just going to keep doing our thing – writing, recording, releasing, and playing! I have not long relocated to London and have a new home studio set up, I’m itching to get stuck into a Jonathon Coulton inspired project involving the writing, recording & releasing a song a week on the internet.
And our first video is in the pipeline! I am hoping to get our vidcast back on the go again very soon too via the wonder of youtube. We’ve just been so busy with all the other admin stuff involved in releasing a record we’ve not had time to edit and upload – the bad side of running your own label!
For more information on Amplifico visit: www.amplifico.net