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'Dancing gives me the biggest joy that I’m able to incorporate into my life': Total Giovanni on their debut record

8 November 2018 | 9:36 am | Caitlin Medcalf

You'd be hard pressed to even find an act that comes close to Melbourne five-piece TOTAL GIOVANNI rambunctious spirit and penchant for dance.

They exploded into our consciousness five years ago, and since then, the project have delivered these incredibly memorable moments fuelled by costume, spirit and universal love. The project offers solace and acceptance and really hits hard that ethos of the dancefloor being a safe space for expression.

They've been quietly working hard on their debut record Euphoria for the last couple of years, and while life seemingly got in the way for them (queue bubs, full-time jobs, distance and conflicting schedules), the record was meant to happen.

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Out a few weeks ago, Euphoria is a cosmic exploration of genres that at times encourages you to get up and dance, and at other times, forces you to listen and internalise. It's a real up and down record and I think that's why this one feels like a really big musical moment.

Where the sunny opening track 'Everything' feels like pouring yourself a fresh glass of OJ on a Saturday morning, the record progresses through sultry tones on single 'Your Light', disco sensibilities, a huge Toto vibe and a ballad-like melody on 'Falling Away' and even a classic hip-hop inspired skit (hello BROCKHAMPTON vibes) in 'The Road To Shimeray', the record truly has something for everyone.

Although five years may seem like a long time, I think the zeitgeist of Total Giovanni is truly captured on this record.

To celebrate the record and their tour, we sat down with Jules to chat the record, what dance means to the group and Total Giovanni as not only a group, but an experience.

C: The record is out!

J: The record is out! Oh my god, it’s a massive I think relief firstly, for all of the guys in the band just of you know, it taking quite a bit longer than we initially thought. Goalposts kept getting changed and you wonder if or when you’ll eventually get there. So, we’re there! And now the goodness starts, you know? Hopefully

C: Yeah! You’ve got all of the fun ahead. And the hard work. At the same time.

J: I think, it’s funny. Those songs, the majority of them I would say got formed in this early jam session we had maybe about three years ago. So that was the first iterations of songs that we’ve tweaked and re-gipped and then broken down again. If you’re playing with that sort of stuff for that amount of time, you're almost - or at least in a rehearsal sense - you get sick of hearing it and now we finally release it and we’re like oh no, we need to play that later.

Yeah, I think that’s why with the live element, if you get bogged down in the technicalities and the intricacies and the meticulous nature of putting together an album it’s like you crave certainly just wanting to jam new music and figuring some new stuff out, just for a bit of release.

C: You guys have been together for so long, around five years now. One of my favourite aspects of this project is that there’s a real emphasis on friendship. The live show is just you guys up there all having the best time, and it’s really infectious watching that. How has creating this record affected your relationships with each other? Has it been a positive experience?

J: It’s tricky, I mean I think because we’re so close and always have been, I guess when we started out and with the live elements and I guess it was five years ago where all of us were at simpler times in our lives comparatively. Also our lead has moved to Perth. That happened towards the end of last year and I think probably the toing and froing and we were sort of on limited time when everyone was in the same space because of bubs and people had short free time in their calendars, we had to work harder to get those pockets of creative fun and also being able to work things out. You don’t realise how sweet that amount of free time and space is when you’re floating in it early on and everything is flowing so naturally to moving a few years down the track, and we all have different occupations too so it’s tricky.

The majority of the songs required us to tweak, update and refine I guess. Mainly working with one of our other guys, Matt, he mixed the album and cause you can’t get everybody meeting up at the same time, whenever you want to continue fleshing out the ideas on the album, you know there were just little pockets of progression and it wasn’t as communal as obviously in an ideal situation we would have liked it to be. Having said that there’s a few other songs on the album that came about spontaneously or came about quickly, and that may have only been myself or some of the other guys working on something and then presenting it. It was unfortunate that we all couldn’t be in the same space. After taking a breath I think, certainly you know there’s a realisation that nature, that close tight knit that we had to begin with, it's still there.

After you sort through an album or creative issues or differences, or just not being able to get things done in the deadlines you’ve sort of set for one reason or another, you can get lost in that. And because we haven’t been playing live shows really for the past two years as well, you don’t realise but that element is also just so important. It’s four to five hours that you’re guaranteed to hang with your best mates that you might not see on a regular calendar basis because of just how busy everyone is, and you know maybe it’s a particular venue and what you’re doing after and how big your rider is, you can really just galvanise a vibe or a situation between the others. Not having that amongst trying to get this album done was tense at times. I think it was more reflected elements of making an album in a sense that for many different reasons and variables it is hard you know. No one makes one with the click of the finger or with ease. I find that’s more of a rare situation. You want it to be the best if you’re a perfectionist and you put your emotions and heart and soul sweat and tears and a bit of blood maybe into it, so of course you want it to be the best that it can be. That can also create issues as you go along, but the live element, we’re about to do this national tour. Looking forward to getting back on that level and that page.

C: I wanted to ask about the live show! How has it been translating this record into a live setting? Has it been a challenge?

A: No! It’s actually been fun. We enjoy creating the setlist for a live show and being able to create it for consecutive shows this time, the live element is a great time. For that reason, they’re a bit more energetic and even our slightly slower or maybe more emotional songs still actually come through with a bit of punch which is great, so I think this live show, on the record at least some of the bigger or dancier tracks, that have been built to play live, that’s been fun trying to work it into our particular routine and throwing in a couple of covers as well. I don’t think that was a hassle as much as everyone just agreeing and getting on the same page. You slowly build, or if you want to go the other way, you can go deeper as the set goes on or you know maybe without noticing halfway or towards the end, you’ve dug pretty deep or you’ve climbed pretty hard so then at that point probably with the track selection and how how you guide that little ship from there is the fun part. I got a little bit tangental then but I feel the message is clear where you’re either ascending or descending, but both are good.

C: I think you need to be able to do both in order to grow.

J: That’s it. I think some of the choices would have been made easier for the mere fact that we'd had singles on the album that we’d released so far and I guess also from the back catalogue, the select ones that we’d want to put there. Then its about judging, playing for an hour and fifteen and having that as a timeline and then filling in the blanks with the non-singles from the new album and which ones are going to get the right vibe.

C: I love that this project is ultimately fuelled by dance and you guys wanting to create an experience for your crowd. What is it about dance that inspires Total Giovanni?

J: You’re certainly correct, that could be the most important. It was certainly the first element of connection in the five of us liking to experience that kind of music on the dancefloor, but I guess also going back a little bit further, we all went to the same high school. Actually Horse (Matt) didn’t, but he linked up with us not long after that. I made friends with Vachel on the year 10 social dance floor when we didn’t know each other at that stage, and towards the end figured out that there was someone else dancing a bit weird on the dancefloor. We linked up from then. From that very moment, there was an instant connection and relationship with dance, but then also without knowing it, the music too.

From there, you get a bit more knowledgable and interested in genres and you start to get older and culminate, I guess for me, the electricity to sum it up, that you can feel on a dancefloor. And that’s a combination of the environment and I guess the people there and certainly the music that is playing as well as the dancing that is happening again. You sort of reach these collective highs. It doesn’t happen too often, that electricity that I’m talking about, so you know when it’s there. You can look around and you can kind of sense a similar vibe from other people there and their facial or dance reactions, that connectivity to the music. It’s pure joy.

For me, dancing gives me the biggest joy that I’m able to incorporate into my life. It’s so simple and yet, you can project or take yourself somewhere else, or you can stay there in the same spot and have a good time and dance the night away. It’s infectious. For me, it’s the biggest driving passion and to be able to create music that links into that, people come to see a show or listen to your music and you’re there to try and get on a similar page. When you’re performing, there’s a different type of electricity you feel when everything is sounding right, the crowd is really responsive and all of the boxes are being ticked. It’s different to that dance floor electricity but they’re all in the same family, because they bring out a similar connection to everyone else there, but still allowing you to still have those individual moments.

C: I like to think it’s a bit like therapy in that sense.

J: It’s so cathartic, and without knowing it, you end up craving it. Nowadays, I don’t go out as often as I used to and don’t have as much regularity with just general dancing, and I notice it after a bit. It could be a bit of anxiety or it could be a nervous or sludgy sort of feeling, and not knowing - it sounds cheesy when you say it out loud - realising that and then being able to go out and dance for a night, even it’s just in my bedroom, so be it. To get to that particular slot that actually does wonders I think. Friends of ours started this sort of like dancing in the dark by yourself, daytime dancing - I think there’s a few of them now - no lights, all lycra. That was maybe 8, 9, 10 years ago, I can’t remember. Being able to go to that was a great outlet. It took that trashy, clubby recreational party element out of it and you still have the purity of the dance.

C: It’s a purists dream. I didn’t know that kind of thing existed, that’s really cool.

J: People also just don’t like going out or if they don’t want that there, it’s nice to be able to separate dance from partying and club life. They have these elements that have been around it for these centuries, thousands of years, they can evoke such natural highs. Obviously if you’re heading out for the night and you’re partying, it can also evoke some other sort of highs, but it’s quite versatile I guess, to sum that up.

C: I think that’s what I love most about this project. There’s these really strong, ideological foundations that have been going since the very start of the project, fuelled by dance. Also the message surrounding universal love as well. Would you say, reflecting five years on that the vision the start of the project has remained consistent throughout?

J: I’d say so. I haven't thought about that before. I’d probably agree. You say vision like it’s five guys, sitting down forming a band and going through, getting some butcher’s paper out and having a day meeting about what they want out of the band, what their visions are and their goals. For us, it was so easy because we’re all so tight and we knew each other. As friends, we share similar beliefs and hold similar moral and ethical values and so creating a consistent message was easy in the sense that we just keep believing what we believe and when the times are important, certainly trying to emphasise that point. I think certainly because they are ideals or morals that we hold for our own, it’s never been a thing that we’ve had to actively think about, like making sure our vision continues to be realised.

C: It’s proof that this project is so passion based more than anything.

J: At the very start, we had these silly pseudo-Italian or European monikers and like a little gag story based around the name of the band or each person’s role in the band. As we went on, we started to get a good response and we also started to think past the fact that it’s more just making gags on stage and having a bit of fun. I think that was a big thing, when we started doing interviews and trying to speak, really speak from the heart, dropping those names came organically over the years and naturally speaking more about what’s true to you and things that you believe in. That’s been a nice lesson in identity. The costumes on stage for example, at the start they may have led into that gag band or party band vibe, but I’ve always loved getting dressed up and that atmosphere, that’s just in general. But then seeing bands, even before we’d ever started playing music, those things that spark you and excite you you know, those elements have always been so strong for me. You know when you put them on, you’re getting ready for the gig in the green room, you come out and you already have a sense of connection. And it’s just fun to dress up.

C: It’s a whole other dimension to that identity as well.

J: That's it, I think I was mentioning at the start, it could be fed into that gag feel, but as we still grow, I think we’ve managed to - well at least I hope so - we’ve managed to not allow it to be a cheesy or tokenistic element, I think it’s a good visual. If you can build on that, and put on a good show as well, it compliments it quite well. There’s no joke about getting dressed up, it’s serious stuff.

C: It’s one thing to wear what you’d normally wear in front of a crowd, but when you’re wearing something the crowd isn’t wearing, it could be confronting. But that makes it all the more exciting.

J: I think it just makes it really exciting

C: Visually, it’s thrilling.

J: It gives you such a bigger appreciation when you watch artists after going through that yourself if it’s a stadium, Beyonce kind of vibe, or even if it’s something a little bit smaller but they’ve still got that visual element there on stage, seeing somebody perform a flawless dance routine and have a verse to sing straight after and then nail that, and then do all of that while still being in this velvet two piece suit, it’s impressive. You’ve got to suffer for that kind of art. I’ve always enjoyed that particular section of it, dressing up is meant to raise the bar and that brings you along to sort of raise it as well, to get as excited as you want to be.

C: With the record being out, if there’s anything you would want the listener to take from listening to this record, what would it be?

J: The album varies in the path that it takes, whether it’s BPM or emotion or feel or melancholy or party nature to it, there seems to be maybe four or five different genres being represented on the album, so with that in mind, I think just be up for a ride of sorts. It might slow down at certain elements then maybe slump a little and then get a little faster, but it will take you to a few different places at a few different speeds and I think if you just accept the journey. Also, if you’re able to be indulgent, listening to an album from start to finish is always special. They don’t always get put together like that, but I think for most people it’s certainly an art, and a massive element of being able to be the architect to this particular journey. You don’t need to take too much into it, I would just probably be open.

Total Giovanni Euphoria Tour

Thursday, November 8

Oxford Art Factory, Sydney


Friday, November 9

Fat Controller, Adelaide

Get your tickets here.