If it helps for people to put a label on what we do, it’s fine by us.
Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs Gert-Jan De Baets
Next to the beauty that is called Cocaine Piss, Liège is the home turf of yet another hidden pearl: It It Anita. Earlier this year, the band released a split with Hypochristmutreefuzz and now their second EP, AGAAIIN, is gracing ear drums way beyond the Wallonian borders. Creating a racket wherever they go, these guys have taken to putting their drums smack in the middle of the audience and handing out guitars to whomever looks strong enough to hold up six strings attached to some wood. Needless to say we got curious.
To enhance you encyclopaedic knowledge and possibly score in an upcoming pop quiz, let it be known that It It Anita are Mike Goffard (guitar/vocals), Damien Aresta (guitar/vocals), Mika Verbeeck (bass), Bryan Hayart (drummer). Beside the band, Mike and Damien run their own label called Luik Records, which focuses on vinyl and cassettes. Damien: “We use the label to release our own EPs, but we’re also on the lookout for other bands.”
“It It Anita is often referred to as a post-nineties band, a label we are now stuck with”, Damien says. “We are indeed inspired by bands like Pavement, Nirvana and Fugazi, as we were teenagers at the time they were big. But we are also influenced by more recent bands like Mogwai and The Blood Brothers. Anyhow. If it helps for people to put a label on what we do, it’s fine by us.”
Damien praises radio stations like StuBru. “The fact that people like loud guitar music more in Flanders than in Wallonia has a lot to do with the fact that in Flanders, you can hear Royal Blood or Korn at four in the afternoon. That never happens here in Wallonia. Never ever. So as a band, we needed to get out of our back yard. Luckily, other Wallonian bands like Venus and Ghinzu have paved the way.”
Besides crossing the treacherous language border, It It Anita has expansion plans in many directions. AGAAIIN was released on five different foreign labels besides Luik Records — nifty tactics in hopes of conquering new grounds abroad. Damien: “We did one pressing on red vinyl which we co-released with five other labels. All of them are mentioned on the sleeve with their reference number and logo. That’s quite special because it’s rare to use different reference numbers for the same release, which made it a bit tricky to put up on Discogs”.
Damien: “Our previous EP was recorded by John Agnello, so we called it Recorded by John Agnello. That went so well we decided to do our new album with John again. Hence the name of the EP. If you omit the consonants, the two A’s and the two I’s are the same as the band’s initials. That’s a little graphic design idea I had. I like to play with words and letters.”
The cover image hides some stories as well. “The three wheels under the truck refer to the fact that this is our third record. If you look at the back on the second EP, you’ll see a trailer with two wheels. The back image of AGAAIIN has a picture with three bar stools, again referring to the third record. Plus the stools are the ones from a bar named DC’s where we hung out every night while we were up there recording. It was just next to the Water Music Studio in Hoboken, close to where John lives. Sometimes he’d come with us. One evening he told us a friend was coming to DC’s and it appeared to be Steve Shelley, Sonic Youth’s drummer. That was a nice surprise, not to mention a lot of fun.”
This bar is really part of the story, that’s why we put its picture on the cover.
Even though they ended each recording day at the bar, the band finished the record in one week. Before heading to the US, they had rehearsed for days on end in order to lose as little time as possible. Finally, the day after playing Eurosonic, they left for Hoboken, NY. “We went to New York without any backline”, Damien recalls. “John rented a drum kit for us and lent us some guitars from his friends. We could pick from about twenty guitars to play our songs with different tunings. We had time to experiment and because John is always open to new ideas, our live songs will slightly differ from the recorded ones, but still sound recognizable.”
“To us, recorded music and live music are two different things. Two tracks on the EP, the ones with a number as a title, are a bit special. These were recorded in Belgium with our own gear. They’re just noise really, acting like an interlude on the record. That’s why we never play them live. On stage, it is more about the energy. Plus we always carry ten guitars with us, because Mike uses special tunings on some songs. That’s our Sonic Youth heritage.”
Back in Belgium, the band decided to shoot a video with the small budget that was left after recording. “Our latest video, 25 (From Floor To Ceiling), was directed by Bruno Tracq, who has worked with Justice and Snoop Dogg. We made our previous videos ourselves, but we weren't very good at it, so we were very happy that we managed to find a budget for this one. The song is about escaping, about enjoying life as much as possible — a concept we wanted to convey in the video as well. It’s the story of girl who wants to flee from routine, told using lots of movie excerpts selected by Tracq. We are very happy with the result.”
Fugazi is a big example for us. We don’t have roadies. Our drummer drives our van.
The whole band raves about Fugazi, but not just as a source of musical inspiration. “Like them, we don’t have roadies”, Damien says. “Our drummer drives our van. We put our stuff on stage ourselves, we sell the merch ourselves. It’s all part of the same thing. I don’t think that with the kind of music we make, we will perform on huge stages or we will earn huge fees affording us to pay a big team. The advantage of doing so much ourselves is that we can meet people and talk to them. That’s why we sell our own merch, that’s why we place the drums in the audience, that’s why we play guitar in the crowd. We don’t want to be admired. We are just musicians who like to share their music. We sweat and you can smell it.”
“It’s not always easy though. Our last UK tour was really hard. The conditions were bad, but we had a lot of fun. We’ve had the opportunity to play in France, Spain, The Netherlands, Switzerland, UK and of course Belgium, so we are not complaining.”
New tour dates will be up soon, meaning you’ll be squinting at that screen and pressing Control + R incessantly until they appear. We’ll see you in the front row.