Photo: Patrick Smith

Track By Track: Qlowski guide us through their politically charged debut album Quale Futuro?

As far as titles for debut albums go, it’s hard to beat Qlowski‘s Quale Futuro? – ‘what future?’ to us non-Italian speakers. It’s a title that speaks to the hopelessness that’s quietly simmering in the background of our generation, but it also speaks to the band’s dissatisfaction with the status quo, their determination to prove themselves here and now, and their dedication to fighting for whatever future can be achieved. This determination is amplified in the music itself; a fearsome expression of frustration, fear, friendship and more, delivered with post-punk ferocity and Giallo-esque drama.

The London-based combination of Michele Tellarini (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Cecilia Corapi (keyboards, vocals), Danny Smartt (bass, clarinet) and Christian Billard (drums, percussions) have barely had the opportunity to play the songs from Quale Futuro? live yet, but there’s no doubt they’re ready to tear down the walls of any and all venues that’ll put them up in the coming months. For now, we have the recorded version of their songs, which have no trouble rousing feelings of unity and revolution, whether being played from a venue stereo or a tinny speaker phone – the urgency is undeniable.

We have the pleasure of bringing you a track-by-track, detailing the process behind each of the 11 cuts on Quale Futuro?, written by Qlowski’s co-vocalists Michele and Cecilia.

01. “Ikea Youth Pt. 2”

Mickey: On one hand I love albums with intros or introductory songs that are in some way different to the rest of the album. In my mind I had two options: one-minute of furious punk-hardcore or something that involved drum machines and no guitars. On the other hand I really don’t like when albums come out with songs the band has already released like a year or two before. But in this case I really thought there was a strong link between the songs we were recording and “Ikea Youth”, so we worked on this “Pt. 2”, thinking of it as an opener from the beginning I think? A sort of declaration of intent. 

Cece: I think we couldn’t find a more uncomfortable way to start an album than a distorted and noisy version of our last single before the album release. We would never put out the same thing twice and “Ikea Youth Pt. 2” was a very fun way to rework one of our songs for the first time.

02. “Folk Song”

Mickey: “Folk Song” is the oldest song in the album. I actually totally forgot about it until two weeks before getting in the studio when Cece reminded me of an old Logic project.  I see it as a sort of set of visions from the past – a Dickensian journey through old and new anxieties and fears. Bologna’s extremely humid summer nights, London’s emotional rollercoaster, and Brighton’s menacing seagulls on a big city escape. It was supposed to be a personal attempt at self-irony, at the same time trying to come to terms with my catholic upbringing paranoia. I guess?

Eventually, no matter what “It spins and it turns / It goes and it comes / It falls and it rises / Keep it going, Keep it going.”

Cece: It only makes sense to soften the beginning of the album with the amazing drums in “Folk Song”. If you’ve been brave enough to finish the intro you deserve to hear one of our finest next (of course in my opinion).

03. “A Woman”

Cece: I’ve never been good at sharing how I feel, but I think it was about time to open up on a personal level. “A Woman” summarises a life of struggle and constant fight that I, along with most women or non-cis person, had to go through in their life. From the first years of your life, you have to show that you are good enough to use the same tools that a man would use, to study computer science and even be good at it, to be successful at work and recognised for it.

“A woman like me should be strong enough, to let it go, let it flow and I’ve tried, I try, I’m trying,…” 

Growing up feeling that I was never good enough was exhausting and this song helped me put everything out there, and recognise that it’s worth fighting, and if we all keep doing it and supporting each other we will get there.

Mickey: This one was very fun to record, and I really love it, can I say that? We recorded all the songs live (apart from “Ikea Youth Pt. 2” and the “Interlude”), and this one is such fun to play along with everyone else. I’m also very proud of that bridge in the middle, Cece really smashed it. Also, shout out to Lindsay, our producer, for helping us crafting that synth loop, definitely one of my favourite moments of the album.

04. “Lentil Soup”

Mickey: “Lentil Soup”, as with the rest of the album I would say, is essentially a reflection on how capitalism affects every aspect of our life. From jobs availability, economic crisis and socio-economic inequality to personal relationships, and even the perception of your own self. To the point where the risk becomes unconsciously approaching friendships as networking, or thinking that the job you have not only defines what you can afford, but also who you are. Or on the other side of the coin you end up continuously trying to monetise on your hobbies and passions. Until nothing is pure anymore, and everything is valued only by its profitability, and it’s doomed to perish. At different levels, but we all are affected by these dynamics. 

Oh yeah, lentil soup because that was the cheapest meal I figured to save money for the rent, and had lentil soup every day for two months. A lot of it was also inspired by Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani, and the prospect of a socialist led fully automation and universal basic income for all!

Ceci: I love “Lentil Soup”, it’s very fun to play, very different to everything we’ve written before. Mickey’s said it all, to me this is the greatest gem of the album and the one that I can’t wait to play live for the first time.

05. “To Be True”

Mickey: When I was growing up in the hardcore scene in Italy of the mid-2000s there was a lot of talking about “staying true”, “being true to the cause.” Of course, it was all very naive and maybe even pathetic to a certain extent. This song is not specifically about it, as more about finding yourself a bit lost in a city like London, trying to figure out what you want, what you need, what is going on with your life, and eventually asking yourself if you stayed true after all. Finally, what’s more important, coherency or dedication and loyalty?

Plus those two minutes of instrumental were definitely the most fun to record for me, so many layers of noise and fucking around with pedals. Pretty sure Christian (drums) and Danny (bass) don’t agree with me on that. I think we literally forced Danny to play only one note through the whole thing.

Ceci: If you ask me to summarise Qlowski in a song I would probably choose this one. With a light hearted intro, two minutes of instrumental with 10 tracks of just guitar pedals and an end to get all the pains out from your chest.

And yes, I’m sorry Danny, but I love that the bass keeps playing one note for two minutes.

06. “All Good”

Mickey: Bass and drums are fantastic on this one in my opinion. I think we adapted the initial drumbeat from some dub compilation I was listening to around the time we wrote this one. 

In a similar way to “To Be True”, the lyrics were inspired by a brief conversation I had with an homeless person right outside Brighton’s train station, he kept thanking me saying “you’re a good man” while I was walking away. Am I really a good man? What makes me a good person? Does everything need to be good? Maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of failing sometimes.

Ceci: “It’s not all good and it doesn’t have to be” it’s a very important reminder for us, as we always try to make everything work and pretend it’s all fine, but it’s only when you realise that is not that you can start feeling real.

07. “Interlude (02/11/1975)”

Mickey: I love interludes, if it was for me we would have put at least two more. I think one day I will release an album of only interludes. Anyway, this one is nothing more than an homage to one of Italy’s greatest artists and intellectuals, and one of Qlowski’s main influences; Pier Paolo Pasolini was brutally murdered on November 2nd 1975 and I recorded this track on that day in 2019. The poem he’s reciting is called “Supplica A Mia Madre” (Prayer To My Mother), and it goes like this: “And I don’t want to be alone. I have an infinite / hunger for love, love of bodies without souls.”

Ceci: I’m not a big fan of interludes, but this may be a good half way continuation of the painful intro. Maybe I wouldn’t release an album of interludes.

08. “Lotta Continua”

Mickey: “Lotta Continua” means ‘continuous struggle’, and it was inspired and is dedicated to the women fighting for the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) in Rojava, Kurdistan. “Lotta Continua” was also a far left extra-parliamentary organisation founded in 1969 in Italy. The YPJ is an all-female socialist and feminist militia fighting in the Syrian civil war, against ISIS, for women’s emancipation, and for the liberation of the Syrian people. 

It’s probably one of our favourites from the album, and the one that gets me more emotional when we play it. I really love Danny’s bass line on this one, so majestic.

Ceci: I’m really glad we have this song in the album, these women represent the best reminder we can have of how we should keep fighting for what is right. It really breaks my heart to sing this song, I think Mickey can create a really powerful image that can’t leave you unmoved. “Too young to die, too young to be remembered” but hopefully we are wrong on that.

09. “Larry’s Hair Everywhere”

Mickey: I wrote this song around the time when I moved in with my besties Bonnie and Danny. Larry is Bonnie’s cat and he is the most incredible cat I’ve ever known of! But he’s very fluffy and with it comes a huge amount of hair. This is probably the most personal and intimate song on the record. It’s about my friends, our hopes and fears, in our search for happiness. It’s about applying for dream jobs and not getting them, the frustration of always feeling a bit like failures, even if we know already that anyway a job could not solve all of our problems. It’s about trying not to drown, but also knowing we have a shelter to go back to at the end of the day, our little flat, our friends’ stunningly beautiful faces.

Ceci: This song is probably the way I punished myself for forcing Danny to play one note for two minutes. But still, I like how simple and repetitive this is. “Always thinking and overthinking trying not to drown” again, nothing that could describe us and the way we live our life better than this phrase.

10. “The Wanderer”

Mickey: Mark Fisher closes his Capitalist Realism with these words: “The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again.” “The Wanderer” is basically about it. Keep the flame alive, keep fighting, and suddenly one day anything could happen.

On the musical side, this one was a huge pain to record. For some reason, we recorded it so much faster than we planned and it was well hard to fit all the words in it haha.

Ceci: I’ve learned to love this song slowly, maybe the tempo we used doesn’t make it easy to hear at first but I really love what we’ve done with it in the end. It’s also probably the song where I love the contraposition of Mickey’s and my vocals the most, another song we’ve never played live and I can’t wait to see what will come out.

11. “In a Cab to Work”

Mickey: We wanted an epic ending, but in an Angelo Badalamenti vibe, if you know what I mean. Also, when we were writing this one we thought that our dear friend and comrade Les Miserable from Italia 90 would have been perfect for singing this one with Cece, and make it into a sort of anthem. If the album is opened by the question in the title, What future? (Quale Futuro?), in the closing song more than in any other we wanted to outline more explicitly our answer to that question. If you ask us, a sustainable and fair future is possible only through solidarity and unity. 

Ceci: We couldn’t have any other ending rather than this.  I think the lyrics summarises everything we wanted to get out for this album, so I will just let those say it all:

“What Future? What Future?
when fear substitute truth
misinformation obscures reality
and speculation previles on experience
brutality seems necessary
empathy appears naive”

And then the only answer to all this questions “Unity.”

Qlowski’s debut album Quale Futuro? is out now on Maple Death Records (buy/stream). You can find the band on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp.