A guitar and a bass zipped in their cases, a disassembled drum kit, amps and a keyboard fill the floor space of the otherwise empty living room. Instead of unpacking their instruments, although they are “dying to play”, the members of the Piqued Jacks sit with me atop a couple of floor cushions and the unattached backseat of their van (nicknamed the “spacecraft”), which serve as makeshift couches. Having moved in that very day, the Italian Piqued Jacks – work-weary, hot from a faulty fan and a little overwhelmed by lingering culture shock – welcome me into their new apartment with charming smiles.
By Devonshire Lokke
Having known one another since kindergarten in their small hometown, Borgo a Buggiano near Florence, Italy, the guys instantly emanate a brotherly bond. They dove into the American music industry only last year, and Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, seemed like a perfect place to continue their journey as an independent, up-and-coming group in the local (and international) music scene. So far, the four “brothers” – ThEd0g (Matteo Cugia) on drums, Penguinsane (Francesco Cugia) on guitar and backup vocals, littleladle (Francesco Bini) on bass and E-King (Andrea Lazzeretti) as lead singer on the keyboard – have enjoyed a warm welcome from Austin. Currently all students at Austin Community College, the boys say they hope to expand their knowledge and experience about the music business. In the past year, they have played at SXSW, Texas Rockfest and the RedGorilla festival. Last week, they kicked off their Texas tour leg with songs from their new EP “Just a Machine” at several coffee shops and bars on Barton Springs Road and South Lamar.
The guys say that performances in Texas are a completely different experience from shows in Italy where they have also played at big-name festivals. At Rock in Roma this past summer, the Piqued Jacks performed only a stage or two away from artists like Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) of the band Atoms For Peace. Compared to the traditional and conservative music culture of “old country” Italy, the music scene in Austin is more “open-minded” and “less shy,” they say. The Piqued Jacks appreciate that Austin audiences mirror the contagious vitality of live shows with encouragement and enthusiasm, rewarding performers’ energy. The Piqued Jacks express a “love for the little things,” such as chatting with fans after the show, and they say these sorts of rewards are not hard to receive from the local-loving, live-show seeking, independent-music-supporting fans of Austin.
The Piqued Jacks says they combine the sound of alternative, funk-infused and futuristic rock with glowing suits, illuminating colors, videos, and lights during their stage performance to transcend the audience straight into the heart of the compassionate robot illustrated in the CD artwork for “Just a Machine.” Through the energetic and engaging vehicle of musical technology, the band says they tell an ecological, altruistic and empathetically emotive narrative. It is not enough for the Piqued Jacks to simply play, without “giv[ing] the people something” to intensely feel for themselves.
Musical inspiration for the Piqued Jacks has grown with the group over time. They name a range of influential artists, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to The Killers to Mas Volta. The guys agree that the most challenging, but also most important part, about starting as “fresh meat” in the music industry is staying true to band and its message, while still making compromises for the sake of growth. With sincerity, they say they want to to be encouraged most by the natural dynamics of their close friendship, passion for music and love for nature. The band says the new EP highlights the delicate relationship between humanity in the technological age and the natural world, especially in tracks “Welcome To The Future” and “Tourist Of An Apocalypse.” The point, Beini tells me, is that music (and ultimately humanity) is “not just a machine.” The CD and its case are both made from eco-friendly material, reverberating themes about preserving the earth in its natural beauty.
To the Piqued Jacks, writing music and playing live is a “vehicle to express, to let things out.” Proving their sincerity and brotherhood, the boys have a natural flow between themselves, chiming in to finish each other’s answers to my questions. Harmoniously, they relate the creative process to something organic, which “grow[s]” from feeling and experiencing the beauty of this world around them. “We find inspiration in what we live and what we feel. I think that is the most genuine way,” Andrea says. Matteo adds that he and his (actual) brother Francesco failed music theory studies when they were younger. “We don’t decide to make music; it comes,” Matteo urges. While pressing five fingers over his heart, his others tenderly tapping on silent keyboard keys, he says: “When we feel it, we do it.” With their hippie-vibe values and fresh, new-age sound, it’s clear the Piqued Jacks will fit into the Austinite niche quite nicely.
The next landing of the Piqued Jacks’ spacecraft along the Texas tour will be at the Tonic Bar in San Antonio, TX, on Oct. 24. They hope to be back in Austin for a local show the next day, but details have yet to be confirmed. To listen to, watch, or learn more about the Piqued Jacks, check them out on Facebook, visit their website, listen to their Soundcloud, follow them on Twitter, or watch them on YouTube.