“I felt like I was levitating to her music frequencies."
So who is Barbara? Tell us a little about your background.
My name is Barbara Pugliese (aka Barbarella) . I am an Italian-English singer-songwriter, dancer and music producer based in London, born in Italy from an Italian father and English mother.
The artist name Barbarella was initially a nickname given to me from family and friends in Italy, since I was a kid: Italians like to put ‘ella’ or ‘ ello’ at the end of names as a friendly and affectionate way to call people. It’s only when I started playing music in London that I decided to use it as a stage name; people seem to like it over here…most likely because they associate it to Jane Fonda.
Tell us about your band Barbarella’s Bang Bang. How long have you been together and how did you form?
BBB is a project that’s been going on for around 10 years now... I feel pretty wowed as I am writing this! A long time indeed.
After finishing my performing arts studies at Trinity College of Music, I really wanted to write songs and play them with musicians like I used to do in my teens in Rome. The whole performing arts course was really constructive and useful but it also made me understand how musical theatre wasn’t really my thing…too much of a stereotype box in my opinion. Instead, songwriting and play live music were my real call. So after attending a few open mic nights around London to get some live performance confidence back, I found a drummer and an accordionist, then shared a post on the website ‘Star Now’ looking for a guitarist and bassist to join us . Astral Oz ( founder guitarist of BBB) jumped on board and marched along with me through different, intrepid, wonderful musical adventures, which have made us stick together as creative partners until now! The band has been going through a few changes over the years: different members and also different musical influences . It’s in the last 2-3 years that we have found a more solid line up and a more defined sound, thanks to the addition of our bassist and producer Oliver Joss Lee and drummer Matteo Ricordo.
We have just released our new single ‘Learn to Unlearn’ which is available on the virtual world for treating your ears!
So who are Slovo?
Slovo is a South London based collective founded by former Faithless guitarist Dave Randall.
Dave and I met after a BBB gig at the Hootannany pub in Brixton, in summer 2019. He invited me to contribute lead vocals to SLOVO which I gladly said yes to because it is a great, intense and uplifting music project.
Besides, Randall is a great musician, lyricist and producer to be working with. I am very grateful to share creativity with him.
Our album ' Bread and Butterflies’ was released during the first lock down ….you should give it a listen . There are some wicked artists featured in it, such as US hiphop innovator Mike Ladd, Idris Rahman (saxophones), Robin Hopcraft (trumpet) and others…
How would you describe your music?
I guess the closer style to describe Barbarella’s Bang Bang music is ‘garage rock’. We combine rock ’n’ roll, blues, psychedelic rock, post punk and rock ….with influences from southern and eastern Europe. There’s also a ‘veil' of theatricality appearing here and there.
Who are your musical influences past or present?
In my childhood till my mid-teens I grew up with pop, R&B and rock:
The first album I had was ’Spice’ by the Spice Girls , I think , and that was in primary school; followed by Britney (coming from a small Italian catholic town, for me seeing such a girl on TV was very inspiring and refreshing!) , Backstreet Boys, Cristina Aguilera, Alicia Keys , No Doubt, Eminem, Pink, Skunk Anansie, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Garbage, The Cranberries and The Cardigans . All of them soundtracked an important phase of my life.
Then, when I moved to London at 18, I took with me the album Aladdine Sane by David Bowie which, alongside ‘Frank’ by Amy Winehouse, that I had bought at the time at the HMV store on Oxford Street (loved going there), they soundtracked another crucial moment related to my first years living in London.
Other impactful influences are Nina Simone, The Doors, Yma Sumac and current band SAULT.
Do you have a particular creative process?
Often I have random melodies popping in my head which I then play and record with the bass or midi keyboard on ‘Logic' and loop to a beat. Once I get a catchy riff and beat, I then start thinking about the lyrics which are the hardest part of the songwriting process in my case. I find it challenging to express with words what I see and feel . There’s always a clear and impactful visual and sonic imagery happening in my mind, but a struggle to describe it with lyrics. It all takes shape eventually … just a bit of a mind labour in giving it birth verbally, on paper.
The result feels very rewarding though!
Do you have a favourite gig that stands out and why?
Patti Smith and Nick Cave at Victoria Park a couple of years ago.
Nick Cave invited the front audience to join him and the band on stage which was a beautiful moment that enhanced even more, the sharing element of live music between the artist and the public . A sense of unity between us. So much power.
Patti’s music will always be eternal, hopeful and resilient. She brings the 70’s revolutionary, outspoken and loving spirit back on stage….and that’s very inspiring! I felt like I was levitating to her music frequencies.
What’s your views on record labels? Do you think they are beneficial in todays world?
Tricky questions. I am biased towards big record labels …the artist becomes a product to make money from and I am not sure of how much transparency, humanity and honesty are involved with this capitalist and competitive formula. It makes me wonder about the well being of the artist. I guess small independent record labels with a great, professional and honest team that balance and value business and CARE towards the artist expression and well being, are the way forward. You want to surround your self and grow your career with people you trust. That’s why the DIY formula is to be rated positively : the process may be longer but at least you are more in control of the journey, the decisions you want to take and who you want to work with.
It’s obviously a very difficult time at the moment for creatives in the music industry how have you coped and filled the time?
I am lucky to be surrounded by talented and amazing friends and artists who I can get creative with and motivate each other to use the tool of music and art as a playful and healing process.
Bass practice has been some sort of routine…appearing and disappearing through waves.
Saying that though, It doesn’t mean that I have only filled my time with creativity and music…In fact, there’s been many gaps of doing nothing of that.
What do you think the future holds for live performers like yourself post Covid?
It’s still gonna be pretty depressing for a while considering that many independent venues have sadly lost a lot of money and also permanently closed ! Live gigs are the main source of income for many musicians and also sound technicians, promoters, booking agents and the whole team that enables shows to happen so... it will definitely be an uncomfortable future for some time. However, I want to believe that such a situation will bring more appreciation, value and attention towards live music and the whole structure that makes it possible. Perhaps we will all finally join forces together and find ways to support the world of live music and art, which is beneficial and therapeutic for all of us performers and non performers. At the end of the day, music and art are mediums that bring us together... and I am pretty sure many of us have been missing the element of proximity during these intense times!
What’s Barbara’s plan after we’re allowed to live again?
Gathering and party with friends … and hug them big time! Go to the pub, drink Guinness and chat to everyone. Play live music. Go to music nights and raves and DANCE! Go to see my parents in Italy and spend time with them. Go to see my brother and sister in law in Japan and finally meet their daughter who was born during the first lock down. More collaborations with different artists, release my solo album and travel the world with music.