26-year-old Italian born artist Fil Bo Riva has dropped his first full album last Friday- March 22nd. It is a tour-de-force. The energy is best summed up in the climax of the album, L’impossibile, a raw song that makes you want to sing of Italian heartbreak on your non-existent balcony with a bottle of wine in the right hand and a bouquet of roses in the left. The album is called ‘Beautiful Sadness’ and though that may sound like a cliché, it captures the emotion of the album pretty perfectly. The intro brings you in slowly and before you know it Fil Bo’s incredibly powerful lungs have mesmerized you into reminiscing about lost love (whether you’ve been through it or not). Each song flows wonderfully into the next (nothing static here) and they all resonate something (not sure what) very powerful. If you’re pressed for time and are forced to pick a few songs for you to listen to Go Rilla, L’Impossibile, and L’over stand out among the crowd. However I highly recommend listening to the album in full (and on repeat).
Corissa Hollenbeck: Is Fil Bo Riva your real name?
Fil Bo Riva: Not really no, my real name is Fillipo Bonamici. So "Fil Bo" is extracted from that and Riva is just an additional third word. I don't know why, I just like names with 3 words.
C: Okay so born in Rome, raised in Dublin, but now living in Berlin. When people ask you where you're from, what do you say?
F: Maybe the answer is a bit cheesy, but I'm from nowhere. But usually when people ask where I'm from, I say Italy, because I was born there. That's my main answer, but actually I've never lived in a country for long enough to feel at home. Maybe now, after 6 years living in Berlin, that's my home.
C: When did you first start playing music?
F: Around 10 or 11. That's when I started playing guitar and a bit of singing. I had like half a year or maybe one year of classical guitar lessons, which I quit because I didn't like to play the jazz style. Then I told my guitar teacher to teach me Beatles songs and I had this cassette where I'd play their songs and he would show me the chords.
C: This is your first official album tour, right? How do you feel? Are you ready?
F: Yea. It's been a long time coming. You get excited of course, but it's the first normal step. Everything develops in one direction, so you know when it comes. I'm not scared, I'm happy it's coming. I'm just excited to play in bigger venues every year. It's exciting to see more and more people every year.
C: Any difference in British audiences versus German ones?
F: Well in Germany we play in front of much more people. So last time we played near London, we were in Brighton. I think it was like 300 people. While in Berlin it's more like 1000 or 1500 now. So, it's different. But the people in Brighton were very energetic. They were so into it. The audience was half boys, half girls (usually it's more women) but the boys were really happy that performance. They weren't shy- singing along. Because of course in Germany, people are very quiet. You just see girls and the boys sat in the very back. Italy is similar in that it's more like here [London]. People are very extroverted, and they laugh and shout.
C: What are your favorite things about Berlin? And what do you hate the most?
F: My favorite thing is that I moved to Berlin because I wanted to do music, and I wanted to work. Berlin gave me the chance to achieve what I wanted. The way the city is and the way the people are gave me the chance to be someone. To meet people and to find the right people, which I never found anywhere else. Maybe because it was the right time and the right place. So that’s my favorite part because I've met so many people that are part of my project now- that's the most beautiful thing for me. The worst thing is, though it's a bit mixed, the city can be very sad, grey, and cold in the Winter. But in the Summer it's the opposite. The only thing is that Berlin is can be very ugly… In Berlin it's all like 1960s architecture. I mean it's my taste. I grew up in Rome, so I like beautiful architecture. The thing is that when I'm sad, I'm inspired, and I can write songs. That's one of the reasons that I write songs, I have to stay in my home and I have nothing to do, so I write! When I was little I never wrote, because I was happy and going outside.
C: You have some really funky music videos, who directs them? Do you have any artistic say in what happens?
F: I started looking for some good video-makers a few years ago, and I was always very excited to find the right people. One year ago, I found two directors. The first is Sander, from Holland, living in Berlin. The other is Marie, living in London, but from Germany. These two did the last 2 or 3 videos which are my favorite. They finally achieved the vision and the visualization that I wanted to put on the screen.
C: Which two?
F: L'impossibile and Go Rilla and the next one is coming up within the week.
So those 3 videos are like exactly the style I wanted, like VHS mixed with 60mm film. It's a mix about the ideas I want and of course the directors’ ideas, working together to make a story.
C: Okay so Go Rilla- what is that song about?
F: Oh umm, I don't know, it just came up like that! The main chorus came to me when I was on tour in 2016, and we were in the gorilla club in Manchester, supporting jonas police woman. We were having sound check and there was this big poster of the title 'Gorilla' and I don't know why but I just started singing the melody, I just took my phone and started recording. The rest of the song, I just picked up some other lyrics I had written somewhere else and then I put them together.
C: Is that how most of your songs come about? Something sparks a chorus?
F: Usually it's a mix, like, most of the time the melody and the chord progression come up. But on the same side, some kind of lyrics develop with these words. It's a combination of the melody and the lyrics. I write the lyrics while I develop the melody. But the lyrics take a bit longer,The most important parts like "go go" come very quickly and everything else is built on that.
C: What's the coolest thing that's happened to you because of your musical career? Anyone flown you out on a private jet yet?
F: Nothing like that yet, no. Coolest thing? I mean there have been some, but it's all very good. Going on tour is cool, we don't do it very often, maybe once or twice a year. So when you go on tour it's like a class trip with young boys. I'm with my friends and it feels like we are twelve or fourteen, going on a school trip.
C: What kind of music are YOU listening to right now?
F: Right now? I am a very spontaneous and moody music listener, so I don't really sit down and listen to some new people. When I work I listen to jazz or classical music because I don't want words, I just want music in the background. When I do listen to music, it's usually bands I grew up with, so the Beatles and 60s bands. There are a lot of modem bands that are very good, but there are so many good artists, I can't listen to them all. But I always say the Beatles because I grew up listening to them, and maybe once a week I listen to a song. I keep their Spotify playlist going.
C: Is there a specific moment of your music career that you're most proud of?
F: There was never really a feeling of 'we made it' because I'm on a very straight path. It wasn't one day of "Oh!" It was a long period of "it's interesting that we are here" when we got the chance to tour and support for Matt corby, for a few shows around Europe. The first show was in Cologne I think. It was like one year after we started the music, just myself and my guitar player, just the two of us playing songs we actually hadn't really played before. We played for Matt corby who was one of our favorite artists, in front of 3000 people, we got really really scared. We only had 5 gigs before that. That was when we're like, do we really want to do this? And we were so scared, but we did.
Fil Bo Riva’s new album is available to listen to on Spotify, to Buy / Stream / Download, and Fil Bo Riva is is performing at the Olso in Hackney on May 1st.