Like the chink of a cold glass of limoncello against another, FERLA's new album, Personal Hotspot, is a chilling yet refreshing sound that indulges in the chaos of the world surrounding us. We had the pleasure of chatting with charismatic frontman, Giuliano Ferla, who dives deeper into his new album, his experience with writing music, and what to expect at his band's upcoming album launch later this month at the Northcote Social Club.
Born out of Naarm/Melbourne, Giuliano Ferla's vision for his band was to invest in himself and build a body of work that reflected sincere and honest experiences. Mixed into the melting pot of indie pop-disco delight; FERLA shapeshifts between catchy hooks, fluttering synths, and Giuliano's deep passionate vocals that evaporate the intricate lyrical mutterings of his mind. Since 2015, FERLA has released an EP, a stand-alone single and their 2019 debut album It's Personal, which was nominated for the Australian Music Prize. Now the Melbourne darlings have unveiled their second triumph, Personal Hotspot.
Shedding light on the mayhem that is occurring throughout present history, FERLA wallows in depictions of historical news stories and anxieties of events that are occurring out of their control on the nine-track, self-released album. These chaotic stormy experiences are supported with a contrasting bubbly synth landscape of charming earworm melodies, uplifting rhythmic percussion and addictive, jangly guitar licks. Personal Hotspot is the type of album that will have you dancing with glee and laughing from its sardonic humor, while singing along to its stories of despair. If anyone can make a positive experience out of some shocking times, it is going to be the incredible FERLA. It is bound to impress listeners, as Giuliano howls over jumping melodies and explores topics that are relevant to modern culture. Featuring killer lead singles, an intense poetic reading, and a cathartic conclusion; this album is a tremendous advance from FERLA's previous work.
We had the pleasure of chatting with the titular frontman about the new album, his experience with writing music, and what to expect at his band's upcoming album launch on March 26 at the Northcote Social Club.
Paperface Zine: Hey Giuliano! Congrats on the release of your new album Personal Hotspot! How are you feeling now that it's out?
Giuliano Ferla: It's exciting! I was telling a friend the other day that this album is the best thing that I've ever made. I'm incredibly proud of it, and so full of love for the team that made it happen.
You've been other bands before creating FERLA. How did this particular persona all begin?
So really FERLA is all about me removing the persona. I used to play in a band called The Toot Toot Toots (aka Twin Beasts), and we were very theatrical. Our records were concept records, built on an overarching narrative to tell a particular story that we'd written. After The Toots finished I reflected on my creative practice and kind of realized that what I was really doing by writing these big stories was depersonalizing the art. I was hiding my own thoughts and feelings behind the stories that we made up. So I flipped it. The way FERLA started was through me wanting to really get at myself. Trying to be a person and not a persona.
Both your debut album and the new album contain the word "Personal," in its title. Is there a reason for this? Is there some clever Easter egg you have hidden within these personal chronicles or a simple coincidence?
Good pickup. This goes back to the first question. Both albums are about me tapping into the personal and putting it all on the line.
What did the recording process look like for Personal Hotspot? How was it impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns?
It was hugely affected. It took away our ability to play gigs and rehearse which sucked, but, for the recording process at least, COVID was mostly a positive. In the past, whenever I’ve recorded, it was in one huge hit. You work on the songs for months or years, you demo, you rehearse and then you have this short stint in the studio over a week or two and you get as much done as you possibly can. It’s fun, but it’s stressful and there’s not much time for experimentation or contemplation since studio time is so expensive. This was a different process. COVID made it so that we couldn't rehearse for weeks or months. COVID also made it so that at the times between lockdowns, when studios were open, they were fully booked. A two week block was out of the question, the most we could get was two or three days in a row. So the recording process happened in a completely unique way. It was kind of like this: I'd be working on a couple of songs during lockdown, writing, demoing, coming up with as many draft lyrics as possible. Really fleshing everything out, putting in a lot of hours. Lockdown would ease a little and we'd be able to rehearse and tinker. Lockdown would ease a bit more and we'd be able to get into the studio to record the songs. Then we'd go back into a snap lockdown so I’d start working on the next couple of songs. Rinse and repeat.
I'd never worked on an album in this way before. It was the absolute best. Every song got the time and attention it needed and there was no need to compromise. I don't think I'll record any other way again.
You have posted an array of snippets from demos recorded throughout your creative process on social media. How do you go about expanding musical ideas and constructing catchy choruses? What does a typical writing session look like for FERLA?
It's always different. I have a bunch of instruments at home so if I'm not feeling it with one I can pick up another. I guess, broadly, songs take a long time for me to finish. I have a period where I sketch heaps, just jot down or voice memo little ideas and snippets. I've got thousands of those, but most of them are rubbish. The good ones just end up kind of rising to the surface and then I get to work making demos for those. I get bored very easily so if the idea isn't interesting enough to sustain my attention, it gets left behind. Writing songs is hard and time consuming so you wanna make each one count. I'll only bother if the idea really turns me on.
This new album touches on your perspective of the world, and the chaos which is occurring out of your control. Can you tell us a bit more about that and what it's about?
It's about having a meltdown. It's about a world that's teetering on a knife's edge. I mean, only time will tell, but look at the situation between Russia and the Ukraine today. It's fraught the world over. I think I said it best in the liner notes to the album: Personal Hotspot is a fever dream. It's getting hot. Everyone's sweating under their collars, temperatures are getting taken, tempers are boiling over. Neurons misfire while the mainframe overheats. Babes are falling in love while billionaires lunch in low-earth orbit. The ice caps are melting, baby."
Do you feel as though you have grown as a musician and writer since your debut album?
Absolutely. It's Personal is a record about a breakup. And after we recorded that I got pretty sick of myself and my emotions. I wanted to get away from them. And that's where this album started. As a way for me to focus on the outside world as opposed to my own turmoil. I don't ever want to repeat myself so yeah, I think it's a development. A progression.
You are certainly one of the most creative artists I've seen recently in terms of merchandise. In the past we've seen you make some of your own passata tomato sauce, for listeners to indulge in while channeling your Italian heritage. For this new album, you're giving away homemade limoncello! Any tips on the best way to consume it?
To celebrate the release of your new album, you're hosting a launch party on March 26 at the Northcote Social Club! What can we expect to see in your live performance?
Personal Hotspot is out now. Stream the new album below and purchase tickets to the upcoming launch here.