bar italia | And Anyway, There Needn’t Be a Name For This

Via the 25th Anniversary Issue, Under The Silver Moon

Written by

Bree Castillo

Photographed by

Dax Reedy

Styled by

Dax Reedy

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Left to right: Jezmi wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, and glasses. Sam wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, and tie. Nina wears stylist’s own dress.

In their five years of existence, London-based band, bar italia has kept their image to a minimum, leaving something to be desired and much to be presumed. With very few interviews and an even quieter online presence, their enigma is perpetuated and echoed, further fueled by their lore on any “indie rock” discourse, which loves presumption as much as it does profundity. But sitting in front of the band members— Nina Cristante, Sam Fenton, and Jezmi Tarik Fehmi (whose names have only been confirmed this year)—contradicts the now fairly extensive assumptions. They are quiet at first, but this reads more as timidity than pretension. Observing them interact, their sentences bleeding into one another when I ask them why they make music and if life has to have meaning to endure it, feels as if I’m watching a song build right in front of me.

So I must ask, why all the mystique? “I fully have impostor syndrome still,” Jezmi confesses. “I think there was maybe this perception of us, because mystery creates intrigue. And when there’s intrigue, you have expectations about something. And maybe people thought we were going to be more interesting than we are, but we’re not.”

Sometimes we can get lost in the enigma of it all—disoriented, trying to grasp something we can not yet understand, afraid of the unknown. To sedate this dread, we’ll fill in the blanks and force ourselves to define all that we know. But bar italia is not prone to the disentanglement of meaning for the sake of ego. Instead, this band revels in the oblique synthesis of being, allowing their music to contextualize and be true as opposed to uninformed loudness.

Left to right: Nina wears stylist’s own dress and talent’s own tights and shoes. Jezmi wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, shoes, and glasses. Sam wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, shoes, and tie.

In their latest offering, The Twits, bar italia reveals a 13-track insular freefall into their consciousness. As their fourth studio release and second album with Matador Records, what comes to light is a more realized sound with showering layers of guitar and a gauzy divulgence of opaque sentiments—loneliness, existentialism, the future. The keys are dense, turbulent and exposed. The Marta Salogni-produced album comes only six months after Tracey Denim, where the three seem to play with sound’s natural inclination to ebb and flow, honoring its slow build and inevitable momentum.

The Twits and Tracey Denim intensifies their early tinkerings, 2020’s Quarrel and 2021’s Bedhead, wherein ephemeral drenched moments of intimacy are delicately wrapped in waning dissonance, only to be crushed by their own weight. Even at conception, bar italia has known how to manipulate the severity of each sonic morsel and tendril. The band finds limerick harmony, using their foundation from previous projects—the boys’ Double Virgo and NINA’s solo work—as a point of return and reference. Bare lyricism and simply put confessionals meet unkept yet endearing production. In “Real house wibes (desperate house vibes),” Nina sings, Cause I can’t just pick up a story / And make it the whole of who I am. The message is more vulnerable than mysterious—that every word should have meaning, that things aren’t said just to be said. “Because we all know that you can’t really control how you are seen beyond a certain point,” Sam considers. “And if you think you are controlling, you’re not. With that in mind, we don’t really go about trying to. Ultimately, how you are perceived is down to the person [feeling] something, which is why it’s nice when you meet people who perceive it in a way that means something.”

And there is something to be lamented on our concerning psychological need to label and sort everything we touch. But our feelings aren’t always completely explicable, and should not be minimized by the tendency of archetypes and genres. “Yeah, most of the time people get the genre wrong,” Nina jokes. “I kind of stopped thinking about it just because I see so many of those names just being thrown around.”

Left to right: Jezmi wears talent’s own coat, shirt, pants, shoes, and glasses. Nina wears PLAYBOY set and talent’s own tights and shoes. Sam wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, shoes, and tie.

Jezmi adds, “And genres are designed to not let people have something new.” It is here where I decide to refrain from using the words you might see attached to a band like bar italia, (i.e. fuzzy, noise, shoe****, post-whatever). And to be honest, it’s not that hard. While their music is indebted to what has come before, there is a newness to the band that is easy to pick up but hard to define. Maybe it’s something about the way in which nothing from them seems contrived or pointed. Or maybe how they are able to deposit emotion without opposing meaning onto something else, leaving their breath to be interpreted in every way. 

Like most things that come into our lives by kismet or otherwise, we must still actively partake in everything we choose. Nina shares, “I think we somehow got on this path and we chose each other.” Sam adds, “It goes back to the meaning of life because it’s like you’re fated to do something, but you also have to engage with it as if you’re not, and go full headfirst into it—into your fate.”

But that it is easier said than done. Everyday we are tossed around without regard, bumping shoulders and watching our friends do the same. How do we ask the people around us to hold the feelings we don’t want to when we can’t event admit it for ourselves? Sam shares, “You can’t just expect to stay open in what we’re doing. It’s so much easier to ship it off and, I don’t know, go through a certain kind of motion.” Nina continues, “It’s very easy to just float from one thing to the other and just kind of tap out. It’s a lot of conscious work against resistance.”

Jezmi takes a breath and adds, “I think this is the most open-hearted I’ve ever been in my life.” His voice is soft, his glaze hovers towards the edge... of what? I don’t know. “I don’t think I’ve had a very open heart before. I would make attempts to open it by being messed up at a weekend, possibly creating drama in my life to make things feel like they were emotionally important to me. But I think I’ve had a lot of true exchanges of genuine emotions. I’ve cried more in than last year than I’ve ever had.”

And with that, bar italia’s song is finished, and I am left to decipher what it means. Then again, some things are best left unsaid. Why ruin this feeling with words? 

Left to right: Jezmi wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, and glasses. Sam wears talent’s own jacket, shirt, pants, and tie. Nina wears stylist’s own dress.

Photographed and Styled by Dax Reedy

Written by Bree Castillo

Hair/Makeup: Angel Gabriel

Location: Civilian Hotel

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bar italia, Flaunt Magazine, Bree Castillo