Hello, folks! Welcome to a new edition of EIN’s Weekly Featured Artist. This week, light shines on Giardina and its ridiculous creations. Before delving into the ins and betweens, let me take this first paragraph to pick up on a previous theme also accounted for in my last WFA article.
As an amateur writer – and so, as an extremely amateur journalist – I have trouble separating questions themselves from their nature when thinking for precise questions to artists I want to interview. which logically includes my worldview. ‘Cause I can’t simply make small talk, right? These guys live in the same city I do, getting them a feature in this blog is meaningful to me. Not that they really need it, yet it is my way of giving them a hand they, for sure, deserve. My current view of Argentinean music, then, slips through some of the questions addressed by Giardina, and previously by Pronoia. Thankfully, their answers have been humbling as their perspectives helped me carve mine considerably. They have more experience, they have toured the country, and they really know better about the scene than me. Thus, this piece stands as a lesson for me too, not just a presentation of a magnificent artist. Apologies for stealing the spotlight a little. Just sharing my motivations to make your read richer in context. Now, let’s get our hands on this fun project: Giardina.
What are your thoughts on one-man projects? The very firsts I can think of are Plini or Cloudkicker and they both are cool outlets with engaging tunes. They are not alone. Making music has never been easier; you don’t even have to leave your house anymore. The thought of one guy conceiving every bit of a song looks challenging but super fun. It ends up taking a lot of work for a single person. Yet, it is probably the only way a single person can own the process and pursue its personal vision with lesser interactions and deviations. Unless band members remain passive on a leader’s vision, but that usually triggers side projects, or some space other people can make their own stuff. However, Giardina‘s profile the one you would expect from people recording stuff in their bedroom. Instead, we are talking about recording studios, heavy performances, and cool productions. When asked about the main advantages of this musical format, Edu Giardina said,
‘It’s completely different. In the studio, it really works for me because I can try things, experiment, put myself in a specific musical character to play along with. In that sense, I’m able to achieve what I want to hear. However, when on the stage, I’ll always want to have synergy with musicians. In fact, in our live performances, the first thing I want is for other people to play their own stuff, to make the song their own, too. It makes everything so much fresh.’
Giardina started in 2010, conformed just by Eduardo Giardina. At the moment, he has released one full-length and two EPs, each of them with distinctive characters and themes, reflecting the impressive skillset and musicality. These are: Giardina, Red, and Old Man, respectively. Edu has been a renowned drummer in the Argentinean scene for quite a while, having played with artists as Marilina Bertoldi and several jazz/fusion ensembles. He has also headlined several drum clinics and worked as a session drummer and producer. Actually, that is how I got to know the guy, then I was introduced to his music by a friend a few months later. Under no circumstances I realized that was all his craft, I just thought he played drums.
This kind of project certainly requires strong motivations to navigate the ups and downs of creating all by yourself. In his words, ‘I always dreamt of making records with my songs, ideas, and lyrics. That is my primal motivation for this project. I’ve always had that, and I’ll carry it on in this project: making music.’ Plain and simple.
Like I mentioned before, each release can be situated in a different standpoint of the sonic spectrum. Nevertheless, its resemblances to classic artists and albums bring forth easy listening experiences despite the elaborate nature of every song. It all comes down to songwriting skills. Giardina’s rock-oriented approach gives the first album a grungy feeling through the sound of heavily amped guitars and compressed vocal delivery. Still, songs like “Touch and Go”, or “Forever” explore lighter moods, displaying classic rock, prog rock, and reggae fancies. This record has one of my favorite songs: “Moonflower”. For some reason, the piano intro felt familiar at a first listen. It swings really well through intensity and melody, definitely a highlight and a good representation of what this record is about. We will come back to it later in this piece but make sure to give it a try below. For all the drummers out there, there is a drum fill right at the half of the song that is just a master demonstration of how a simple, well-placed phrase can really shape the intensity of a song. There is no other drum phrase you could place there that would be as effective.
Red, instead, develops a bit more on new age-XTC-like compositions with pop hooks and clever twist rounds. There is a clear The Police vibe going on in “Policemen”, ironically. I feel that this EP is even catchier than the previous release. “Calling Hammerschmidt” is an instant classic. You would agree with me that it belongs to major radio stations playing classic ’80s songs. Another thing to note in this song is that the outro picks up on the last phrases heard at Giardina’s closing track “5AM” evidencing Edu’s commitment to conceptual relevance throughout his discography.
As you may have heard already in the song embeds or videos, Giardina‘s sonic quality is something to note, especially in the two EPs. You can tell how, with each record, it gets tighter and polished. Nevertheless, this is inevitably tied to the overall style and genres explored in each release. Giardina was probably meant to be harsher than Red. Old Man‘s prog linings have also impacted the soundscape’s width as compared to Red. Although distinct, they are all packed with entertaining songs and it, certainly, challenged Argentina’s mainstream artists. It is so diverse that, as I write this, I do not feel that any kind of label would be fair enough. No matter how hard I try to categorize this music, there always something more, to keep you coming back to these amazing compositions.
When facing total control over the art, every aspect of it falls under your responsibility. A fair decision would be either to focus on instrumentation rather than focusing on the conceptual and lyrical elements. Edu’s take on this matter is,
‘All of my records have tons of instrumentation because it’s what I enjoy the most: recording many instruments and create sonic layers. In any case, even if everything is well recorded and sounding good, if there’s no concept, no melody, and no lyrics, then it’s pointless. Every song and every verse have meaning, and I try to entangle them aesthetically.’
What draws my attention the most is how well some melodies work in the context of the music. Given that Edu is primarily a drummer, even though he is a talented multi-instrumentalist, achieving coherent and catchy melodies is not something drummers are famous for. Oh, and drums sound sick in all albums. He nailed them every time.
The last release, Old Man, takes everything to the next level. No matter if the ballads, or guitar licks, crazy drum fills, hooky melodies were great. At this point, Old Man grabs every element and takes it to a higher standard, which is absolutely fantastic. One of the aspects I grabbed at the first couple of spins is a grand improvement in Edu’s vocal performance, started in Red but consolidated in songs like “Babylon (Turn on the Lights)”, “Old Man”, “In The Middle” – everyone for that matter. The other one is the ’80s throwback in certain arrangements like harmonized vocal hooks, gated reverbs on e-drums, huge synth pads. This is all stuff you would listen to in Michael Jackson albums or other massive pop outlets of that era. Here is Edu’s comment on this when asked if this record was about exploring or clinging onto an aesthetic that glorified the ’80s mainstream music,
‘Not really. Old Man’s aesthetic turned out to be as it is as we worked on it with Guille Porro but we never forced any decade on it. If there are elements that remind you of that, it’s because the song asked for it. I grew up with ’80s music and I love it. In this record, and in Red, you can tell. However, it is not an attempt to differentiate me from today’s mainstream music. I like the actual aesthetic. Early on, there was not much to listen to, but now there are tons of them and most of them get formulaic. This doesn’t mean I don’t like the formula: it works.’
A quick note on this: Guillermo Porro is a renowned producer that has collaborated in the making of all Giardina albums. He also recorded and produced many local artists.
The title track is the definitive highlight of this record and my all-time favorite. The buildup to the last chorus is just touching, very emotive stuff. It is the same feeling every time I play “Moonflower”. Of course, there is a cool drum fill here as well, this time with rototoms or something of the sort. As I compared both, I seized this opportunity to ask Edu for a bit of insight on each of these tracks,
‘”Moonflower” is an old song that I had from another project with my brother. Then, along with Guille, we worked it out and gave it a twist. The song finally made its way to the record dressed as something very different from the demos. It was just a piano song. “Old Man”… it’s more prog as far as its arrangements and sections. The difference between these two is recognizable, even in the lyrics. It’s been over ten years since “Moonflower” , I feel older, with much more things to say. I’m an older Edu.’
Lastly, I would like to come back to the fact that all Giardina’s songs are sung in the English language. Normally, this is not something to point out, regardless of the artist’s origin. Most of you, our beloved readers, are English speakers, either native or a second or even third language. In Argentina, that is not something to generalize. My perspective is that there is a kind of taboo that prevents more artists to develop their careers when they try to establish themselves making original music in the English language. Be it for the fear of not having a broad audience, for the fear of being called out as not right, or for the lack of proper language skills, this circumstance is, at least, perceived. My final question to Edu was if he either agreed or disagreed with this perspective,
‘Absolutely. I’m tired of having people tell me that I should leave the country to be noticed, to have bigger exposure. I write lyrics from the bottom of my heart, and I always try to transmit the message as clear as possible. The fact that my songs are in English is linked to the fact that I’ve always done it that way, ever since my early days. It’s pretty rooted, and, if it’s not in English, then I have trouble expressing myself. This being the case, I’m certain that as much as 50% of the people get half of the concept but, the real issue is… that I was born here, and I live here… and many people consider that it’s not genuine and that’s OK. But, it’s my way of making music and it is the most fluent.’
Fortunately, Edu has been super open to address these questions and provide sufficient context to make this article as complete as possible. He is already working on a new full-length release. As from what I read on social media, it will be even more diverse than Old Man, which is at least thrilling. As much as I would like to keep on digging on the musical elements of every album, there is no matching experience than listening for yourself. Make sure to follow him and, more importantly, give his material a try. Hope you guys enjoy this band as much as I do! See you next time.