Following the release of the debut single ‘Power Clash’, which received high praise from the likes of COLORS, Wordplay Magazine, Tonspion and many more, Naples-born, Peckham-based alt-jazz singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leo Pesci has shared his highly anticipated album 'IMPOLITE', out now on Ramrock Red Records.
To help celebrate the new release, Leo was kind enough to chat with us about the new album, sharing some words about his inspirations and journey so far.
Thanks for much for taking the time to speak with us, Leo. Let's dive right into your new album, can you tell hus a bit more about it?
"I started working at 'IMPOLITE' back in 2021. After the last covid lock down of the UK and during the miserable Government of Boris Johnson, I felt I had to say a lot of things about society. Corruption, overpopulation, underfunding of education and healthcare, the western lie of meritocracy, housing crisis, climate change are all signs that our society is going nowhere and I wanted to talk about it, through my music. The artwork, created by architect and street artist Corgan shows the Pruitt-Igoe implosion, as a reminder that we should destroy this stupid society, with art (and actions). But I wanted to talk also about other stuff like toxic masculinity and relationships. Finally 'IMPOLITE' was a bit my alter-ego in 'COMMUNITY', my previous EP. I promised to myself that I would compose only 'free music'; free from considerations like ‘who will listen to it? How can I be part of the scene with this album?' and stuff like that. In the making of 'IMPOLITE' I had no thoughts about the listener, and that’s why I think this album is a real me."
How did you first start making music? Where did it all begin?
"I've always written music, since I was in High school but releasing it is another ting. The first time I thought about writing & producing music in order to share it to the world was in 2020, during lockdown. I had a lot lyrics and compositions in the drawer and, together with my bro Dani, we chose 4 songs, re-arranged and produced them. Then we thought about a stage name and we came out with Leo Pesci – but now I won’t tell you why we chose that -.And that's how my first EP 'Leo Pesci' was born."
How would you describe your sound on the new album? Has it evolved as you've been making music?
"That's difficult to say it. When I listen to my music, I often struggle to label it but, rationally, I think is a mix of soul, funk, jazz and a bit of Neapolitan folk tradition."
"In my last EP 'Community' I was so obsessed with the impression that listeners would have when listening to it and on how they would perceive it. As I said before, with 'IMPOLITE' I just thought to be myself. Genre-wise, I tried not to give a common line to all the tracks; I just thought that each one of the compositions should be a completely different thing, a kind of mix tape. There are many amazing albums that I like but, at the same time, I kind of getting annoyed when I reach to the middle of them, just because I know what to expect. That’s just what I didn’t want to do with 'IMPOLITE'. But regarding lyrics, yes, there is a common line."
What influences most define your music?
"Every project I’ve worked to, has been heavily influenced from whatever I was listening in that moment. I grew up in Italy in the ’90s; my dad was a musician and he introduced me to Neapolitan folk, both traditional and new, like Pino Daniele. On the side, my grandpa was a big fun of Frank Sinatra so I was used to listen to the American songbook since I was a child. I was quite young when I then started exploring jazz, maybe 10 years old. I remember to listen to Bill Evans, Diane Krall, Miles Davis and a few others. At the same time, I also liked a lot funk music, and when I was a teenager I remember to be crazy for Jamiroquai – and I’m still a big fan -. Then, between 2008 and 2010, I played music in Cruises, and then I met jazz musicians that introduced me more to traditional jazz."
"For the following 6 or 7 years I was obsessed with it and it was actually the only genre I would consider to listen to. I listened to every single album of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, The Jazz Messangers and many other jazz cats like these. There was then my fav, Roy Hargrove, maybe the only one that could be both an extraordinary exponent of trad. jazz and at the same time a pioneer, someone that mixed the tradition with R&B and Soul. So far, I still think that there is no album like ‘Hard Groove’ of the RH Factor - in that album Roy featured artists like D’Angelo, Eriyah Badu and Common -. Then, when I moved to London I was fascinated by the UK Jazz and ‘Black Focus’ of Yussef Kamaal literally changed my perspective of jazz. So, my influences are a big mix salad of many stuff."
What is your songwriting process? How does it all come together?
"My creation process has been always different. Sometimes y start from chord progressions and then I add drum beats & lyrics. Sometimes I start from lyrics or maybe I listen to something and I think ‘I like that, I’m gunna try it and add my own sauce’. Anyway, at least for me, creation is not a constant feeling that I have; there are moments that I feel particularly inspired and others that I have nothing to say. Nevertheless, writing music is a habit, the more you spend time creating the more you feel inspired to create."
What’s the most important thing for you when you’re writing a song?
"It is just feeling that I have something to say. And you need time to sit down for a few hours in silence and not think about anything else rather than music. It is a bit like meditation, you need to forget about the world."
What advice would you give to band’s who are looking to make it?
"The process of creation for a band is a bit different. I write down by myself (and for myself), unless I do a session with some other artists and create together - for example, as it happened with Jackson Mathod -. The creation for a band is different: there are more people who join the creative process - consequently, there are more ideas -, and bands have a common aim that gives identity to the band itself that becomes a separate entity, not a group of people playing together. My only advice is just to make music you enjoy playing and you feel identified with, not doing music cause you wanna be like someone or you wanna be recognised by someone."
What’s next for you as an artist?
"Creating and releasing music that serves as a platform for a lot of great independent artists in London that have no space or resources for being heard."
What has been your best moment as a musician so far?
"'IMPOLITE' has been so far the best moment. Working with many talented artists - 15 in 7 tracks - made me feel so blessed and enriched. Also, when Jo Wallace, owner of Ramrock Records, told me she wanted to release my project, I was unbelievably happy - and relieved - of being supported in this journey."
"I had quite a pressure on myself and towards the other musicians who trusted me and joined the album. I felt stuck many times (and you can actually see it in my lyrics of Power Clash, written down before I would know about releasing with a label) and knowing I could be supported with the release of 'IMPOLITE' was actually the best moment so far. I’m also a vinyl collector so I was on the moon about having my album forever immortalised on a physical support!"
"Unfortunately the art industry is like that, no matter how good you think your creation is; if you don’t have someone who will put that in front of the right people, it will stay in your drawer."
Inspired by the latest works of Los Angeles hip hop-jazz/soul artists and producers like Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Thundercat and Kendrick Lamar, ‘Power Clash’ acts as the perfect taster for Leo’s upcoming new album which aims to transcend the limitations of genre and speak out on matters that are difficult to swallow.
His first new music since the release of his EP ‘Community’ in 2021 - which featured well-known artists of the London jazz scene like Jas Kayser, Ella Knight, Nicola Guida, Johnny Woodham, Simon JNR, Dani Diodato and others - IMPOLITE is a musical journey into Jazz, HipHop, Soul, Alternative R&B, Rap. The album features 15 different jazz/hip hop artists with the Moeazy as the first collaboration on ‘Power Clash’.
The 'IMPOLITE' artwork, designed by architect and street artist Julian Corgan, depicts the story of the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Complex in St. Louis, a post-2nd World War housing project which represented one of the earliest failures of neoliberalism, incapable of attending to the needs of the working class. In tracks like ‘Nuffin’ Left But Crumbs’, ‘Evry1’s Theory’ and ‘Nu-st8’, Leo talks about the issues of our times: politics and corruption, inequality and racism, capitalism and the misery it brings to society.
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