by Gian Jesus
Have you ever felt out of place? Have you ever felt out of space or just as another person walking the streets wearing a mask? Well probably you did it, and if is the case you did perhaps look for a way to fit in, to enjoy naturally the constant passage of time. We are all adaptable beings looking for goodness, in search of a method of living free of suffering and anxiety.
Two Italian in Amsterdam
Thinman & Sparrow is a duo based in Amsterdam, formed by me, Gian Jesus, arranging and playing the music with Frank Valchiria, singing and writing. We are both born and raised in Napoli, Italy, making our meeting in Amsterdam so serendipitous.
We met in a rehearsal room in Amsterdam in the Winter of 2015, trying to play some original rock tunes with a great drummer, a dude from Germany. He and Frank used to play a few years back in a rock band called Day After The Storm. After a few weeks of rehearsing, the drummer left for England, where he is still rocking now, and we found ourselves just with a guitar, a voice and plenty of stories to tell.
So what to do? Well, we decided to write some straightforward folk tunes! We started to meet here and there, mainly in Frank’s house, a lovely penthouse apartment with a great view on the city, going through different chord progressions, writing lyrics, trying ideas based on the feeling that the rhythm and the melody were suggesting. We found pretty soon that the songs were writing themselves, so we felt the need to stay better tuned to each other and pay attention to what the stars were giving to us, nicely visible from our location.
Becoming friends while growing as a band
With the passing of the seasons, we kept our routine quite tight: Start around 12, free jam with old tunes to warm up, then a deep dive into our brand new songs, playing them in different keys, with different rhythms, with several vibes until late into the night. In the morning we usually got some of the best ideas together to record demos.
During breaks, we were talking about things, getting to know each other on a more personal level. Pretty soon we were good friends; I think that the common root we had helped, but I’m not sure, anyway friendship is always a good thing and helps to work together more honestly.
From the beginning, we were very straightforward expressing our feelings about the songs and what we were trying to do, especially on how to do it at our best. I think we both pushed our boundaries this way. They say: “You start to live when you get out from your comfort area!” Well, in this case, we both felt this to be true.
From open mic to the studio
In a couple of months we had around 10 songs, so we started to rehearse them in open mic sessions around the city. People responded well, helped us to understand which tune had the best impact.
So, we found a studio In Amsterdam, IJstudio, and recorded live 6 tunes. It was a great day, we never played a song more than twice if I remember right. After a few days, we went to mix it down at the Amsterdam American Hotel, such a great room, and console. We overdubbed few things and finished our first EP: I Still Believe.
If I hear those tunes now, honestly, I still like how they sound. I think we were sincere in trying to express ourselves both lyrically and musically. Things are a little better now, but when we met, we both had what you might call a “remote life,” if you know what I mean, and music helps, it can take you through the day with a different energy, give you the time and the stillness to hear the birds and breathe in the wind. So, day by day, you can better face the time that shapes you, your music and what you try to say.
Nowadays, we are writing and recording more than ever. I got few more pieces of equipment to have a good clean home recording, so with the help of a great dude, Niek de Wit, we mix and master everything down in his studio in Amsterdam West, the Studio Amsterdam. Working in the studio is something that I’m discovering to love more than I expected.
Growing as musicians
With this new routine, we can produce a song quickly investing 100/150 euro each. So far, we recorded and published 4 more songs in this way. We spend more time on a single piece now, recording different parts, employing different instruments.
Consequently, we are approaching songs now in a more open way, trying to explore different styles of music, styles dear to us, the music we listen and love since we were kids. We are trying to bring things back home, in a way that can fit our new story to tell, maybe one just found in the corner at the edge of town.
Urban folk musicians
We like to think of ourselves as urban folk musicians, living in these times trying to write of what we see and what we care, therefore, hopefully, what it is worth to be heard. Some songs are more comfortable than others, some of them are coming in the morning, some other in the night. Sometimes you get a melody in a crowded room, some other times when you ramble between green pastures all alone.
Songs are coming as falling stars from time to time, without neither living a trace in your memory. Today I read a quote from Igor Stravinsky: Poetics of Music in the form of six lessons:
“…The more art is controlled, limited, worked over, the more it is free.”
The concepts he tries to express with that phrase definitely match my experience, my process of working. We are just vehicles, the song is the master, is the law. Consequently, we are here only to serve the will of this inexhaustible muse. We must shape it in a way we and others can understand.
For me, it is important to not go too far from that initial fire, that Platonic movement of the spheres coming with the emotion of a brand new song.