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We spoke to Cecilia Della Peruti, aka Gothic Tropic, about her latest album ‘Fast or Feast’, her musical upbringing and the importance of having an arch-nemesis…
Congratulations on the release of your new record ‘Fast or Feast’, how have people responded to the record so far?
People have been surprisingly generous and responded to it very well, we’ve been getting some good reviews from different publications like Spiegel, who are a pretty big German publication, they put my song at #5 on their ‘Best of the Week’ list, which was cool!
I’ve heard that Ryan Adams is a fan of your music, what was it like to hear him give you so much praise?
We know each other, because about 5 years ago we were in the studio together for fun with a few others and I sent him some of the Gothic Tropic demos, because we were thinking about collaborating on the distribution front. He texted me saying that he really liked the demos for this album, so to have someone like him compliment your music, it really gives you one of those little morale boosts that you need sometimes in order to keep going.
Previously, you’ve been a session player for Charli XCX and BØRNS, what were they like to work with and what made you want to start focusing on Gothic Tropic instead?
I worked with BØRNS for a couple of years and that was really huge for me, as far as learning about how a pop band works on a major label. It was cool to learn his songs and see how he writes music, he’s an incredible songwriter and he’s insanely talented. We were friends before he asked me to audition, so the audition was more of a formality, but I was so glad that I was given the opportunity to work with him.
I only worked with Charli for a couple of shows, mainly through playing with Bleachers before that, because Charli and Jack [Antonoff] did a co-headline tour. I had the option of carrying on with BØRNS for another 2 years but I chose to play a few shows with Charli because it was a smaller commitment and after that I was able to start focusing on my own band. It was nice to be a part of her cool girl band on the Sucker tour, Charli is super focused and she’s a very hard worker.
The song from ‘Fast or Feast’ which stands out to me the most is ‘Stronger’ – I think it’s a really bold opening track which embraces femininity as something to be proud of, rather than something to shy away from. Was that your intention when you were writing the song?
It came out of a natural frustration, it was a very cathartic moment. The progression on the song used to be really slow, almost R&B, so I took that progression and sped it up so it was more punchy and angular. I wanted the rhythms to be less predictable and the lyrics just came out of the response you sometimes get as a woman when you assert yourself. There are situations when you’re objectively right and people are wrong for making you feel like you’re wrong. I wanted to include my own experiences in the song but I also wanted it to be an anthem of empowerment for anyone, not just women.
Would you say that your songs are predominantly autobiographical or do you write from the perspective of others? Songs like ‘How Life Works’ seem to be very autobiographical!
That one is, for sure. Actually, most of them are autobiographical. ’Don’t Give Me Up’ isn’t about me though, it was inspired by two friends of mine who are a couple and it’s about me being in this unique position where I’m friends with both of them. ‘Feed You To The Shark’ is not about a man unfortunately, it’s about a girl, because I have one arch nemesis – you’ve got to have one! [laughs] She’s really mean and I wrote a song about her, but everyone seems to think it’s about an ex-boyfriend or something, but it’s not. Where’s the feminist handbook that says you have to love demon people? [laughs] There are exceptions where you have to respect your own mental health, you don’t have to love everyone and to be a feminist, you don’t have to love every female.
Which tracks on the record were the most difficult to write?
‘Cry Like A Man’ doesn’t sit with me well, even now, production-wise. Although I love to perform it live, there’s a spirit missing from that track when you hear it on the record. I wish I could’ve captured the live spirit of it, but I’m still really proud of the song. ‘Chemical Trail’ was the most difficult to write lyrically because it’s hard to make a slow jam without having corny lyrics.
You seem to have grown up in a very musical household with both of your parents working in the music industry as musicians. What was it like to grow up in that environment?
Both of my parents approach music academically, my mum is an opera singer and so she’s learnt hundreds of pieces, 6 languages and she’s also a musicologist and a vocal coach. My dad is similar, he has a jazz project and he’s done everything from jazz to baroque to chamber music. I wish I could exercise that part of my brain and sightread in the way that they can, but I can’t, so I chose to make rock ’n’ roll music instead!
Did they give you any tips about how to look after your voice when you’re on tour?
Oh yeah! My mum is very thorough and gives me lots of advice. She cries when she comes to my shows, both of my parents are so supportive. After my dad saw me live for the first time, he was breaking down the different parts of my songs and he was like ‘And when you did this at the end of that song! It’s so interesting!’ but I have no idea what I did to make these songs.
I love the album cover for ‘Fast or Feast’, who designed it and was there any intention behind it?
My friend Ryan Aylsworth shot that, we grew up on the same street in North Hollywood and became friends a little after high school through going to shows in LA together. We’ve been such good friends for so long, he’s a fellow Virgo and we shoot photos all the time, even if I can’t pay him. He’s been so supportive of my band. The album cover photo was just an outtake but when we were looking through the photos I was like ‘Wait! What’s that one?’. I loved it because it’s kind of shy and understated. The photo had a movement to it and it was totally candid. It personified my ethos of wanting to do everything naturally, I don’t want to pose for anything.
Is there any new music you’re loving at the moment?
I love the new Timber Timbre album, there’s one track from it called ‘Grifting’ and it sounds like a lost Bowie track from the 70s – just amazing.
Finally, is there a second Gothic Tropic record on the horizon?
Yes! I’m writing it at the moment, it took so long to write ‘Fast or Feast’ because I didn’t know that I would end up taking it this seriously. I want to record it live this time though!