The italians Messa have been delivering some of the most refreshing and interesting takes on doom in the last couple of years. Even though they’ve released their debut Belfry just a couple of years ago and have barely been together for more than half a decade, they really are gaining some momentum in such an early phase of their career. If one wishes to describe their sound, it would be imperative to mention thick layers of emotive and immersive atmosphere, along with noir/jazz textures and a somewhat Fellini-esque cinematic in their ever flowing sound. Along with a strong sense of emotion, the listener cannot but dive into the water and mist along with the band.
Their artistic vein has taken them to their next big step: Feast For Water, one of our favorite records from last year. Now, they are overwhelmed to be able to showcase their craft at some of the most prevalent music festivals in Europe such as Desertfest, Hellfest, and many others. With this being said, their presence at Roadburn was not only deemed as a perfect pairing, but also a necessary one. While still promoting their most recent their record, the band promised a memorable set with a special involvement from Lorenzo, their saxophonist, at the Het Patronaat. Having arrived one day earlier prior to their performance, we met up with Marco and Sara, along with the rest of the band, to talk about being in the spotlight, their passion for photography, the water element and much more.
Messa live at Desertfest Belgium 2018
It’s been 3 years since Messa released their debut Belfry. However, since releasing Feast For Water, the band has reached a lot of acclaim across Europe. How do you react to this sudden burst of attention?
Sara - It was actually super cool for us because when we started working on Feast For Water, we put all our hearts into that, so seeing that somebody appreciated what we did, basically speaking, was very very cool to us. It’s very cool if somebody appreciates what you’re doing. We are very happy and also very happy to be here at Roadburn this year.
Messa’s music feels wholesome, simple but complex. It weavers a lot of textures, composition and emotion. How is the band’s usual writing process?
Marco - We usually come up with some riffs or some ideas and then of course like most rock bands do, we share ideas with others and set up to make the songs together. Obviously, there’s a general idea we try to follow.
S - Yeah, we kind of have a vision. As soon as the feeling that we have around it or the vision we create around the sound, we try to let it happen and flow. Usually, like he said, somebody comes up with a riff or an idea, and then all together, in the rehearsal room, we try to sew it up and see how we want it to flow and sound, and of course how it feels to us. We do the instrumentals first, than the vocals usually. I think it never started with a vocal line and than the music.
Water is clearly a big element of the band’s. We see it present on Belfry’s album art cover with Lake Reschen, both of your music videos, as well as in title and sound of the second album! Can you explain why the fascination for water?
M - Yes, as I told you before we wanted to have a concept to follow, from the songs to the compositions, to the arrangement, to everything. For us, the water element was a bit of a second step from the first album so we wanted to give this idea to the listener. In the first album there’s this scene of this lake and this belltower, on the second step the listener goes into the water. So he’s diving, which gives this idea of going deep down in this lake. That would be our concept.
Messa Live at Desertfest London 2019
Besides the atmosphere and breeze that Feast For Water emanates, it really does move and develop like a movie scene or a camera setting. It’s very cinematic. I’ve noticed that the band uses a lot of photography, and I’m curious if you hold any filmmaker or photographer as an influence of the band’s sound?
M - Yes, it’s true. First of all, our filmmaker was here and she just went to grab some coffee (laughs), she’s Laura and she’s the director of our three videos and yeah, we started on it and we’re basically three photographers and we’re in a discipline that we all love.
S - I think it’s also one of the ways we have to know each other and to explain the concept that we have with the songs. It really does go hand in hand together, and undoubtedly, there’s a visual part that we all care about which is the photography part, or the pictures that we choose for the cover, and the graphic work around the picture. We care about it as much as we care about the songs that are in the record. We like to see it as a whole body of work, and everybody in the band thinks like this, so we’re on the same hand.
This is your first time at Roadburn. You’re sharing the day with some big names, but what are some of those you really want to see today?
S - I know Twin Temple is playing today, who else?
M - No, there’s just one name that we really want to see today.
S - Yes, Molasses… I mean, we are huge, huge, huge The Devil’s Blood fans and Farida Lemouchi had a lot of importance to me, as a singer, because when we started, I was fully mind blown by The Devil’s Blood and yeah…. I’m completely fully crazy about the band and I did not sing in any band since my first attempt as a singer. I don’t know, she moved me. Her songs are beautiful, her voice is beautiful, and I’m really happy to see her today. M - I never seen The Devil’s Blood live, never. So for us, it’s kind of a chalice to taste.
Especially because of the context behind it all.
S - Yes, also. Here at Roadburn, we are super happy about this. It’s a great chance.
M - I mean, there’s such a great scene of occult rock here in the Netherlands.
S - We really are very happy to be here.
Now that you’ve mentioned your vocals, when did you find out you could actually play this role?
S - I don’t know, it happened, not really as a joke, but….
M - I found out (laughs)
S - Yeah, when were drunk on new year’s eve (laughs), we talked about bands that we loved and started out not as a joke, but there was an interesting… we wanted to sort of explore a certain territory of music. None of us ever played doom and since our two bass players, I was dared that I could sing, and it started out as a joke really (laughs). At the end, I’ve always loved singing. Since I was a kid I was singing all the time, but I’m too shy. I thought I was too shy for that.
M - I was the X Factor guy (laughs).
S - (laughs) I’m shy because I think the vocals are so expressive and show a piece of your heart, like you’re naked or exposed. It’s a very personal instrument, because it’s only yours. All the emotions that you feel can be a sound. I mean, I remember the very first show I did with Messa where I sang with my back to the crowd, because I was just too shy (laughs).
Messa live at Roadburn 2019
Your 2019 is composed of Roadburn, Desertfest, Hellfest, quite a year for you! How does it feel to be playing at the some of the most important festivals in the genre?
S - It feels super cool to us. Sometimes we don’t even believe it (laughs). It’s very important for us because it’s going to be a very crazy experience. We know it’s an awesome chance to spread our music and spread emotions, so we are really happy. For us, it means a lot. Just like the tiny concerts, the big concerts and venues are very important for us but also the tinier ones with not so many people. Every gig is important for us. Obviously it’s always awesome to play in super big stages and venues where everything is super professional. But we also like the tiny concerts with a hundred people in a cramped places.
M - One hundred people is a lot (laughs).
S - Yes, but I don’t necessarily mean a hundred people like ten thousands, just the way you feel about it, is what I meant to say. But we are really happy to play big festivals.
M - I mean, I get stressed every time I play (laughs), at every show, one hour before, even if there’s just five people in front of me, I get stressed.
S - Of course, but that’s because it means something to you. Because playing and doing these songs mean something for us, I mean, I feel the same. Playing live as Messa, it’s a strange thing because sometimes it’s, I don’t know how to say it, but I’d say cathartic. We go on stage and it feels like time is not moving and sometimes we feel that it’s going too fast. Like we finished a concert and “ow already done?”. It’s crazy and my perception, and how I feel sometimes it’s like submerging myself into something which is deeper than anything and then coming up and emerging. I think that in this sense, I really feel tied to this water element, in what I do. For them, I think it’s pretty much the same, because we are completely immersed in what we do. Together and also individually.
For those who haven’t heard Messa, how would you describe one of your live performances? With saxophone of course. Such as your exclusive set at Roadburn.
S - Oh wow, we still don’t know how it’s going to be because it’s going to be tomorrow. Lorenzo here played the saxophone solos on the record and this time we arranged and decided to go for a different tracklist of songs, which have some songs from Belfry and others from Feast For Water, and we arranged them with the saxophone. We don’t know how it’s going to be (laughs).
To finish off, which records have you been listening to lately?
S - Interesting question. My pick would be Maggot Heart with that really great record, that came out last year. I love what she’s doing and what they’re doing, the concept is awesome and the music is awesome. Linnéa is a super great guitarist and I think she has a lot of taste in what she does in all the songs. What she does is amazing and it’s one of my favorite 2018 records.