In the depths of Boston's music scene, a captivating duo has emerged, bringing the obscure world of Italo-horror cinema to life through sound. Meet FEED US, the brainchild of Nick Zampiello (Zizza) and r|verghxst, united by their love for soundtracks and the allure of forgotten movie genres. FEED US's journey began with a shared passion for the unconventional, aiming to create something both innovative and familiar. They defy the confines of two-minute pop formulas and eschew the depths of experimental ambient, instead occupying a captivating middle ground. The result is a discography that feels like a forbidden film festival, where each track transports listeners to a different cinematic universe. FEED US weaves gothic horror, psychological tension, and midnight dance floor beats into a captivating narrative. We caught up with the band to talk about their process of songwriting and what inspires them:
Q: In your opinion, what are the essential qualities that make a “good songwriter”?
One must have something to say. I struggle with this consistently and it is a connundrum that persists with creation within both sides of the brain. Do I work when I don’t want to for progress or do I wait until I want to say something to turn on the gear? I have practiced both processes over the years and I think that professionalism requires a mixture of the two. One must be ready to dig into art at a moments notice and also allocate several blocks of time every week to push ideas up the hill. This way there is enough initial content and inspiration and also the basic maintenance of editing, refining, and collating can bring the ideas forward. I used to subscribe to the 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration adage. This is probably the best way to accomplish art that you will love on both levels of creativity and execution years later.
Q: What is the basis for writing attention-grabbing music in the year 2023?
Choose your microcosm and embrace it. There’s too much information to be ubiquitous in any way or via any avenue. So find a niche and have fun there. I acquired a Fairlight CMI III in 2020 and I have done many compositions with only that device as well as integrating it into a larger setup. It is a stark and singular sounding machine. Once I mastered the technicals of the system I started to move back into a larger palette of sounds and this coincided with switching to Logic which has tons of instruments and creation tools built in. I am now trying to configure a hybrid workflow where I can use Logic instruments, the Fairlight CMI III, and my normal cadre of drum machines and synths however the mood strikes. A composition may end up being four out of tune synths or several drum machines that are synced or not. It’s really an ‘anything goes’ process.
Q: What has it been like working with an indie record label as opposed to working on your own?The real question is; what is it like to make art publicly in 2023? It’s challenging. There is no big splash. Making art is about creating micro ripples and being consistent while setting some basic deadlines to complete levels of the project. Hopefully it comes together on time without over stressing yourself or the others that need to deliver sections of the project. At some point one must let it go and accept that it is one moment in time. And every moment is broadcast these days. So any mistakes are gone pretty quickly!
Q: Can you pinpoint some specific songs and songwriters that changed the way you write music?
Q: Do you find it hard to be inspired by artists that are younger than you, or are you motivated by their energy? Can you name any new artists you find inspiring?I love the energy. I love the overwhelmingly open aspect of art creation these days where anything goes at any moment. There are no out of fashion genres or sounds. We are at the end of western culture for better or worse. I am learning to embrace it. I have realized that for every one of the compositions I have made there is no set genre. The people that were around me with an opinion when I made a specific piece of music would probably say something totally opposite today. Now that everyone is hearing a different reality together in time. Historically I used to resent people not hearing a composition how I intended it but I can’t help that can I? The joke is on them. They categorized the art not me. It’s their loss!
Q: For your new album, what inspired the lyrical content, album title, and overall vibe?
We are inspired by soundtracks and some sparsely sprinkled spooky movie clips. I am more excited about music for film than discrete songs or music only formats. I think that having images or moving picture informs the listener to a greater artistic vision. This has been the permanent way of formal music since film with sound began and for all formats since MTV cemented the pop music with image paradigm. Instagram and TikTok are just tiny chinks of this same format.
Q: Do you find that you deliberate over writing songs and hold on to them for a long time before including them on a record? Or do you prefer to write them, release them, and be done with them? Do you ever re-visit old material to do a re-write or once it’s done it’s done?
I have between 1000 and 1500 compositions in the hard disk vault depending on when I start counting. Plus boxes of 4-track cassette recordings and old sampler sequences that were from before I numbered things. I started numbering around 2001 when the first Intel macs came out. Some of the compositions on this LP date back several decades. I try to get each piece of music as far up the hill as I can before I can’t hear it objectively. This can be one hour or a week. It’s hard to tell but I try to stop before the tinkering starts to undermine the piece. I wish I felt like I could burst out an idea from inception to fruition including mix and release it immediately but this is unrealistic. There is a modern aspect to this workflow in DJ and MIDI culture but I come from bands in a room hashing out ideas. I don’t want to cut corners to dump out same sounding compositions. Every one of my pieces is based on how I had the specific gear set up that second for that composition. I don’t even save synth presets on synths that can do it. I am not looking for last weeks feelings. I am trying to record the exact feelings I have at the moment I press record. One thing to note is that they all have instruments on them that I still use today. Real instruments are real forever. I am happy about this. When I was collecting drum machines and synths in the late 90’s to 2010’s much of this gear was considered junk or obsolete. This has been proven to be categorically untrue. Many of them I was saving from the trash. And they are now considered classics. On this LP there is a Juno 60 thatI got in trade for recording time in the early 90’s. It’s a classic.
Q: Were there any lessons you learned in the writing and recording process for your current release that you will take with you into your next project?
This is our first collaboration in this incarnation. We have made music together for at least a decade but in other roles and with other people. I hope to get a more streamlined process in the future. For instance, I started this LP in Pro Tools and ended in Logic. I will be working in Logic from now on excepting the retrieval of old compositions which were recorded in Pro Tools from the late 90’s until 2022. I maintain several computers to cover all these OS and Pro Tools file structure changes. It’s pretty time and space intensive. But I can open a session in Mac OS7 all the way to Ventura or whatever the newest one is called this week. I am also psyched to see Ben’s progression from found sound to live looping and using samplers more. Historically he would be playing bass on records I was recording. Now he is using modern drum machines and softwares which is really exciting for me.