Dumbo Gets Mad on their Psychedelic Pop

An Interview with Luca Bergomi of Dumbo Gets Mad

Dumbo Gets Mad is the brainchild of Luca Bergomi, launched in 2011 out of Los Angeles. Their debut album, Elephants at the Door, burst onto the scene with a fresh mix of psychedelic pop, quickly catching the ears of fans and critics alike. In 2013, they released Quantum Leap, taking their sound to new dimensions. After a break, Dumbo Gets Mad made a comeback in 2019 with “Makes You Fly”, setting the stage for their 2021 album, Things Are Random And Time Is Speeding Up. 

What influences or circumstances led you to making music? 

The circumstances were mainly an attraction to music, which began quite late. I started playing around the age of 18-19, without any prior experience. My passion for music sparked thanks to friends who had a rehearsal space. One of them, a guitarist, taught me my first lessons. I quickly fell in love with music as an art form. Even though I was playing basketball and studying, I realized that music was the path I wanted to follow. So, I left sports and completed a course of studies that I didn’t pursue professionally, choosing instead to make music my career. My main influences come from the music of the 1960s, including both progressive rock and pop. I have always loved the singer-songwriter pop of those times. Over time, I have explored various genres, but the foundation of it all remains psychedelia.

How did the band start, how did you meet, what challenges did you face initially, and why were you in Los Angeles? 

I started the project by composing music, and soon found myself with a folder filled with demos, each named after letters of the alphabet. This was just a simple way to organize the ideas and sounds I had created. At that time, I was working in a recording studio, which gave me familiarity with various programs, equipment, and microphones. This background helped me decide to record my first album.

For vocals, I asked Carlotta for help; we were dating at the time, and she assisted with the singing. After completing the first album, I decided to quit my job at the studio and moved to Los Angeles for a few months, where I finished the album. I released it while I was there.

Over the years, I returned to Los Angeles several times, both to perform and to live for short periods. However, I am now based in Italy, specifically in Milan. This is where I live and continue my work.

What was the atmosphere of the underground scene in Los Angeles in 2011 when you founded Dumbo Gets Mad? 

It was very interesting because it was the beginning of the rediscovery of the R’n’B boom. It wasn’t exactly a new scene; it had always existed. In Los Angeles, artists like DāM-FunK and the label Brainfeeder founded by Flying Lotus were key figures. Even though this genre was completely different from what I was doing, it was a tremendous source of inspiration for me. For instance, I really wore out Flying Lotus’s early records. There was a vibrant underground and psychedelic scene there.

At that time, the psychedelic movement hadn’t fully arrived; the scene was more electronic. There was a significant focus on electronic music, programming, and early software like Ableton. This made the era very intriguing. Gradually, with the rise of projects like those from Amoeba Music, which decided to embrace a psychedelic direction, everything started to take off around 2014 or 2013.

However, I was there in 2011, and unfortunately, the psychedelic fervor hadn’t yet taken hold. The scene was more about sonic experimentation, which was still very interesting. It was great to attend shows and concerts, which were always incredibly inspiring.

Why did you choose the name Dumbo Gets Mad? 

The name comes from the Disney film “Dumbo,” which I happened to rewatch one evening. The scene where Dumbo ends up in a barrel of wine and has visions of pink elephants, known as the “Pink Elephant Parade,” deeply impacted me during my childhood. This memory inspired the name of the project.

How did the film influence your approach to creating music and your overall sound, growing up in Italy? 

In Italy, I’ve always felt like a fish out of water regarding the genre I pursued, as there was no significant audience for it. Although some interest has started to develop recently, it was almost non-existent in the past, except for a few niche groups that have become more engaged over time, with whom I still have some exchanges today.

Nevertheless, Italy has contributed immensely to music. For instance, during the golden era of Italian library music, composers like Bruno Nicolai, Alessandro Alessandroni, Ennio Morricone, and others, were highly respected. They were adept at both absolute and applied music, showing a remarkable understanding of their artistic goals. Their work is artistically admirable and serves as a major source of inspiration for my music.

I also have a deep appreciation for the Italian pop scene of the 1960s. I still listen to music from that era, which includes many fantastic productions often created by the same composers. This music endures over time, which is a testament to its artistic depth and quality.

How do your personal experiences and emotions influence your way of storytelling through music? 

Well, I believe it’s more instinctual rather than a conscious process of reflecting on my emotions. The inspiration for my music seems to come from an undefined place, and when I try to chase this inspiration, it naturally leads me to create something.

It’s rare for me to think, “I’m angry today, so I’ll write a piece that reflects my mood.” My music isn’t that spontaneous in capturing immediate emotions. It’s more connected to a deeper, almost primal concept—more internal than external. My work isn’t heavily influenced by external factors.

However, I am undoubtedly influenced by the music I listen to, though not necessarily by my emotions in a direct way. If my emotions do play a role, it’s in a subconscious manner, and I couldn’t explicitly tell you how.

Your music evokes a certain sense of nostalgia and a dreamy quality. Was that your intention? 

It’s nice to hear that comparison. We aim to create soundscapes that can evoke deep emotions and memories. Our music seeks to be a sonic journey that can awaken feelings of nostalgia and dreams.

What role did experimentation play in creating your soundscapes in “Quantum Leap”? 

Well, back then, I was starting to discover the unique qualities of tapes, which, like it or not, offer a warmer, richer sound full of vitality and timbre. For me, it’s always been about that distinctive timbre.

I heavily utilized tapes for recording my album and experimented with techniques that were unfamiliar to me at the time, such as microphone placement and other nuanced aspects of recording. There was a lot of experimentation involved.

I’m quite slow when it comes to producing music, not so much in composing it but in the actual production process. I don’t enjoy the idea of going into the studio with a band, having them play the pieces I’ve composed, mixing them, and being done with it. I prefer to experiment with production, adding multiple sounds, layers, and diverse atmospheres within a track or throughout an album.

This approach allows me to create something that is, from a certain point of view, unique and almost unrepeatable. I have always enjoyed striving for that uniqueness.

What are your favorite instruments or equipment that you use in the studio? 

Currently, my favorite is the Studer 169 eight-channel mixer. Recently, I acquired a Soyuz microphone, with aerospace-grade components from the 60s. I use a Rhodes piano daily, which has become an inseparable companion. Among other instruments, I have a 1959 Kay bass, which I use in all recordings for its unique sound.

Which songs are you most attached to, and which were the hardest to create? 

The song I’m most attached to is probably from my first album, titled “Marmellate Kids.” It’s a track that I still enjoy listening to and perhaps my favorite to revisit.

As for the most difficult piece? It’s hard to say. All the songs were challenging to record and produce, so I can’t single out just one. Some tracks are particularly long and have multiple sections, which makes them more complex. For instance, I remember a piece that begins with an extensive intro and includes various sections and saxophone interventions.

Mixing such a track was very challenging because it had so many layers and elements. When there are numerous open tracks, the mixing process becomes quite prolonged. I typically combine mixing and production, which also adds to the complexity. So, if I had to choose the most challenging piece, it would be one of those lengthy, multi-layered tracks.

After a four-year hiatus, what inspired you to return with “Things Are Random And Time Is Speeding Up”? 

The album was actually ready well before its release. It was completed by early 2020, but its release was delayed. Initially, I was set to start a tour in the United States, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When I returned home, I revisited the final touches of the album, and it was eventually released about six months later, in 2021.

The album was initially supposed to come out a year earlier, but due to the unforeseen circumstances and the necessary waiting periods, its release was postponed. Even though it was ready, the pandemic disrupted my plans, and I had to take a few extra months to finalize everything. As a result, what should have been released earlier only came out in 2021.

How was the experience of recording at the 18th-century villa in Reggio Emilia for your session? 

It was a very beautiful experience. Reggio Emilia, my hometown, always evokes childhood memories for me. That particular villa, though, was almost entirely new to me. I had only visited it once before with the crew from Frame Dealer, who eventually filmed there. We were scouting various locations, and that villa stood out as especially beautiful.

The villa’s interiors were stunning, and we initially considered recording some footage inside. However, due to the long day and technical issues, such as the need for generators, we couldn’t manage it. Despite these challenges, the day turned out wonderfully.

I believe the video turned out great because we were essentially filming in familiar territory, almost like being at home within those walls.

Who designed the costumes? 

The costumes were provided by Arthur Arbesser, an Austrian designer living in Milan. He is a friend of Diletta, who works with him. We requested them, and he kindly gave them to us.

Do you have any future projects or collaborations? 

Yes, in the meantime, I’ve produced an EP and a full album for other artists. Currently, I have nearly finished producing a new album for Dumbo. We plan to release a single soon, hopefully around July.

I can’t specify the exact date yet, but we aim for a summer release. Following that, the full album is expected to be released at the beginning of 2025. We’ll likely release 2 or 3 singles leading up to the album: one now, another in September, and one in October. The complete album will then come out in early 2025.

Photo courtesy of Dumbo Gets Mad

Last Updated on July 9, 2024 by retrofuturista

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