Before Italia 90 there was only Les Miserable, J Dangerous, Bobby Portrait and Captain ACAB. The semi-piss-taking stage names of four childhood pals, dreamt up one evening in their shared flat, it would take years before the quartet fleshed out the concept they had and actually picked up some instruments. “We had the idea of the band years before the band existed; we used to have long chats about what we’d sound like, what we’d look like, bands we loved,” explains Les. “We never thought it would turn into something anyone would ever come and see,” adds J.
However, having relocated from their native Brighton to South London, now the quartet stand as the latest in a recent slew of punk bands from the area pricking up ears. Not only are people coming to watch the band, they’re undoubtedly liking what they see.
Yet, though they’re regular players at oft-mentioned scene hub The Windmill, the close-knit, decades-old friendship of Italia 90’s members (all met between the ages of six and eleven) means there’s a lot more going on within the band than just another group of angry young newcomers. “If you were starting a band from scratch and you were looking for people to join your band, you’d probably lean towards people that look like you or that listen to the same music as you. But it’s almost irrelevant for us because we’ve been friends for so long,” explains Bobby. “Your Dad said that it looks like every member of Italia 90 belongs in a different decade,” chuckles Captain ACAB (we’re sticking with these names…) to Les.
A motley crew they may be, but it’s this unlikely mix that makes the group so intriguing. Les’ vocal style might be a no-nonsense speak-sing monotone, his lyrics focusing in on specific bones of contention from apologists of police brutality to the prosecution of soldiers in Northern Ireland (“Can’t you ever just write a song about your girlfriend?” jokes Bobby), but behind him the other three meld a lifetime of different listening habits, from electronic music to drone and more conventional punk, to create a strange, jagged backdrop for him to react against. “You can hear a lot of influences, that’s what a lot of people are picking up on,” nods Les. “But I feel like whatever we do it’ll always sound like Italia 90 once he starts shouting over the top,” grins J. “And I mean that in the best possible way…”
As featured in the November 2019 issue of DIY, out now.