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Listen to Nuovo Testamento’s Fantastic Dark Italo Disco LP “New Earth”—Plus Interview

Nuovo Testamento’s New Earth is, without a doubt, an album for the summer. Glistening, shimmering synthesizers and Italo disco-infused beats are prominent in the new release by the band—members Andrea Mantione and Giacomo Zatti are based in Italy, while Chelsey Crowley is in Los Angeles—whose influences range from Hi-NRG, to freestyle, to their roots in deathrock and punk.  This mish-mash of elements create the edge for New Earth‘s specific sound that consists of addictive hooks that are saturated in melancholy, all underneath Crowley’s bright vocals.

Their Italo disco influence has a large presence in the first half of the record; songs such as “Michelle, Michelle” and “The Searcher” are primed for the dance floor. “Golden Boy” blends post-punk guitars into its sorrowful melody while “New Earth” and “Intuition” perfectly blend Radiorama and Eighth Wonder’s unabashed pop sensibility with the synthesized gloominess of Red Flag or Cetu Javu.

Out on June 30th via Avant! Records, we’ve got an exclusive stream of New Earth. We promise this will be your soundtrack for the next few steamy months. We also spoke with the band about their deathrock family, the recording process of New Earth as an internationally-based band, and what’s next for them (hint: lots of touring).

You came from a big deathrock/anarcho-punk family, how did you initially decide to start Nuovo Testamento?

Andrea: We found ourselves playing in different bands and countries for many years and finally decided it was time to start a band together. Chelsey was in Italy with us at the time and was the perfect fit for vocals, since both of us were big fans of her way of singing.

Giacomo: Andrea and I have known each other for more than twenty years, we grew up together. We started working on this in 2018 when I flew home for the holidays between tours and just wanted to play something different. We got inspired and suddenly we had six songs ready, most of which ended up being the Exposure 12″.

Where did the name come from?

G: Me and Andrea are from a very religious country so it’s an interesting place to have a different way of thinking. We’re fascinated by the infinite misuses and misinterpretations of something considered so fundamental, how that immediately makes the sacred profane, etc. The conflicts and contradictions in that conversation are so interesting and we were talking about it a lot at the time. Then we started making this music that was both light and dark and really interpretive because of that, and it just stuck.

How do you approach writing for NT versus a deathrock band?

A: The approach is a bit different. First of all, this is less guitar-driven. I find myself more focused on synth melodies or bass melodies and with this approach I get to be more engrossed in the atmosphere and musicality of the song; it’s hard to explain but it’s different than leading with the punk attitude that our other bands have.

Chelsey: On my end, the approach is completely different. With dark punk and deathrock, I always started with the lyrics and made them fit the song which created more unexpected or urgent-feeling melodies. This stuff is meant to still resonate with people but in a less challenging way, it starts with melodies as the way in.

When did you start writing New Earth? In what ways did the pandemic influence the result, if any?

C: New Earth started late 2019 in Bologna and was a complete frenzy, we were really inspired and energized by the direction everything was going. Lockdown kicked in right as Andrea was headed to our place in Los Angeles to record it as an EP, so we decided to keep writing remotely while waiting it out. I think a lot of folks were really broken down and cracked open by what they went through in 2020, that was certainly true for me personally and I think the songs really benefited from that because I had a lot less desire to second-guess myself, so it was an exhausting but really organic process in that way.

New Earth’s sound is more poppy than your 12″, which is coldwave-based and softer. What caused the change towards a more italo-disco/new wave sound?

C: I wasn’t originally part of the equation, the 12″ songs were written for the male voice. I love those songs but I’m not a coldwave dude and continuing to write songs like I was would’ve been really forced. We just let it evolve and got really excited about leaning into this stuff we love but never occurred to us to play.

G: To be honest it happened so naturally.

A: We always listened to Italo disco & new wave obviously but didn’t have the skills to play it, I think Giacomo & I getting more comfortable with keyboards and synthesizers also inspired that shift.

Has the Italo genre always been somewhat of a “guilty pleasure” for you? What do two Italians bring to the project?

G: Kind of, it’s always around in Italy in a way that it’s not elsewhere. So you’re hearing it everywhere, from your parents or tv or movies.

A: You’re so used to hearing it but it’s considered disposable music, it used to be churned out really quickly. That’s always piqued my interest so we started looking at it more analytically, the sounds and construction, etc, and found a lot that we liked that gets overlooked or not taken seriously because it’s considered kind of kitsch. That’s been a lot of fun.

C: These guys have an inherent understanding of the genre because they’ve heard it their whole lives, whereas outside of Italy and Europe I think it’s still very much a novelty. They concern themselves with a level of authenticity around gear, voices, patterns, etc that someone from a different background might not bother to explore.

It’s easy to compare New Earth to bands from the 80s, how do you think NT is different from a throwback band?

C – We’re not trying to sound like any one thing, I think NT is really just our interpretation of a mix of styles that have influenced us. Of course, it might be almost exclusively 80s styles but we’re used to seeing them in silos. On New Earth you hear Italo disco but you also hear our dark roots and Hi-NRG, synthpop, and straight-up international pop. A lot of the vocal lines started from a very post-punk place, but put it on top of some bells and in a higher register and that changes. It’s real in that way and, at least to us, sounds different.

What records or artists influenced you for the writing of NE? Any artists growing up that informed this album?

G: Pet Shop Boys for sure and Italian pop, especially the productions from Roberto Turatti e Michele Chieregato and Shep Pettibone.

A: 80s Matia Bazar and Mango on top of everyone, some sounds from Germany like Alphaville and Mother Talking.

C: Pop and freestyle royalty like Expose’, Mandy Smith, Sheila E, Gloria Estefan. A lot of Yugoslav and Soviet new wave, German synthpop.

What is the process of writing music intercontinentally?

G: Andrea and I get together for a couple weeks in Bologna at least once a year when I’m not touring and we use every minute we have together to write songs.

C: It’s true, they don’t sleep.

A: We have all the gear in Bologna and Giacomo and I usually finish the music as much as possible before handing it off to Chelsey, before the pandemic always scheduled trips and did this all together in the same apartment for a prolonged period of time. During the pandemic, it’s become tweaking things for hours on video calls and Chelsey sending us voice memos. But we had a solid structure and direction on the record since 2019 so it’s only partially been done with us separated from each other.

The lyrics exude a lot of power and strength—what inspired the lyrical content?  

C: My lyrics usually trend towards the dark or political but things were so dark and political at the time everywhere you looked. For once it felt aspirational and contrarian to sing about having a good time, if you can believe it, so there was some distraction and world-building involved. So I was thinking about universal pop music themes and how empowering a lot of them are, something I think they don’t get credit for – dancing as an act of power and self-expression, our various relationships giving us strength… the idea of control and self-worth is everywhere in those kinds of songs and I wanted to play with that.

There’s a lot of drama in New Earth’s production and song arrangement. Do you think this derives from your deathrock roots?

A: Yes absolutely – since me and Chelsey are coming from deathrock, there’s a melancholy we bring in. I always tend to write in minor chords, etc.

C: That’s really interesting, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I feel like Italo disco is inherently so dramatic that we were just having fun with that but I’m sure you’re right. Andrea and Giacomo are the heart behind so much of the record and everything they write together has a ton of dramatic power.

Do you think there’s a movement away from dark music at the moment? Why?

A: I believe so, but it seems to be part of a natural cycle. We’ve been talking about this post-punk/deathrock trend for years, it felt like such a small space when we were younger. In recent years it got oversaturated and now it’s just cycling out for a lot of people.

C: I also think in the real world it’s easy for folks to get swept up with what’s thriving at any given time, and that’s been dark music. The isolation of the last year has given people the space to explore what matters to them away from that momentum. I’m excited to see what comes out of that openness and I’m excited to watch dark music recover from being stretched a little thin, in my opinion.

Will you plan live performances for the album? As part of the goth wave, anarcho-punk community worldwide, are they any bands you look forward to sharing the stage with?

G: Yes we wanna play and tour as much as possible

A: We did play two shows in Italy right before the pandemic hit and they were awesome.

G: I personally would like to play with Ritual Veil, their new stuff is so good.

A: Body of Light! I really liked their last record.

C: Nouveaux! There’s so much taste and talent in that band. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Do you see genres blending and cross-pollinating more in the future? 

C: I hope so, it seems like such a natural evolution. Few of us are influenced only by one tiny subgenre so trying adhere to a single label feels inauthentically restrictive. Taking all the things you love and reinterpreting them together in a way that excites you… I mean, that’s how a lot of the greats have come up with unique and definitive sounds, right? So it’s not new or anything. That kind of thing sounds fun to play and fun to listen to and really fun to be a part of.

New Earth is out June 30th on Italy’s AVANT! Records here, with US Distribution through Torn Light Records,

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Andi Harriman

Andi Harriman is the author of "Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s." She resides in Brooklyn, New York where she writes, DJs and lectures on all things dark and gloomy.

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