Underground Lovers songwriter and vocalist Vince Giarrusso has his toes in a few different creative streams.
Aside from his history dabbling in the experimental and underground music scene in Melbourne, taking his own band to national and international acclaim, he’s also an academic, lecturing in a field which he’s long been passionate about, Italian cinema.
He recalls a film that’s had a lasting impact on him, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 film Red Desert, and a particularly moving scene from it.
“The movie revolves around a woman who’s disaffected with life,” he explains of the plot. “She was a bit nuts living in an industrial town in Italy and she felt this great love for her son, who was really sick.
“There’s a moment in the film when she tells him a story, and the story moves away from the industrial town and we’re on an island. She says, ‘on this island, everything was singing, everything.’ And it’s just a really beautiful moment, between mother and son. Full of love.
“Those [Italian] filmmakers were very humanistic. Very much interested in human nature, but really complex behaviour. Complex ideas, political, ironic, psychological, all those sorts of things all going on at the same time. They’re quite complex, but then they have very simple beautiful images that sear themselves in the brain.”
Don’t Look Back is a podcast about the one enduring song in your life, and the song ‘seared’ in Giarrusso’s heart comes from a seminal album by Van Morrison. It speaks to his romantic Italian sensibilities.
“The lyrics are just so beautiful,” Giarrusso says. “It’s about love, the way we were, and the way we wanted to be. All these sort of ideas. It always gets me, it always brings a tear to my eye.”
There was something of a similar existential pursuit happening in Van Morrison’s second solo album, Astral Weeks. Producer Lewis Merenstein teamed the Irishman up with a crack ensemble of incredible jazz musicians, who were given little instruction as to what or how to play. They give Morrison’s poetic and deep introspections insightful and contrasting texture that elevated the songs to another level.
The song that still captivates Giarrusso is ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’.
Lyrically, the song speaks of an emotional yearning. But the musical accompaniment suggests something is at odds, unresolved and not quite right.
“The band’s playing a loop, so it’s almost mechanical,” Giarrusso explains. “Then, over the top, these crazy horns happen. So, it’s just like all these crazy things going on.
“It felt intense, because you hear the band and you hear them in the moment, so you just get that energy from it, which is very different to computer music. It’s just so immediate, its emotional, it’s in the head. It’s all those things at the same time. That album is extraordinary.”
And like the quote from Antonioni’s dream sequence from Red Desert, everything is singing on this Van Morrison song.
“All the instruments are singing,” Giarrusso says. “They’re all doing their thing all at the same time. It’s all lush but separate as well. There’s separation, but separation becomes a whole. It’s complex but simple. All those things that shouldn’t be together, [but] they are and they work. That’s something that we strive for.”
Hear more about the song that changed it all for Vince Giarrusso on Don't Look Back.