Premiere: Del Venicci, “Contagion”

Video by Katie Hinshaw and Adrian Benedykt Świtoń

Altanta's Del Venicci present the installation/performance piece for the haunted mountain majesty of, "Contagion". Grace Bellury of Lille and Carnivores' Ross Politi take their families combined respective opera and doo-wop heritages with audio enrichment from Jonathan Merenivitch (of Bosco, Dog Bite, Janelle Monae) and The Clap's Tyler Waters. Recorded by Lotus Plaza's Dan Wakefield with a cameo from Deerhunter's Frankie Broyles, the Italo cinemascape dimension of their sound travels down the rogues gallery of framed ancient portraits that comprises their upcoming Haunted Hall EP, slated for release in late February.

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As "Contagion" slowly swarms with the slow fade in, Grace, Ross, Jonathan, and Tyler take to their stoic places and demeanor while bathed in blue, red, and the light of projected Super 8 images. Grace carefully dances while wearing the film's footage of her and Ross making themselves risotto, helps to trim the leaves of an indoor plant, while moving about the camera's fixed frame, and in between the fellow Del Venicci members. Spinning in time to the song's tension of strings and eerie "ooooohs", Jonathan's pleasure read of Crime and Punishment becomes interrupted as the ghostly performance piece comes to a chaotic close.

We had the pleasure to be joined by Del Venicci's Grace Bellury, Ross Politi, and filmmaker Adrian Benedykt Świtoń to discuss the composition choices for sight, sound, and operatic legacies.

Now, Grace and Ross, you both have grandparents who were opera singers and I was wondering how their legacy and work has affected your own creative work?

Grace: I actually just found out a year ago that my late grandmother sang opera. She performed in Oregon and was apparently well respected there. I find it funny I never knew she did opera because from when I was a tot I would stand on chairs and perform my precociously ear splitting idea of 'opera.' I told everyone I wanted to be an opera singer. When I went to my first opera as a kid I changed my mind – it was extremely dull. I do appreciate it now – the melodrama is appealing and relates to what we do as Del Venicci.

Ross: I grew up around my immigrant grandmother singing opera and playing piano. It felt very normal, I had no frame of reference to understand it was an uncommon environment. In her old age, she couldn't remember who I was, but she could still play piano and remember music. That made an impression on me, of the transcendent quality of music and the deep, instinctual nature of performance.

How did the pre-production and planning for the "Contagion" all come about and come together?

G: We originally planned a simple Super 8 visual with our friend Katie Hinshaw, who filmed "Contagion". The footage was interesting, but not satisfying enough to us as a narrative. Ross had the idea to make a video within a video. We prefer the minimalism of one take videos anyways, so we set up a sterile, white scene in the living room and projected the initial footage on the wall. The movements were mostly improvised, with gentle guidance from our friend Adrian, he loves Lynch and has great taste. I drank a whole bottle of two-buck-chuck right before we shot it to get into a psychotic mood.

What inspired the altered Super 8 film in the background of cooking and dining over risotto?

R: Katie uses unique techniques to alter and process her Super 8 footage. She uses foil and coffee among other things. We really wanted to do a video with her. We didn't have much of a concept in mind for it. So we did what we do best…

What brought you to settle on the color contrasts of part blue and red?

Adrian Świtoń: The colors were inspired by Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion. I wanted to replicate that feel in our own low budget way. It's meant to feel sexy and sleazy, yet dreamlike.

What is the significance of the plant being trimmed like a haircut?

A: A rebuttal of sorts to the Super 8 footage: the action of cooking is wholesome and constructive. I wanted to juxtapose that with some deconstruction.

What attachments do you all have to Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment?

G: I don't think any of us have read it, actually! Maybe it's just a symbol of austerity.

There is a ghostly, presence to your music, and we were wondering what paranormal visions informed your forthcoming Haunted Hall EP?

R: I had visions of spiders crawling up walls for weeks, and then I saw a patterned hand appear. It still happens, sometimes, right as I'm leaving my dream state.

G: I am also heavily influenced by my dream world and I am my best, most creative self when I am tapped into my spiritual unconscious. I have to feel a bit unstable to come up with anything interesting.

Del Venicci's Haunted Hall EP will be available February 25.

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