Words By Miki Hellerbach
The Producer’s Voice is a new series for GUAP where we highlight the stories of instrumental crafters. We hope to bring their stories to the forefront instead of kept behind the artist they are producing for.
Gianluca Buccellati is the NYC producer that found a surprising home across the pond in the UK with Arlo Parks.
“Music can make you feel things on a deeper level and you don’t know why. I’m in the position of creating music, and working with voices, people, and visions to structure things in a cohesive way. I’ve never really been a gear head or gear nerd. I’ve more or less been looking at something as an art piece and been like, “Is that an honest representation of itself in the best way possible?” There’s a pace to understanding emotions that I think can be drawn out in an instrumental and lyrical marriage, or whatever you wanna call it.”- Gianluca Buccellati for GUAP (2021)
Gianluca Buccellati is the credited producer on 8 of the 12 songs on Arlo Parks’ standout debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams. I refrain generally from using the first person in this column, but it’s my favourite project of 2021. Buccellati grew up in Katonah, New York, a small town 45 minutes north of Manhattan, on the opposite side of the ocean from Parks’ hometown of Hammersmith, England. His journey to take his sonic talents across the pond is quite the intriguing one.
Buccellati describes his hometown as having “Narnia vibes” and having that scenic background paired with his father’s musical influence would prove to be the initial roots of his sound. Buccellati says about his father that, “He was a NYC punk kid growing up and the type of person who would sleep outside of Madison Square Garden to get tickets to see Led Zeppelin.” Buccellati further explains that his father played in bands his whole life and though he had a career in business, he built a recording studio laced with various instruments in Gianluca’s childhood home. Buccellati says a great day in his youth would consist of his father getting home from work and watching the Yankees win a baseball game, then the both of them going downstairs to watch a Black Sabbath video followed by jamming the night away in the studio.
With this early influence, a standard Rock-less music education would have been unfulfilling for Buccellati. So until he happened upon a trio of kids his age playing “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin at an after school cabaret situation he didn’t compute it was a thing he could do in public. From there the spark was unending.
Eventually, Buccellati would attend Berkelee College of Music in Boston studying Jazz Guitar and Songwriting to further his passion. There he met a young Tei Shi, the eventually critically acclaimed singer/songwriter, and would help her craft her first breakout single “M&M’s” which catapulted his career as a producer. The two would eventually make the monumental Crawl Space album together in 2017.
In 2018, off the strength of his already impressive repertoire, Buccellati would find himself in England working with the band TENDER. This led to an introduction to Arlo Parks and the album resulted.
I asked Gianluca Buccellati to give the backstory of three of his top instrumentals. Take a read.
“Caroline” by Arlo Parks
“With Arlo and Collapsed In Sunbeams, I think we had a good relationship when producing those ideas and feelings. When I get to spend time with an artist, a lot of it becomes discovering what makes somebody themself with the music and enabling them to explore their sonic identity. The way Arlo and I work is I pull up to London and I’ll get an Airbnb. But it’s always a living room setup and I have HS8 speakers, a two octave Midi keyboard, a little mpc usb thing, a guitar, a bass, and a microphone into a two channel preamp. That’s basically the vibe.
So I was in London for two friends’ birthdays and we got together to write in an Airbnb with that same studio. The first stint we did was like a week and then Arlo was supposed to do a tour in America and I was gonna come back to America. But then covid-19 became part of the picture and London was getting ready to go into lockdown. So I had a choice to make if I was gonna stay there and make the Arlo Parks album or go home and not. So I chose to stick it out. So day one of the lockdown, everyone’s out tryna get toilet paper, and we’re writing in this Airbnb. We were writing like two songs a day and had written the bulk of the record and the label was weighing in about writing particular types of songs. We were like, “Why would we write these songs for the label? Have they ever had a say in the direction?”
So we went back to the roots. I felt out a progression on the bass I liked over that drum groove. Then added these arpeggiated guitars to differentiate it. Spread the arrangement out where it made sense, then Arlo came in and smiled and started bobbing her head. The idea for the lyrics sort of hit her like a lightning bolt. She was really quick with writing it. This song has so much weight. We tried to bring it into the studio to mess around, but it always sounded better from that first day we made it in the Airbnb. Most of the songs ended up sounding how they did on the day we made them.”
“Hurt” by Arlo Parks
“This was done in that first week at the Airbnb in London. It was recommended I bring some beats. I had ten prepared and I was hyping them up like, “Yo, I got some fresh sauce, never been tried before.” “Hurt” was the first beat I played. It was like, boom. Arlo was like, “This is it, let’s go.” She wrote the words fairly quickly. It didn’t take that long to produce from there. It got turned around so fast but was the first one from that first album period.
The hums she does were either from her doing a take or after. I always noticed there was something special there and at some point used it as the thing to start the song. I thought it really brought the focus to Arlo straight away. I also started with a drum groove that had some bounce to it, then I think I played triads on the piano and played the bass line over it. Then I took the triads out so it was just a funky bass line that outlined the chords of the triads. I just try to be funky and create something with an instant vibe you can hear over and over.”
“ZaZa and Some Runtz (Smoke Break)” by Terry Presume
“Terry was brought to my attention as a project that was gonna come out to LA and we were gonna hang out and see what the vibe was. Then we got along. My brother Alessandro was instrumental in the making of this. I met Terry for three days and I brought some beats and we vibed super hard. Terry is so interesting, and such a magical person and can body any track you throw at him. Alessandro did two or three days with him after mine, then we got together and threw all the songs in a pot.
Alessandro made the beat for “ZaZa” and it was just a funky loop with that riff but Terry’s vocals were like older funk Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic that give you a stank face when you listen. The vocals are so committed. My hand was in refining the drums and dynamics. When you hear the pauses and reverb swells on Terry’s voice, I did those. Then at the end that bubbling sound and weird outro I did. We crafted space for Terry’s third verse, and then when the drums change and do those fills, that’s my vibe. The drum refinement if you will, and doubling the riff to make it more funky.”