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Band Spotlight

The Head and the Hares Story

Band Spotlight

The origins of Head and the Hares dates back to the fall of 1988 when Massimo di Gianfrancesco, Andrea Roberti and Alessandro Cozzi Lepri decided to form a band called the Spookies (after a Gravedigger Five song called “It’s spooky”). Andrea and Alessandro were in a band called the Silent Shapes which they decided to leave after meeting up with Massimo at the end of their first show. They were joined soon first by Stefano Giustiniani (who soon left to join the Flies) and then by Roberto Sarais (who just quitted The Flies!) and along with the drummer Claudio Pescetelli we started to practice basically doin’ mainly covers chosen from the Back From the Grave compilations and getting our inspirations by some of the most ’60s authentic sound bands from the ’80s like Chesterfield Kings, Wylde Mammoths, Lyres and more.

Head and the Hares
Head and the Hares

After recording a demo (which included all covers, mostly from Back From the Grave) and the first gigs, the band gradually started to search for a more ’60s authentic sound. Tired of the ’80s bands attitude, sound and image they started to elaborate songs more inspired by the minor key teenage folk punk. At the same time, they started to heavily collect records. One day Massimo found in a small record shop in Rome a dusty copy of a compilation called New England Teen Scene (nets) Vol.2. Sometimes records just emanate something intangible, and this time they were captured by the sheer magical power which that LP was emanating.

In early 1990 Diego Filippi, a fanatic of early Rolling Stones, replaced Claudio as a drummer and in that year the band changed name to Head and the Hares. Claudio was a very professional musician who grew up listening to progressive rock which did not seem to suit the style of the band. Diego, in contrast, appeared to be perfect for the job, sticking to his snare drum rolls like his idol Charlie Watts. The name Head and the Hares was taken from a band compiled on nets vol.1 which among others included one song, a small masterpiece of teenage angst mixed with melancholy mood called “I Won’t Come Back.”

With the new monicker the sound of the band changed drastically emulating that of bands such as the Rising Storm, the Fantastic Dee-jays, the Dovers, Love (1st LP) and many other of teenagers from nets. For example, another major influence for the songwriting was the song “Love Does Its Harm” by the Mojos. In the meantime, the music world was also changing drastically and the so-called neo-sixties scene was disappearing with many bands breaking up while other starting to play hard rock or glam rock. For Head and the Hares it was no longer easy to play shows in Rome. Most people were now listening to rap or ragamuffin and even the average garage listeners were not very keen to the ultra-teen folky punk sound of the band. Nevertheless, H&H gained a small cult of hardcore fans worldwide.

In 1992, the band cheaply recorded a demo tape, which included a cover version of a song by the original Head and the Hares “I Won’t Come Back” and other originals, and sent it to Dave Brown of Moulty/Distortions Records who was very impressed by the band pure New England sound and offered them to release an ep on his label. The band travelled 100 miles north of Rome to an analogue studio located in a small village called Tobia near lake of Vico to record 4 songs chosen from their live set: two originals (“Try to Forget,” “How She Was Good to Me”) and 3 covers (“Get you,” “I’ve Been Told” and “Tomorrow Never Ends,” by the 24 Karat 5, The Effects and the Barons, respectively). Shortly thereafter, Dave decided that an entire lp would be more appropriate, so the band travelled again to the Campolungo Studios in Tobia and recorded and mixed in one day the remaining songs. The lp was duly released in 1992 and received great reviews both in Europe and USA. The heavy vintage-style cardboard cover and the sound made people believe the lp was a reissue of a ’60s group and not a new (and especially) not an Italian band! One of the funniest reviews of the album was from Jud Cost (Cream Puff War zine, BOB and rock magazine journalist) who wrote in BOB magazine: “…they make Dead Moon sound like Guns ’n’ Roses by comparison!” Their idol Arthur Lee, even, had nice words for their version of “Message to Pretty.”

After the release of the 1st album, Massimo, after reading about him on the Italian indie rock magazine (Rockerilla), contacted Aram Heller of Stanton Park Records and an intense correspondence started between the two which brought finally in 1993 at the release of an ep: a tribute to the New England legendary band, the Rising Storm. The double ep contained “She Loved Me” (covered by H&H) plus “Rain Falls Down” (Sandoz lime), “Signed D.C.” and “Trying to Fool” by the reformed Rising Storm.

Meantime the band gained a small group of fans all over Italy and Europe (well, they received letter from ussr and Japan as well) as more people started to be aware of the New England Teen Scene sound (reissues like Relative Distance, nets #3, Crude PA. etc etc helped a lot) and, in general, of the minor key moody folk garage punk. The same day in which the songs for the ep were cut, the band recorded three new songs: “Lost,” originally released by a totally unknown ’60s band from Iowa called Tyde, an original called “Two Times” and another cover, the folk punk anthem “Now That You Know” (by the Intruders). The latter was included in an Italian garage band compilation called Mind Expanding (released in 1994) while “Lost” and “Two Times” were coupled in a 45 released almost two years later on the Stanton Park/Moulty records label. To some people “Two Times” includes the most memorable H&H guitar solo, a jingle-jangly infectious repetitive riff by Roberto Sarais. “Lost” reflected the new live sound of the band which now included many acid punk songs both originals and cover versions (including some Texas acid punk classics).

At the time, the band was renting a basement nicknamed Vibrasound Studios where they rehearsed a lot the new set of originals and covers intended for a follow up lp. The band acquired an original Semprini tape-echo unit from the ’60s which gave the vocals a deep echo laden sound which was reflected in their new record: an ep from the German Outer Limits label, again in the acid punk and moody folk rock garage vein. The ep, in fact, included their version of the creepy Texas acid punker “Painted Air” by the legendary group the Remaining Few, one of the most sought after and elusive garage 45s from the usa (plus “No Use In Trying” and a wcpaeb inspired original entitled “How Many”). The long-haired H&H gathered in a friend’s pub in the borough of San Lorenzo in Rome to cut some low-key photos while drinking some beer and pretending to read a newspaper for the sleeve. The ep was released in 1995 the same year which saw, finally, the release of the “Lost”/“Two Times” 45 as well. 1995 was a cool year for the band with all these new records out and fantastic gigs at some important beat festivals in Germany (Beat-o-Mania) and Italy. In particular, the performance at the Italian Beat Festival was brilliant and the band received top reviews in some of the most important Italian indie rock magazines. A compilation including the best of Beat-o-Mania came out in 1997 and featured one of the songs played by H&H at the festival.

The summer of the same year the band entered Vibrasound Studios to record their 2nd album, a sort of a concept lp, called Autumn Songbook, with stories about lost love and disillusion in life. The lp was basically part acid punk (with songs like “Velvet Illusion” by the Velvet Illusions, “I Think I’m Going Insane” a new original), part Farfisa-driven folk psych (“Sun is Going Away,” “Why Must You Fade Away”) and part pure folky garage (“I’m Gonna Kill You,” “Never be Happy” the latter by Satisfactions) with a real ’60s authentic sound thanks to the Semprini echo unit, Fender backlines, a Farfisa Compact De-Luxe and vintage guitars. Andrea was the sound engineer and the lp was recorded on a portable 8-track cassette desk. Different labels were expressing interest for a release but the lack of funds which hit all small indie labels in that period caused a delay.

In the meantime the band have lost two of the co-founders: Alessandro was moving to London to study while Andrea Roberti decided to quit. The remaining three (Massimo, Roberto and Diego) recruited ex Cosmonauti bass player Massimo Galati and moved towards a more UK mod-beat sound rearranging some of the old song in a Kinks/Easybeats/Artwoods fashion, and an ep was recorded for a release on Hate Records but never seen the light of the day. Diego Filippi left in the fall of 1997 followed by Roberto Sarais so the band rechristened themselves The Hares with new members (Lorenzo Paolini on drums and Federico Febbo on guitar) playing uk influenced psych music of bands like Tomorrow/July. So when the lp was finally released in 1998 the original band was long gone. In conclusion, Head and the Hares were a seminal band that influenced a pletora of bands that had yet to discover the real sixties teenage punk sound, unaware of the fact that ’60s garage was not only fuzz and farfisa and screams (ala Gravedigger V) but also a more subtle affair made of jangly guitar, vocals harmonies and introspective lyrics.

Biography by Massimo di Gianfrancesco