PHOTOGRAPHY Enrico Mastrangelo
STYLING Roberta Console
TALENTS Francesco Daprile & Francesco Lindo from BAR DISCO CLUB
INTERVIEW Charlotte Di Qual
After their DJ set at STXDYOZ’s fashion week kick-off aperitivo, we catched up with Bar Disco – Francesco Daprile and Francesco Lindo – the DJ and graphic design duo that redefines and resemanticizes Italian-ness. In this interview, they delve into their Italian disco roots, talking about their inspiration drawn from the popular aesthetics of Italian bars, their “graphic bootleg” approach, their journey through Milan’s creative landscape, and much more.

Charlotte Di Qual: How did the idea of forming Bar Disco come about, and how did you decide to combine your DJ and graphic design skills?

Bar Disco: More than an idea, it was an encounter. We both were born and raised in the same town, 800 meters apart; simultaneously, we always shared the same interests in music and design. During the first summer of the covid-19 pandemic, we both returned to Puglia, respectively from London and Weimar. For the first time, we looked at a “popular” aesthetic with different eyes, an aesthetic we had always wanted to distance ourselves from, partly due to posture and partly for the desire for emancipation. The Fiat Panda by Giugiaro, scratch cards at the bar with an aperitif and music from the ’80s, supersantos: this popular bar aesthetic attracted us for the sincerity of the graphics, very literal in representations and direct in language, often with bizarre and anthropomorphic elements. It was around this aesthetic that our creative encounter took place. At the end of the first lockdown, we organized a party and ironically called it Camparino Club, evoking in the minds of our friends the mood 2 he worked on it a bit, and we came up with the idea of printing it on a T-shirt to give to our friends for the event. The T-shirt featured an animated Camparino bottle at the center and a giant Brush Script inscription. We were obsessed with Brush Script for a while, using it in many graphics we created later. In addition to designing graphics for the party, we positioned two computers on shoeboxes and used an old mixer to blend music from the two computers. Some people liked it, and a few weeks later, we were on stage at a festival opening.

CDQ: How do you balance the visual aspect of your graphic design with the sound aspect of your DJ sets? How do these two facets of your creativity influence each other?

BD: The search for “pop” sounds and elements within “more inaccessible” music and graphics is at the heart of what we do. For us, “pop” is not a measure of the diffusion and appreciation of something by the general public. For us, pop means accessible. Visually, we often use the concept of “graphic bootleg,” taking a well-known graphic associated with well-defined cultural values and reworking it to detach it from these associations and create new ones. Bootlegging is not just a manipulation of what already exists; it is a true form of expression that reflects the dynamic and fluid nature of the culture we live in. Musically speaking, the concept translates to musical covers. You can’t imagine the number of covers out there. Some are horrible, others you listen to, and there’s something that makes you listen to them 2-3-5 times in a row. In general, we almost always include a cover at some point during a DJ set. Covers are an important tool during our sets. They help the listener better understand the musical research we are presenting when we are playing. Imagine listening to two hours of unknown music. At some point, you don’t understand anything anymore. But when you hear a song you know, it’s a trigger. It brings attention back to the mix. This is because covers are generally covers of famous songs. When you play a cover of a famous song that no one had ever heard, arranged in a completely different way from the original, initially you have that feeling of “wow, I know this” that immediately turns into “oh no, wait…”. The music you’re presenting becomes more familiar, but in a somewhat strange way. Let’s be clear; both playing a somewhat “bizarre” cover and bootlegging a popular graphic have to do with irony. It’s a way of seeing things. But behind every set and every graphic, there is a lot of work and an almost maniacal attention to detail. And this is what unites graphic design and music. At first glance, they may seem like “tunes” and “sincere” graphics, but the amount and care in the reworking work “emancipate” them from this status.

CDQ: Your set embraces various genres, including disco classics. How do you see the contribution of Italian disco in your musical exploration?

BD: Italian disco is where we started. Those we called “our parents’ records.” Or the boring stuff, a bit niche and “un-cool” in clubs, that a few years ago only a few were listening to and playing. Like Alan Sorrenti, Carella, Vanoni. Which, by the way… they’re not so boring. Anyway, the real trigger was the Italian balearic wave that came a few years later, shortly after disco, between the ’80s and ’90s. Connecting to what was said before… when we played it for the first time, it was a tool to strengthen that idea of sincere and carefree “Italian-ness” that we wanted to convey with Camparino Club. I remember exactly the feeling we had in mind. Imagine, it’s 6 in the afternoon at the end of summer, you’re coming home after a day at the beach, you stop at the bar, order (let you imagine what), the sun is setting, the bar is full, and an old radio on one of those plastic stools is playing Mango, Sera Latina. Here you understand that Italian music was not only the starting point of our musical research but was fundamental for developing the imaginary of Italian-ness we had in mind. Maybe there’s still a playlist on Spotify that we created a while ago… if I’m not mistaken, it was called Radio Riviera. From here, there was a natural opening to similar sounds that disconnected us a bit from Italian music, opening the horizon to many other genres. And we began to find inspiration in music from all over the world. This is where the research shifted from being a search for “genre” to being a search for similar sounds.

CDQ: You had to undergo a rebranding, from “Camparino Club” to “Bar Disco” due to issues related to Campari, right? Can you tell us how you managed this transition and how it influenced your artistic journey?

BD: It feels strange to talk about rebranding because we never felt like a real “Brand.” Camparino Club for us was a common name, a representation of Italian-ness, of a bar life, sincere, sometimes a bit alcoholic and exuberant. A couple of years ago, we were in London, walking in the Dalston neighborhood when we were both struck by a neon sign that said “Bar Disco.” We liked it so much that, upon our return, we used, for the first time, the name “Bar Disco” for a series of Sunday events in the Colonne area in Milan. This initial series of events allowed us to meet many new wonderful people. So the transition itself was not difficult; Bar Disco was already in our style, and the name Camparino Club was becoming naturally limiting for us. So in a way, the Campari incident accelerated a process already in motion.

CDQ: Frequently, reflections have been raised on the defensive attitude that often characterizes the relationship of us Italians with the concept of “Made in Italy,” along the lines of “let’s defend Italian taste from imitations and barbarism.” Consequently, Italy often gives the impression of being a slow country, incapable of adapting and lacking cultural dynamism, as it seems nostalgically identified with a completely fake old, torn away from its historical origins and context, but which would represent oleographically the beauty of Italian aesthetics in an idealized manner. This resistance to innovation, the rigid preservation of outdated identity models, and the lack of self-irony from many historic Italian brands, in your opinion, represent missed opportunities?

BD: Although our starting point, both musically and graphically, was indeed the ‘oleographic representation of the beauty of Italian aesthetics,’ what we do with Bar Disco, creatively speaking, is largely based on the interaction between distant worlds. As mentioned earlier, Italian music was the starting point for exploring new sounds. Similarly, the use we make of decontextualized Italian popular graphics allows us to highlight their characteristics. Expanding the visual field and connecting the dots between worlds that normally don’t touch is a fundamental source of stimulus that allows us not to remain confined in a bubble. Innovation comes from the way we choose to exist in the world, and it’s natural that each of us has our way of being in the world.

CDQ: Even Milan, despite being an international city, risks the path of the showcase rather than that of the laboratory if it focuses only on the image at the expense of innovation. However, innovative and young creative realities exist and are open to contaminations and the new, but they struggle to surface. As creatives in Milan, how do you experience this dynamic, and what challenges do you encounter in the context of the current Italian creative landscape?

BD: We don’t entirely agree with the idea that it is difficult to surface, at least in terms of Europe. Here in Milan, there is a very solid network of realities, and it’s beautiful when these realities come together and do things together. And it’s even more beautiful to expand this network beyond the perimeter of Milan. Over the years, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with entities both in Milan and abroad. Collaborating with our friends from Copenhagen at Eat Wasted or our friends in Paris at Bombance has been occasions for contamination. Innovation often happens almost by chance and is the result of these interactions. Sitting at the bar for a chat is already a form of creative lab for us, intensifying when these lasting relationships turn into friendships. That being said, perhaps what is sometimes lacking in Milan are spaces that allow us to reap the benefits of these interactions.

CDQ: Considering your journey so far, what have been the most significant moments or experiences that you feel have had a strong impact on your artistic growth?

BD: When you don’t have an agenda, every experience becomes extremely significant because it’s not oriented towards a material result. Working in this way makes you grow a lot. It’s really hard to say no when the conversations happening with the people around you are very interesting. And this has opened up a world of paths and introduced us to a lot of people who have become friends over time. The beauty of collaborations is that you never know what you’ll end up doing. Like when we collaborated with the Eat Wasted folks for an event in Copenhagen, and our DJ set turned into a rave (ed. laughs), or recently when we designed a “bootleg” version of the napkin from the legendary Quadronno bar for the Quadronno District guys.

CDQ: What are your future aspirations as Bar Disco? Are there places you hope to perform or new projects you would like to realize in the near future?

BD: In recent months, we have started to focus on longer-term projects and collaborations where we oversee the artistic direction of some projects on behalf of others. The interaction between music and graphic design is always there, and we would like to continue with collaborations. We enjoy applying our ideas and graphics to common objects. Musically, the research is continually evolving, and over time, we have realized that the musical genre we play requires an audio support that allows both the music to express itself and the audience to be more deeply engaged with the music.