By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Described as a “cinematic sparkler of electro, synth-pop and trip-hop,” Boston duo This Bliss recently delivered their new album ‘Retroshade’ via Mint 400 Records, which proves exactly why they’re not another laptop band.
This Bliss are singer/guitarist Jess Baggia (The Shallows) and Nick Zampiello, the Party Bois’ percussionist and producer/owner of Somerville’s New Alliance East Studio.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Baggia about ‘Retroshade’ and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name?
Jess Baggia – Band names are so challenging, aren’t they? This one was strangely easy, however! Nick and I have a running list of joke band names that we text back-and-forth and he’s particularly good at coming up with great ideas. If I recall, he just said, “This Bliss” one day and we both said, “Hey, that’s good!” and then, I Googled it and it turned out it wasn’t actually a band name already – surprisingly! – and it stuck.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your new album ‘Retroshade’?
Jess Baggia – The writing process for us is always really fun, because we co-write well together. Typically, Nick will write the beats – he has a great songwriting system utilizing his favorite analog synths and drum machines – and I’ll write the melodies and lyrics. In the case of ‘Retroshade,’ we worked with friends Tom Maroon and Danni Vitullo to add different layers of instrumentation and flavor. For example, this is the first time we’ve ever featured saxophone on our music – Thanks, Danni! and Tom worked on bass synths and guitars for a few tracks. We had about 90 percent of it tracked and then the pandemic hit full-force and we ended up in quarantine. The good news for us is that we have access to Nick’s studio – New Alliance East, as well as our sister studio – New Alliance Audio. Thus, we were able to finish up our tracking and then switch to mixing.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Jess Baggia – Like many musicians, we’ve struggled a bit with the idea that we should just represent one genre. I think that’s what makes our music accessible. We don’t write the same type of song over and over. Our first record was more downtempo and trip-hop inspired and as a result, we’ve typically been associated as such. Realistically, we have more range and are more “pop” than anything else. ‘Retroshade’ is the best embodiment of what our “sound” is to date — it’s cohesive, but song-to-song, you’ll feel the range of energy and influences. We’re always electronic, but we like to play around with the direction and are very content-driven.
Music Bugle – What’s the most challenging aspect of being a musical duo?
Jess Baggia – You have a lot of jobs! As the singer and guitarist, it’s personally a lot of juggling and trying to find the best balance of what you want to prioritize and feature musically. For Nick, same deal. He plays his toms live, but also is responsible for triggering samples and queuing other song elements.
Music Bugle – What’s something you’ve been trying to work on lately?
Jess Baggia – For me, soloing. For Nick, utilizing the gear in the best way possible so that we can recreate the electronic elements in a live setting.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jess Baggia – It’s a strange process to release new music and not have any live shows. It’s also just a strange experience to not have opportunities to socialize with people who might be interested in hearing about our new release. You end up having to rely on the internet as your only platform to share your art and I’m sure many indie musicians can attest to how frustrating that can be at times. There are so many people out there, but how do you end up connecting with the right people who would really appreciate the music you create?
Music Bugle – That being said, does social media help or hurt musicians?
Jess Baggia – Utilizing social media as a vehicle for music promotion is overwhelming. There is so much music available that it often feels as though you’re left spinning in your personal echo chamber. That said, especially now during the pandemic, it’s the best way to quickly reach out to listeners and engage with music community members. It would be great if we weren’t constantly impeded by social media algorithms that don’t allow us to share content as easily, but I still think in the end, it does more good than harm.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need an escape?
Jess Baggia – Offline. We practice everyday, to the point where it has become routine and strange to not practice. For me, it’s an opportunity to stop thinking about marketing/promotion/social media/content plans and just reconnect with my voice, my guitar and my writing. For Nick, he is at his happiest when he’s creating something new. He loves making art!
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Jess Baggia – I think we need some new-to-us music! Do you have suggestions? I went through a big FKA Twigs phase last year and we recently revisited the very early Prince catalog, but would love another new music obsession!
Music Bugle – What do you hope for from the rest of 2021?
Jess Baggia – We hope the country is able to make headway with the pandemic and allow everyone to resume their jobs and hopefully, not have to stress about money, a place to live, etc.. We also hope for live music again – which would make a lot of people very happy – us included! In the meantime, we just really want to reach a new audience and share ‘Retroshade’ with listeners who appreciate what we’re doing and we’ll keep making new music and plan the next release.
*Photo Credit – Kelly Davidson*