Bellini is a warm chill: Drummer Damon Che discusses Steve Albini, the YYYs and that “octopus comparison”

This weekend is looking rather sharp for Miami’s indie rock scene. On Sunday, we have Q and Not U launching their danceable D.C. punk sound at Churchill’s Pub; but before that, on Saturday, Bellini aims to pull an abstract meltdown over our sunny shoulders at POPLIFE, 35 NE 40 St.. Jambi would advise you to fly over the one-keg fatty islands and go drink your suds in front of live music that will, at the very least, transfer you from Bud Light shallowness into deeper waters sojourned by chicks in black T-shirts.

Bellini is offbeat, but incredibly on. The band consists of two Sicilians – guitarist Agostino Tilotta and vocalist Giovanna Cacciola (members of the band Uzeda), alongside bassist Matthew Taylor and much-revered drummer Damon Che. An ex-member of the reputable art rock outfit Don Caballero, Che has been noted for his chaotic, yet, meticulous precision and scholarly (though some past acquaintances might label it “incorrigible”) dedication. Bellini’s first LP, Snowing Sun, is produced by, drum roll please, Steve Albini (Nirvana’s In Utero, The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa etc). Judging from the three MP3s on Bellini’s website, Cacciola’s vocals haunt drugged territory roamed by the Deal Sisters and Salt, while Che and company construct fractured music that keeps you sifting for a way in. For more info visit and

This is a Life & Art interview with Che.

Q: So how’s the tour going so far?
CHE: Interesting. It’s been full of surprises actually. I guess things change so much over time, so you can never really count on things that used to be great, being great, and sometimes you’re surprised by a great set. I really like playing Florida myself.

Q: What was the Touch & Go scene like in 1993, right around when Don Caballero recorded For Respect with Steve Albini?
CHE: There’s less hard rock today than there was back then. I think a lot of people decided they grew up or something like that – that it was just kids’ stuff and they were all sophisticated. At any age you can make any kind of music, I think it’s silly to limit it. I was in a band with people who pretended they were into this new course of gentleness. For me it’s in my blood, I’ve got to fucking rock. It’s a blessing and a curse. I like all types of music, but if you’re going to put me behind a drum set, it’s not going to be mellow.

Q: Was Albini influential in hooking everyone up for Bellini?
CHE: He’s a friend and a preferred engineer for recording, but I wouldn’t say that we do what we do because of him to any extent. We like his work, so we recorded with him.

Q: How did you become acquainted with Agostino and Giovanna?
CHE: Agostino is a very unique concert promoter in Italy. He’s the type of booking agent that gets in the van with the band and goes with them to the show. He booked Don Cab in Italy, so he was there in the van. I’m also a fan of Uzeda (Agostino and Giovanna’s other band).

Q: In Bellini’s press kit it says that you play drums like an “eight armed octopus.” How do you feel about this statement?
CHE: Um, yeah. I fill up more space and find more texture patterns to put over top of one another than your average trap-set player. Whoever came up with the octopus thing was probably trying to describe this.

Q: When you played with Don Cab in Miami how were the fans?
CHE: I can’t remember because I’m an alcoholic and I drink so much – just kidding. If you go on tour these days, it’s just insane. I think there are more mediocre, half-baked bands out there than ever before, and they all have a record or a burnt CD – it’s a brigade of mediocrity.

Q: A lot of bands decide not to play in Miami because it’s such a long trek…
CHE: That’s bullshit. It’s nothing compared to being on tour and going from somewhere in South Dakota to Missoula, Montana. I don’t want to hear any band belly-aching about how far south Miami is.

Q: How do you feel about bands that consider themselves disco punk/electroclash?
CHE: Oh, you mean, “electroshock.” I’ve only read about it, but I hope it’s more than some dogshit shtick with people who have goofy clothing. Maybe I’m square. Are Yeah Yeah Yeahs considered electroshock?

Q: They’re garage revival. That band seems like they’re just selling sex…
CHE: Selling sex? I think they’re selling some barely passable, semi-attractive chick pouring beer all over herself and saying, “I’m pouring beer all over myself, look how crazzzzy I am, I’m crazzzzzy.”

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at