The show that Jacopo De Nicola is bringing to Puck Live in Doylestown tonight was a decade and two continents in the making. With the band the Late Saints, the Italian-born guitarist has been gaining traction in Philadelphia and setting the stage for opportunities in new cities.
A fusion of a handful of disparate styles, it’s tied together by De Nicola’s experiences growing up, and the musicians he found when he came to America.
“Italy is like a crossways between many genres,” said De Nicola. He grew up listening to new wave and Britpop while his parents’ generation enjoyed melodic Italian pop singers. Meanwhile, the country’s proximity to Eastern Europe attracted touring Balkan bands, along with African music from the south.
“It’s like a big stew, a little bit of everything,”he said.
But it wasn’t until De Nicola reached Philadelphia, after living in California and Delaware, that he found the musical variety he needed to truly flesh out his songwriting.
“I’ve always heard the songs much bigger,” said De Nicola. “Even in San Francisco, I met a lot of people and collaborated with different artists, but I always wanted the arrangements bigger.”
Even now, he leads with a trio and occasionally augments it with some of the many other musicians that appear on the Late Saints album, Presto! In America, that came out last month. But with a more diverse pool of musicians to draw from, and a city filled with more people interested in the “stew” they can cook up, the record reflects a wide range of styles.
And, even as the nine-song offering spans bouncy pop, Balkan-influenced two-steps, Brazilian-inspired guitar lines and more, it maintains a certain sense of cohesiveness and self-identity.
De Nicola uses the word “gypsy” to partially describe the music. It’s a tricky word to use properly, but he’s able to double down on it, speaking not only of the sonic similarities to the Romani music he’d heard growing up, but also the concepts behind his own work.
“It’s nomadic, itinerant music,” De Nicola explained. “We go through many genres as if traveling through different countries, but we try to maintain our own identity. That’s how I intend it.”
With a strong foothold in the city, the Late Saints have been expanding to places like Bucks County. Next on his radar are places like Baltimore and Washington, and a Halloween show in New York City.
It’s a challenge sometimes — De Nicola admits they don’t go over well when people are expecting a regular cover band — but he’s found ways to make his work translate.
“You have to establish a common language at first. If you start with familiar sounds, people know where you’re taking them and will give you a shot,” he explained. And when they do, “It feels like a breath of fresh air to them. And then they go with it.”
For information, visit www.thelatesaints.com.