These are the Lame, a garage punk band* from Torino, Italy. They started playing together around the end of 2013 and they are now ready to tour in Europe for the summer. The guy on the right, Stefano Isaia is 34 years old, he sings and plays guitar, besides his being the singer of Movie Star Junkies. Maria Mallol Moya, 29, singer and guitarist too, learned to be a drummer for this project. And the other guitarist, Massimo Scocca, turned 50 a few weeks ago.
So what? Keith Richards is 72 now and he can still make some noise. He grew old being a rock star, just like Bruce Springsteen who’s now 66, but Massimo is no stage god, he’s an employee working five days a week from 9 to 5. The first time he joined a band he was 24: he saw a Gories gig while in New York and thought that was his idea of fun. The new born band called themselves Cavedogs and the she-bassist, Gisella Albertini, soon became the drummer, besides Massimo’s life-long love until today. In 1994 Max and Giz form Two Bo’s Maniacs, a guitar and drums only duo (three years earlier than The White Stripes) and achieve international acknowledgements in underground scene. Tim Yo, then editor in chief of Maximum Rocknroll fanzine, interviews them after hearing their first single, while Tim Kerr accepts to fly to Italy to produce their album. They are not getting rich and famous, but they tour with the bands they love more and feel proud of what they do. Then a new band comes, The Most Unusual Sound, with a four people line up, until Massimo quits.
“I was almost 40, I felt we weren’t going anywhere new with the band, even though I loved my friends very much. I said to myself it was time to stop, I had done great stuff and I was ready to experience new things. I thought it was time to let gigs behind”, recalls Massimo. Gisella and he do what most grown ups do, forget about rehearsal rooms. As it was easy to have a band in your 20s, it was normal to give it up, in adulthood. None of them regretted the choice, they felt happy with their life, until one day Massimo met Stefano and Maria in a restaurant during a lunch break and after a little chat, they asked him to join their new band.
“Stefano and I were looking for someone to play with”, recalls Maria, “we talked about it that same morning and then we came across this guy. Stefano used to go to Massimo’s concerts when he was a teenager, but they hadn’t seen each other for a long time. He looked at me and said Massimo was the one, but I thought, no way he’s a weirdo”. Stefano explains Massimo their idea, Max accepts to think about it. “They sent me files so that I could listen to their stuff and it was really cool”, Massimo says. “It took me about one week to come to a decision, it’s not that I didn’t like music anymore, only I knew that to be in a band again had many implications. Playing was never a hobby to me, I do it if I think I can give my best, by rehearsing and touring seriously, which means less time with Gisella, who this time wasn’t part of the story. Then, many of my connections didn’t know me as a musician, I didn’t want to look ridiculous”. Go to your colleagues and tell them you are about to leave for a one week tour around France, when you’re not Bono and see what happens. “In a band at fifty?”, “Trying to look young, eh?”, “Ah, lucky you” these are just few examples of what people around Massimo told him, because it’s not socially easy to accept that a man of his age, with a full time job, can be consistent in a decision like that. There is a prejudice about creativity and age. As an adult you can spend time and money in cars, sports, art collecting and no one will blame you. Use part of you annual holidays to go on tour and people will be pulling your leg.
“I was a little concerned at the beginning, then I genuinely said to myself I didn’t give a shit. You have to get to a point where you don’t care about people reactions and just do what you want”, Massimo tells me. “I wondered if I was still strong enough to endure that lifestyle. Sometimes it’s hard to spend the evening rehearsing after you had a nightmare of a day at work and touring means endless hours in noisy vans, sleeping and eating in strange places. I’ve got my daily rituals, but I can do without them for a while. Actually, I like to break up my rules”.
“Before our first rehearsal, Massimo said he was afraid of being a little rusty and we laughed a lot when he found out that his pedals were really so”, remembers Stefano, “Maria and I never perceived the age difference as a problem. When we are in clubs together, he’s the last one to go to bed and dances until the last song. He meant a lot for people who like a certain kind of music, he’s been asked autographs many times, but he’s so unpretentious. He’s the one who keeps us grounded”. Maria’s mother is a couple of years older than Massimo: “Who cares if he’s 50?”, she says, “His age to me it’s just a good reason for jokes in an eight hours drive”.
I ask Massimo about the expectations he has about Lame: “I have none and that’s one of the best things about it. I enjoy every single moment of our gigs, as I never did in my twenties, and I want to play until playing will mean something to me, I have nothing to achieve or to prove. I already know I’m talented, I am not competing with them, as you often do when you are young. I am well aware that they are creatively boosting the band and that’s fine for me, but this doesn’t make me a sideman: I give Lame all I can”.
*I think Lame are much more than a garage punk band. As any good band, it’s hard to describe what they do, because it’s multifaceted. What I like about Lame is the mixture of lightness and rage. If you know a name for this, please let me know.