Itzamna. You’ve probably seen that name pop up on our blog from time to time, at least if you’re a somewhat regular visitor. Last year, we reviewed their most recent outing, Chascade, and had a chat with guitarist/producer Clément Belio about the band’s influences and future plans, among other topics.
Formed in 2014 by Samuel Dolbeau (guitar) and Adrien Gretter (drums) and named after a Mayan godhead, Itzamna take their influences from a wide array of musical styles. Jazz (fusion), hip hop, math rock, film music and even the occasional djent overtone all find their place in the band’s wide-ranging sound. This initial observation is further reinforced by the impressive list of influences they list in the EPK accompanying the aforementioned Chascade, in which we find artists like Nujabes, Tigran Hamasyan and Ennio Morricone next to bands such as Between the Buried and Me, toe and Mr. Bungle, together with many, many others.
So it’s pretty obvious by now that we’re dealing with an eclectic bunch of musicians here, who take their music very seriously. But, as Belio stated in last year’s interview, they’re a group of friends first and foremost:
‘We are very close friends first. Almost everybody went to high school and college together; Adrien is an old friend of my girlfriend and also happens to be my sister’s boyfriend. Samuel and Benjamin have known each other since they were 5 or 6 years old. Armand took part in my first EP back in 2012. We were friends before being in the same band, so when it came to music, the creation of the band was pretty natural.’
Speaking of Armand (Jourdain, bass): not too long ago, he was replaced by Matthieu Salesse, the new bassist in Itzamna. When asked about the circumstances leading to this unfortunate fact, Belio had the following to say:
‘We parted ways with Armand on common ground since our goals and ideas about the band had become incompatible with his student life and all. Common stuff for bands I guess; he is still our friend and we see him every time we hang out, as usual. Matthieu replaced him, learned our live songs and we played our first gig with him last week. [The] Next one is in May (in Bordeaux), he is super cool, skilled, and he loves our music so it’s a win win.’
Without any ‘formal’ education in music, the members of Itzamna nevertheless managed to leave a positive impression on this scene so thoroughly focused on compositional skill and technical ability. The release of their first EP, Metnal, back in 2014 garnered them their first cautious laudations, but it was with 2016’s Chascade (which also featured Uneven Structures’ Matthieu Romarin on a track) that they received critical acclaim all around the blogosphere, steadily growing their fanbase as a result.
Composing an album as multi-faceted as Chascade can be an exceedingly demanding undertaking, so it comes as no surprise that the writing process started right after the release of their début EP. The songs all came to life with Dolbeau and Benjamin Vidal (piano) jamming and trying out various ideas, which is the band’s usual modus operandi, as Belio had me know. Afterwards, the finished songs and rough sketches were fleshed out in Jourdain’s home studio and then sent to Belio for completion. The actual recording process took place ‘from August 2015 to August 2016’ in different studios (including Belio’s own home studio) for the most part; the drum and piano tracks were recorded beforehand.
Outside of Itzamna, some of the members also work on their own musical endeavours. Vidal has a personal YouTube channel, where he uploads his own short solo compositions, mainly on piano. There are also some more fleshed-out songs to be found on which he plays the drums, in addition to piano. Belio on the other hand also works as a producer (for example, for Cartoon Theory and Joel Lindfors) and solo composer, having released two EPs and one full-length record under his own name to date.
With two fantastic releases to their name and the momentum on their side, the possibilities seem endless for Itzamna. Still, Belio remains realistic, if not slightly skeptical, when thinking about the group’s future:
‘Well the future is unclear […] This kind of music doesn’t get attention at all in France, and probably in the rest of the world, too. Our respective studies might separate us at some point if Itzamna grow bigger, but for composition and production duties I think we’ll be there, all of us. We don’t have any shows booked, we’d like to play some after the album release. We might have something in our hands to look for places to go and bands to play with. In the meantime, the only sure thing is we will continue to make music whatever happens in our life, no matter how shitty is our jobs are or how busy our schedules are. The best would be getting this music out of the studio and play, obviously, we look forward to it.’
Benjamin Vidal (Piano)
Samuel Dolbeau (Guitar)
Adrien Gretter (Drums)
Clément Belio (Guitar, producer)
Matthieu Salesse (Bass)