20 Minutes with FIL BO RIVA
by Helena Elverfeldt, June 2020
About a newfound Corona-creativity, new songs and a political responsibility of artists
European Indie Pop Prince Filippo Bonamici aka FIL BO RIVA is the voice of a generation that inhales melancholy but doesn’t necessarily need to look like Siouxsie Sioux or Robert Smith.
The music project FIL BO RIVA was born in 2015 when the singer released his first video on Youtube. But every Lennon needs a McCartney. Soon, Filippo met his partner in crime Felix Anton Remm, who happily became a part of the project. Later, their friends Michèl Martin Almeida, Henrik Johansen, and Jerry Scheren joined the group. Today, the band has over 20 thousand followers on Instagram and around 520 thousand monthly listeners on Spotify.
FIL BO RIVA released his heartbreaking Album Beautiful Sadness last year and would have been festival-hopping this summer if Corona hadn’t crossed the band’s plans. Instead of jumping on stage, Filippo sits on his piano at home recording new chansons of inner conflicts and love crises with his unique voice.
We had the chance to talk with him on the phone, about his creative flow in times of quarantine, authenticity on Instagram, and his town of choice: Berlin.
HE: Filippo, The world has been upside down the past months. How are you coping with Corona?
FB: Actually, I am doing pretty okay with Corona, in general. I respect the procedures, the decisions made by the government. For me personally, Corona has kind of like a meditative feeling. It gave me the possibility to have enough time for my creativity. At home, I got my music studio, so I have a lot of time for my recordings and writings.
HE: I can imagine. On Instagram, I saw that you joined a live session for Global Citizen, how did it feel in comparison to your stage performances?
FB: Since it was my very first live session, it was pretty exciting. At first, I was a bit afraid, but then I realized, there is no crowd, no one in front of me and then I relaxed more. It was still exciting. Different, but I enjoyed it. I am not able to do it every day of course, because it’s not my main focus at the moment, but I really enjoyed doing it, especially for a good cause.
HE: You just mentioned that you are producing new songs at the moment. What’s your current project?
FB: Well, right now I am focussing on songwriting. After songwriting the production starts, which brings new music and a very concrete style. I can’t tell yet how it will sound in the end. The songs develop while recording, but it’s a lot of fun producing and developing. Of course, I have my certain sound of music, it will sound less like Mozart or Bach and more like folk, Indie Pop, or whatever you want to call it.
HE: So, it will still be similar to your previous album?
FB: I think yes, but there are also some songs that may somehow be simpler, more Pop, and more RnB. Some songs might sound a bit like Drake or Michael Jackson. And what I am recording right now, is just for the sake of recording and writing. I am not really thinking about my project FIL BO RIVA, I am just recording what I have in my head, to collect ideas, I might use for an Album.
HE: And how many songs have you recorded so far?
FB: Oh well, in the past few months I have different sketches on the computer. Twenty or thirty, I guess.
HE: The first time you released your music on YouTube was five years ago. Crazy, how the time flies! Is there anything you would’ve handled differently in your career when you look back at the five years?
FB: I guess my spontaneous answer would be no, because everything I did brought the way I am, and I am happy where I am now. Even though some things could have gone better, they always can. But I know making music was the right choice because I learned a lot. Especially working with the major labels, the indie labels.
“I never saw myself as an artificial character“
HE: I think you can see the success through the numbers of followers you have gained in the past years. 20 thousand on Instagram and nearly 86 thousand on Spotify. You are really active on social media, engaging with your fans. How important is authenticity to you? Do you prefer to show your true self or do you create something like an artificial character on social media?
FB: When I post a picture I don’t really think about if the image is authentic or not, I just have a feeling in my stomach if the picture is interesting or fun in a way. Often, I just scroll through my phone and choose to post it spontaneously. But I never saw myself as an artificial character. Although I respect and like the idea. I am very interested in creating an art project where the main person is fictional. For example musicians like Daft Punk or Cro, who use masks. In my case, on Instagram, I just like to show where I am or what I am doing. Nothing really special.
HE: You live in Berlin for a really long time now. What do you think of the city as a creative hot spot?
FB: I really like Berlin, that’s why I am still here. Berlin has an enormously creative atmosphere. I live here for eight years now. When I think about it, it’s the city I have been living the longest in, after Rome. Its nearly ten years I mean how old is that… I am so old… (sighs)
“For me home doesn’t necessarily mean a certain city, but the houses I spent time in. For example, my family house in Rome and my grandmother’s house in South-Germany. But Berlin is pretty close to that.”
HE: Would you call Berlin your home?
FB: I don’t know. I would say 50:50. For me home doesn’t necessarily mean a certain city, but the houses I spent time in. For example, my family house in Rome and my grandmother’s house in South-Germany. But Berlin is pretty close to that. I think you feel at home when you are surrounded by friends and family. And my brother lives in Berlin, many of my friends live here, so every time I meet up with them and we have dinner or play music, I feel comfortable, and that means feeling at home, right?
HE: I agree. And like you said, Berlin is extremely creative. With which Berlin artist would you like to work together in the future? Do you have someone in mind?
FB: Hmm, who is from Berlin? Paul Kalkbrenner is from Berlin, right? Now spontaneously, I would like to create a kind of electronic project and sing. Maybe it would sound funky, kind of techno minimalistic for the summer. To make people happy while they are dancing, you know?
HE: That’s a good idea. Maybe we can make it happen somehow.
FB: That’s great. I would be up for it of course.
HE: Your songs mostly deal with love, dreams, or subconsciousness. Do you think that songs or art in general should have a deeper meaning, something with a cultural relevance? There is this saying L’art pour l’art. Do you think art doesn’t always need to have a meaning?
FB: I am a hundred percent sure it doesn’t need to have that. The meaning you put into as a narrator, is something you feel and the audience interprets something else, that’s also the good thing about it. I don’t think that it’s necessary for the artist to put a political meaning into it, its everyone’s choice. The artist expresses what he or she feels in a certain way but in the end, the person who listens to it can have a totally different relation to it.
“I think it’s every single person’s choice to push himself in a political direction or not. After a few years of doing music, maybe you should somehow decide if you want to be that person or not.”
HE: Still, nowadays you see many musicians who share their political opinion. Is this important to you?
FB: Well, I think it’s every single person’s choice to push himself in a political direction or not. After a few years of doing music, maybe you should somehow decide if you want to be that person or not. But I don’t criticize people who don’t show their political opinion, not because they might have some strange ideas, but maybe its not their power, or the strongest thing to do. I respect when they do it. I guess I am something in between.
HE: How does that look like?
FB: I know politics isn’t my biggest strength. I have other strengths in my opinion. But I sometimes of course try to show my values, like singing for Global Citizen or Covaid Africa. I think these performances are some kind of political impact. If you can do good, and if you have the power or the influence, to achieve some kind of success by showing other people what could be good, you should do it.
HE: Speaking of artists with an impact. What was the last Album you were impressed by and why?
FB: Hard Question. What did I listen to last time? For a long time, I am turning into someone who listens to song by song, so I am somehow losing a bit the album feeling. I love albums in general. But lately, I didn’t take my time to listen to a full album. I usually listen to different songs when I am in a certain mood, but I really have to think about what really catches me. Most of the time when I listen to full Albums, I listen to older music, for example, the Beatles or Queen. Oh yeah actually, I know it’s really classic but one album I listened to a few weeks ago while working at home, was Queen Greatest Hits. It’s a collection of their greatest songs, I think it has three different volumes. I listened to volume number one.
HE: What do you think of the Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody?
FB: Oh I really liked it, I watched it when it came out two years ago. I thought Rami Malek impersonated Freddie very well. It was interesting to get an inside of the band’s story.
HE: Okay last question, Personal leeway (=Freiraum) – what does it mean for you and where can you find it?
FB: Well, it gives me the feeling of open space, something that gives every single person a possibility to express and show themselves. Having a very open-minded and positive kind of work ethic and I guess that’s my best explanation. Giving someone the room and space to express.
HE: And where can you find it for yourself?
FB: The freedom I have when I create is in my mindset, its location-based but its mainly in my own head. I somehow notice that when I am at home, in Berlin, in my apartment, where I can create the best things. Here, I have written most of my work. Maybe because I feel most comfortable. I am able to sit here, write down a few ideas, without anything interrupting me. So I guess that’s my Freiraum.