Adrian Calvano has taken a bit of a beating recently.
Not on the creative front, mind you – his work with his band The Settlement has been championed by critics, and audiences are lapping up the group’s latest single ‘She’s Alright’, a rollicking slice of tunage designed to get feet stomping and heads nodding clean off their necks come the band’s national tour. So no, on that front, things are absolutely aces.
Calvano’s scrapes are more literal than artistic: the musician is currently nursing his own very distinct set of wounds, and it’s driving him ever so slightly mad. “I’m still recovering from broken ribs and a punctured lung,” he says. “It’s really giving me the shits.”
One can see why. And yet such is the Victorian’s very obvious enthusiasm for his art, if there’s one muso who can battle through wounds in order to hit the road, it’s him. The Settlement isn’t just some casual project – it’s Calvano’s driving force, and has been an important creative outlet for him since 2013.
Unlike the musicians who stumble into their profession, Calvano has been drawn to performance and song since he was young. “Ever since I can remember, music and the people who create it have absolutely captivated me,” he says. “When I was young, during the day, Ma would be spinning Creedence, Dylan, The Stones… then, during the evening, Dad would sit and play his squeeze box, playing everything from The Beatles to old Italian standards.”
Such a broad mix of influences is reflected in The Settlement’s sound – the band is hard to pigeonhole, and Calvano’s tunes buck easy categorisation. That distinct strand of genre hybridisation isn’t accidental either, and Calvano is at pains to stress that he and his collaborators avoid taking direct cues from specific musical categories or performers. “That’s been a trap in the past,” he says. “Trying to write to a genre or trying to stay relevant to a scene – yeah, you might produce something catchy and grab a spin on some mainstream radio, but it isn’t honest.”
That kind of honesty is particularly evident throughout ‘She’s Alright’, which combines wormy pop hooks and touchingly open lyrics – it doesn’t try to hide behind anything, and wears its heart plainly on its sleeve. And yet despite the song’s romantic overtones, Calvano stresses that it isn’t a love song. “It’s more of a battle between your little angel and little devil, and how when someone special comes along they can squash that little devil,” he explains. “So the song reflects on some of the wilder times and how things have changed.”
‘She’s Alright’ represents a sweet taste of The Settlement’s upcoming album, and though Calvano won’t be pushed into a specific date, fans of the band should prepare for an exciting 2017, particularly come, say, February. Wink wink. “Some of the songs on the album have been written for five years,” says Calvano. “Others were written in the studio. We’ve been working with the team at Footstomp Music and the rumour is the album could be dropping February 2017 with a tour organised by our agent Will [Watson].”
Until then, Calvano will be at home, nursing his wounds, writing his songs and dreaming, slaving away towards a future that he feels is both difficult to attain and yet utterly essential to everything he wants out of life. “My dream is to make music my full-time job but at the moment that just ain’t possible,” he laughs. “Unless I go and play covers every weekend.”
The Settlement appear at Leadbelly on Friday November 25.