MPF Band Spotlight: RUSSO [Interview]

It’s all gone a bit MPF mad here at Shout Louder HQ. There are so many great bands that we don’t know where to begin! To help you make the most of the festival, we have spoken to a handful of the bands we’re most excited to see. Even if you’re not coming to MPF, there’s plenty to learn and enjoy.

We will be posting every day in the lead up to Manchester Punk Festival. Check out the full series here.

Band Spotlight: RUSSO

Easily one of the most exciting prospects of this year’s Manchester Punk Festival is the opportunity to catch Sam Russo with a full band. Known for his clever lyrics, enthralling storytelling and affable, wry persona, Sam Russo’s charming acoustic folk has been a highlight in the punk scene for many years. RUSSO as a full band take all of Sam’s songwriting talent and bring to it a gusto and force that simply isn’t possible with one man. We can’t wait to hear it.

As it’s one of their first outings as a full band, we spoke to Sam Russo to find out more.

Why should people come check out your set at Manchester Punk Festival?

  1. To get a good spot for The Copyrights.
  2. Our guitarist is going to wear a black velvet shirt with embroidered tribal dragons on it. He sweats a lot.
  3. New full band Sam Russo punk rock songs that rip.
  4. Turgid banter.
  5. Life is short.

You’re known for your solo performances, however you’ve recently put together a full band: Russo. Why did you decide to put a band together now, after years on your own?

I’ve always wanted to play full band, and most of what I’ve written solo is written with a band in mind. I guess I just never got the right people together. It’s hard enough for me to get three people together for a beer let alone to form a band! I guess I’m hard to play music with!

When the people I’m playing with now agreed to give it a shot I just ran with it. We’re all great friends – I think that’s the key. I can’t play music with dicks. Well, I can’t play music with dicks I don’t like… I like these dicks a lot, I trust them, they’re cool as hell and we have fun so it works.

We’re actually all very different people which makes it really hilarious. I’m by far the least talented in the band: Katie’s a real musician – total multi-instrumental hero – she’s played with Pablo from Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros and rips a mean sax. Chris is one of the best tattoo artists in the country, as well as a director and photographer, and he’s played in a bunch of awesome stadium rock bands. Marty is a full-time drum teacher and kid’s party magician with a music degree. I’m the only guy with zero legitimate skills and a Squier guitar haha! That’s the secret people, surround yourself with weirdo geniuses and eventually you’ll pick up a thing or two…

I’ve heard the full-band Russo experience described as ‘magical’. What would you describe it as?

An orgy of solitude.Sam Russo Live.jpg

I wouldn’t strictly describe the Russo sound as ‘punk’. What do you think your band will make of the ‘punk’ crowd?

They’re going to fucking love it! At the shows we’ve played so far they’ve all really let their hair down and hung out and made a bunch of friends. It’s great: I get to introduce them to people and party like it’s the first time every night! I mean, look, l’m in a band with one guy who makes me listen to Rebecca Black every Friday, a guy whose last two shows were Steps and Bruno Mars and a girl who spends most of practice with her head in her hands weeping in a cloud of farts and feedback.

When I told them we were playing a fest that Propagandhi are headlining, they looked at each other then back at me and said ‘who?’. It’s going to be fantastic. We’re gonna freak out the squares.

Seriously, I think people have it in their heads that we’re a folk band or something. They’re in for a surprise. I just asked Katie how she feels about playing to the punk crowd and she said, “I feel like Data learning about humans, fostering a desire to one day be one.” I second that. It doesn’t matter to me who we play to, I just want to make sound, connect with people and have fun. The fact it’s punks just makes it sweeter. I hope no one spits in my mouth or kills me.

You’ve played Manchester Punk Festival solo before. What do you think is the best thing about the festival?

It’s in the greatest city in the world, it’s run by bloody lovely people, the bands rule and so many of my friends go. I love that it covers so much of the spectrum of punk. I love that it’s not 100% crusty or 100% poppy – it’s got something for anyone who digs punk. That’s what it’s all about for me. It’s my favourite UK fest by a mile.

Which bands are you most excited to see at MPF, and why?

The Copyrights and Propagandhi. I love The Copyrights, toured with them a bunch in the US and we’re just good buds. We’ve had all kinds of fun and got into all kinds of trouble – I miss them loads and can’t wait to hang out. They put on such a mean show – so full of fun and energy and passion. I’m getting excited just thinking about it! I’ve never seen a Propagandhi live so I can’t fucking wait for that. I’m a fan.

Propagandhi or Iron Chic?

BOTH! Teleportation!

Your Instagram suggests you’re a rugged outdoorsy type. What’s the largest animal you could take down with your bare hands and a bottle of whiskey?

All truly rugged, outdoorsy people gram…

In answer to your question, probably Mecha-Godzilla.

Manchester Trivia: Which was worse? Madchester or Brit Pop?

I like elements of both! I grew up surrounded by Oasis lads and naturally hated it all with a passion because it was forced on me constantly, but now looking back some of it is pretty cool. The cultural ripples and knock on effect of both has been interesting to observe. I once played an open mic after a guy who played Wonderwall three times in a row and people were screaming along and begging him to play it again. When I played they chanted ‘ED SHEERAN’ until I left. Good times.

See you in Manchester!


Check out Sam Russo on Facebook and Bandcamp. We reviewed his acoustic show recently – you can read it here.

At Manchester Punk Festival Russo are playing in Gorilla at 18:00 on Saturday – make sure you check them out! Consult the MPF Clashfinder for more details.

Check out our full series of Manchester Punk Festival related articles:

In the past, we have also interviewed all of these awesome MPF acts: Lightyear, Random Hand, Ducking Punches, Waterweed, Beat The Red Light, Stand Out Riot, PMX, Darko and Lucinda Livingstone of Kamikaze Girls.

Article by Sarah Williams.

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