Francesco "Phra" Barbaglia, the man behind Crookers, never flew out of his small town in Italy until he started touring the world a decade ago. These days, the Italian producer/DJ leaves the travel planning to somebody else and focuses on keeping everybody dancing until the lights come up. In advance of his set with Crookers at City Hall this weekend at the official Westword Music Showcase after-party, we spoke with Phra about the craziness of touring America and what to expect from his performances.
Westword: Where are you right now?
Phra: I'm in New York right now, right? I had to look to outside. I'm so jet-lagged. I don't even know what I'm doing with my life right now. I'm in New York for a couple days, and then I start to tour. I did Washington, and I work here for a couple days, and then Denver, and then Orlando, Miami and EDC.
That's pretty crazy. What's it like having such a hectic tour schedule?
In ten years, this is the most touring I'm doing right now. It's kind of like every day I go to some new place, so it's good that I have a couple days here in New York to hang out with friends. Then I just go around like a gypsy.
As someone working at a career in music for so long, is touring at this level everything that it's cracked up to be?
Touring for ten years reminds me that I'm not a twenty-year-old guy.
Is the craziness of going from state to state what you hoped it would be, or different?
I don't know. Touring was really odd in the beginning because I come from a really little place in Italy, so I hadn't even flown once in my life until I started touring the world. It's kind of crazy, but after, or now, I realized it's the best thing ever because I have my girl touring with me. I think she is saving my life. When I was alone, I was way too crazy. With my girl with me, I am kind of chilled out and safe. The best thing is that I can focus way more on my shows, and on her in my free time. So it's a combination of super-nice things to do in different places in the world. I see a lot of people who get really bored or stressed out because of touring.
Do you have any favorites places, venues, or events in America?
Actually, I really love playing here in general because I feel like people are really enthusiastic about what I play lately. Everywhere that I was going here always has a lot of love going on. I think the Avalon in Los Angeles is super nice. I've played three or four times there, and it's always really crazy. Everywhere is really good. It's why I'm here.
Do you see a big difference in the enthusiasm here?
The first time I played the U.S.A. was six years ago, and right now, a lot of things are changing in this "EDM." I noticed that's just the way people think about this thing. A lot of people are way into this kind of partying, and the thing of it all is that when I play, I can't play a weaker set. People are not used to what I play, it feels like. Sometimes people just play seven or eight of the same tracks, one after another, and I just don't do that. I just play different stuff. When I play, people are waiting for the weird stuff I play, and I get really excited about it.
When you say "weird stuff," where are you looking to take your sets? You jump from hip-hop to rock and roll to disco...so where do you want it to go?
The music I make right now is a lot of stuff that I've already released. I guess I just play that and then might take it to 170 bpms of craziness. I don't like playing the stuff that people can classify. It's just energy. It's having fun on stage and seeing people really dig it.
Are you touring a lot of the festivals this summer?
I'm playing EDC, but beyond that I don't know. My girlfriend takes care of all that. I just go on stage and play, but beyond that, I don't know anything. I know that I am doing EDC, New York and Denver...and I just played Washington. But if you ask me where I'm going to play, I have no idea. The best part of tour is that I don't know where I'm going. I just go and play. It's kind of random, I know.
If you have someone on tour that you trust, why bother?