“Living out their own musical world, writing their music based on the world that they want to inhabit…”

In the world of the underground Boston music scene, very few people are doing what Simon Hanes is doing. The blonde twenty-something is truly living out his own world. For the past two years, Hanes has been writing music for and conducting the ensemble known as Tredici Bacci, a collective of musicians playing in the cinematic style of late 60s/early 70s composers like Ennio Morricone.

“Essentially all that Tredici Bacci is,” Hanes explains “is just a giant way of praising Ennio Morricone. So, anything that I could do to praise him in my own way, I will do.” He states this without a hint of irony. There is a serious reverence for the legacy of the Italian composer, both as a milestone in modern composition and in pop culture “You hear references to it everywhere, every day. The music that we call  ‘spaghetti-Western style music is all an Ennio Morricone invention.”

Hanes put together the ensemble as a part of a project while finishing studies at New England Conservatory. Originally, it was sort of a “musical joke,” as he describes it – a tongue-in-cheek way of experimenting with kitschy pop music mixed with modern composition. At the time, he was playing music at the complete other end of the spectrum – noisy groups like Guerilla Toss. At some point, he explains, he became “obsessed” with Morricone. “Slowly, this music has become the most important music in my life. I get depressed if I don’t get to listen to Ennio Morricone on a regular basis,” Simon explained to me. “I don’t like to watch any movies that aren’t Italian movies.”

Seeing Tredici Bacci in a live setting is so unique, due in no small part to the sheer size of the band. The number of strings (three violins, a violoncello, and cello), horn section, and core band creates a logistical conundrum, especially in achieving a balanced sound onstage. Simon explains, “There are certain things I know and certain things I don’t know, and those are the things that I have to think – ‘ok, in this lineup, where can I put the strings so that they can be loud and present in the monitors without feeding back.’”

The band’s first release, The Thirteen Kisses EP came out just a year and a half ago and was distributed by NNA Tapes. It created a stir within the Boston music community; following its release, critic and underground impresario Dan Shea wrote for WBUR that “you’d be a fool to miss a chance to see them play live.” Moody songs like “Lucertola” sound like they could have come directly out of retro Italian film imports like Metti Una Sera a Cena or A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Meanwhile, Tredici Bacci continued to play in and around the city, bringing the concept far beyond the performance of halls New England Conservatory where it was originally conceived.

On the band’s new album Vai! Vai! Vai!, Hanes sought to bring songs to life where he could present an “example of how my musical friends in that band are capable of being really tight, being total badasses.” With songs like “Sesso in Futura,” with constant tempo changes and strings racing against horns, that goal is brought to fruition.

If the reference point of Morricone is as important to Simon Hanes as he emphatically states, then fans of beautifully-written ensemble music in the Boston area are in for a treat. Tredici Bacci are a band of true believers who perform Hanes’s nuanced compositions with passion and fiery skill, whether on record or on the stage – or, if there isn’t enough room, with the string section right down on the dance floor.

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