There’s an inescapably visceral quality to Gianni Paci’s “Tonight’s the Night.” Recorded to cassette, the song’s demo-like sound masks a very full, comprehensive portrait of duality. Life is not black and white, good and bad; in fact, few situations are that simple. Our stories are more complex: Like yin and yang, there is darkness in light and light in darkness – an up to every down, and vice versa. On the surface, “Tonight’s the Night” is a song of hope – the narrator eyes gaze upon a brighter tomorrow. A deeper look uncovers the darkness embedded below that hope, the doubts that cloud one’s optimism, and the intimacy of our individual stories that guide our way. Through raw, emotive lines and stark acoustic imagery, Gianni Paci’s “Tonight’s the Night” captures the natural complexity of our blurry world.
I was looking for an answer
I was hoping for some shelter
I can make it through the storm
If you keep me safe and warm
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Tonight’s the Night,” Gianni Paci’s first release of 2017. A native New Yorker and 2014 NYU graduate, Gianni Paci got his start in the music world earlier than most: Opportunities to share a stage with the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Kiss band members granted the young artist a worldview that plays directly into his music. He began songwriting at age 8 and releases two full-length albums of original material as The Pine Hollows before transitioning into his current stage name. “Tonight’s the Night” is a B-side from Gianni Paci’s independently-released sophomore EP Smoked the Wrong Stuff (September 2016). While Smoked the Wrong Stuff delivers an edgy and electric mesh of pop/rock material, “Tonight’s the Night” introduces a different side of Gianni Paci: Here, we meet an intellectual scholar who assumes control of all aspects of his art in order to express a greater truth.
A plaintive, unassuming acoustic guitar opens the song. Reminiscent of the acoustic tracks off The Beatles’ self-titled White Album, “Tonight’s the Night” lures its audience in with the allure of simplicity: After all, a well-written composition is all one truly needs to evoke the most intense emotions. Perfectly aware of this, Paci opts for a less-is-more approach, adopting a laid-back, easy candor in his singing.
Yet, this is not an “easy” moment. Paci sings from the eye of a hurricane, expressing relief from temporarily escaping a malignant state. “Tonight’s the Night,” he repeats again and again, like someone promising oneself nothing can hurt me anymore. Paci wants to believe his words, but reassurance can only go so far: The weight of fear and past pain hangs heavy in the bare recording:
I was looking for a reason
Just to keep on with this feeling
I will make it through the storm
If you keep me safe and warm
Tonight’s the night… we will be alright
“Tonight’s the night… we will be alright.” The chorus is a promise, carrying with it the baggage of the past.
That duality is realized even further in Paci’s “Tonight’s the Night” music video. “I had been wanting to share this story of the abused woman, and the unevenness with which things are often settled in the wake of such incidents,” he explains. We experience the scar of abuse through a protagonist (Lily Mayer) trying to heal and move forward. Even though she’s with another partner (Gianni Paci), she cannot shake the feeling that things will slip back into her former horror – as depicted by a brief flashback that drives her to tears. We feel her disconnect: Her partner unintentionally exposes one of her bruises, not knowing the full story. He doesn’t understand; he may never understand. When the video is paired with the music, the audience experiences the conflicting weight of hope and hopelessness.
A promise is not enough. Hope is not enough. “Sometimes you see the scars… sometimes they’re invisible,” says Paci. “What would happen if an ability to see these things in each other transcended the trope?” Perhaps such a statement is wishful thinking, but it highlights how vital communication and self-expression can be in the healing process. The video ends with the two characters hugging each other intensely; we see Paci’s eyes look up, wishing that his hug could deliver the consolation his partner needs.
How can something so seemingly benign evoke such feeling? Gianni Paci’s “Tonight’s the Night” is a moving piece of art, a powerful two-minute revelation on just one of life’s complexities. Dig deeper into Gianni Paci through our interview below, and enjoy Atwood Magazine’s exclusive stream of “Tonight’s the Night.”
Watch: “Tonight’s The Night” – Gianni Paci
Meet GIANNI PACIAtwood Magazine: Your previous releases have explored several genres and styles. When strangers ask, how do you describe the Gianni Paci sound?
Gianni Paci: It’s about the songwriting first and foremost, and the quality of the performances. “Pop,” “pop/rock” and “rock and roll” are a few of the terms that usually come to mind for others in describing my sound. I think what is so different about my music in the context of the current climate is that I write all of my music by myself, entirely. There is no committee. When you’re listening to a Gianni Paci record, it is Gianni Paci: my song, my voice, my guitar playing, my production, my arrangement…and in the case of “Tonight’s The Night,” my drumming as well!
“Tonight's The Night” is part of a new collection. Can you speak to what's coming up for you?
Gianni Paci: “Tonight’s The Night” is a B-side from the Smoked The Wrong Stuff [EP]. It came to me with the rest of those songs, but it came about in a different way.
In a world with so much technology available to aid and inform the recording process, you rejected that and opted for a lo-fi cassette-recorded sound on this record. Why is that?
Gianni Paci: I write on the acoustic guitar, and I have recorded many an acoustic demo to my cassette player. I prefer the analog process — I feel it brings out the best in me. “Tonight’s The Night” is an interesting case of an original acoustic demo being repurposed as a full on track. I added the drums, bass and keyboard later. There’s an energetic element to the experience of performing like this that I connect with on some of my favorite older recordings that I feel is so far lost in some of the more contemporary stuff.
“Tonight's The Night” has nearly a demo quality to it... It reminds me of the stripped-down tracks on The Beatles' The Beatles. Can you speak to this?
Gianni Paci: Well, I will never forget the day that I purchased the White Album! But yes, it is that elemental, deliberation of performance that I hear on those sorts of records that inspires me to carry the torch. It’s really important to play the instruments, and to sing, and to allow the colors of one’s natural palette to shine in painting a unique and memorable image. It’s really easy to submit to this culture of character homogenization. The musicality is lost in the expectation that we don’t (or shouldn’t) lead with our human selves.
Your music with The Pine Hollows certainly explored various realms of rock, but the band failed to gain the social media following that you have on your own. To what do you credit your considerable (and growing) social media following?
Gianni Paci: It’s a persistence in releasing content, playing out, being aware of all the going’s on as much as possible. It’s just a learning curve in terms of experience in being in the music world and having all of this compounded knowledge and material.
How did (or has) growing up and living in New York City affected your musical approach?
Gianni Paci: I was performing at all of these New York clubs and bars almost ten years before I could even buy a drink there, so I definitely think it aided the artist in me as far as learning from the history in those walls. Actually, I almost made away with a chunk of CBGB’s right before they closed, but being a little thirteen year old, I returned what I took when asked by the club management. There are so many interesting people that I met in my years growing up and performing, and a lot of those friendships still endure to this day. I guess the simplest way to put it would be to say that the intensity of the environment helped to foster the belief in the child that I was that all of those bigger opportunities were indeed accessible.
You had a lot of cool opportunities growing up. Now that you have been pursuing a career as a solo artist, how do you make opportunities for yourself? What barriers have you had to overcome?
Gianni Paci: There is a huge chasm in the world as I see it where we have this growing societal awareness of acceptance and difference, but in practice that idealism is deemphasized to the point of the opposite, where we are seemingly always asked to be everything to everybody. To use the history of the recording artist as a metaphor, it started with radio, with focus mostly on the sound of the music. Sure, image was important, but it wasn’t as important as it became in the early MTV era, when some music careers seemed to be launched from it. Now with the internet, it’s a sort of free for all. I think it’s a blessing that people like you and me are able to create and distribute and reach people this way—don’t get me wrong—but I think it is a double-edged sword. It is shooting in the dark in a lot of ways, and I guess I have always led with my artistic intuition in terms of creating opportunity in this climate.
Tell me a bit about the song “Tonight's The Night.” What inspired the video?
Gianni Paci: The process was pretty visceral… The song and the idea for the video each came about rather quickly and fully-formed. I had been wanting to share this story of the abused woman, and the unevenness with which things are often settled in the wake of such incidents. She finds refuge in another guy, but with the marriage of the song and the video, the feeling is that it’s a kind of unresolved distraction. There’s an excitement, but also a tepidness… a cautiousness that things could regress, or that history could repeat itself. I guess there’s an element of it all being a metaphor for the sometimes brutal nature of the healing process. In the way that each of us is the sum of our past experiences, there is the eternally imperfect nature in the way that we come together and interact with others. It’s like, sometimes you see the scars, or in this case, the bruises, and sometimes they’re invisible. What would happen if an ability to see these things in each other transcended the trope?
“Tonight's the Night” has this feeling of looking-forward to tonight, where things will 'be alright.' What is it about that message that speaks to you?
Gianni Paci: To hear them in a more literal way, yes, I think there is an excitement or positivity there. But in tandem with the music, the melody and the performance, my intention was to infuse the opposite, and to incite something a little more complex. Have you ever tried convincing yourself that you could climb out of the hole you fell in? It’s like that: “I can make it through the storm,” but only under certain conditions. The verses flesh out this feeling of emotional longing—to want to feel okay, to conjure some optimistic deadline where, by some magic, the stars could align and provide some sort of “answer.”
Do you consider yourself a hopeful person?
Gianni Paci: Indeed. I am hopeful that everything is happening exactly as it should, and for the greatest good. The passing of time provides a context for all of the deeper shades of perceived negativity: in hindsight, it is exactly because of them that the opposite has meaning.
What does 2017 have in store for Gianni Paci?
Gianni Paci: I will resolve to say that I am on the brink of an artistic breakthrough. There is an enlightenment that comes with the meeting of certain minds!
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cover: Gianni Paci © 2017