Interview: Joel Martorana of Colletto Bianco talks heritage, acting and juggling jobs

Credit: Brad Spencer

The multitalented Joel Martorana is a well-established name in the local rock scene. With his fingers dipped in more pies than we can eat, the musician/entrepreneur recently released his second single, “Throne”, as Colletto Bianco (Italian for ‘White Collar’).

As well as the solo project, Martorana is also the frontman of Sydney emo punk band Endless Heights, one half of dream-pop duo Peace Ritual with Thomas Elliott (Harbours), and runs an artist development business with Candace Krieger called beastmode. So yeah, he is a busy man!

Mastered by Grammy award-winning engineer John Greenham (Billie Eilish, FINNEAS, Lady Gaga), “Throne” is a dark pop track best described as emo jazz. Its accompanying video shows the character dancing bloodied and bruised in Sydney’s Marble Bar, continuing the theme of his debut single “Choke”. Coinciding with the release was Colletto Bianco’s debut live performance at Sydney Powerhouse Museum on Thursday 30 June, with live painting from Shaun Allen (Nerve Damage) to compliment the set.

We had a chat with Martorana to discuss the new single and creative project as a whole.

Congratulations on the release! How have you found the reception so far?

Thank you! It is still such early days in the world of Colletto Bianco, and I’m always curious to see how the project may be landing (or building) with an audience. I am humbled to see that people seem to ‘get’ the approach of the project (much faster than I expected haha), and seem to be embracing the ‘world building’ that I get to go for with the broader team and talented people who jump in across the visuals and sounds. I am also super excited to see how it may translate to an audience live!

How did the idea for Colletto Bianco come about?

The idea came from some improvisation writing sessions with audio genius Elliott Gallart (The Chameleon Studios) – we worked off some beat references and Elliott pushed me to be my ‘dramatic self’ haha. From there it was clear that we were cooking up a cinematic sound. My personal love for blockbuster films gave me the idea to really try and build a fictional character/world, and couple the music as a ‘character project’ to really have the license to build some wild visuals.

In order to make the thematics and branding as believable (and fulfilling) as possible, it made sense to leverage anything authentic to my own sense of identity, and use the project to (indirectly) delve into my own journey with my Italian heritage, faith (or love of Catholic imagery) and sense of ambition or purpose.

“Thone” in particular is such a unique blend of musical styles, from emo and rock to pop and jazz. What were some of the song’s influences?

“Throne” was one of the later songs that Elliott and I wrote together, and this is one he really led the charge on in terms of structure or sonic hooks. When writing the vocal, we stuck to our usual ‘improvised’ approach in order to ‘feel out’ the various jazz and ‘washy’ moments. I love the blend in musical styles and Elliott and I have a history of working together in heavier projects/genres (hardcore/rock). This history really anchored some of the influences in the track, and was balanced with other influences or song-structures from cinematic ‘HBO-style’ shows and films.

The spectacular video has incredible acting at such a beautiful venue. What was it like to dance on top of the Marble Bar counter?

Thank you so much! I have been really, genuinely trying to act and act well (which is always a bit intimidating!), but I am absolutely loving bringing Colletto Bianco to life in each clip. Dancing on the bar was an absolute dream, and after months of negotiation with the venue (alongside producer Chris Elder), I was a bit concerned we would be kicked out for it haha. But everything ran smoothly, and it was a delight to shoot in such an iconic space.

With so many great projects, how do you find time for them all? Does this urge to create nonstop contribute to the musical themes?

I think I am lucky in that juggling multiple projects (though challenging), definitely does give me life, and leaves me more and more inspired. In saying that, I have many amazing people who help bring every single element of each project to life, and to a quality of such excellence. I think juggling creative projects requires a solid and healthy (professional and unprofessional) support network. I am lucky that individuals such as Candace Krieger help guide and plan out my many, many ideas and genuinely inspire me to keep trying to create authentically.

You had your debut performance as Colletto Bianco last Thursday at Sydney Powerhouse Museum. What did we miss out on?

The show at the Powerhouse was literally the most perfect way to launch an art project like Colletto Bianco. The space in itself is stunning, and I’m thrilled to have been able to debut the first live iteration of Colletto with an interesting projection and lighting element.

Also beyond humbled to have shared the night with the insanely talented Shal (who put together a massive live painting), and sound art by Julian Wessels. The whole mission of Colletto Bianco is to inspire other artists to create, so it is such a joy to launch alongside artists I genuinely admire and am consistently inspired by.

Follow Colletto Bianco on Facebook and Instagram to keep updated on the latest adventure.