Michele De Sanctis: Why Cagli Rocks

story and photos by Angela McNutt

On a Sunday afternoon, in the depths of a small, dark basement in Cagli, Italy, the sound of music escapes. And these are not the operatic tones of Bocelli and Pavarotti wafting up through an open garage door.

The voice of Michele De Sanctis counts out the opening beats to a Beatles’ cover. “I feeeel fine,” he wails on perfect pitch. Bass and rhythm guitars Michele De Sanctisfollow in sync to the driving pulse of the drums. The combination of the lyrics provides a contrasting soundtrack to the surrounding, quiet streets of Cagli.

Uncharacteristic of a band’s frontman, Michele De Sanctis describes himself as a quiet person. By day, he works in the tranquil environment of art restoration. At night, as the lead singer of local band The Amenic, Michele’s performance personality comes to life on stage. He enjoys and appreciates music, which is why he loves being a part of a band. “It is an opportunity to practice music and to play music,” he says.

The Amenic has been together for about five years. Named for the locale of their rehearsal space next to the now-defunct movie theater, Amenic is a reverse of the Italian word cinema. Each week, after university studies, day jobs, and individual practice time, the group’s members assemble for an afternoon rehearsal. For a couple of hours each Sunday, following pausa pranza, the group works through a set list. Their next concert -- out of a typical 20 per year -- is coming at the end of July.

While at their underground practice session, each band member is in his zone yet attuned to one another, throwing each other a glance, nodding in approval at the harmonious sounds. Snickers, grins, and friendly chiding follow the closing notes of the Beatles’ cover. Everyone laughs at Michele’s pronunciation of the English lyrics.I just want to play... Though he took classes in school and speaks the language enough to communicate, it’s his pronunciation that receives the playful ribbing. Michele shrugs his shoulders. He laughs with his friends, looks down at his feet, and gives in. “It is bad,” he says. “It’s sad. But true.”

A Mickey Mouse Walkman sparked Michele’s penchant for music. At the age of 4, he incessantly played his lone cassette tape -- a Blue’s Brothers’ recording. This genre of music would later influence his musical voice. At the age of 6, Michele began his musical foundation by studying piano. A year later, after a disappointing experience with a teacher, he quit. Music not forgotten, Michele took up the rhythm guitar around the age of 18 and started playing in his first band. “The band didn’t have a singer,” he recalls. The group auditioned each other. With a voice fit to do the high and low ranges of rock, Michele struck a chord. “I’ve always liked to sing,” he comments.

Michele’s love of music, artistic ability on the guitar, and enjoyment of singing continues with The Amenic. At the start of every performance, placing mouth toward the microphone, he leans in to announce “Noi siamo Gli Amenic...e facciamo rock and roll!!!” [“We are The Amenic and we play rock and roll!!!]” Much of the group’s music comes from American and English bands. Artists such as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd influence the group. Classical music and solo artists such as Marvin Gaye and Elvis Presley make their way into the performance repertoire as well. “I like the blues voice,” Michele says. “They [blues singers] can sing the high note and the low note.” He pays the most attention to powerful voices and good technique.

The camaraderie among the group’s members is evident as they gather outside after a rehearsal. Their conversations are typical of young men in their 20s. Michele offers one reason he enjoys living in Cagli. “I grew up here and know the people in Cagli,” he says. For Michele and bass guitarist, Andrea Panichi, family is the tie that binds them to the group; they are cousins. This group is about connections. Michele and Aurelio Sordini, drummer, have played music together for 10 years. Massimo Mattiacci, guitarist, is a friend of Michele’s, and the creative mind behind the group’s name. Jacopo Chiarucci, rhythm guitar, recently joined the group; he replaced his cousin three months ago.

For Michele and the rest of the band, combining their talents is an opportunity to do what they love - make music. Described by his bandmates as artistic, Michele wrote the group’s one original song, Walk Straight. “I love the music and playing music,” he explains. “I like the people. When playing live, [I] like the emotion of the crowd. I just want to play.”