We meet the winsome Italian trio making waves on the live scene with their authentic brand of no-nonsense stripped-back rockabilly… By Craig Brackenridge

Italian trio The Glad Rags seem to have been attracting a real buzz recently despite only getting together in the summer of 2021. Their classic, drum-free, rockabilly line-up features Pete Bridges on lead guitar, Francesca (Li’l T) Zanotti on lead vocals and acoustic guitar alongside Silvia Consonni on double bass and additional vocals. Located close to each other between Milan, Como and Bergamo, they’ve created an intimate, stripped-down brand of rockin’ that is rich in harmonies and gathering attention across Europe and the UK.

With a five-track demo and 7″ single on Retro Recording Services (My Poor Little Heart b/w Route Stone) already available, their CD mini-album, Rockin’ Duets, has just been released featuring a septet of covers alongside a single original composition and a live radio recording. For The Glad Rags, though, this is all just a teaser for a whole lot of important activity in 2023, a year in which they look set to leave a real impression on the rockin’ scene.

Have there been any line-up changes in the band since you began?

Pete: No, this is the original line-up of The Glad Rags. Silvia was the double bass player in one of Li’l T’s projects, a rockabilly trio that, due to the pandemic and for other reasons, came to an end. The idea of the duets came up later. Silvia and Li’l T used to meet up to tattoo each other and have fun together. As they were eager to get back on track with music, they decided to try to rehearse the Everly Brothers’ Bird Dog. Their vocal harmonies matched up instantly and the magic started. The girls were so surprised and happy that they decided to form a band and look for a guitar player.

Silvia: One evening I went out to see a rockabilly trio playing in Milan named The Dusty Rows, whose guitarist was Pete. We’d known each other for a while and after the show we were chatting and having a beer.

Li’l T: Pete was looking for a singer so he asked Silvia if she was playing with someone and if she was interested in joining a new project. Silvia mentioned her duets with me and, after few days, me and Silvia decided to audition Pete and the band was formed!

Did the inspiration for the band’s name come from the Johnny Bond song of the same name? Or was it something else?

Li’l T: The name is not strictly connected with the song, but we like the idea of dressing up for a special occasion like a gig or a party. We have different jobs in everyday life, so it’s always great to wear our ‘glad rags’ and rock on the stage!

Were you all in other bands before The Glad Rags got together?

Silvia: Yes, we were all playing in different bands before. There was the project Li’l T and I were trying to start but it took some time before reaching the perfect combination – Covid, distance and guitarists were not easy ‘problems’ to deal with! Pete’s been on the scene since the early 2000s and his former bands were The Northside Playboys, The Three Chords Wonders, The Dusty Rows and The Hoodoo Sinners.

What is the rockin’ scene like in Italy at the moment?

Pete: We’ve always had talented musicians and internationally renowned rockin’ bands. In terms of one-nighters and weekenders we had a strong scene, especially in the early 2000s. Many of those events have had to close down lately and if a big name from abroad is in Europe they might not even gig in Italy. However, we still we have a range of really cool, good quality events such as the Nasty Rockabilly Weekender in Treviso, Italy’s one and only doo-wop festival, Sh-Boom, and of course, The Summer Jamboree in Senigallia, to mention just a few.

Why did you choose not to include a drummer in your line-up?

Li’l T: Not including a drummer came naturally from the start. Personally, I never wanted a drummer, ’cause I wanna try to keep everything natural, fresh and simple. At the end of the day I think rockabilly is about vocals and guitar and we have both!

Are there any other acts that you particularly admire?

Pete: The Glad Rags’ influences range from The Skip Rats to Hi Noon and when talking about 50s artists we must mention The Cochran Brothers, Kalin Twins, The Everly Brothers, Barker Brothers, Collins Kids and Burnette Brothers.

How do your songs come together and how do you feel about getting a balance between original compositions and cover versions?

Silvia: We are always working on our self-written material – some is already available and some more will come soon. It all comes spontaneously and quite naturally. One of us comes up with an idea, we put it together, and there you go! We like what we do and are so glad if people appreciate it.

There are some great vocal harmonies in many of your tracks. Was it always intended that you would all contribute to the vocals or was this style something that you just discovered once you began to play together?

Li’l T: Personally, with Silvia it was so simple to collaborate both in music and in life as she’s one of my best friends. We just started singing and the rest was so  easy! I think we both admire The Everly Brothers and, of course, The Collins Kids but the key point is just doing what we feel at the moment.

Silvia: I really love harmonies in every way. In my former bands I have always been either singing duets or harmonising backing vocals.

Li’l T: In the other bands I had before The Glad Rags I was always the lead singer, so to have someone harmonising with me at the start was really new. When I was younger I was always singing with my sister, so my ears were already trained a little bit to this kind of stuff.

Could you tell us a bit about your RRS Sessions on YouTube? It’s a great selection of recordings – were these filmed during the actual making of the songs or created specifically as videos?

Pete: The Retro Recording Services Session videos were filmed during our first studio session when we made our first demo, Introducing The Glad Rags, and the takes are all live!

You seem to gig fairly regularly. Have you always performed a lot since you first got together or have bookings increased since last summer?

Li’l T: After our gig at the Good Rockin’ Tonight festival in France in April 2022, we then played in Austria, Croatia, Spain and Switzerland. We also have more international gigs coming along with smaller shows every now and again in Italy. So yes, we are happy to play fairly regularly and hope to keep on rockin’ like this!

Finally, as your sound has so many vibrant elements, do you all have similar musical tastes?

Li’l T: We all have different musical backgrounds and influences from jazz to rhythm and blues, country, western swing, blues, bluegrass, rock’n’roll and even soul, classical music and garage. However, one thing we all agree on is rockabilly… and with that we believe in ‘less is best’!