Occhipinti SP68 and No Burden
Indie rock and Sicilian wine: one is a ubiquitous genre aging hipsters cling to that arguably peaked a long time ago and the other comes from a region most well known for massed produced mediocrity and sweet fortified wine. Well, not anymore. Just when you think one category is tired and saturated with the same sounding acts and another is slow to evolve with the times like your aunt who still has an AOL email account, two women just doing their damn thing come and breathe new life. Enter: Lucy Dacus and Arianna Occhipinti.
I’m late to the Lucy Dacus party. I saved “I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore” to a playlist when it came on a Spotify Radio station of some other indie girl artist not knowing whose song it was. I just knew the singer had a killer voice and I liked her style. Then I instantly recognized her when I heard the boygenius EP which I’ve been obsessively listening to and subsequently delved into her small (she’s only 23) but powerful body of work. While I could have focused on her more involved, more mature sophomore album, I love the vulnerability and unashamed self-discovery of “No Burden”.
Lucy is from Richmond, Virginia where she started playing music at a young age. She eventually added members to form a band and released “No Burden” on the local label EggHunt Records which quickly got the attention of major labels like Matador who signed her mere months later. She’s remarkably self-aware, especially for such a young artist, and pulls from her past and the people around her to reflect upon. The result is fuzzy, grungy rock music and rich vocals with a certain elegance that immediately drew me in.
Arianna Occhipinti is a rockstar in her own right. Starting at age 16, she worked under the influence and tutelage of her uncle Giusto, owner of the prominent COS winery in Vittoria, and learned how to make natural wine using the indigenous grapes of the region. She earned an oenology degree in Milan and then started Occhipinti back in Vittoria and released her first vintage in 2006 at the age of 24.
Vittoria has a long winemaking history dating back to the 1600s until phylloxera wiped out its vineyards in the 1800s, then was later rebuilt in the mid 20th century. Sicily is something of a stepchild compared to famous Italian regions Tuscany and Piedmont and furthermore, Vittoria stands in the shadow of Mt. Etna (literally and figuratively) as a subregion within Sicily itself. The Occhipintis are proof that Vittoria is on the rise as a region making bangin’ dry red and white wines representing this unique region that are impossible to ignore.
Arianna’s flagship wine SP68 is named after the country road that runs along Vittoria where her vineyards are located. The Rosso is a blend of native varietals Nero d’Avola and Frappato that still lingers in my mind days and weeks after tasting it. It’s a beautiful bright ruby color in the glass. It’s crazy aromatic with loads of cranberry, raspberry and fresh soil with whiffs of savory herbs, a little licorice and purple flower. It’s super bright, light, and dry with a little grip. It has a soft and light mouthfeel and zippy acidity. There’s very little intervention in the winemaking process and the juice is fermented and aged in concrete with no oak contact. It’s a tangy, crunchy glugger. And it’s still really good on day two, which can’t always be said for natural wines.
“No Burden” has a kind of fed-up swagger to it. Lucy calls the world and her life as she sees it. She sings with a straight-forward, matter-of-fact confidence - one that comes from going through a lot of bullshit and coming out tougher and giving fewer fucks. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” comes in hot with driving drums, riffing guitar and her commanding vocals declaring she’s over trying to live up to expectations.
“Troublemaker Doppleganger” is just a straight up cool rock song about a guarded girl with a rebellious, adventurous spirit who’s trying to protect herself from the outside world and how she acts in it: “I wanna live in a world where I can keep my doors wide open/ But who knows what’d get in and what’d get out?”
“Strange Torpedo” is energetic and direct, taking aim at a reckless, destructive person she’s with and how she perpetuates it, how she’ll “play the fool”. “Dream State” does a lot of things - it’s about having a dream; said dream is a metaphor for her relationship; and the hypnotic combination of vocals and music coax the listener into a dream-like state. In her dream, the relationship is destroyed in a storm, and she sings that “without you I am surely the last of our kind” as she’s left by herself.
The band is deft at buildup throughout the album, like on “Map on a Wall”. It starts steady and focused and then increasingly bellows with sound and energy. After a hesitant and insecure start lyrically, the final message is an inspiring one: “But I am alive and I made up my mind/ To live fearlessly, running wild beneath the trees/ Above a ground that’s solid at the core/ If you want to see the world, you have to say goodbye/ Cause a map does no good hanging on a wall”. This sentiment also speaks to one of the amazing things about wine: it allows you to explore the world through the many different wine growing regions and the people who inhabit them, especially with such a terroir-driven wine like the SP68.
The last track, appropriately named “Familiar Place”, is a callback to “Dream State” where she repeats the refrain “without you I am surely the last of our kind”. Earlier in the album, her subject is falling, not yet hitting bottom, and now they are trying to climb. Either way she’s on her own regardless of their actions and seems to have accepted it or at least understands it.
Lucy and Arianna dig deep to express their true intentions - Arianna quite literally, as she relies on the subsoils in her vineyards for the old vines to draw from and produce fresh, minerally wines. They’ve both launched as popular and sought-after artists just by doing what they do with integrity. “No Burden” and Occhipinti SP68 use the past to forge their future path, making you both excited and weak in the knees in the process.