Artist of the Month: Giolì & Assia
Artist of the Month: Giolì & AssiaJune 13, 2022
Of the many things Gioli & Assia share, one is an addiction.
Not an addiction for which the two Sicilian-born, alternative electronic musicians would need to seek help. An addiction sustained by their fans, one that comes from a feeling they can only find on stage.
In September of 2019 Gioli, real name Giorgia Lipari, and Assia, real name Assia Nania, were performing in Bogotá, Columbia, providing their seething rendition of pop music delivered over melodic techno beats.
Lipari, the duo’s primary instrumentalist, was rhythmically tapping the handpan, a metal hand drum that produces melodic tones and serves as a centerpiece of the Gioli & Assia sound.
Nania, the duo’s primary vocalist, was manning the CDJs, ensuring the electronic elements were in sync with Lipari before she began singing their hit single, “Inside Your Head.”
It was in that moment they felt euphoria, when they became addicted.
“They were singing louder than us. How is this possible? We released this song in June and it’s September and they already know it,” Lipari says, dialing in with Nania from their home in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. “Watching them being so happy to sing our song is the best thing ever. We are addicted to that feeling.”
Since Lipari and Nania experienced that feeling, they have used their live performance as a vehicle to drive the Gioli & Assia project on a journey to new heights, both literally and figuratively.
Literally because Lipari and Nania have journeyed to exotic locations to film their “#DiesisLive” video performances including the peak of an active volcano on the Eolian Islands, Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland, and Punta Bianca Beach in Agrigento.
Figuratively in the sense that Lipari and Nania are at the point in their journey where they have risen to the height of a highly in-demand touring act. They’re selling out shows on the international circuit, and they invite their fans to join them on their journey at every gig.
“We think about our music in general, as the shows, as the videos, as the production, as a journey,” says Nania.
“When you love someone and you really want to get closer to their person, it is the same feeling that we want for our fans,” says Lipari, both of them doing an impressive job communicating their thoughts in their non-native English.
That intention of love and closeness is one that defines the Gioli & Assia project, as Lipari and Nania have been in a romantic relationship since March of 2015. Their union as a couple is the foundation upon which they have built their musical duo.
The two Sicilian natives initially connected in 2014, like many couples in the 21st century, through social media. Lipari had a Facebook page for her solo project (also under the name Gioli), and after Nania made some coquettish likes and comments, she eventually messaged Lipari directly asking for a song.
Lipari was happy to oblige, and then the two began talking constantly, quickly discovering their common goals for music, but more profoundly their connection as human beings that continues to support their partnership after more than seven years.
Speaking to them together, their chemistry is palpable and jovial. They’ll often talk over one another in a light-hearted fashion that rejects the idea of interrupting. Or they’ll finish each other’s sentences without missing a beat.
“When we met our goal was to have puppies, make music, travel the world, have a garden…” Lipari says.
“…and achieving all these goals together—it’s really amazing,” Nania says, completing the thought.
Beyond their authentic adoration for one another, there is also a sense of equilibrium. They have so much in common, but they also have inverse qualities that balance one another, creating a safe space for them to be honest with their feelings.
“We are never sad at the same time and we are never too excited at the same time,” says Lipari “For example, usually I’m the one that is a little bit more anxious and more negative. She knows that. But when I see Assia being anxious automatically I can’t be anxious anymore. I must be positive to balance.”
“Most of the time it’s always me being positive, but there are certain days that I am very down—” Nania says, unable to finish her thought before Lipari begins speaking again.
“When she’s negative, you know that it’s a negative time, so I’m trying to cook something even though it’s not my strength,” Lipari says with a laugh.
They are equally comfortable discussing their dynamic as human beings as they are their dynamic as musicians, and in February of 2020 they fully shared the nature of their relationship with the world via their music video for their song “Feel Good,” in which Lipari and Nania share a kiss.
Lipari and Nania were reluctant to share the video at first. They mulled over the decision for months, nervous that such a bold statement would hurt their career. Then around that same time, a performance of theirs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was canceled when the Malaysian government denied them entry into the country because they’re an LGBTQ couple.
The road to acceptance and inclusivity for all people is still a long one, but Lipari and Nania are determined to push for progress. They want to be an example for other LGBTQ artists, even if they may lose some fans.
“If [our fans] don’t love us, they don’t love us for who we are,” Lipari says. “If you like our music, our music exists because we are a couple.”
From a musical perspective, that couple started as manager-client with Nania initially serving as Lipari’s manager. It was in those beginning years they placed a strong emphasis on video content and applied a DIY mentality to every aspect of the project.
The earliest posts on the Gioli & Assia YouTube page are videos of the Gioli solo project. Some are videos of Lipari playing the handpan on her bed. Others are music videos for Gioli tracks like “Heji Yah,” which was the debut release on their own record label, Diesis Records, back in December 2016.
For their videos Lipari does all the editing, Nania does coloring, and since Nania taught Lipari Photoshop, they make all their graphics together as well.
“It’s difficult when you have an idea to tell someone else to do it. It’s something we’re not really good at because we really like every aspect of our job,” says Lipari.
“We are so picky and perfectionist, sometimes we hate ourselves,” Nania jests.
Nania had been interested in singing from a young age, but growing up in a town like Alcara Li Fusi with only 1,000 people, it was hard for her to imagine music as a profession. However, after being with Lipari who had been touring for years before they came together, she started to believe that music was her path forward. Or rather their path forward.
And so in 2017 they launched the Gioli & Assia project, which demonstrated their own bond and also provided complete creative freedom. They wanted to sing, to play piano, guitar, handpan, all the instruments at their disposal to honor their plethora of shared musical influences including Coldplay, Stromae, Radiohead, and more.
The club-heavy beats came into the fold for a simple reason:
“We really like underground music, and the reason why we play it is because we have fun dancing with it,” Lipari says.
Lipari and Nania immediately began working on an album, sharing numerous singles which culminated in their March 2018 debut album, Istantanee, following it up that August with another album, Night Experience, in August of that same year.
From there the release schedule slowed down a bit. Sparse singles started coming out in 2019, but Lipari and Nania wanted to do something bigger. They needed a new challenge, and that challenge was “#DiesisLive”.
“The reason why we did “#DiesisLive” in general was because we wanted the people to see what we can do and what we want to do live,” Lipari says.
Lipari and Nania filmed the first “#DiesisLive” performance on a cliffside in Milazzo, Sicily, and it was quite the success on YouTube, sitting at nearly 10 million views at the time of writing. While they were happy with that result, they knew they had to follow it up with something bigger.
“We know that the worst thing for an artist is to do the second thing. The second viral video. The second good album. The second hit,” says Lipari.
And so, for their second “#DiesisLive” Lipari and Nania chose an exciting and dangerous location: the peak of an active volcano on the Aeolian islands. But they didn’t stop there. On top of undergoing the logistical difficulties of filming a live set on top of a mountain, they needed a song for the momentous occasion, and that song became “Inside Your Head.”
“We wanted to express that vibe in total. The power of Mother Earth,” says Nania of “Inside Your Head.”
The scene of the second “#DiesisLive” opens at sunrise. The fiery colors one would pair with a volcanic eruption are instead hanging in the air as the morning light passes through the clouds. Lipari is on the handpan and Nania is on the CDJs, emanating smoke swirling around them, as they perform “Inside Your Head” to open.
“When we did the volcano it was so special, and everybody was impressed because there was the sunrise, the smoke, the music,” Lipari says. “We know when a video will be viral because we are the first that feel the emotion.” At the time of writing, this “#DiesisLive” has the highest views on the Gioli & Assia YouTube page with over 24 million.
The world now knew the tremendous feats Lipari and Nania were capable of, and ever since then, when they perform live, the world reciprocates the pure love and passion they pour into their music.
So much so that Lipari and Nania have an addiction to the feeling they get on stage, and they will continue to satiate that addiction as they tour in support of their upcoming album, Fire Hell and Holy Water, due out September 2022 on Ultra Records.
But before they could dive back into the euphoria, they needed to take time to remember who they are as individuals, who they are as a couple, and how fun it is to make music together, and the only place they could do that is back home in Sicily.
“When we came back from the US tour we spent all of January and February at home just to have fun again,” says Lipari.
“The music was very freely produced in the studio without boundaries. Without genres,” says Nania.
That process of creation and rest came before one of their most extravagant endeavors in their career, their recent trip to Iceland where they visited locations all around the country including filming a #DiesisLive video astride yet another volcano, Fagradalsfjall.
At first, Nania wasn’t into the idea of going to Iceland at all. It even got to the point that she said it was “never going to happen,” but Lipari kept pushing for it, and they eventually agreed.
“After five minutes I was convincing everyone else that we have to go there,” Nania says as Lipari laughs alongside her.
Lipari was set on Iceland because it offers such variance in its topography. Volcanoes, glacier lagoons, green cliffs, waterfalls. It’s a country with a huge amount of diversity and duality, which are two tenants that apply to Lipari and Nania on every level. Their music, their relationship, their personalities.
“We called our album Fire Hell and Holy Water, because fire and water are the opposite, but you need them both,” Lipari says. “We always played with this duality because we feel like it’s our story.”
That story, the story of Gioli & Assia, is not anywhere near its conclusion, and they welcome anyone to become a part of that story when they perform live.
Harry Levin is a freelance journalist living in Los Angeles. Connect with him on Linkedin.