We talk to Michael Di Francesco, aka Touch Sensitive, ahead of his upcoming headline performance at Strike Bowling's Live on the Lanes east coast tour.
Michael Di Francesco is at Sydney Airport waiting for his flight to Melbourne when I talk to him for Beat. Known under his stage name Touch Sensitive, the producer and musician is en route to the APRA Music Awards, where his co-writing work with Ghanaian-Australian hip-hop artist Genesis Owusu has earned them both award nominations.
“It’s exciting for me because for the entirety of my life, besides when I was young playing soccer, awards have always steered clear of me so it’s nice to be nominated for some,” he admits. Now, the history books show that Genesis Owusu took home the trophy for ‘Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year’.
Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.
Airports, travel, shows and gigs are all par for the course for accomplished musician Di Francesco, who’s career in electronic music spans time as a band member of Van She; writing, remixing and producing for others acts – both here and in the US. His own success with solo project Touch Sensitive has given the world synth-heavy hits including ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Pizza Guy’.
This means he’s played shows with everyone from the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Daft Punk, played countless cities and appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert as part of Owusu’s band. Impressively, the appearance was conducted remotely from Sydney, given the pandemic didn’t allow them to travel to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.
However, his upcoming tour will be “by far the wildest. This one takes the cake, as far as extreme gigs go,” he says. As Touch Sensitive, he is headlining Strike Bowling’s Live on the Lanes east coast tour, which are exclusive shows being held at their venues.
Wait, what? Aren’t Strike known for their ten pin bowling lanes, laser tag, karaoke and escape rooms? Yes, but once a year they present Live On The Lanes, where the alleys double as a live music performance space.
“I’ve played in some beautiful places, but not in a bowling alley,” he chuckles. “I’ve played on an island, or you know, on a boat in the Whitsundays, all that kind of stuff. But not in a bowling alley on top of the lanes where people are bowling balls to hit pins underneath the stage.”
Pre-pandemic, Live On The Lanes was a one-night-only event, with high-energy Melbourne six-piece Northeast Party House and Confidence Man among the last to take the headline honour before everything shut down for a couple of years. To celebrate our emergence from lockdown and to do their bit to help energise the local live music scene, Strike have expanded the Live on the Lanes concept into a capital city tour.
Touch Sensitive will be in Melbourne on May 11, at Strike QV; in Brisbane on May 12, at Strike Wintergarden; and then on May 13, at Strike King Street Wharf in Sydney, with each show having effectively an invitation-only crowd.
When his management first suggested these shows to him, Di Francesco (who cheerfully admits “I am so bad at bowling! I have never been good at it but my partner is”) thought it was an “awesome” idea but was curious as to how it would actually work.
View this post on Instagram
A purpose-built platform resting over the alleys will function as the stage, while allowing bowling to continue. “So basically, you’re bowling at the band,” he explains. “I’m really excited to see when people make strikes, and then I can announce it. It’s gonna be lots of fun. I might even work on a special theme song so every time someone does a strike, then we’ll just bust into whatever the theme song is”.
Di Francesco had been bouncing between Sydney and the US pre-pandemic and was on tour in the States when everything shut down, so came back to Australia with his American fiancée and had a child. While being a first time father occupied plenty of his time, the inability to tour didn’t mean that he remained idle creatively.
“Everyone was kind of like, ‘okay, we’ve got some time now, let’s make some music’ so I actually was pretty busy throughout the whole thing, doing studio stuff,” he says, acknowledging that “everybody has their own their own story, and some people lost a lot”.
The forced break was a productive time. “I worked on the Genesis record, and I worked on Isabella Manfredi’s new record and some other stuff. Right when Covid happened, I was working on another EP, which was like the sister or brother EP to the one that I put out previously, which was The 36th Level. So basically, the concept was one of my uncle’s on the cover of one, another uncle on the cover of the other, and the first one was like the 80s one and the next one is the 90s one, which the cover is a photo of my uncle in a delicatessen in the 90s,” he says of the EP he is expecting to release in the coming months.
With new music and a rest from touring, Touch Sensitive says he can’t wait to be in front of an audience again and get into the spirit of a gig in a bowling alley. “I might make everybody in the band wear bowling shoes,” he laughs. “It’s gonna be wild. I’m very much looking forward to it”.
For more information, head here.
In partnership with Strike.