By Bella Savignano | July 27, 2022
Have you ever been at a show and thought, “ I could really go for a cannoli right now?” We know the answer is probably no, but after you experience a post-gig cannoli at a Michael Incognito concert, you’ll never want to be at a show without the Italian delicacy. We’re not joking, you can find the New Jersey singer-songwriter’s mother at the merch booth after his set, slinging cannoli like you’re on the streets of Sicily. That sort of kinship is imperative to the essence of what Michael Incognito is as a musical project.
“I think in a lot of ways an audience is passive. They’re coming and sort of just watching. My goal is to build the most hodgepodge, random collection of people. A community. And I really just want people to feel like they’re coming into my house and having a meal with me,” Incognito told us. That’s what he’s all about. He wants his shows to feel like you’re hanging out, frothing over a steaming, saucy plate of spaghetti, dancing around the kitchen with a bottle of chianti–all soundtracked to Frank Sinatra. So, the best night of your life. Ours, too.
As a musical project, Michael Incognito is adventurous, ruminative, and sensual. As an individual, Incognito is charismatic, sincere, and most importantly, aggressively New Jerseyan. Declaring himself the “gay Tony Soprano,” Incognito isn’t involved in the mafia (that we know of…) but he does feel fierce about family and vehemently champions self-confidence.
“I feel like, in a lot of ways, the mob is quite similar to the music industry. So it’s more of the mindset and the mentality. I really want to feel like a strong, confident person, and have my family, my crew, and my work,” he elaborates. The Sopranos, Incognito tells us, is the magnum opus of the New Jerseyan, Italian-American experience. It’s sardonic, outrageous, and entirely overblown, but at the core of the show, there’s a level of self-assuredness we can all aspire to. Though confidence is quintessential to Michael Incognito’s musical identity, he isn’t removed from the trials and tribulations of the human experience. His songs dig into the clash to make sense of his sexuality and identity, issues that this musical project helps him confront.
“I didn’t value myself high enough or give myself time or space or the respect that I deserved,” he says of his life before coming out. “I love digging into the past, and I mean like seven to eight years in the past, not like last year. I’m still thinking about shit that happened in 2012 and 2013,” Incognito elaborated about his writing process.
Enthralled with the stage since he was a kid, it’s no shock that Incognito ended up pursuing music as a career.
“I think my parents saw something in me, just that I needed to move and sing and stuff,” he says of his childhood. A self-proclaimed “theater kid, tried and true,” Incognito was involved in community theater from a young age and participated in theater through high school. He also did choir, took vocal lessons, and learned basic guitar chords from the German exchange student staying with him during his freshman year of high school. All of these led to Incognito’s inevitable musical odyssey, playing shows in high school, joining a band in college, and now pursuing his eponymous project, Michael Incognito. Though Incognito will always love the theater, he’s fulfilled in his decision to pivot towards music.
“The amount of people who are on Broadway is so small. I was like, we need better chances. And this is more fun. I can wear more glitter and shit,” Incognito laughed.
In a crowded room in July at Williamsburg’s The Knitting Factory, Incognito played a red-hot show to an audience of friends and adoring fans, who of course, are all tangentially adopted into the Incognito family. He plays on stage with the “Family Band,” a troupe of friends who he says is sometimes mistaken as his relatives. He doesn’t go out of his way to correct that misconception, though.
“Let’s challenge what family means to us. Approaching it from that mindset, I think makes us feel better. We just went through like such a crazy past three years, so having another family feels really good. And it’ll never get old,” Incognito reflected.
Before the show, Michael Incognito answered some questions for the groovement:
What was the first concert you ever went to?
Properly? Les Paul at a jazz club. He invented the electric guitar. One that I genuinely really remember? Best Coast at Terminal 5. And I put vodka in a Dunkin coolata, and it was awful. It got real warm, real fast.
How would you describe your music?
New Jersey pop. Alt-pop. If Matty Healy was a lot gayer, and was Italian and maybe from New Jersey.
Who and what inspires your music?
The Sopranos, for sure. Dinners with friends, unexpected conversations, endless bottles of red wine, late nights down the beach. I love The 1975. I think everything that they do is sick. I love, love, love Julie London. I like Carole King’s Tapestry, I grew up on that. A lot of Sylvester, a lot of Motown stuff. Paul McCartney is also a huge influence.
Do you kind of have any goal you set out to accomplish with your music? Any wisdom you hope to impart?
Have you guys seen Marcel the Shell with Shoes On? I just saw it last weekend, and there’s a line where Marcel says, “Is it a community or an audience?” I was totally taken aback by that, because I think in a lot of ways, an audience is passive. They come, they’re spending money and everything, but I think they’re coming and sort of just watching. My goal is to build the most hodgepodge, random collection of people. A community. And I like really just want people to feel like they’re coming into my house and having a meal with me. That’s why my mom sells cannoli at the merch booth. I really want people to have a space where they can feel comfortable and really sexy.
What’s your dream venue to play?
Madison Square Garden forever and ever. Something more manageable, Bowery Ballroom. I’ve seen Sunflower Bean. I’ve seen The Districts. I got to see Electric Guest. Some of the best, up-and-coming, buzzing New York shows.
What’s next for you? What can we look forward to?
New single [“BOYS GO”] out tomorrow. Single and video. It’s epic, we run around the West Village and wreak havoc. Lots of writing. We’re gonna be putting on a song hopefully every month, but I’d say look out for the next one in September!
📸: shot by Sierra Horne