Gringo Star: Playing the sides and in between
by Kristen Stanovich
photo by Vincent Monsaint
Luck seems to follow Atlanta’s Gringo Star. From releasing albums produced by Brian Bell of Weezer to literally hitting the jackpot at a small casino in Oklahoma, fortune smiles upon the artists throughout their career, allowing them to consistently release genre-blurring albums both experimental and nostalgic.
The brainchild of brothers Peter and Nick Furgiuele, you could say the band has been in the works since the two started their own blues band in elementary school. Growing up in Atlanta and North Carolina, it’s clear to see years spent listening to oldies stations has carried into their most recent musical endeavor, the new album blending sounds and melodies from various eras.
“We’re pretty similar in a lot of ways. Some people don’t really see eye to eye with their siblings but we have always been on the same page in the way we live our lives,” Peter Furgiuele said. “Maybe that’s because we’ve been playing together for so long. We just share a lot of the same interests we always have so it’s kind of just second nature.”
When Nick moved back to Atlanta, Peter followed shortly after finishing high school, maintaining a musical relationship with his brother that would soon after shape Gringo Star.
Their most recent album The Sides and In Between (released last month), is no exception to the band’s willingness to borrow tones from the 50s and 60s. Paired with vocal stylings, it is comparable to The Growlers or King Tuff, and has lighthearted guitar tones and effects that give tracks like “Magic” a modern feel. Moments of dissonance throughout the album allow for an interesting release from predictable melodies, providing depth to songs that would be otherwise repetitive.
The album was also self-recorded, bringing the group back to their roots of earlier albums.
“After the second one we did a lot of the recording ourselves,” Furgiuele said. “We got a few nice pieces of equipment after recording in nice studios to do what we wanted, but we didn’t get all the musical gear we have now. This last album is another story in itself.”
While the band was on tour last year they stopped at a gas station in Oklahoma. The store housed a casino where the band decided to hang for a while before setting off to their next destination.
“I went in and randomly put in some money into a slot machine and got really lucky and won the jackpot,” Furgiuele said. “I had been looking at a lot of nice recording gear, just kinda dreaming about it.”
He won more than $5,000 that he invested into new recording equipment. The band went straight into the studio after the tour ended.
Furgiuele says having worked on the recording and production for most of their albums, whether inside a professional studio or their own has allowed them to bridge the gap between a sound that is too polished or too dirty. One of the perks of self-recording is having the ability to mix the album themselves while setting their own timeframe for when it’s finished, he says.
The recent album is a collection made on their own terms, something Furgiuele is most proud of, fulfilling the sound and the range that’s most natural for the band. As opposed to being pressured by a label to produce an album people want to hear, the band was able to focus on their needs and the music they most desired to make.
“You’ve gotta please yourself in the end and I think when you do that you actually get rewarded more,” he said. “You’ve already rewarded yourself by making what you want.”
LIVE SHOW: Gringo Star performs at The Shakedown on Sunday, Sept. 18. For more about the band, gringostar.net.