Described by Pitchfork as a mix of Tame Impala and Buddy Holly, Atlanta band Gringo Star have a new single out, Rotten, ahead of a new album, and tour the UK later this year. Frontman Nicholas Furgiuele talks about channelling their 12-year-old selves in the studio and making tomato pie.
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
My brother Pete and I have been writing songs together since we were pre-teens. We started out using a little two-track tape recorder, and we would just write songs and record them in our spare time, after school. Early on, I got way into Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly. We both grew up raiding our parents’ record collection, which was a lot of 1950s and 1960s rock ‘n’ roll. Over the years though, everything becomes an influence. Roommates’ tastes, the radio, friends, you walk into a club and hear something, or a bathroom in a crummy gas station in the middle of nowhere is playing some garbage, but whether you like it or not it all shapes us in some way.
How have you evolved as a band over the years?
We’ve been playing as Gringo Star since about 2007 and over the course of the band we’ve worked with several musicians. We’ve had a few drummers come and go and also worked with a handful of guitarists. So inevitably playing with different folks in the band has affected our sound. The last few albums we’ve produced and recorded ourselves, and I think that we spent a lot more time on experimenting with arrangement ideas, and different instruments and sounds. Almost like it’s gone full circle to when we were 12 year olds, and we just did whatever we wanted. No pressure on being done quickly because we’re in a studio for a limited amount of time, no outside influences from engineers or producers – just us, doing what we want to do, how we want to do it.
Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
We used to be called “a fir-ju well”. It was a phonetic play on our last name “Furgiuele,” but then we wanted to call ourselves what the Mexicans we worked with called us – gringo. Thus arose Gringo Star.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I just got back from visiting my brothers house (he’s away) and I’m watching his garden. More tomatoes than you can imagine! Mostly I’ve been bagging them up for him and putting them in his freezer. But there are so many, and I’ve been bringing home some also. Yesterday I made a tomato pie with a bunch of them, but today I think I’m gonna do something else. Leaning towards somehow incorporating them into tacos.
How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
We’re just doing our thing. At our next board meeting we’ll bring this up though. Good point.
What’s on your rider?
The usual run of the mill, you know, green herbs for relaxational purposes, some money for dinner, some beers, a bottle of bourbon and apples.
Tell us about your worst live show.
A couple years ago I broke my arm playing baseball. Got hit above my wrist with a heater while batting in an ATL Sandlot Renegades game. It took about eight weeks to heal, and during that time we had to play a few festivals. Honestly nothing is worse, to me, than not playing guitar and having to sing. I see why Jim Morrison drank himself to death. I was basically banging a tambourine on my leg, with my good arm, and my other arm was in a sling. Half the set, which my brother sings on, I was basically a tambourine player, and we didn’t have any bass. The other half of the set, on my songs, I was banging a tambourine out of time and singing lead. It felt a little awkward.