The first time I caught Atlanta’s psych-pop Gringo Star, they were opening for The Harlequins’ 2012 release party at Mayday, and the floor was shaking.
"Yeah, those guys are awesome,” laughed guitarist Nick Furgiuele. “We've played a bunch of times with them. That was a really fun night, as I recall."
Gringo Star is now on a northern swing, having just released a limited edition 7”, “Going Way Out” b/w “Taller,” in advance of their third album, due out this spring. I spoke with Furgiuele by phone, from a perch at a Canadian coffee shack somewhere between Toronto and Rochester, New York.
"It's the first time we've ever gone to Canada – so many horror stories from friends the last several years about getting fined, or turned away, or messed with. But it was actually super-easy and as usual, probably over-hyped by someone who had one bad experience.” Furgiuele paused. “I'm freezing."
Arctic blast aside, the tour has been exceeding Gringo’s expectations.
"Best of any tour in years,” he noted. “Pretty much every place we've been lately it's been raising the bar. Our DC show was packed, our New York show was packed. It was pretty exciting, because the last album [2011’s Count Yer Lucky Stars] has been out a year and a half."
For the new LP, Gringo Star has ditched the studio in favor of home recording.
"Whereas the last two albums we did with a producer, Ben Allen, this new album we decided we wanted to have time to experiment and mess around with different sounds and ideas and not feel like we're being pressured, because we're in a studio, to crank stuff out,” he said. "We just got some real nice microphones."
Furgiuele repeated that the change isn’t due to any band displeasure with the studio process; rather, they just wanted to spread out and relax.
"We're not at all trained engineers or anything, so it's just [an] experiment with different mic placements and sounds. We're still writing rock and roll. It's pretty, and more lo-fi than our last couple of releases,” he asserted. “"We wanted to dirty it up a little more and have the time to sit around and play with something for a few hours, to experiment with the guitar parts or organ parts. Before, it was way more concise. We just wanted to loosen it up and see what happens."
Gringo Star’s lineup will look a bit different when they take the stage at MOTR this evening. Pete DeLorenzo recently departed; Gringo has been playing with hired drummers, including Washed Out’s Cam Gardner, while out on tour. Furgiuele likes the results so far.
"Playing with Cam's great – he's super stellar. It's definitely refreshing to have such an awesome drummer,” he said. “It's been eye-opening because before, we did switch around a lot of instruments. Like, [Peter Furgiuele] my brother and [DeLorenzo], they would kind of flop between drums. We really didn't have a permanent drummer – it was always two or three different drummers switching around. Now we've streamlined a little bit, to where it's me, my brother and Chris [Kaufmann] playing guitars and keys, and one drummer. I feel like, live, we're way tighter."
Back home in Georgia, the band has been paring their new material and trying to perfect the new record.
"We're recording a bunch of extra songs so that we can narrow it down to those we like the most. We’re working on this song that has sort of a '50s, country-type vibe.” Furgiuele chuckled. “Still, it's hard to tell from the inside what people think it sounds like.”
Who: Gringo Star, Children of the Emerald Fire
Where: MOTR Pub
When: January 26, 2013; 10:00 P.M.; Free Show