Impressive Atlanta-based retro-rock foursome, Gringo Star, not only satirically snatch Beatles drummer Ringo Starr’s snazzy moniker, but also appropriate the sound of the Fab Four’s earliest British Invasion rivals. With verve and panache, they swipe the best ’60s-era disciples in an unreconstructed manner that truly distills rock and roll’s primal instincts, digging deep into the reservoirs like the best modern throwbacks.
On their delicious debut, All Y’All (My Anxious Mouth Records), brothers Nick and Pete Furgiuele and mutual pal, Pete De Lorenzo, show great taste while displaying adroit multi-instrumental skills. On first listen, their influences show all the way through to the roots. But over the course of time, each tuneful nugget these Gringos put forth proves to be resiliently original.
The title cut is a rudimentary garage rocker charged up by Kinks-styled power chords and howled choral rants, a durable re-creation done up with apropos studio reverb. Grafting early Beatles harmonies onto an appreciable Kink-Size groove, “Come On Now” temporarily drifts into the abyss only to return to its natural primitive state. Perfectly at home in its antique mid-‘60s motif, “Ask Me Why” dribbles a Yardbirds-ripped guitar figure across twangin’ Spaghetti Western riffs emulative of surf king Dick Dale.
When Gringo Star stray away from reversionary tactics and reach out to the present South, as on the incessant ‘satellite’-sung ellipse “Transmission” (a piquant Drive-By Truckers knockoff similar to Confederate-flavored discourse, “Eve Of Your Expression”), the results are nearly as good if not as provocatively so. They seemingly stumble upon the Strokes slurry elocution on disjointed self-assessment, “March Of The Gringo,” and assumedly shuffle through a Libertines-sniped melody for caliginous closer, “Black Night.” Two dramatic piano-driven numbers, “All Day Long” and blues-y blazer “Holding On To Hate,” also feel persuasive. Mixing their uncanny ability to regenerate the past in an eclectic fun-loving way with a spirited aptitude for formulating newly forged structures, Gringo Star make the best out of their excellent derivative resources.
But you could throw all those easy comparisons away when the boys play live. At Magnum’s Holiday Cocktail Showcase at Soho’s Santos House Party, they proved to be deceptively fresh as well as vibrantly retro onstage, delivering All Y’All’s li’l atavistic tunes with added vitality. Nick looked like a young Jerry Garcia/David Crosby hybrid with his medium-length dark hair. The two Pete’s donned hats and kept a tight reign on the repertoire. And drummer Matt McCalvin had the beat down pat from top to bottom. So what’s wrong with that? Nuthin’.
Here’s what Nick had to say beforehand.
How did Gringo Star come together during 2001?
We had a few self-releases under the name A Fir-Ju Well (pronounced a-fir-gee-well). But our last name is tough to pronounce, so basically when the band formed, Pete De Lorenzo and I would invite my brother, Pete, who was still in high school, to come down to Atlanta on weekends. We recorded a basement album swapping instruments in the studio to fill in songs or parts. We had such a good time the band began playing shows switching instruments. We were also into the diversity of not having fifteen songs sound the same, using different angles, ideas, and not having a particular sound, but just playing the songs we were into.
How’d the Gringo Star moniker come about?
We were into Mexican culture and art so the name has more to do with the gringo aspect then playing on Ringo Starr’s name. It had a nice little ring to it and played on the derogatory white man term from a Mexican standpoint.
That helps explain the Latin-flavored cover art where hatted plebeian zombies crowd a black steam engine trains’ grill.
That’s originally from a picture we found of soldiers from either the Spanish or Mexican War. They’re Hispanic dudes standing around a train. Our Chicago-based artist friend, Mariano Chavez, offered to do the cover with that picture as a guideline. He blew it up on his wall and filled in weird little creatures.