Gringo Star

Gringo Star

Gringo Star are insouciant explorers, tossing the paddles overboard and drifting on the currents of their lackadaisical curiosity across a rippling sonic ocean, out to the far edges of rock & roll. Shots pulsing from a vintage Leslie speaker, their guitars, keys and vocals create the psychoactive ingredients of their echo-slathered, doo-wop-indebted indie gems; psychedelic garage bangers, gritty R&B shuffles and spaghetti-
western weirdness. Taking cues from Santo & Johnny, The Stooges, Ritchie Valens, Marc Bolan, Percy Faith, Sam Cooke, the men working on the chain gang—uh! ah!—they’re all here, their electric ghosts reaching across time, tapping Gringo Star on the shoulder like the crossroads devil to Robert Johnson, bestowing secrets, passing torches.

If you know a little about brothers Nick and Peter Furgiueles’ roots, it all makes sense. “Our grandad started out in radio in the ’40s and ’50s in Columbus, Ga.,” Nick explains. “He was a huge promoter of R&B back when it was still super segregated, and he was playing black music and putting on shows with Little Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers, a lot of Gospel shows. So we grew up hearing all these stories, listening to all this music. Our grandfather was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame posthumously. And my grandma—all her photo albums are like Jackie Wilson shirtless backstage, hanging out.” Not to mention how Nick and Peter used to raid their parents’ record collections, cutting their teeth on the likes of Buddy Holly, The Animals and The Kinks. “Our favorite music comes from the ’50s,” Peter says, “and that music influenced all the ’60s bands we like.”

The band has toured relentlessly across the U.S. and Europe building a diehard underground following while sharing bills with everyone from Cat Power and Feist to The Black Angels and Weezer, and also touring with Wavves, Best Coast, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and fellow Atlantans The Black Lips.

Twenty-plus years of stories, twenty-plus years of perfecting music's craft, Ski Lodge's Big Heart is exactly what a debut record should be: the culmination of a creative force's life on this planet. Andrew Marr, the multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter behind Ski Lodge, has created a deeply personal record that overflows with lush melodies and insatiably catchy choruses. His songs occasionally deal with dark matters—infidelity, painful break-ups, loneliness, disjointed father-son dynamics—but Marr bathes them in a blissful light ripe for sing-alongs.

"I try to write songs honestly, and a lot of the things going on in my head that I struggle with might be deemed 'dark,' but I don't think that means I can't sing about them in a way that is musically upbeat or poppy," Marr says, from his home in New York City. It's a dichotomy that also translates to Marr's choice for musical moniker. He explains the name Ski Lodge "evoked an image of being warm by a fire, alone or with friends, while outside exists the cold and cruel winter."

Big Heart, Ski Lodge's debut full-length, out this summer on Dovecote Records, is Marr's fullest realization of this hot and cold split. Marr wrote all of the lyrics and music, and played nearly every sound that ended up on the record. However, this was the first time the 26-year-old worked in a professional studio with a producer, the indelible Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast, Fool's Gold), over several weeks in Los Angeles. The combination of Marr's intrinsic songwriting and Pesacov's LA-defining production skills resulted in music with fuller breadth and scope than Ski Lodge's previous release without losing any of the wry innocence that made 2011's self-titled debut EP so much fun.

The one exception is the lead single "Just To Be Like You," which was recorded with the full band in Upstate New York using producer Kevin McMahon (Walkmen, Real Estate). Prefix Mag called the track "sugary sweet pop," while Pitchfork warned its readers not to "be deceived by the energetic, hopscotching riff" before lauding the single's dark depths. The song and its accompanying video of cult imagery are an exploration of contrast that fits in perfectly with both the album and Ski Lodge as a whole: deeply affecting and unmistakably danceable.

M.T. Bearington

Matt Thomas knows how to write a song—as evidenced in over a decade of music-making with the Weigh Down, Leaves of Lothlorien, Short Pants Romance, etc.

Sometime around 2006, he found himself in between projects, wondering what to do next. The answer came as soon as he got his hands on a Mac and discovered Garage Band.

He toiled and tinkered. He wrote and recorded one song. One song led to many. He shared a few with people. The people really liked them—particularly Jason Hammel of Mates of State, who encouraged Matt to put a band together to share a bill with the Mates and Carlos Wells, who released the collection of bedroom recordings as "A Cloak of Nouns and Loss" on Safety Meeting Records in 2008.

Three drummers, four bassists, three guitarists, and one trumpeter/keyboardist later—the Bearington Band remains busy as ever.

Their full-band, follow-up effort "Love Buttons" hits the shelves on Valentine's Day 2011. Produced by Fuzzy Rainbow (Fake Babies, Eula), with a hand from Greg Giorgio at Tarquin Studios (Interpol, The National), it's an upbeat collection of sonic musings on various forms of love—from the traditional to the twisted—through the eyes of characters real and fictional.

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