Gringo Star

On Gringo Star's latest, liquid melodies cascade through air like a waterfall in zero gravity, brothers Nicholas and Peter Furgiuele and cohort Chris Kaufmann out-of-body—floating apparitions of a band glancing down as their corporeal manifestations radiate celestial blues and psychedelic garage bangers, gritty R&B shuffles and spaghetti-Western weirdness. Floating Out to See could—and should—be the soundtrack to Tarantino's first sci-fi film.

As the album's title suggests, 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. Shot pulsing from a vintage Leslie speaker, their guitars, keys and vocals pirouette across the astral plane, the psychoactive ingredients of their echo-slathered, doo-wop-indebted indie gems. 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.

Floating Out to See plays like a long-forgotten polaroid excavated from the bottom of some mysterious thrift-shop bin, scanned into a computer, emailed to your smartphone and Instagrammed with a nice washed-out filter—a shimmering post-War daydream plucked from the mid-20th century and dropped wide-eyed into the hyperlinked now. No other group today so effortlessly distills the essence of nascent rock & roll into something so entirely modern yet authentically, spiritually tethered to the past.

If you know a little about the 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."

With their family's R&B connections and their young obsession with early rock & roll, it wasn't long before the two brothers started making music themselves. When Nick was 15 and Peter just 11, they picked up bass and drums, respectively, formed a rhythm section and joined their first garage band. "We played together in the house and messed around on a little two-track," Nick says. "We've been writing songs together since before Peter was a teenager. We even played his 8th-grade dance."

A few years later, in 2001, with Peter still in high school, they started their first serious band, A-Fir-Ju-Well, and released their debut record on International Hits. During the second half of the decade, they formed Gringo Star and dropped a pair of lauded records—2008's All Y'all and 2011's Count Yer Lucky Stars—both engineered by James Salter (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and helmed by sought-after producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley, Deerhunter). Since then, 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, The Toadies and fellow Atlantans The Black Lips.

While recording the new Gringo Star album—a psych-rock symphony to the cosmos, awash in shimmering compact organs, latin drumbeats and Status Quo-style space riffs—the band tried a new approach. Instead of enlisting a respected producer/engineer combo like Allen and Salter, they struck out for uncharted waters on their own. "It's been cool without the safety net of a producer," Peter says. "This record is more ourselves. There's no other filter besides our filter."

Recorded in the band's basement practice space at Peter's place in Atlanta, Floating Out to See is also the first time that Gringo Star has tried home recording. "With the last two records," Nick says, "we'd just go into the studio for a couple weeks and crank it out. This time, we threw down a chunk of cash on a super-nice microphone, and recorded everything in our leisure, which led to a lot more experimenting."

Since they only had the one good mic, the Furgiueles and Kaufmann began a one-instrument-at-a-time, trial-and-error layering process that began with the drums, played by Peter and part-time touring drummer Cam Gardner of Washed Out. Some of the songs they'd never even played before the day they recorded them. In such instances, they'd run down the new tune a few times until Gardner had his head around it, then he'd crank out the drum track by himself without anybody else playing—just from memory. "And that's how Peter did it, too," Nick says. "A blind drum track. I would stand in the room with them, and just kind of play the motions and signal the changes."

In the wake of some significant personnel shifts (most notably the departure of third writing member Pete DeLorenzo), Floating Out to See is also the first Gringo Star record to feature the Furgiuele brothers as the band's sole lead vocalists/songwriters. "We always loved Pete D's songs and we loved playing with him," Nick says, "but I feel like there's more continuity now than ever before. Despite going through three drummers in the past year, Me, Peter & Chris are feeling super tight."

It's no mistake that the final track on the new Gringo Star album is called "The Start." Because this ending marks the beginning of a new era for the band. They've paid their dues over the last decade, weathering multiple lineup shifts and the often-brutal gauntlet of the road on two continents separated by thousands of miles of ocean, building their following the old-fashioned way; they've studied in the studio with the masters, and they've set out on their own intrepid sonic odyssey, returning with the blinking-light palette of esoteric sounds and unforgettable hooks that comprise their infectious new record, Floating Out to See. And now, they're riding this slowly cresting wave toward what looks a whole lot like a breakthrough.

Steve LaBate

Senior Contributing Writer

Paste, Georgia Music

Rock music may not hold the cultural sway it did in the days of Zeppelin or Hendrix, but
don't tell that to MODOC. Or tell them, sure, but prepare yourself for the clear-eyed
defense of the genre coming your way. Like the Nashville trio's contemporaries in Black
Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of the Stone Age and Band of Skulls, MODOC are
weathering this cultural lull just fine, carrying the torch for the sort of gritty, swaggering
rock music that topped the Billboard charts long before bedazzled pop tarts ever had a
They are true believers: "There is no gimmick," says singer Clint Culberson. Good thing
because audiences are tiring of gimmicks too. In fact, MODOC have seen it with their
own eyes, playing to increasingly larger and more passionate audiences at Summerfest,
SXSW and MidPoint, among other gatherings, and at over 150 shows across the South
and Midwest in 2013. There's only so long you can put up with manufactured, repetitive,
candy ass dross before you want the real thing. And MODOC are plenty happy to give it
to us.
Chances are you're reading this because you have at least a hint of what we're discussing
here. Perhaps MODOC played your city and "blew the doors off the place," as they did in
Baton Rouge according to attendee and Daytrotter commentator Will Spann. Or maybe
you heard MODOC when they were Fox Sports' Band of the Month, or when ABC music
supervisors wisely placed "Devil On My Shoulder" behind fall promos for the show 666
Park Avenue. (CBS followed suit in 2014, using "Devil" in Reckless.) Like so much of
MODOC's work, the song revels in twilight and seduction: "There's something 'bout
loneliness that sets you free," sings Culberson, throwing his arms wide open to embrace
the exile from the world that cut him loose. It's like a Southern Gothic novel on steroids,
and its sinister thrum will have you staring wild-eyed into the night like only the best
rock music can do, flames a-flicker.
MODOC are such convincing torchbearers for several reasons, chief among them that
Culberson, John Carlson (drums/vocals) and Kyle Addison (lead guitar/vocals) have
played together in one form or another since attending the same Indiana college. After a
stint playing as sidemen for a local musician, the three set their collective sights outside
the Midwest, leaving behind their friends and families to join the resurgent rock scene in
Nashville, where in recent years Jack White, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Jeff the
Brotherhood, Paramore, Autovaughn and others have infused the city with a vivid and
edgier energy.
"In our minds, the scene was huge, so we just thought, 'let's go down there and be a part
of it,'" Carlson says. "I feel like we got to experience something unique in the city's
history, the re-birth of a new thing coming out of Nashville. It was an amazingly good
decision. We love it here."
MODOC formed soon after the boys got settled, and they went right to work selfproducing
records and breaking into the notoriously hard-to-impress local scene thanks
to fierce, enveloping live shows that made the band impossible to ignore. Indeed, though
Nashville's streets are littered with musicians, producers and songwriters who quit
dreaming at the first hint of difficulty, MODOC relished the opportunity to determine
their own fate — a DIY approach that rings true for them even today. "We've always had
the deciding stamp on our work," Culberson says.
Look no further than the band's self-titled album for evidence of this determination and
commitment to craft. The eponymous effort, released the latter part of 2013, sounds like
it was recorded in a tony L.A. studio with Dave Grohl or Nick Raskulinecz despite the
fact that it was cut in a Music City garage. It was, in the words of Carlson, a "'don't trip
on your way to the lawn mower" type of situation. And yet MODOC revs and hisses like a
classic jet black Mustang speeding top-down on a desert highway — each explosive riff
and anguished tale taking you farther and farther away from that scene in the garage.
When Addison's sinister, tremolo'd guitar sits beneath Culberson's soulful yelp in the
first seconds of "When Ya Coming Home," MODOC's opener, it's made clear that, for the
listener at least, it won't be anytime soon.
Even before relocating from their home state of Indiana, Nashville's robust rock scene
was never far from MODOC's mind. The band considered larger metropolises like New
York and Los Angeles, but ultimately the re-ascendant Southern outpost felt just right. "I
don't know that we'd fit in or stand out in L.A.," Culberson says, laughing, although
West coast crowds will very likely take just as viscerally to the band's live show as they
have elsewhere. The same might be said of rock and pop fans in the U.K., where
MODOC have recently turned their attention due to that country's unabashed and
continuous history of supporting the up-and-comers and veterans acts alike.
Just a few years into their increasingly buzzed-about run, MODOC now have the sort of
momentum that should make the next few years exhilarating for band and fan alike.
Culberson, Carlson, and Addison are already demoing material for the MODOC followup,
and have confirmed performances at, Summerfest, Bunbury and more for 2014. The
band is also seeing growth outside the U.S. in far flung locales like Brazil, Argentina,
Italy, Spain, Germany and Australia, a testament to MODOC's potent affect as much as
the ease with which great music spreads online these days. It doesn't hurt, of course,
when the folks behind Band of the Day — one of iTunes' top music discovery apps —
select your band to play their official SXSW party, or when Apple itself deems your work
"New and Noteworthy."
But that's the thing, isn't it? Rock music isn't dead, despite all critical lamenting to the
contrary — it's just hanging underground for a spell, incubating while the starlets and
boy bands have another fleeting day. And when it reemerges, as it inevitably will,
MODOC will be waiting to give the people what they want, no gimmicks necessary.

Starlight Girls

Buzz go these busy bees of Brooklyn as they collect a pollen of sight and sound to make mescaline-laced honey for your immediate consumption. Starlight Girls live in a swirling fun house of everything you don't hate about music, drawing their influence from the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and the future. Whether it's a birthday party, Bat Mitzvah or church outing, Starlight Gir
ls are sure to bring the rubbers. As the late president Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." If Roosevelt were alive today he'd be listening to Starlight Girls and diddy-bopping in his wheelchair.

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