In the conversation, Furgiuele talked about the tour & festival (QRO festival preview), their tour of Europe, including new Gringo Chris Kaufman (of Sovus Radio) & upcoming documentary Hurry Up and Wait, the release of debut All Y’all (QRO review) on the continent, home town of Atlanta, why they all switch instruments all the time, the agricultural roots of their recycled signs, not being on Wikipedia, never having two ‘r’s at the end of their name, and much more…
QRO: What is it that you do in the band?
Nick Furgiuele: I play mostly bass and guitar and sing. But everyone sort of plays everything. I guess two of the Petes [Furgiuele, DeLorenzo] both play drums and piano as well and everyone kind of floats around between being the lead singer. There’s a lot of back-up vocals and percussion instruments too.
QRO: That’s good. Y’all have broadened a lot then, since I saw you a few years ago. I saw that Chris Kaufmann joined the band. When did he join?
NF: He joined us the end of last year, I guess about August or so. We toured Europe with him. That’s was the first he’d joined, right before we went to Europe last year in the winter of last year, and he also did a tour with us in the US when we got back, and ever since then has been playing with us ever since.
QRO: Yeah, I knew him from Sovus Radio.
NF: Sovus Radio was like my favorite band.
QRO: Mine, too, when they were around.
NF: I was pretty bummed out when they stopped playing.
QRO: Yeah, me too. What was the reason for adding [Chris] to the band?
NF: Matt [McCalvin] needed to leave the band. He left the band about that time. He kind of told us that he was only going to play to a certain point and we had been practicing with Chris before he actually joined the band, just so we’d have a smooth transition.
QRO: I tried to look y’all up on Wikipedia. There’s no page for you yet. I was a bit surprised.
NF: Yeah, I don’t know. I haven’t been to the Wikipedia page yet. [laughs]
QRO: There isn’t one. [laughs]
NF: Maybe I should get on there now. [laughs]
Yeah, having Chris is great. He’s a really great musician and singer and stuff. The band feels like it’s really gelled in the last six to eight months, or however long.
QRO: That’s good. Yeah, he’s definitely an expert, a professional. So why did y’all change [the band name] from A Fir-Ju-Well [the phonetic pronunciation of Nick and his brother Peter’s last name, Furgiuele]? Was that a different type of music?
NF: No. I mean,
It wasn’t any real reason other than we really just wanted to change our name, ‘cause we weren’t too into our name at the time…for a while. It had just become hard to pronounce for people, or [they were] weirded out by it.
QRO: Sometimes people put a connotation on a name. They might have thought it was something kind of out there.
NF: I think everyone thought different things, too. We just changed it because we had just come upon that name. We were talking about changing the name for a while and that just kind of popped up, someone just said it, and we were thinking about Gringo being in the name and that just kind of came out of that.
QRO: Originally, you had two ‘r’s at the end of the name, like Ringo Starr.
NF: No, people still do typos and type it like Ringo, but there’s only ever been one ‘r’ at the end. We weren’t trying to pun Ringo’s name as we were just referring to ourselves as Gringo stars. But we’ve never used the double ‘r’.
QRO: I was mistaken then.
NF: A lot of people put that. Every few days, at least, a club will spell it that way because they think it’s spelled with two ‘r’s, but we’ve never spelled it that way.
QRO: I used to see your wood signs for your shows. What was the inspiration for those wood pallets or whatever it was that you used?
NF: They were these corn crates. We all worked at EATS. We used to all work there until we all met.
QRO: They would definitely catch your attention. It’s real original.
NF: Then we didn’t have to go out and make copies and do stuff like that. It was easier just to go get some "oops" paint at Home Depot for like two dollars and paint some signs that you got for free.
QRO: And it’s recycling. I don’t know if y’all are into that concept.
NF: Oh, definitely.
QRO: I just watched your "Come On Now" video. You had a promo up for your Hurry Up and Wait movie about your European tour, that’s going to premiere at the South by Southwest Festival (QRO preview). In that video ["Come On Now"], what is it that’s hanging down?
NF: Actually, the guys that did the documentary, that was actually one of the first times that we met them. That was in Austin at SXSW, last year (QRO SXSW 2009 recap), and that was on the UT campus, or whatever the campus is right there. That was an art exhibit on the campus. It was just all those yellow, noodle-looking, rubber pieces hanging down, in a rectangle, like 20 feet high.
QRO: I was wondering if it was a sculpture. It, at first, looked like pasta noodles.
NF: That’s what it seemed like, too. I guess it was an art exhibit.
Trailer for Hurry Up and Wait:
QRO: Was that your first year at SXSW, last year, then?
NF: No, we’ve been there probably five or six times over the last eight years or so. We’ve only officially been in the last couple of years. Like, before, we would just go and play parties and unofficial shows and stuff that were going on… which we’re doing this year as well. We’ve got, in addition to a booking agency showcase, we’re also playing a couple of day parties, and there’s a night party. [One is] just for a Chicago blog, hearya indie [link].
QRO: I saw that you have signed with a label in Europe now. Was the first album that you released here, was that on a label or did you release that?
NF: We self-released that album, All Y’all. And we’ve been pretty much touring and promoting that for the last year. And now with this label Cargo Records, it’s coming out in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland, mostly in inland Europe, stocked in those countries, I think.
QRO: Will there be a U.S. release also?
NF: We hope to someday to get a U.S. label and U.K. label behind releasing it, but right now, there hasn’t been any sort of anything that interests us enough to want to do it.
But regardless, we’re gonna come back and start recording another album. We’ve put it out there as much as we could on our own, but we would like to get a label behind it. But if we don’t, we’re still planning to come back and release another album that would be for the Cargo label as well. They’re releasing All Y’all, which is the album we’ve been touring on.
QRO: So that’s what they’re going to release now, not new material?
NF: Yeah, they’re releasing that album at the end of April or May. Then we’re going to record a new album about that same time that they release that one over there. We’re going over there, shortly after that, to tour Europe again. But yeah, we’re going to go ahead and try to get another one recorded that we’d like to either self-release in the U.S. if there’s no interest or something, but definitely to also give to Cargo to release in Europe.
Gringo Star playing "All Y’all" live at Santos Party House in New York, NY on December 10th, 2008:
QRO: What is the reason for changing instruments in the band? Is it just so people don’t get bored, or some people play better on certain parts or they came up with certain parts?
NF: From the beginning we always did that ‘cause the first time we ever played all together, it was a recording, so we would just switch around the studio. Everyone was singing their songs, so people would get behind… say if Pete D was singing a song, he probably wouldn’t wanna be playing drum or something, so he would play guitar, piano, sing with Peter. Pretty much, whoever wrote the songs play either the guitar or bass or something and then, they also play drums, you know. It wasn’t intentional; it’s just how the songs all happened. We don’t change around as much as we used to, I don’t think. We used to change probably way too much. It’s just refined itself a little bit. So now it’s a little concentrated, but we still swap around.
QRO: It seems to be kind of a trend. Broken Social Scene (QRO spotlight on) does that and some other bands.
NF: I think it also helps us make more diversified sounds too, just different combinations of people.
QRO: So tell me about the Harvest of Hope tour you just did in Florida and Savannah.
NF: We played in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Orlando, and Savannah. The president of the festival was there for a couple of days, and other days there were other people working with it giving away tickets to it, t-shirt and pins and stuff, and try to get more people out to the festival I guess. The president would get up between bands and talk about the Harvest of Hope Festival and what it was about and just trying to spread the word. It was fun. There were two bands from Florida, The Beauvilles and the other band was called Mumpsy. They’re both real good bands. Mumpsy’s actually gonna play with us at The EARL at the end of our tour coming up of the U.S. April 16th we play The EARL.
The Harvest of Hope Festival… We’re playing on the Sunday. Our tour starts in Charleston; on Saturday we leave for that. But that should be fun. I’ve never seen Broken Social Scene (QRO spotlight on), but it’s pretty cool we get to play the same festival. We’ve played with Man Man (QRO live review) before. I like those guys a lot.
QRO: Do you know how long your set will be at the festival?
NF: It will probably be about 45 minutes or something like that. I’m not sure. We just found out yesterday that we’re playing on the main stage that Broken Social Scene and Man Man are playing on, but I think we’re one of the first bands on that Sunday. I haven’t seen any times or anything. I looked on their website because it said it would be updated on March 1st but it hasn’t been updated. [Update: Gringo Star play Stage One from 11:10 am until 11:40 am on Sunday, March 14.]
QRO: Yeah, they’re still new [at the festival]. This is only their second year, so they’re doing pretty well, considering.
NF: Ah, definitely. They were all really nice, the folks that were working with it, that we met down in Florida.
QRO: So did they contact you to play, or did y’all find out about it?
NF: I think that there was a fellow in Florida that put together the little Harvest of Hope mini-tour thing, and he was a fan of our band, and he was booking for these other two bands in Florida that were playing it, and had played it last year, and I think that had something to do with it, or a lot to do with it; I don’t know. [soft laugh] Our booking agent, Patrick, has gotten us on a lot of festivals since he became our booking agent. We got to play Lollapalooza and Milwaukee Summerfest and the Dfest in Tulsa.
QRO: It’s good to play festivals as long as you’re not the first band on. Well, I guess it may not matter. [Update: Gringo Star are the first band on at Stage 1 on Sunday…]
NF: Well, even at Lollapalooza, we were on the BMI stage and Manchester Orchestra (QRO live review) was the first band on one of the main stages, and even for that early in the morning for festivals, I mean Lollapalooza’s probably bigger than Harvest of Hope, but there were still people out early for them.
QRO: A festival that big that well I guess there would be, or one that had people playing the day before, if it’s a weekend festival.
NF: Hopefully there will be lots of people camping out and stuff. I haven’t been to a festival in a while that’s been of the campout nature.
QRO: Are y’all going to do any festivals in Europe?
NF: Yeah, we’re playing some. We’re playing the Great Escape festival. We’re starting off the European tour with that. It’s in Brighton.
Gringo Star playing "Holding On To Hate" live at Santos Party House in New York, NY on December 10th, 2008:
QRO: Do you support the cause the Harvest of Hope is promoting, the migrant farm workers they’re supporting? They provide educational aid and also emergency aid for the workers.
NF: You’re talking about the Harvest of Hope Foundation? It seems like a good cause.
QRO: That’s labor-intensive work and there’s a lot of traveling involved, because the work isn’t always in the same area, I guess.
NF: I went to high school and elementary school in North Carolina, near a lot of Christmas tree farms and grew up with kids who worked on Christmas tree farms for parts of the year, then they would be in other places for different crops, wherever the harvest is.
QRO: That must not be the easiest life, having to move around so much.
NF: I imagine. Some people might be into that. It’s better for the work that they can get. Go with whatever’s bringing the work. I haven’t personally been a migrant farmer.
QRO: Are y’all still going to be based in Atlanta? Or are you thinking of moving somewhere else?
NF: We’ll still be based out of Atlanta as far as I know. Can’t paint the future, you know. That hasn’t come up so much.
QRO: I guess it wouldn’t unless you were working in New York or L.A. or somewhere like that a lot of the time.
NF: It’s kind of nice. Atlanta’s a great hometown to be from. And we get to travel and see a lot of other cities and towns and countries. I always enjoy coming back here, but it’s nice to be able to see lots of other places too.
QRO: I’ve lived in Atlanta over 30 years and I started traveling to northern towns ‘cause I never got to visit them, and I like doing that.
NF: Yeah, I like the northeast a lot, like Connecticut and stuff. I think New Haven, around Connecticut’s really nice. New York’s nice too. I don’t know if I’d want to live up there, ‘cause it just seems like all of my friends that have moved there usually just end up complaining about how much they have to work to pay the expensive rent for not much space and stuff. But it’s kind of exciting when you’re up there to be around such a consolidated, busy atmosphere.
QRO: There’s a lot of creativity up there, but yeah, you pay. [laughs] You pay the rent.
QRO: Are there any other Atlanta bands that you support as far as really liking their work?
NF: Yeah, there’s a lot of bands. I was huge into Sovus Radio, and those guys. They were like my favorite band, and I was like a younger kid. But yeah, Anna Kramer… I like Anna Kramer and the Lost Cause a lot. Chris played me The NEC and those guys are great. And All The Saints and there’s too many bands to really name. We all have lots of friends that have bands that we like.
QRO: What do y’all listen to on the road?
NF: Peter and Chris both have iPods that they listen to. They listen to whatever they have. There’s a lot of seasoned rock ‘n’ roll on Peter’s iPod. That and the radio, which is usually pretty bad, but there’s not a lot you can do.
QRO: Yeah. [laughs]
QRO: Yeah, I stick to CDs myself.
QRO: Tell me what bands you seem to be influenced by.
NF: I think since everyone in the band writes songs and everyone has different influences, there’s a billion, probably. I know I grew up with a lot of Kinks and British invasion bands, and Bob Dylan and The Band. Peter’s into more ‘50s rock: Arthur Alexander and Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. Pete D likes a lot of The Band and Jimi Hendrix. I feel like I don’t want to be speaking for everyone. Everyone likes tons of different stuff, really.
QRO: But y’all do like a lot of the older stuff.
NF: I do. I like The Animals a lot. I like Nilsson a lot… Harry Nilsson. I have this record, Nilsson Schmilsson, that’s pretty awesome. [laughs] I like The Doors and Bob Dylan, The Byrds, a lot of stuff.
QRO: Y’all seem to be into that retro sound.
NF: I just like music more from… just older music than from more contemporary stuff, the bulk of it, at least.
QRO: I like the low-fi sound you have on "Come On Now." That’s really nice.
NF: Cool. Thanks.
QRO: You’re welcome.
Gringo Star’s video for "Come One Now":