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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Catching up with Gringo Star


Chad Radford: A lot of Gringo Star news has come down the pike recently. Bring me up to speed with:

a) The European record deal with Cargo Records.

Nick Furgiuele: We went to Europe for the Trail of Dead Tour back in May or June. When we were somewhere in Germany, a guy who works for a booking and promotions agency caught the last two songs of our set and bought a copy of the CD. He liked it and played it around the office a bunch and everyone there got into it. His boss was on a road trip with the guy who owns Cargo and he played the album while they were hanging out, and a couple months later we got a phone call saying they were interested. That's the story they told us and I guess we'll see what happens. It's supposed to come out on May 14.


Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.

b) The documentary film Hurry Up and Wait.

On the way to Austin last year we did two shows in Texas with King Khan & the Shrines. Two guys named Justin and Lee who have Malone Pictures came out to film the Dallas show. They liked us and asked us if they could come to one of our shows in Austin because they were doing a documentary on SXSW or something like that. They filmed us and then Justin asked if he could hop in the van with us and drive across town to the next show. We cut across U.T. campus and we came across this art installation where we ended up shooting a video. So we did this impromptu music video and then he followed us around for a few hours. A few weeks later they called and asked if they could tag along for the tour, and they made a documentary that's like 90 minutes long. We didn't really have any input with the the movie, they just kind of followed us around.

c) The Tommy Hilfiger commercial.

A woman named Jo Murray, who has been doing publicity for us for a while through Magnum PR, put us in touch with a British woman named Alex who was working with Tommy Hilfiger somehow, maybe doing fashion PR or something. We gave her a CD when they were considering a lot of music for some project. She came back and said it was one of their top two or three choices that they were considering, but we didn't hear from her for like three months. Then one day, they called and said they were using it and they sent us a contract. That happened in December.

You guys have always struck as being modest, humble and driven by indie-minded and artistic sensibilities. Were there internal complications when it came using your song for a Tommy Hilfiger commercial?

No, never once. They even contacted us recently to set something else up because it went so well. But that's still coming together.

Ten years ago, having a song in a Tommy Helfiger commercial is the kind of thing that would have made the indie community cry sell-out. But now it seems like a badge of honor.

Definitely. I was talking to Brandon from the Rock*A*Teens recently and he said the exact same thing, "You know, 10 years ago ..." But really, we don't want to work at Eats or in the kitchen at the Earl forever. The chance to make like five times as much money as I've made, personally, over the last year, on one of our songs is wonderful.

Has all of this activity spurned any U.S. label interests?

There are always general inquiries, but nothing beyond that. Just today we got an e-mail from someone at Universal asking us for some new demos. Nothing seems like it's going to just happen like the Cargo thing. Over the last 10 or so years, we've had a lot of people call us up and say that they like the stuff and want to do something, but then they never follow through with anything. But we're not in a super hurry to sign something, either. We've been doing it for so long by ourselves at this point, and have talked to so many people who are on labels, that it's almost a deterrent when we hear about other bands' dealings with management companies and whoever. If a good situation were to come along we would be open to it, but nothing so far.

Is it really even that important for a band to sign on with a label anymore?

It's hard to say. I really am baffled by the music industry. It's a different recipe for everyone, and I'm really curious to see how everything works out with Cargo. It's the first real label that we've worked with. You can probably gain a lot from labels in terms of instant contacts and name recognition. People think, "Hey, if Sub Pop put it out it must be good." Rather than when you're totally unaffiliated with anyone people may be less inclined to embrace something that hasn't been embraced by anyone else. Distribution, too. We have stuff on iTunes and it definitely sells, but it would probably would make a difference if we were one a label. Look at some bands like Manchester Orchestra. They've played probably every late night T.V. show there is to play, and that probably wouldn't have happened if they didn't have the label working with them.

Last year we played Lollapalooza on the same stage as Kesha. It was like, "Who is this? She's on RCA?" There were maybe 200 people there. Then six months later she had like the biggest single ever, or something like that. It was total marketing. She had never toured before and never had a big hit before. It was a strategic move by some big label with a lot of money and resources, and that's all that really matters sometimes. But then again, she might not even be around in another year.

When did Matt McCalvin leave the group?

Matt left after the Trail of Dead/Black Lips Tour last year. He told us that he didn't want to tour anymore. After he told us we probably played for another month or so while we practiced with Chris Kaufmann. It was real cool how it became a simple transition. That would have been in June when Matt told us, and he kept playing with us through August. Things have worked out really well with Chris. Really, I think everything better than it ever has with us now that he's in the group.

Will we see a new Gringo Star record this year?

Yeah, we've recorded 15 songs that we demo'd on the 8-Track, and we've been talking with Ben Allen for the last several months about it. We gave him the tracks and he's been listening to them and coming up with ideas on what to do. Time schedule conflicts have been getting in the way. We've been touring a lot and he's been working on Matt and Kim's record for the last several months. Then he was doing some Beastie Boys stuff recently. We're trying to figure out a time to do it, and now we have some European dates when we thought we were both going to be available. So we'll see what happens.

Ben recorded All Y'all, right?

Yeah. It was awesome working with him. Also, we worked with James Saltry as well, and the combination of working with the two of them went really smoothly. Also, with our band there are multiple songwriters, so it helps to have another set of ears that are neutral, but still trying to improve the songs. That worked out really well with those guys. We like the way everything sounded and it felt totally laid back to be working with them, even though we stuck to a pretty tight schedule.

Do you have a name for the new record yet?

Nothing yet. We've been tossing a few ideas around, but there's nothing worth repeating yet.

Gringo Star, Mumpsy and Roly-Bots play the Earl. Fri., April 16. 9 p.m. $8-$10. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950.

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