If Andy Warhol started an electronic-rock group, The Gentry just might be it.
Unexpectedly sampling pop culture to fit their needs, The Gentry’s tunes fall somewhere between admiration and parody with a rock ‘n’ roll kick.
“We’re just pop-culture whores,” says Gino Mari, one half of the group’s creative core, along with Steve Taylor. “We love it all. That’s a lot of what our record’s about, the consumption of celebrity. Our past couple of records have been like that. There’s no standpoint, it’s just like ‘This is how it is.'”
The self-admitted fans of Kelly Clarkson and other bubblegum-pop gems hide their tendencies well on stage. They have been known to spew ice, water, blood and vomit over the course of their national tours.
“We always put on big shows. Ridiculous, reckless abandon,” Mari adds.
The name “The Gentry” is a reference to old nobility, juxtaposing blue-collar suburbanites with Old World regality.
The band and its three core members originally formed in 2004 after Mari (who plays guitar, keyboards, sings and writes) decided it was time to take music seriously and compose a quality, inventive and media-savvy band.
He met Andrew Carrion, who soon after joined as drummer, and Steve Taylor, his one-time boss, who plays guitar and mixes sounds.
The three reworked countless demos Mari had created through the years and are releasing their second EP, Sex By the Unit, this Friday. New member Johnny D plays auxiliary drums, bass and keyboards, and John Siler joined on guitar and backup vox. Each is an individual talent, but Mari feels they are part of a greater purpose.
“I’ve always kind of thought that records were like grown-ups comic books,” he says. “These people make super heroes, like ‘Look at this guy with his magical keyboard!’ And that’s what I feel like is missing from music now. There’s not a lot of super men.”
And what is The Gentry’s weapon of choice in their rock ‘n’ roll adventures? Digestible pop-rock tunes infected with superstar, super-hip satires in everything from their lyrics to their packaging.
Sex by the Unit is a perfect metaphor for the band’s cheeky humor and in-your-face pop references.
“The disc is called Sex by the Unit, it’s wrapped in a condom wrapper that you tear,” Mari says. “It’s disposable art work. It’s a comment on the state of music today. People don’t buy records any more. There’s no point. If you do buy a CD, you rip it in your computer and listen to it in your iPod. So why even bother having a CD jewel case?”
Even the release show’s promotional poster has amusing Hollywood relevance. It seems strikingly familiar at first, and, upon further investigation, one will realize it is a nearly exact duplicate of a “Sex in the City” logo.
So why all the sex?
“Everybody loves sex,” Mari says, “There is no arguing that everyone is interested, even if they’re not interested.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing is that The Gentry is not mocking the over-the-top celebrity obsession in America, but rather acknowledging it, and incorporating it slyly into their music, causing the listener to identify with the songs, often without knowing why.
The Gentry not only regurgitates popular culture in their own hard-hitting, fast-paced music, but they also find inspiration in many of those who mastered the system before them. Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie are on their list of inspirations, as well as producer Flood, due to his participation in new techniques in musical production.
“I worked at a record store for 10 years, there’s no bullshitting.” Mari explains, “We’re an electronic rock band. All of the songs are very pop based. We like the idea of taking a lot of small pieces, minimalist-maximalist, a mixture of the two and a lot of layers. That’s another thing we were really into: layered production. Every time you listen to it you think ‘Wow, I never noticed that before.'”
Most refreshing about The Gentry’s unique, shameless approach to music is their self-awareness. They understand their genre, their contribution, their influences and their audience. Though heavily layered, their music reflects that sense of identity while assuring the listener is amused by the blatant caricatures of American culture. It’s dancey, original rock music worth listening to, and smart, innovative musicians worth supporting.
In short, their music is perfectly represented by Taylor’s off-the-cuff synopsis: “We’re ear candy.”
The GentryNov. 28, 9 p.m.The Fez @ 8 w/ DJ Gregarious$5 21+ Album available online and at local stores, released nationally on Valentine’s Day