I really wanted to write something very cool for this episode of Weekly Alibi presents interviews with real live rockers. And it gets to happen in the midst of a glorious print edition that also includes killer summer film previews as well as feature on burgers that will have you praying to the grill in your backyard as it if really is G_d. What fun!
manhigh gave me that opportunity. They came out of the depths of space and time to rock out for you, Burque.
And that’s no surprise, really, when you consider who’s involved. Guitarist Gabriel Gambino, his wife and bass player Gabrielle and drummer/provocateur Ray Gutierrez have it going on. They’re charismatic, just a tad aloof and generally possessed of the purest rocanrol energy possible—to the extent that it seems to float all around them, all sparkly and precisely relevant as they wander through the world on tour, making music and raising hell with gloriously gritty yet delicately tender tuneage.
Gutierrez, you might recall, has deep roots in the scene around these parts. An OG member of the notorious yet brightly legendary Resin Records coolective created by Alan Deem and Keith Herrera in the early ’90s, Ray provides a brutally booming basis for the musical machinations of the Gambinos—a pair of authentic rocanrolistas from outta el Norte in Denver—as they swoop and careen though grungy landscapes laden with the fruits of precise pop mastery.
Nowhere is that clearer than on the trio’s latest single. “Sorry Doll” has got the grit and slink of a screwed-down Rolling Stones romance gone sour fable with a catchy arpeggiated guitar lick casually yet competently thrown in for sauce. The subtle hook slips into a dreamlike reverie before resuming with the words, “You did this to yourself.” It’s a direct, almost blunt form of rocanrol, designed to batter the brain and loosen the heart muscles, on display here.
After getting a glorious load of that for a day or two, I dialed up Gabriel. He told me that the entire crew was down to chat, so I told them to come on over. We sat around Weekly Alibi HQ and talked about the thing called rocanrol and the beast known to Burqueños as manhigh. Here are some highlights of that historic summit.
Weekly Alibi: What’s your origin story?
Gabriel Gambino: We just started out when I quit my former band, and I wanted to keep on jamming.
Was that a local band?
Yeah, we were called Throw The Temple. I was the singer and guitar player in that band.
I remember that band!
Ray Gutierrez: I was the roadie.
Gabriel: Yeah, Ray used to roadie for the band. After a while, Ray just told me, “bring your amp over.” So we started jamming some stuff. I already had some ideas for some songs. Gabrielle and I had just gotten married.
Gabrielle, had you played music before this?
Gabrielle Gambino: Not at all. But it was clear they needed a bass player. So I told Gabriel I could learn. I said, “If I can’t do it, then just tell me.” But it was fine.
How long did that take?
Really, it was three to four months before we had an entire set down.
Ray, how did you get involved in all of this?
Well, we jammed for a while, then he told me Gabrielle wanted to play bass. I told him to bring her over. We were recording a lot, we were recording with a Zune. I told Gabriel to show her some bass parts.
Gabriel: She got it right away, like a duck to water.
Ray: Quicker than anyone I’ve seen pick up an instrument.
What happened next?
Gabriel: Well we had been doing the Royal Blood thing, just trying to make it happen. We weren’t sure what we were going to do with that. But then suddenly Gabrielle started throwing basslines on top of everything. That seemed like a natural progression.
You got a really solid rock sound out of that. Did that inspire your subsequent moves?
Gabrielle: We started off with a tour.
Ray: It was organic!
Gabriel: Mostly we were thinking, “You know, let’s just have a good time, we’ll just see how it goes.” But this band from Brazil called me and asked us to go on tour with them.
Yeah. It was five months after Gabrielle picked up the bass. Our plan was not to worry because I used to worry how the scene would perceive us.
But why? You’re all clearly authentic.
I think it was, well, instead of worrying about conquering the local scene, we decided to do what we do on the road and have a good time. So the first unofficial show we did, in September 2017, was at an open mic night and I asked them to put us on at the end. We had the tour coming up.
Gabrielle: We did that open mic because I had never done a show, and I wanted to do a show before we went to LA [for the tour].
Gabriel: We had rehearsed a lot.
How did that gig go?
Gabrielle: It went great! I didn’t mess up at all.
Ray: We had fun!
Gabriel: I messed up all over the place. So anyway, we did that open mic night and then we went to LA, we started touring. We were gone for about six weeks. It was a West Coast tour, then we went down to Texas. After about a month on the road, we had our first official Burque show here at Burt’s [as part of the tour with Brazil’s The Spacetime Ripples]. What was funny about that was that some of the other bands were like, “Are you guys from LA?” and I was like, “No, we live five blocks away from here!”
[Ray laughs uproariously]
Was that comparison a surprise?
Gabriel: Yeah, it was like we came out of nowhere. Also, we had just quietly worked for months, woodshedding, getting it together.
That’s a great strategy.
Ray: Yeah there was no band page ni nada.
Gabriel: I feel that a problem with some bands, sometimes, is oversharing.
Ray: He [Gabriel] came to me with specific plans. Let’s go on tour first, then let’s do our thing here, then recordings. I was like, “what do you mean go on tour? We can actually leave town?” I knew going on tour was going to make us or break us. We were on the road for weeks. It made us.
Gabriel: It made us a band. When we were on the road for about a week, we started to have these [performance] moments where everything clicked. Once that started happening, it began to affect our audiences. We were having a good time, they were having a good time.
Ray, you come from a background where you were actually involved with an important earlier iteration of Burque’s rock culture. Has that influenced your current trip?
That whole Golden West/El Rey nexus was important. This town wouldn’t be what it is. I’ve been super humble about it and sometimes I didn’t even mention my involvement with Resin and allucaneat. But you know what? Thirty years later, I’ll take a little credit for all of that.
You should. You’ve been a huge contributor to the scene, over the years. You and Alan Deem and Keith Herrera. All those fine, resinous folks.
Ray: Alan Deem and Eric Kennedy!
In college they had a band called Fountain of Blood.
[Everyone in the room cheers and throws the sign of the horns]
Gabriel: My wife and I went up to a house party in Santa. It was out by Buffalo Thunder. We walk in and this tall guy is like, “It’s the Gambinos.” I said, “Who are you?!” He extended his hand courteously and said, “I am Alan Deem.”
I love that. What’s next for you all?
We’re really excited about our latest single. We recorded that out in Joshua Tree with Dave Catching.
At Rancho De La Luna? That sounds really serious!
He’s a huge influence. Getting to work with him was amazing. We actually have four or five more songs that we recorded with him that we’re going to drop as singles, one by one.
Ray: We’re getting ready to do videos for those, too.
Singles and You Tube seem to be the favored delivery devices for the next generation. We learned that from hip-hop nation.
Yeah. With a single, listeners have one song they can focus on and it makes more sense for us. We’re not famous so it’s hard to assume anyone would buy or even listen to an entire album.
Ray: Our mothers think we’re famous.
That’s super important in Burque.
If someone from the future approached you all after a show and asked you “What is manhigh?” how would you reply?
Ray: It means getting so high that you’re up in the stratosphere before being gently dropped back onto Earth.
Gabriel and Gabrielle [said simultaneously] Let’s rock!