Gas House Gorillas: It's an absolute blast

If Cab Calloway, Freddy Mercury, Illinois Jacquet and Johnny Ramone started a garage band, it might sound something like the Gas House Gorillas. This intensely energetic six-piece from Brooklyn, N.Y., know how to put on a show that will get you up on your feet. From catchy choruses to wild saxophone solos and snappy guitar riffs, every song has a swinging beat you can dance to. As bassist Crusher Carmean puts it, "The Gorillas are all about as much fun you can possibly have packed into the small amount of time we get to play. It's an absolute blast."
Lead singer and New York rock veteran Rick Fink says the band's sound is tough to define. "I hate when people call us a swing band, we're absolutely not a swing band. We're an aggressive hybrid of rockabilly, jump blues, swing. We're a little more pumped up and high energy." That music definitely sets the tone for their performance. As Fink puts it: "We're kind of unhinged; you never know what's going to happen at one of our shows."

The band takes inspiration from many genres, artists and times gone by. The name itself is a reference to a 1946 Bugs Bunny cartoon titled "Baseball Bugs," about a terrible team called the Tea Totallers who play against a powerhouse team called the Gas House Gorillas.

In its original music, ladies are a common theme, with songs like "Last to Know," an upbeat plea for mercy from a less-than-faithful girlfriend, or "Queen of the Night," a soft, bluesy ballad about a beautifully enchanting woman of ill repute. While there are a few slower numbers in their catalogue, the Gorillas prefer to see their audience moving, so others, like the mid-tempo "Swing That Thing!" are simply about dancing, while the fast-flying scat jazz number "Where Did Harlem Go?" bemoans the loss of that town's fabled music scene.
The Gas House Gorillas formed about 10 years ago when Fink became disillusioned with therock 'n' rollscene. A native of Irvington, N.J., he always dreamed of leading a big band, but came to realize it was unrealistic (and way too expensive). After singing in numerous rock bands in the '90s, such as Boomwhack, Fink decided to do something different. Together with Carmean, they started the Gorillas. They dislike the label "swing band" because they associate it with the wave of pop-swing revival bands that swept the scene in the '90s, and because the Gas House Gorillas is something altogether different.

Carmean has quite a reputation for enthusiasm, embellishment and unpredictability.

"The evolution of man culminates with the Gas House Gorillas. We're the most awesome band that ever walked the planet since the creation of music," he says.

A man who earned his name by destroying a few too many instruments with his playing style ("I like to play with a little violence," he says), Carmean now plays a custom-made aluminum upright bass, designed to survive his constant tosses, kicks and spins — part of what make his performances so memorable. A self-described 17-year-old stuck in a 48-year-old body, he says that the Gas House Gorillas thrive on the energy of a live show and interaction with the crowd.

"We love hecklers. We once played this gig in Dunellen, N.J., in this theater. It was these four comedians opening up for us. There was this heckler in the audience, and the comedians kept leaving the stage frustrated, and the last one left the stage halfway through. We got on stage and attacked this guy verbally to the point where everybody got up and gave us a standing ovation. As long as everybody knows it's in good fun." Carmean adds, "We're basically frustrated comedians. We're really funny on stage."

Carmean says the band always gives its all: "We don't look at our shoes and hope that we play so well that the beautiful, magical sound coming out of our instruments will enthrall you; no, it doesn't work that way. You could say our music comes right out of our souls to our instruments."

Collin Roche - The Morning Call (August 03, 2012)