Marco Argiro With Love: "I Had a Handful of Tunes Up My Sleeve"
Broward native Marco Argiro has come a long way from his days fronting the beloved local punk rock trio the Outrights. In a time when preteen was still preteen and the "tween" nonsense had not entered the lexicon, Argiro and his mates had the chops to turn heads and become an integral part of that mid- to late '90s punk rock scene. Relocating to Tallahassee after high school and eventually to New York postgraduation, Argiro's been a busy, busy man with bands like Le Mood and the Killing Floor.
He's recently released a solo venture titled Love on his own Outright Rock Records, and while there's still that power chord love buried within the compositions, his travels and experiences and ever-expanding influences come through in an effort that is sublime shoegaze, psych-tinged, and mellow postrock ambiance.
We recently had a chance to catch up with him and discuss his transformation from preteen local rocker to transatlantic crooner. And, we're, one, impressed by the sheer amount of work he's put in, and, two, happy to report on one of our own, getting out there and making it in the music world.
A lot of South Floridians will remember your band the Outrights from the '90s punk scene, what can you tell us about that band, playing shows, releasing a pair of records, and having your parents drive you to gigs?
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Argiro: Being in the Outrights was great because we were a bunch of best friends hanging out at record shops, eating pizza, skateboarding, and going to local shows. Then one summer, we decided to start our own band. At the time, we were 11 or 12 years old and heavily into punk rock and had been immersed in the local scene for a few years. We went to every show that came through town from West Palm Beach to Miami, and we bought records with our allowance money.
When we started the Outrights, we didn't know anything except that we loved punk rock and we wanted to start a band. Looking back, that was one of the best parts of the Outrights -- starting from absolutely nothing and learning everything together. We played every day until we learned how to actually play our instruments, and then we figured out how to write songs. We played music nonstop for our friends and girls we had crushes on until we finally built our confidence to a point where we felt we could leave our parents' garages and perform at our school talent shows. We wanted to be the Ramones so badly, but the closest thing we had were local heroes from Miami, the Crumbs.
We went from playing in our parents' garages to basically panhandling along A1A across from the Elbo Room in Fort Lauderdale Beach. Our first real gig was at the Hot Moon Cafe with the Los Canadians and the Hidden Resentments. Our next appearance was at an Earth Day festival at Squeeze with the Vacant Andy's. The following year, we became regulars at Cheers in Miami and were booked as support for Against All Authority, the Beltones, and the Crumbs. None of us were old enough to drive, so Outright's parents would take turns packing up their car with gear, driving us to our gigs, dropping us off for sound check, and then return in time to pick us up after the shows. This went on until we found older friends who actually had their driver's licenses.
Despite being too young to drive ourselves around town, we quickly gained a reputation as teenage rock 'n' rollers not to be ignored. We played the punk matinees at TY Park and made quite an impression among the scene kids. Some of our other notable bills included A New Found Glory's EP release party for Fiddler Records, opening for Guttermouth in West Palm Beach at Respectable Street, and a support slot for The Mr. T Experience at Fubar. Imagine being 16 years old and being able to play music in bars. It was great!
At the end of the day, playing in the Outrights really helped define me as a teenager and set me on a musical path that continues today.
What did you do with yourself after the Outrights?
It's been a long time since the Outrights had our farewell show at Fubar in 1999. Afterwards, we graduated high school and parted ways. I moved north to attend community college in Tallahassee, Travis was still in high school, and Chad ended up going to school in Gainesville. It was hard for us to call it quits, but change was inevitable. I brought my Tascam four-track recorder to college with me and relentlessly worked on my songwriting in the dorms. I spent my time experimenting with new sounds, partying, and trying to find myself in a new town.
By my second semester, I started having band withdrawals and began to seek out other musicians to play with. Long story short, I met some other South Florida musicians I could relate to who had also been part of the SoFla punk scene, and in what seemed like no time, we were digging into the demos I had pulled together and we were singing harmonies like Crosby, Stills, and Nash. It was crazy. I was so used to playing one-minute three-chord songs, and now I was producing songs in a far more evolved style. Joe Parisi was a virtuoso on the piano -- classically trained and very knowledgeable when it came to synths.
We were all into bands like the Rentals and the Anniversary, but we also appreciated the ivory ticklers like Billy Joel and Elton John. Joe could play virtually anything on the piano, and with his addition to the group we were unstoppable. It was pretty crazy how fast it progressed, looking back. The band was complete; we called ourselves Broken Sound. It wasn't long before X101.5 (Clear Channel radio) added our single to regular rotation in Tallahassee, we were chosen as Budweiser's True Music band of the year for 2003, and Blender magazine picked our song "A World of Her Own" to be on their Future Icons compilation CD.
During this time, I wrote and released 18 songs on two EPs, one full-length album, and a DVD. When not busy in the studio writing and recording, Broken Sound shared the stage with national acts such as Sugar Ray, Hoobastank, Trapt, Coheed and Cambria, Thursday, Rooney, and Whitesnake. After leaving our mark on the South Florida music scene and beyond, Broken Sound played their farewell show on March 19, 2005, at Floyd's Music store in Tallahassee, Florida. This was my cue to move to New York City to follow my dream.
You seem like a guy who likes to keep busy. Before we get into the album, tell us about Le Mood and the Killing Floor. I understand your cousin is with you in Le Mood and that the Killing Floor is a cross-Atlantic venture for you. How did these projects come up, and how do you balance them with your solo work?
Le Mood was originally called the Mood and began in mid-2004 during my last six months of living in Tallahassee. Broken Sound was calling it quits for a number of reasons -- our bassist went to jail to serve time for repeated DUIs, our drummer was getting married and looking to start having kids, and Joe decided to continue his education. During this time, I continued to write new songs, and I was itching to play with new people.
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After handpicking some of my favorite players from various local bands, we started digging in right away. We held one proper recording session as a band and played a handful of live shows. It was clear we had something special, but my experience told me the band would need to relocate to a big city if we wanted a shot at major success. Despite my best efforts to rally the troops, the band wasn't able to make the commitment, so I moved to New York City alone. It was hard for me to start over again in another town. The competition was fierce, and no one knew who the heck I was. I had to prove myself and my worth as a songwriter all over again.
Right away, I started working towards rebuilding the Mood with new members. My cousin Corinne had also recently moved to the city, and so we started hanging out at open-mic nights in the city. Not long after, I booked my first official show in NYC as an acoustic gig at CBGB's 313 Gallery, and soon I was playing at other legendary venues like the Bitter End and Kenny's Castaways. Eventually the New York version of the Mood was born, and my cousin did lend her talents, along with another South Florida native, Kenton Langstroth. The Mood became Le Mood due to an unfortunate copyright infringement claim, and for years, we recorded albums and played shows all over the USA and the United Kingdom.
In fact, it was during one of Le Mood's European tours that I was performing in Brighton, and unbeknownst to me, I was being scouted by one of my future bandmates from the Killing Floor. He was there to check out my live chops and stage presence, and fortunately I crushed it. At the end of the tour, I was asked to visit their studio in Surrey for a cup of tea. After a few lagers, multiple spliffs, and even more tea, we had recorded around six songs which would eventually evolve into the Killing Floor's debut album. Balancing TKF with Le Mood was no easy task, but I prefer staying busy and enjoyed the challenge. It was certainly worth it. Le Mood never officially broke up, but we have each decided to focus on other projects. I have managed to make my hectic schedule work, and each project has inspired the next. One thing leads to the next. For me, being in Marco With Love and the Killing Floor allows me to explore different facets of music, expand my musical comfort zone, and maintain balance.
"Will You Remember Poison Heart?"
The songs on Love are articulate and personal in nature. The one I can relate to most is "Will You Remember Poison Heart?" As an open letter to the Ramones, tell us about your experience with Marky Ramone and what that has done to your work.
Thanks for the kind words. A lot of people say they really like that song, which makes me feel good because it is so personal and about a very personal experience. Working with Marky was a dream come true. The first time I stepped into a rehearsal room with Marky, I was a bit nervous because I had only met him once before. Never in a million years had I ever thought I would be given the opportunity to jam with him, let alone front his new band. He and his team were hosting auditions for his new Blitzkrieg band, and I was originally auditioning to play guitar. Marky is such a powerhouse drummer that he usually plays the Ramones catalog much faster than any of the album cuts, so in order to do the songs justice, you have to play all down strokes on the guitar.
I remember playing "Cretin Hop" with him while doing my damnedest to keep up with his speed, and I thought, "Holy shit, my arm might actually fall off." Fast-forward a couple of weeks after that audition, I was in the studio mixing "Adventures in Stereo" when I received a call from an agent asking if I had a valid passport and if I could fly to Eastern Europe to fill in for Michael Graves (Misfits) on lead vocals. I had less than 48 hours to memorize the lyrics to 33 Ramones songs. When you receive a call like that, you have to say YES. So I bought some new Chucks, threw my leather jacket in my suitcase, and only digested Ramones tunes until showtime. It was a whirlwind experience that I wouldn't exchange for anything in the world. And as far as what working with Marky Ramone has done for my work, obviously he's an incredible inspiration.
As far as the rest of the album goes, tell us about the process behind the work and what your goals for the record are.
The process for writing the album was pretty organic. I had a handful of tunes up my sleeve that didn't exactly fit the mold for my other projects, and I was really itching to lay them down. At the time, I had a basement studio in Bushwick. When I was home from tour, I wrote whenever I was inspired, and I recorded four of the songs in my home studio with my recording partner Richard Maheux. The rest of the tunes came later as I started to see themes developing. Typically, I write on my acoustic guitar and record rough demos using GarageBand before entering the studio with new songs. I try to not overthink the material once the actual recording sessions begin in order to keep things fresh. My goals for the new album are really just to continue reaching new audiences. Ideally, I'd like to do this by performing on the late-night talk shows and getting to play some of the bigger U.S. music festivals.
How would you compare the music scenes and how you've worked them between South Florida and New York?
For starters, New York has a lot more music venues to play. With that said, along with the higher number of venues, there's also a higher level of competition due to the sheer volume of bands and artists arriving on the NYC music scene every day. So it's really intense here. However, for any artist who grew up inspired by the Ramones, the New York Dolls, or Talking Heads, New York City never gets old. It's exciting to be a part of that history.
When I was coming up in the South Florida music scene, things were a lot different. It was more about community and felt like a true scene. Independent promoters were throwing outdoor BBQs and hosting a plethora of punk and ska bands on the weekends. Then in the years after leaving Fort Lauderdale, whenever I would come back to visit, I noticed that there weren't as many shows being played, and it seemed like the scene had faded away. At least that's how it appeared to me. But now when I return home it feels like the music scene is on the up and up again.
It's awesome that South Florida has places like Radio-Active Records, Sweat Records in Miami, and Propaganda in Delray, because it keeps the music alive and gives people a place to go to really share their love of music and discover independent artists. I'm also proud of my Lauderdale friends from the old days that continue to support the arts and have opened artist-friendly spaces such as the Bubble and even Laser Wolf. It's reassuring to see that people haven't given up and are still making strides to grow and nurture the community. I'm looking forward to returning to South Florida with Marco With Love.
Pick up a CD or LP copy of Love here.
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