Danny Kiranos has a dark side. But the Miami native, who's performed a grisly strain of gothic murder-folk under the name Amigo the Devil for the last decade, is actually one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He just happens to have built a grass-roots career for himself exploring the gruesome side of humanity – spousal abuse, serial killers, self-loathing and blackout binges, to name a few topics – on banjo and acoustic guitar.
Amigo the Devil's 2018 full-length debut, Everything Is Fine, raised those sonic stakes. Drumming from Brad Wilk (of Rage Against the Machine) and production from Ross Robinson (of Korn and At the Drive-In) add heavy metal intensity to standout tracks like "Everyone Gets Left Behind" and "Cocaine and Abel." But at the heart of Amigo the Devil's music is gut-wrenching emotion and clear-eyed connection, a common thread joining past EPs Manimals, Diggers and Decompositions to Everything Is Fine.
After leaving Miami at 17 to pursue film school and then culinary school in Los Angeles, Kiranos found his move while out one night with friends. "I remember very specifically the moment that changed my perspective on music entirely," he tells Orlando Weekly. "I heard some guy playing a cover of John Prine's 'Sam Stone,' and something about the words completely shifted everything I knew about music. I don't think I had heard a song that sad and that dark in its own realm. All the heavy metal I listened to growing up in Miami was dark thematically, but it was just shock value."
While he pursued a full-time career in brewing, bouncing between San Francisco, San Diego, Munich, Chicago and eventually Orlando, he spent his free time diving deep into the murky strains of twisted Americana. But he didn't treat music as a full-time gig until a few years ago.
"When I wrote the first few songs for [Amigo the Devil], I didn't have any intention of getting into music," he says. "I had a career; the songs were just an afterthought, a hobby. Which is really fun for me because I've been able to take things as they come."
Last year, his touring schedule intensified dramatically in the wake of Everything Is Fine, however, with its star producer and percussionist pushing Kiranos to the next level: sold-out shows on the east and west coasts, a December tour of Great Britain and a 2019 itinerary packed tight all the way through July. Still, this Amigo prefers to operate on his own schedule.
"When I reach the point where I'm planning things or forcing them to happen, then it's not natural to me anymore," he says. "At that point, it's taking away from the feeling I'm trying to put forward in shows: not perfection but connection."
Still, there are some dark corners that only the man himself can probe. Kiranos says he's always had a penchant for horror movies, true-crime biographies, and other sinister subject matter. Last year's "Cocaine and Abel" felt particularly personal, with impassioned lyrics like, "But I've lied to my mother/I made people feel like hell/But I refuse to believe I have to keep being cruel/'Cause I'm a coward myself."
Kiranos drops an unexpected bomb when asked what his career in brewing taught him about being a musician. "Cleanliness," he laughs. "In the brewing industry, 90 percent is keeping things meticulous. You have to be really mindful of your space. That's a lesson which has helped in terms of scheduling and keeping odd hours."
Although his Orlando-based Cassadaga Brewing business lies dormant today, Kiranos says he's still excited about getting back to the City Beautiful.
"When I left Miami, Orlando was the first place I was supposed to move," he laughs. "My buddy and I got into a small situation, though, and I got stubborn and moved to Los Angeles instead. But I did end up in Orlando a couple of years later and stayed for a while. I miss it every day."
Kiranos says he can't wait to have a beer at old haunts Redlight Redlight and Ten10 Brewing after his sold-out gig on Wednesday night, along with seeing how the city's own dark-folk scene has progressed. "By no means do I feel like I'm doing anything that stands alone," he finishes. "The connection is necessary for me. It's a community. Everybody is pitching in to build this small little realm of darkness we have."