Spatz is not the most glamorous drinking establishment in Winter Park. On this night, there are drunken couples eating drippy wings and forgetting about their children while sports fans play pool beneath yellowed chandeliers from the '70s. It's not surprising that Louis DeFabrizio and John Fortson of Gasoline Heart are comfortable here: It's gritty, yet there's a softness to it, a perfect analogy for the Orlando band's oxymoronic musical aesthetic.
Within the bar, the duo discuss how they have passed through each other's lives since they were 18 years old and in other bands, particularly the Kick and Squad Five-O, two of the most fearsome, full-throttle rock bands in the city. Fortson, 30, is a college football fan who hails from the South. DeFabrizio, 29, is a Yankees freak from New York. While a paradoxical pair, the two do share some beliefs, two of which are that the Who is one of the greatest bands ever and that the Beatles are highly overrated.
Polarity is a leading facet in Gasoline Heart. For example, Fortson says, after living on the road for most of their lives, "My first year off, and what do I do — start a band." These guys are 30 years old and starting fresh, forcing themselves to go through everything they've already gone through since they were 18. This time, however, as they play their version of cooled-down mainstream and '80s-influenced rock, they're married with respectable jobs and mortgages.
"We're not motivated by chicks and drugs and booze and the need to party anymore," Fortson says. "In fact, my idea of a good time is to sit outside on a lounge chair, smoke cigarettes, sip rum and listen to reggae."
"Now it's about creating good, lasting music," DeFabrizio says. "These days, I play music that I want Pete Townshend and Neil Young to enjoy."
Gasoline Heart was formed less than a year ago by DeFabrizio and Fortson after the Kick and Squad Five-O split. Band members Jeff Irizarry, Joey Bradshaw and Andy Simmonds have been culled from VonRay, Tenderfoot and Dear Ephesus. Only a year after coalescing, the band is releasing its debut record — You Know Who You Are — nationally via the Mono vs. Stereo label on Aug. 1.
The album was recorded — in analog, in under a week — by Pixies and Nirvana (but also Bush) producer Steve Albini. According to Gasoline Heart, Albini lived up to his legend. "He's definitely a weird guy, but he also has some great methods," Fortson says. "There was no ego-stroking. No rewriting our songs. He created a vibe that made sure that we were being true to us, which is what we wanted."
Gasoline Heart tends to think of You Know Who You Are as reminiscent of the Heartbreakers, only fronted by a late-career Bruce Springsteen. Not exactly new, but definitely enjoyable in that way that you might secretly sing Tom Petty songs at the top of your lungs into a hairbrush when they come on the radio. The songs about starting over and rejuvenation sound like the love child of mellower Replacements and a more contemplative Matchbox 20.
It's a sound that's somewhat different from DeFabrizio's and Fortson's high-strung punk roots. Yet the band is aware of its influences and comparisons, according to DeFabrizio. "A guy from Mono vs. Stereo told me that the Kick reminded him of the Replacements," DeFabrizio said, "but I hadn't heard of them yet. He played me some songs and I got way into them."
Clearly he did. After all, the name Gasoline Heart is a conscious twist on some Paul Westerberg lyrics ("With your eyes like sparks, and my heart like gasoline," from Grandpaboy's "Eyes Like Sparks"). The appellation, Fortson believes, is imperative to the band's identity. "The name itself is volatile. In the past, we'd go onstage and be destructive. We still do that, but now there's more age and feeling to it."
That divergence becomes imperative to the band's dynamic and performance style. Being 30 means new approaches to their craft, but also forces them to remember their ages. DeFabrizio joked, "Now we have to remember the ice and heat afterward. We get really sore at the start of tours."
"No kidding," Fortson said. "Now I have to remember to stretch."
Hitting 30 also means having a chip on their shoulder about younger bands. "It's not a mean thing, we're just not going to be outplayed," DeFabrizio said. Initially, he said, the band was going for a more stoic, Pixies-esque performance style and moving away from the punk rock thrasher idea, something the Kick was known for. "Now, if we see a band that we know we can outdo, yeah, I'll probably fly through the drum set."[email protected]