Photo by Suzannah Larke
Gangsters of Love
Gangsters of Love
Despite the group’s name, The Gangsters of Love are not a Steve Miller cover band, but a swinging, soulful group of musicians from the United States and Venezuela who live and work in Barcelona. The group is a fusion of cultures, but their sound borrows most heavily from the US. Most of their tunes are in English, and their lyrics focus mainly on life in Barcelona.
Danny ‘the Lip’ Lippitt, providing vocals and harmonica, hails from Atlanta by way of New Orleans and, he said, he came to Barcelona for a change of scenery and some new experiences. While Lippitt had always played the harmonica in blues bands, singing was something new for him. “In New Orleans it would have been a joke for a white boy to sing the blues, but here I feel like I’m representing a genuine part of American culture,” Lippitt told Metropolitan. With a resonant voice and playful original lyrics written by himself and Marc Curcio, Lippitt said he feels his musical horizons are expanding in Barcelona. While blues may be where he started out, The Gangsters of Love is not a blues band, but call their sound, ‘post-mafia swing.’
Band member Marc Curcio, who hails from California, undertakes guitar duty. He has played with the likes of The Four Non-Blondes, Tiny, Paula O’Rourke and many other known names. Curcio came to Europe on a month-long concert tour and, motivated by an increasing dissatisfaction with US politics, he decided to move. He went home, packed up his life and moved to Barcelona, where he has been for the past five years.
“I plan to spend the rest of my days out of the United States, probably in some part of Europe.”
Although Curcio and Lippitt come from similar cultural backgrounds, their opinion of Barcelona’s music scene could not be more different. Curcio believes it’s more respectful and welcoming than his native San Francisco, while Lippitt said that generally musicians in Barcelona are treated, “like lice.”
It may seem amazing that two musicians from the same band can have such differing views, but one thing the two do agree on is that it is hard for non-Catalan bands to get any help from local government. An artist’s success should be dependant on their talent, not on their language, said Lippitt. There is government funding of Catalan bands, some of which are mediocre, but non-Catalan groups have a tough time making ends meet.
Curcio agreed, but cautioned that the good Catalan bands should not be ignored. “This is not to say that there aren’t any good Catalan bands. Twelve, Beef, Camping and 77 are all great local Catalan bands.”
As is the case with most artists, The Gangsters of Love have found that diversity is the key to making a living in Barcelona. Every member of the band plays with at least one other group, making for a busy schedule. The Venezuelan half of The Gangsters, Pedro Misle and Eduardo ‘Pat’ Benatar, both also play in popular Latin-rock band Luz Verde. Curcio does double duty with The Bannister Ride, a small group with female vocalists, and Lippitt plays jazz with a trio once a week.
While there are quite a few groups playing swing and blues-influenced music in Barcelona, few do it as well as The Gangsters of Love. Perhaps it takes a Spaniard to understand flamenco, a Brazilian to understand Bossa Nova or an American to understand swing and blues? Whatever the reason, The Gangsters offer an original fusion of a classic American sound, spiced with Barcelona-inspired verses and a good sense of humour.