Gills and Wings
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Gills and Wings

Richmond, Virginia, United States

Richmond, Virginia, United States
Band Rock Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Artist Spotlight"

Richmond pop-rockers Gills and Wings are all about surprises. While their band name suggests an airy, twee-pop sound, it’s a misnomer: their music is dynamically rich and densely orchestrated, a throwback to a time when Queen ruled arena rock. Not content to simply rehash the songs of Freddie Mercury and Brian May, however, Gills and Wings add to their sound with the progressive electronic streak of Muse and the symphonic sensibility of Jon Brion. Playing on Saturday at DC9, they had no trouble painting the small venue with a major key palette of sounds.
The quintet augments standard rock instrumentation with Korgs and a drum machine, allowing the band to play with melody outside the range of your run-of-the-mill indie band. It also allows them to faithfully recreate the arrangements of their self-titled EP. Guitarist Alex McCallum manipulates his ax into making sounds that are more string quartet than Fender Jaguar (thanks to the trusty eBow, an electronic take on what Jimmy Page tried with the real thing). Santiago de la Fuente's harmonies complement the impressive vocal range of lead singer Danny Reyes, whose powerful singing voice is unrivaled in modern rock music.

The setlist covered their EP, along with a few new songs. Contrasts keep the listeners guessing, as sing-song lyrics over arpeggiated chords turn into full-throated cries, backed by chugging riffage and the pounding drumming of Andrew Hackett. As their songs take dramatic turns, the dynamic ebb and flow lends an operatic feel to the whole performance. Closing the set was standout track “Rebirth of a Nation,” a satirical look at the American Dream, with a chorus that calls for fists-in-the-air rocking out.

Modern pop-rock, or anything that could crossover these days, is usually too paint-by-numbers to really excite anyone, but Gills and Wings have the talent to surprise audiences, and shouldn't be missed. Catch them, you won't be disappointed. - true genius requires insanity

"EP Review: Gills and Wings"

Gills and Wings - sounds like the title of a lecture in an Evolutionary Biology course. But this Gills and Wings is a "theatrical pop rock quintet" hoping to soar to great heights with their new self-titled, five track EP. You may have heard some of their stuff on MTV’s The Real World, but for most of you this will be your first taste of Gills and Wings.

It doesn't take too long into this EP before you realize that the guys in this band are loaded to the gills with talent. Everything from the musicianship to the vocals to the lyrics just screams "we got it and we know it". The band is: Danny Reyes (vocals), Santiago De La Fuente (vocals, piano), Alex McCallum (guitar), Matt Hulcher (bass), and Andrew Hackett (drums). These boys have an excellent chemistry, making it sound easy to whip up majestic melodies around their cogent lyrical themes. Reyes has one of those voices that gracefully glides into falsetto and back again, yet retains enough of a rock edge to earn broad appeal.

My favorite tracks in this set are the first two tunes, the brilliant "Rebirth Of A Nation" and "Catastrophe". Gills and Wings take the best of Keane and Mêlée, mix in a little Queen, and give us a fresh sound that is compelling and full of intrigue. - BMF - Bill's Music Forum

"Gills and Wings – s/t EP"

In listening to the polished arena rock of Richmond, Virginia’s Gills and Wings, few signals are given that their eponymous EP is in fact, also their debut. Armed with only five tracks and a little less than twenty minutes of music, this five-piece flaunts the kind of confident swagger and crack songwriting usually associated with veteran acts. Speaking of which, any Queen comparison used to describe the sound of this highly ostentatious band isn’t entirely baseless: between vocalist Danny Reyes’ commanding vocal range and the group’s fancy for melodramatic stories of personal addiction, pity, and triumph, you’re likely to feel the ghost of Freddie Mercury too.

Yet for what amounts to radio-ready piano pop, you’ve really got to hand it to these guys for steering clear of the clichés that sent bands like The Fray and Keane to the top of the charts. By eschewing the predictability of pop song structures in favor of more adventurous textures and unsuspecting groove changes, Gills and Wings manages to retain a mainstream likeability (the vocal melodies are all killer hooks unto themselves) while taking the sorts of risks that indie enthusiasts crave. That’s not to say that Gills and Wings is difficult by any means, but in terms of thoughtful songwriting and absorbing ideas, it’s several notches beyond what bands such as Augustana or OneRepublic could ever do.

Opening cut “Rebirth of a Nation” plays like a fist-pumping call to arms, as rippling keyboard arpeggios, searing synths, and chugging guitar chords provide the backdrop to a storyline that begins with imagery of “springtime and butterflies.” At times, the song recalls Hot Fuss-era Killers, with Reyes approximating the style of Brandon Flowers on lyrics like, “I’ve got a dream / it’s a rare commodity.” The groove laid down by the rhythm section (bassist Matt Hulcher and drummer Andrew Hackett) is taut and muscular, allowing Reyes’ melodies plenty of room to soar.

For music with so many anthemic pop hooks and such an air of bravado, Gills and Wings’ lyrical preoccupation with mind-altering substances and the stereotyped louts who use them may be confounding. It worked for Queen though, and these guys make it work too. “Catastrophe” is imbued with drum machine percussion and acoustic guitar strums amidst some sage advice: “Don’t start fights / don’t be crass / or you’re sure to make an ass of yourself like the rest of ‘em.” The chorus is certainly more raucous and edgy with its thickly layered distortion, but you can’t help but sense the dejected tone when Keyes sings a line like, “Someone’s got to guide me / I can’t grip onto the reigns.” With “The Dealer,” we get a piano ode to a guy who dabbles with both morphine and cocaine. It’s sung so wistfully though (“I’ve gotta go / gotta feed the people on the streets / feed ‘em the world with a line of cocaine”), that the melancholy nature of the song almost comes across tongue-in-cheek.

While the storytelling is certainly richly detailed and worthy of intrigue, the band’s penchant for sing-a-long choruses and memorable riffs is what will hopefully keep them on the radar. There was, after all, a good reason that EP closer “Circus” was featured on MTV’s Real World. Juxtaposed by a jaunty, freewheeling verse and a darker chorus of minor chord punk, (“Welcome to the circus that’s inside your brain!”), the tune shows off both muscle and vulnerability. As with the show in which it was featured, it’s hard to resist anything that’s as disheveled as it is dramatic. Gills and Wings does both with the commanding flair of guys twice their age. Fledgling rock bands, take note. - Adam Costa -

"CD Review: Gills and Wings"

By Al Kaufman

Freddie Mercury lives.

Gills and Wings, a five-piece band from Richmond, Va., must have an iPod loaded with "Bohemian Rhapsody." In their wonderfully theatrical rock style, they sing of losers and loners. On "Dealer," their sympathetic paean to the neighborhood drug dealer, lead singer and synth player Danny Keyes croons lines like, "For those who despise me, I'll sing a prayer for you." On "Catastrophe," which rocks harder than anything else on the five-song EP, he is a guy who gets drunk and does bad things.

These are the types of guys who may also say, "Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger now he's dead." These are the types of guys that want to be good but, well, they just can't.

Everything on here has that theatrical quality that Freddie Mercury did so well. Keyes and company are showmen. They know how to let a song slowly build to climax, and Keyes has the sweet pipes to stay with the song the whole way. "Rebirth of a Nation" is a topical song full of hope and passion without sounding hokey.

"Circus," which was featured on MTV's Real World: Brooklyn, closes the disc. Over co-songwriter Santiago de la Fuente's bouncy piano, Keyes invites you to enter "the circus of your mind," yet it is not as trippy as it sounds. It sounds more like a show tune out of the pen of Stephen Sondheim.

Gills and Wings are not for everyone. One needs to appreciate the theatrics of a band like Queen, but not the schmaltz of someone like Meat Loaf. It's a sound The Killers almost achieved before they veered wildly to the left. It's Marlon Brando as a Broadway musical. It's a helluva lot of fun.

Long live Queen. - Atlantic Music Guide

"That One Song"

This week's song: "Circus" by Gills and Wings
Interviewed by Mike Rutz

Gills and Wings are a bunch of standup guys. From left to right: Danny Reyes, Andrew Hackett, Alex McCallum, Santiago de la Fuente and Matthew Hulcher.

For a group that landed its first gig a little over a year ago, Gills and Wings have taken some big steps. They’ve released a five-song EP, headlined the National and had a song picked up for “The Real World Brooklyn.” By the end of winter, they plan on delivering a multimedia package containing both audio and video versions of new songs. It makes perfect sense, given the cinematic nature of the quintet’s keyboard-based indie rock and Solitude, an independent film scored by guitarist Alex McCallum and drummer Andrew Hackett.

Up next for the band, with bassist Matt Hulcher and Miami natives Danny Reyes and Santiago de la Fuente on keys and vocals, is a show with Siberian band Mumiy Troll. “They’re huge in Russia,” McCallum says. “Thousands upon thousands of fans. All of their lyrics are in Russian.” De la Fuente concurs, “My friend’s Russian professor is hyping up the show. He knows how popular they are.” Style caught up with Gills and Wings, to find out about that one song, “Circus,” that made its way to MTV.

Style: Tell us about that one song…

Danny Reyes: At the time we first started writing, a lot of the songs were narrative or story-based. “Circus” is just an “up” song. It’s actually one of the few “up” songs that we have. I don’t want to say upbeat, because there are somber songs that are still fast. And it’s a little bit more abstract lyrically and has more to do with conjuring up colorful images that go along with the mood of the song.

Alex McCallum: It also seems to be a song that people are attracted to first, but it’s not the song we expected people to be attracted to. It was the one chosen for the “Real World” and that was our first moment of going “Oh, they picked that song. I expected other songs to work for better television, too, because they have more specific, emotional lyrics.

I think that song was actually part of a suite of songs that had a story running through all of them. “Circus” was the introduction, saying you’ll hear about this and you’re going to hear about that. It references things in a bunch of other songs, some of which we still play and some of which we don’t. It became its own song through that process.

Matt Hulcher: Basically, it’s a patchwork mess of all the styles of the band and all of our different lyrics. Everybody was exploring.

Reyes: A lot of people will say we have a sinister sound, but that’s one song where I don’t think people would be able to say that’s sinister at all or dark in any way.

McCallum: “Circus” is our Lexapro.

Hulcher: Our Prozac moment. - Style Magazine


‘You need to shut up now. This is my favorite song of theirs,’ says my stylist, Jamie. She’s cutting my hair in her living room, or office, or whatever that twenty-something room that’s got a computer, desk, chair, vacuum cleaner.
She’s set up her laptop on the desk, the Gills & Wings Myspace page open.
‘Bring it on,’ I say.
“Shhh! No talking!’
I don’t argue. She’s holding a razor.
Gills & Wings is one of those Richmond bands that I’d been meaning to check out based on their name alone. Gills & Wings. It’s just the right level of pretentious, with a slight hint of the prolific, without the potential for alienation. It’s a name that sounds like you should have heard of them, or heard them, or bought their EP. Gills & Wings. It would make a great Sailor Jerry-style tattoo.
Not ones to disappoint, Gills & Wings’ music lives up to the expectations of its name. Someone once described their sound as ‘Keen meets Muse meets Rufus Wainwright.’ My knowledge of Rufus Wainwright is limited to his appearance on the Leonard Cohen documentary Last Year’s Man, his cover of ‘Across the Universe,’ and the sad, sad knowledge my cousin’s ambition is to be his fag-hag. Muse is currently opening for U2, right? And which came first: the band Keen, or the footwear of the same name. Hmmm…must wikipedia this.
I had liked what I’d heard at Jamie’s. In my terms: Ra Ra Riot meets Coldplay meets unknown pop-something. Maybe this is Keen, maybe this is Muse. You fill in the blank.
So, by now you’ve checked out Gills & Wings’ Myspace page. If you haven’t, you should. Because in case you’re wondering, Gills & Wings sounds just like that live, with more energy. They’re that tight musically. They should be; singer Danny Reyes and keyboardist Santiago de la Fuente studied music together at the New World School of the Arts. Guitarist Alex McCallum performed on Jason Mraz’s (yes, that Jason Mraz) first album. Matt Hulcher really impressed me as a bass player, and that’s saying a lot. He also had a pedal board and didn’t overdue the Big Muff, which made he giddy. Andy Hackett’s kit had eight cymbals, and you’re goddamn right that I watched to make sure he used all of them (He did. Along with his two floor toms).
I met up with them after the show, where we commandeered another band’s dressing room and abstained from drinking their Bushmills, before being kicked out and taking up residence in the hot tub room. What ensued? Wouldn’t you like to know.
33: This is really contrived, and I’m sorry, but where did your name come from?
Alex: The name Gills & Wings is in reference to transformation. It comes from a song, actually the first song that we ever heard from Danny and Santi, and it was a line in the song. The whole song is about supernatural strength and kind of based off the Ubermensch theory of going beyond human. And we liked the name because it felt like it meant that’s how music is, when people hear it, they get to go beyond their normal lives and transform into whatever they like.
Danny: Singing in the shower, plus a thousand.
33: How did you guys get together, and what made you decide to move to Richmond?
Santi: Danny and I started singing in choir together, I think it was in tenth grade. We were friends for a couple of years, and for our graduation party we wrote a song together. And then we went on for about two years writing songs together. We recorded a couple of songs to send to Alex. Alex had worked with Jason Mraz.
Alex: I played guitar on his debut album.
33: Yeah, I read that. I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up.
Santi: I know, I know! We shouldn’t say it, but that’s the reason that we moved here, to be honest with you. We really like Jason Mraz, and we were really young, so we were really impressed that someone worked with Jason Mraz.
We started doing this long distance thing through the internet, and Danny and I came up for four days, and we worked with the band, 14 hours straight, just trying to put a sound together. Went back down to Miami, and Alex came down for a week. We worked on music for about a week straight, and he invited us to move into his house here in Richmond and work on some songs, put a band together. And two years passed, and we’re still here.
Matt: I started calling Alex obsessively because I heard all this buzz about this new band. I hadn’t heard any of the stuff yet but wondered if he had a bassist for the new band. Alex called me and was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this great thing going on, but I can’t talk too much about it.’ And that went back and forth for a while…
Alex: Yeah, Matt kept calling on the days, every day that we were like, ‘Maybe we should get a bass player.’ And Andy had been with us since the beginning.
33: Who are some of your influences, not just bands, but individual musicians?
Danny: For singing I listen to Ella Fitzgerald, I listened to Rufus Wainwright for a little bit. The Beatles, obviously. A little bit of classical music.
Matt: As a bass player, I look up to Michael Manring. He’s a great fretless bass player that I love. As far as bands, Dinosaur Jr. is my favorite band of all time, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of the Moon’ is my favorite album.
Alex: Always a fan of people like Radiohead, obsessive a little here and there, Greenwood…
33: Are you more of the Jonny Greenwood camp or the Ed O’Brien camp?
Alex: Definitely Greenwood. But I think that Greenwood gets credit for anything good. I feel bad, because I think Ed O’Brien probably does a lot of great stuff. I think Thom Yorke is playing a lot of the guitar stuff, that Greenwood gets credit for, too.
Santi: I like Radiohead a lot. Jeff Buckley, St. Vincent. I listen to some Phoenix for dance music. I like Tiesto, I like electronic sounds, hip hop, Coldplay, John Mayer. I like bands, because bands have a refined sound. I like something that’s taken years of development as a whole to have a specific sound.
Andy: I was going to pass on this one. Can I pass? Can I have one pass?
33: Sure, but you only get one. And here’s the second question that you get to avoid deftly: Andy, I read that you and Alex collaborated on a score to an independent film. What was the name of the film, what was your experience like, and are you interested in doing more soundtrack work in the future?
Andy: It was called ‘Solitude,’ and it was kind of a low budget, indie thing. It was definitely our first foray into making music like that. We did a good bit of exploration, felt our way around in the dark, and ended up with interesting things. It was definitely a different way to work, composing songs for images. But in a way it was enlightening as well, because I think you get to exercise a different part of your brain putting sound to picture.
Alex: We’ve kind of been exploring a project that involves film and playing to that film.
Andy: We’re definitely available for soundtrack work.
33: I also read that your song ‘Circus’ was featured in an episode of ‘The Real World: Brooklyn.’ How did that happen?
Alex: We had a friend who works for tv, and he told us who to send it to. And we submitted it and didn’t think anything would happen, and a couple of months later they called and wanted to use one of the songs. They picked the song that none of us thought they would use. That’s how it always works, right?
33: This is for Danny: I heard you were gay. How would you react if a record exec told you to play it straight?
Danny: I probably wouldn’t do it.
Alex: We’d tell them to fuck off.
Matt: Yeah.
Andy: Nor would any of us do it.
Danny: That would involve changing the lyrics. It would be incongruous with our sound. Not that it’s all of who you are, but so many songs are love songs. It’s got a lot to do with different kinds of experiences you have growing up, how you see things, are your biggest inspirations for music. It determines what you’re going to sound like.
33: If you get signed, what’s the first impractical thing you’d drop a huge chunk of change into?
Danny: I’d get gold stocks.
33: That’s not really impractical.
Matt: A beagle-basset mix.
33: That’s not that hard. You can get those on Craigslist for, like, 50 bucks.
Matt: I have one. I want another one.
Santi: A car with A/C.
Alex: An elephant.
33: Yes, of course, but what kind of elephant?
Alex: A white one, and I’d make him hang out in the room.
Andy: I’d build a home in a cave. In an undisclosed location. It’s gonna be really deluxe in the cave.
33: What are your immediate plans for the future?
Matt: Our biggest plans right now are to take this show on the road.
Andy: Do you want to mention the thing? We’re going to trying to work on kind of a multimedia project that’s going to involve our songs, video directed by Nathan Burns, the guy who did our electronic press kit. We can’t set a date on that, but we hope to work on it in the near future.
33: What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
Andy: These are hard!
Alex: The National Anthem. Happy Birthday.
Matt: ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd. I wish I’d written that. That’s a great song.
Alex: You mean, like, a serious answer? I feel that way about a lot of them. Maybe that Wagner piece. Where would our cartoons be without him?
Andy: ‘In My Life,’ the Beatles. I think that’s a great song.
Danny: This is one of the songs, ‘I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,’ sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

Gills & Wings is available for soundtrack work and anything else that would involve exchanging sound waves for cold, hard cash. If you’re in the mood to sway and say, ‘Wow, these guys are really good,’ they’ll be playing 17 November at the Canal Club. Show starts at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 at the door. See them while they’re still this cheap.
And if you want an awesome haircut, check out Jamie Levine. Her Facebook page is currently awaiting your friend request.
- Magazine 33


Gills and Wings EP



Gills and Wings is a cocktail of dramatic rock and decadent pop. They effortlessly juxtapose bold and politically charged lyrics with heartbreaking, moody melodies that contain colorful choruses, and flamboyant flair. These contrasts are symbolic of the band members themselves, who combine differences in age, cultural background and sexual orientation to form one enigmatic entity.

In addition to receiving airplay on MTV�s The Real World, Gills and Wings are
building an impressive following in their home base of Richmond, Virginia. Their story began with the musical collaborations of Uruguayan Santiago and Cuban Danny at arts school in their hometown of Miami. Whilst in college, a friend connected the Hispanic duo with Alex, who had played on Jason Mraz� debut album �Waiting for My Rocket To Come�. Alex, in turn, introduced the band members to Andy and Matt who had played with him in a previous band called Buddha Pop. Alex and Andy had also collaborated together on the score for the independent film �Solitude�. After months of mailing demos and ideas, and whilst traveling up and down the East coast, Danny and Santi took the plunge and moved to Richmond, where Gills and Wings were born.

The band's name refers to the transformational power of music, and its ability to push people to transcend their everyday lives. It originally came from a line in a song that Danny and Santi first wrote together. The song was about supernatural strength, and based off the Ubermensch theory of the super human. The band feels that the theme of transformation represented their views on music � when they play and hear music, they transcend their normal lives and experience something unique.

The band pools their musical influences from a diversity of sources. Danny draws
from 20th Century jazz and pop composers such as Johnny Mercer, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter. His taste of course includes contemporary artists like Radiohead and The Beatles. Santi takes his influences from the likes of Coldplay, Fiona Apple and hip-hop artists such as Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., as well as classical composers like Debussy and Schubert. Alexʼs inspirations include Tom Waits, The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Mattʼs bass-playing influences include Windham Hillʼs Michael Manring and The New Bohemiansʼ Brad Houser, whilst Andy is huge fan of XTC.

The eclectic backgrounds, musical influences and life experiences of the band
members express themselves powerfully in their new self-titled debut EP. The EP
features tracks ranging from the atmospheric ʻMan In The Wellʼ, to the upbeat MTV hit ʻCircusʼ, to the politically fueled ʻRebirth of a Nationʼ.

Now after years of cross-country collaboration, studio time, and local gigs, Gills and Wings has jumped in at the deep end, and with the release of their debut EP, are ready to fly.