Cecilia Della Peruti prefers to be barefoot when she's performing. The 23-year-old singer and guitarist for three piece jungle-garage rock outfit Gothic Tropic says she doesn't wear shoes because it allows her to “dance and go crazy, not feel like I'm going to trip on my feet.” She, along with bassist Daniel Denton and drummer Liv Marsico, have been exploring that motif of freedom, playing shows that feel not different from a late-night New Orleans jazz rumble. Their sound, meanwhile, contains a twinge of garage noise mixed with Afro-Caribbean influences, i.e. the “Tropic” in their name.
They've only been a band since last May, but they've managed to muster up a bit of a following; Origami Vinyl owner Neil Schield says their first EP Awesome Problems is selling quite well in his store. (Awesome Problems is actually pressed on a 12'' LP because it wouldn't fit on a 7'', the entire B-side is left blank.) And they've been booked to play at the Sled Island Festival in Calgary this June.
Speaking with them at Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park, where Della Peruti lives, they get constantly interrupted; one guy shows Marsico a picture of her playing drums he has on his computer. Though she's tiny — a waif brunette barely pushing a hundred pounds — there is nothing diminutive about Marsico. She possesses that magnetic quality that has allowed drummers like Levon Helm to shine from behind the kit. Della Peruti too has a particular kind confidence necessary to thrive in a male dominated rock world.
Perhaps because of that fierce independent streak, they're starting to find a distinctive voice, though they're not entirely sure how to define it yet. All three members have been in a bevy of previous projects: Marsico was a member of Stone Darling and a touring drummer for the Cold War Kids. But they say they've never felt this level of connection with previous collaborators.
Referring to their chemistry, Della Peruti calls them “the sacred three.” That kind of discourse is vital to the type of music Gothic Tropic plays, which is comparable to jazz in the way its creation is approached: its success is based upon each member's ability to selflessly collaborate but also individually flourish. Also, it's best live.
Marsico's drumming features far more prominently in Gothic's sound than a simple background beat. (She also directs music videos for Stones Throw rappers including Homeboy Sandman.) She's a strong voice in the musical conversation happening onstage, which makes sense, as she comes from a musical background. Her dad is a jazz drummer, and her mother is a classical piano player. She herself studied under some jazz heavyweights. “It's first time since playing jazz that I've felt that really raw euphoric feeling [playing],” she says.
Della Peruti's guitar parts are long and often experimental, but are always kept in check by Denton. The individual performer is allowed to shine, but only within the greater context of the what's going on behind them — a sort of antithesis of the classic rock guitar solo. “Because there is that element of improv no solo is ever the same,” says Della Peruti. “I'm writing something new for the first time on the spot in front of a bunch of people. New things happen all the time at live shows.”
Denton says they still have no real idea of how to classify themselves, and their sound seems to transition every time you see them play. Whether that's a good or bad thing will be answered by their first proper record, of which there's no official release date yet. Stay tuned.