Nitetalk: Catching Up With Power-Pop Band Girl to Gorilla

Girl to Gorilla is a power-pop fivesome that packs a punk-rock infused punch. The band, named after a Coney Island sideshow, features both a classically trained musician and a metal head. But the rocking quintet -- John Skocik (singer/guitar), Steve Pang (drums), Amalia Daskalakis (viola), Spyro Panousopoulos (bass) and Simon Rosa (guitar/keys) -- draws on its common love of music to create a sound accessible to all in the vein of Iggy Pop, the Pogues and even Bach.

The band started when John and Spyro met at an open mic in Bay Ridge about ten years ago. How did the rest of you hook up?

Steve: We were recording our record and decided we wanted to add an organ part to one some and maybe some strings. I had my friend Simon, who I played with in another band, come in, and we had Amalia come in and record some strings. ... After our recording was done, they just became part of the band.

Amalia: The first time I met Spyro was on the Otto's float at the Mermaid Parade. I was a pirate on the float. When I get the call from Steve -- ''We'd love it if you could come down to the studio and do a couple of tracks this weekend" -- I think it was the first time I met you (John). The minute I walk into that studio, and I hang out with the three of them -- John, Spyro and Steve -- I'm like, "This is an amazing group of people, and this is an amazing song. I want to play with them."

How did you come up with the name?

John: Sypro used to do some PR for this Coney Island sideshow. He was talking to the guy who runs it down there, and he was telling him about this old carnie act called the Girl to Gorilla, which is where this woman in a cage is ... turned into a gorilla, and basically the cage opens up and [she] chases all the people to the next room where there's another act going on.

You settled on the name Girl to Gorilla before Amalia -- the band's only female member -- joined the group. Did you feel the band needed a woman with a name like that?

John: It certainly made a lot more sense.

Steve: Although the gorilla we're still working on.

You have different musical backgrounds. Amalia is classically trained. Steve played garage punk. What drew you together?

Steve: John's songs are really good. ... From years of being in the East Village music scene and owning a rehearsal studio and a venue, I've seen many, many bands. So when something that's good pops out at me, I know it's good because I've heard so much.

Amalia: I'd like to second that. I've played with so many people. ... I think the first thing that draws me to playing with people is their character and their fabulousness as individuals [and someone] I want to share in the creative process with.

Steve: When we were playing as a power trio -- just the three of us: John, Spyro and me -- we just played hard, fast and loud because it made a bigger sound with less people. We had to sort of relearn some dynamics when you add two extra people. ... It became a different band from a straight-ahead power trio to a more nuanced band of five people. The kind of music we make is accessible to anybody and everybody.

Spyro: We all have common threads. It keeps it from going stale. There's always a surprise there.

What's the best part of playing together?

John: We have a lot of fun playing (songs) live. ... When a song works, and we perform live, I think that is the most fun for us.

Amalia: But I think we have fun in practice too. We're having fun on the journey, and I think that's the brilliant part of it. We have fun just creating together. It's all about the journey. I've never left a practice upset. Every time I leave practice, I'm like, "That was amazing."

John: Just writing songs in general and practicing and performing with these guys has probably kept me out of seeing a therapist or something like that because it's an outlet, and it's a very emotional outlet.

Steve: It's cheaper than a therapist (laughs).

Spyro: When we get together, it's an event. It's a pleasure to play in the band. It's never smooth sailing, but when it comes down to it, we're all ridiculously happy with the end result.

Tell us about the show tonight at Crash Mansion.

Spyro: You can't have a bad time at our show. ... We've played some tough crowds. We've turned around some tough customers. The amount of energy that comes off stage is infectious.

Girl to Gorilla is playing at Crash Mansion tonight, Fri. Oct. 9, at 7 p.m.

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