Among the things that jump out on Gogol Bordello's extensive tour itinerary are a pair of opening slots in the next few weeks. One is for the Dave Matthews Band, the other for Queens of the Stone Age.
There aren't a whole lot of bands that could make both of those scenarios work. Is it possible that this brassy, percussive gypsy punk band from New York City fits anywhere?
"The proper way to put it is that we don't fit anywhere -- equally," says frontman Eugene Hutz, with a laugh. "So that makes us fit anywhere at the same time. Don't look too long at our tour itinerary, because your head will spin."
Being in the position of having to win over unfamiliar crowds is "effortlessly challenging," according to the singer. "We derive quite a bit of extra energy from the act of conversion. Plus, no matter what environment we're in, we're going to turn into our environment. We bring in a positive energy and somewhere deep down all human beings, no matter what they claim, the thing that actually makes them feel good is positive energy."
Gogol Bordello has been in the positive energy business since forming in New York City in 1999, a little more than a decade after Mr. Hutz and his Ukrainian family became refugees of the Chernobyl disaster. The guy clearly has natural-born charisma, but his travels through Europe and to the States served to add more seasoning to his gypsy musical roots. After first settling in Vermont, he moved to New York where he met the fellow worldly musicians who would become Gogol Bordello.
If there was any confusion about what its unhinged ethnic style was all about, the title of the band's third album, "Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike," cleared that up.
"I invented the title," he says of gypsy punks. "That was my sheer invention to protect ourselves from people's misconceptions. I was always a fan of Sonic Youth, before anyone knew who those guys were really. Being unique and forward thinking, they weren't really waiting for people to label them in some way. They just came up with a label: 'We are artcore.'
"When our situation occurred and I sensed there was massive confusion when people were desperately trying to put a label for it, my first reaction was, 'Don't label it. That's quite limiting.' Then, I realized, 'It's Western civilization, they have to label it. If they don't label it, they are going to be in a state of crisis.' That was just a little helping hand that I had to offer. I took this term from a conversation with a group of gypsy kids that I met who came to the show. They were like, 'Wow, this is like punk, but it's kind of like gypsy. It's like gypsy punk.' I was like, 'I think you guys just said it.' "
Regardless of what you call it, it's a wild, infectious multicultural blend that's best experienced in the band's raucous and sweaty live shows. It does manage to translate to the records, which began with three indie label albums before going major label with the Rick Rubin-produced American debut, "Trans-Continental Hustle," in 2010. The follow-up is the just-released "Pura Vida Conspiracy," on ATO, which he feels nails the band's sound.
"I think on previous records -- as much as we love them and as much as they've been recognized as classic pieces -- I still felt like they were perceived as a singer-songwriter backed by the band," Mr. Hutz says. "I think on this album we made a great leap into a real collective energy, where it sounds like a piece that is driven by the band itself, like a band really jelled to the point where it is one organism and there is some beautiful urgency yet coherency. I'm really psyched for that, because I'm always a sucker for unified energy. More horsepower feels better."
These days, the impressively moustached singer makes his home in Brazil, bringing even more rhythmic flavors to Gogol.
"I fell in love with the place and absorbed a lot of it," he says. "At this point, I'm kind of merging all my heritage from New York and Eastern Europe with what I experienced in South America. It's a very different kind of place. I think one of the things that attracts me to it is that it's quite chaotic in a natural way. I see chaos as a form of its own beautiful order. I learned to see it that way because touring is so profound. Through immigration and touring, it's a great way to perceive life. I don't think chaos is something that needs to be ordered and figured out. It's kind of a river of its own. I think you can see that on stage with us -- I'm friends with chaos."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg