NY-based rocker Diane Gentile is soaring through charged, groovin’ soundscapes cut from the heart of garage rock and Americana with help from her killer band, Diane and The Gentle Men. The stirring musical collective formed through years spent in the rock scenes of the Lower East Side; chance encounters became serendipitous meetings, and acquaintances became full-time band members. The group just added a new element to their repertoire with the ten-track record The White Sea, which dropped April 17th via Velvet Elk Records.
Now joining us for a track-by-track tour of the ten staples of The White Sea, Diane is here to guide us through her newest release. The album, originally due to be released in 2018, was put on hold by Diane’s experience with a horrific, freak traffic accident in Italy. After a month-long stay in an Italian hospital and multiple surgeries back on US soil, the extensive trek back to recovery and musicality is a testament to the powerful spirit of this rockin’ woman. As such, The White Sea is a truly monumental release, filled with the poignant understanding of how fragile creativity, art, and life itself can be.
“I wrote this song in five minutes. Sometimes those things happen. I had a brand new 1957 Gibson Melody Maker (electric guitar) and I sat down to play it for the first time. A feeling came on that I was in a classic bad-boy motorcycle film. I had run into Jack Ridley (musician in The Drowners) the night before and he reminded me of Marlon Brando in the film The Wild One. I recalled riding on the Palisades Parkway on the back of a motorcycle in the summer heat and feeling warm wind, free and sexual. Marianne Faithful has a song ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ where she sings ‘She realized, she’d never ride, through Paris, in a sports car, with the warm wind in her hair.’ That always stuck with me. Little Steven (Soprano’s/Bruce Springsteen) heard the song and made it ‘Coolest Song in the World’ on his Underground Garage Radio station on Sirius. I was so excited about that.”
2. “Perfect People”
“When I wrote this, I felt ashamed to be a part of the human race. I couldn’t believe how damaging people can sometimes be to one another, and I don’t think the world should work that way. I do believe our government has set a really terrible example of acceptable behavior in general, and that starts with the President and extends all the way to the entire Senate. The media is also unconscionable. But who am I to judge? This is a rock ‘n’ roll song that most likely came from my musical conscience – I think I was searching for a Velvet’s kind of groove and ended up with this. I asked Mark Bosch who plays with Ian Hunter in Mott the Hoople to come and lend a hand on guitars. I heard a kind of James Honeyman Scott repetitive riff in this and thought Mark would be really fun to work with. He got it. He added to Jason Victor’s already wicked guitar lines.”
3. “Wicked Hours”
“I love jingly jangly guitars, and I keep trying to write a song that sounds as beautiful as a Byrds tune. So this song came from that place. We all have losses, and time seems to stand still when we grieve, but every time I look back, I see that something wonderful usually follows after suffering. Life is strange and unexpected, kind of like the bridge in this tune, which I struggled with when writing it.”
4. “The White Sea”
“I haven’t often written with others, but I had this song and I couldn’t get the chorus right. Alfonso Velez, a very close friend and a writer of his own amazing music, helped me to navigate the words and feelings. The early writing demos I have of this are different. The early chorus lyric was ‘It’s the white sea that you bring me, in a frenzy, washing up stones.’ The song is about turmoil.”
5. “Little Things”
“I love guitars, and this song has guitars and, I think, a strong melody. This is an important song for me because I was paying too much attention to the big picture, and sometimes you get so caught up in the big picture that you forget about the little things in life… like giving your cats some love before you leave for work in the morning. Jason Victor’s guitar riffs on this song are so sing-able. Jesse Malin loved this song and pushed me to get the mix right.”
6. “Just Pretend”
“I have these little scenes (I call them blessed vignettes) that sometimes pop into my head. I don’t know where they come from. In this one, a beautiful woman is seated in the back of a seedy, dark bar waiting for her lover to come meet her, and one night he doesn’t show. It’s chilling and it’s cold, yet her voice is warm and sexy and terrified. That’s this song to me.”
“I wrote this just after writing ‘Motorcycle’ in the same writing session in my living room at home. Another one of my mini-movie visions where I saw a girl on a swing in Central Park and her young, fairly-new lover walking toward her. That’s it. When I brought the song into rehearsal, Matt Basile, who plays bass and also does some production for the band, loved the fact that he could sing the word ‘boyfriend,’ just that. He loved playing this tune live, and Colin Brooks (on drums) really gave it a fine swing in the studio.”
“The name Joe could be anyone, like on that TV show MASH – you know ‘Joe,’ any guy. It’s a name for the guy I have probably been chasing my whole life – the one who is never attainable. Again, another blessed vignette – New Year’s – Time’s Square – a couple – a man so free and uncommitted that he wanders off, lost into the depths of the night, and he doesn’t return home for days. Where was he? The Gentle Men (my band) really do this song justice.”
“I felt that the chords of this song and the key would compliment ‘The White Sea’ on the album. I wanted another up-tempo song for the record. I love the guitar-stab type songs – a la The Clash or Bob Marley. I love that Johnny Cash type of big, dark, deep guitar line too. I was thinking about the importance of things in our lives and realized that as important as money is, it just isn’t as important to me as a memory, be it good or bad.”
10. “Second Hand Heart”
“Jesse Malin convinced me to put this version of the song on the record. It is dedicated to and written about my older brother who was known to some as Fast Eddie Gentile. He was a killer guitar player. When I was a kid, I used to watch Eddie play along to Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter records all day. Eddie was so talented and, very sadly, no one ever knew of him. His talents went by the wayside and, to me, that was such a loss.
Album Overview: The White Sea
“Here’s a little about the full album. I wrote a record that when listening back, seems like it covers hope, loss, love and sex. I didn’t set out to write it that way but to me, that is the end result. I just wanted to write some movin’ and groovin’ songs.”