Band: Sergio & the Satin Dogs
Date: Sunday, Dec. 10, 6 p.m.
Venue: Bluegill Restaurant, 3775 Battleship Parkway, Spanish Fort

Three years after they first played together, Sergio & the Satin Dogs represents vocalist/guitarist Sergio Rangel’s acoustic/soul vision, paying homage to David Bowie (“Diamond Dogs”) and Duke Ellington (“Satin Doll”).

While Rangel, Juan Montgomery (drums), Ross Graham (bass), Chad Davidson (trumpet) and Frankie Crawford (electric guitar) comprise the core of this group, the eclectic nature of this band could bring a plethora of instruments and musicians to their live setting.

Conceptually, Rangel wanted to mix Ellington’s and Bowie’s attitude towards their art, searching for a sound reflecting Ellington’s passionate approach while focusing on Bowie’s knack for innovation.

“I like to think the music spans genres,” Rangel explained. “It’s not really one, and it’s not really the other. If you think of it like that, you’ve got the inspiration of Duke Ellington in the soulful feelings and a really groovy vibe. Then, you’ve got David Bowie on the other spectrum, which is more experimental and really rocking but never really placed in a certain category of music.”

Rangel’s music meets his goals on several levels. First, Sergio & the Satin Dogs employ a variety of instrumentation on the stage and in the studio. Second, Rangel succeeds in tripping across a variety of musical styles from measure to measure. Some songs might mingle lighthearted trips across the fretboard with sudden jazz breakdowns. Other tracks mix blaring horns into a bright rock anthem. All the while, the Satin Dogs’ play over a solid foundation of acoustic guitar, adding an organic edge to each track.

“I just love the business that an acoustic guitar can do,” Rangel said. “There’s not a lot of people who can utilize the acoustic guitar as more than just a rhythm instrument. I want to separate myself from that. It’s not just a rhythm acoustic guitar. It’s my instrument. I use it like an electric, but I’m on acoustic.”

Sergio & the Satin Dogs is celebrating the release of their first effort, “Under the Crowded Sign, Part 1.” Tracked by Cliff McClure (Plannet Productions, LLC), Rangel says the creation of this four-song debut EP was a collaborative effort between various local musicians, especially those who contributed horns. Of all the instrumentation featured on the album, Rangel wanted bright horn arrangements peppered throughout.

“I’ve always been a fan of horns,” he said. “I love Stevie Wonder, just like his ‘As’ song and ‘Having Done Nothing.’ In a sense, people started saying that we sounded like Dave Matthews. I love a good horn sound. I love a good sax and a good trumpet driving those little nuances where certain things like an electric guitar solo would’ve been otherwise. They fill so much empty space.”

With little technical experience with horn arrangements, Rangel recruited Hippo Meat Productions’ Rogest Castarphen (aka Rosco) and local horn player Carlos Vizoso to assist with the album’s brass. As the duo would listen to tracks, Rangel and Castarphen would compile a list of sounds and locations for horn arrangements. Afterwards, Vizoso made his contribution to the arrangements. Rangel admits that Vizoso’s guidance in the studio was very valuable.

“Carlos was very much a band leader as far as horns,” he said. “He told the horns exactly where they needed to be and what they should be doing. I’m learning, but I don’t know the terminologies with tunings. He was very smart and very much a leader in the studio. It made it run smoother.”

“Under A Crowded Sign, Part 1” is a cross-section of the Satin Dogs’ influences beginning with the bouncing, jazz-laden acoustic pop of “Love Loss,” followed by the heartfelt ballad “Roses.” Rangel said this song’s chorus of “I haven’t smelled the roses that life’s been composing because I’ve been tangled up with you” speaks to his youth. “Candy Coated Lies” is a high-energy pop anthem filled with explosive, spontaneous jazz breakdowns. “Mercy” provides a conclusion that is both bright and exotic.

This release contains just a taste of the Satin Dogs’ repertoire. Rangel says the small sample was intentional, noting the single-driven nature of the modern music industry as one of the biggest reasons for their four-track EP. For him, small releases prevent any chance of oversaturation and create anticipation for future releases.

Currently, Rangel is planning to combine the next two parts of “Under a Crowded Sign” as a full album. However, he admits the endeavor might take more time to record than the band’s debut. His vision is to gather all the contributors to the Satin Dogs’ sound in the studio for a live recording session.

“We get all nine band members into the studio and record everything in a two-day period and go from there,” he said. “I love bands that record live in the studio. You can feel the changes and hear the tonal subtleties that you wouldn’t be able to hear in a track-by-track recording.”

Until then, Sergio & the Satin Dogs will continue to perform along the Gulf Coast and beyond. The group has already made stops in Texas and along the West Coast. Along the way, Rangel said the road brought inspiration, experience and new listeners. In the end, he said the live feedback he receives is the most rewarding aspect of continuing the artistic journey.

“It feels good when somebody comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, man, you’re doing the right thing. You’re doing good. Keep it up,’” he said. “You could’ve had the crappiest show, and all it takes is one person in the audience recognizing something different. They’re just encouraging, and it’s amazing.”

(Photo | Submitted) Sergio & the Satin Dogs’ four-track EP, “Under a Crowded Sign: Part One” is available on www.satindogs.com.