5 things you should know about Brooklyn’s rising indie band, Modern Whale

Robbie Guariglia, of Brooklyn indie band Modern Whale, plays the Knitting Factory on Monday.  Photo Credit: Cory Ingram

Frontman Robbie G has opened for Van Halen and B.B. King. Now, it’s his turn to take center stage.

Robbie Guariglia, of Brooklyn indie band Modern Whale, plays the Knitting Factory on Monday. 
Robbie Guariglia, of Brooklyn indie band Modern Whale, plays the Knitting Factory on Monday.  Photo Credit: Getty Images for RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11/Cindy Ord

Just a few years ago, Robbie Guariglia — who performs under the stage name Robbie G — served as a touring guitarist for popular artists like Natasha Bedingfield and The Veronicas. Now, it’s his turn to take center stage.

Guariglia spent the past two decades collaborating extensively with songwriter Scott Harris (Shawn Mendes, The Chainsmokers), producing songs for pop outfits Oh Honey, as well as providing the tunes for various advertising campaigns.

The Brooklyn-based performer decided to set out on his own three years ago. He’s now the frontman of Modern Whale (circa 2017) — a fusion of cheery indie-pop and rock ‘n roll — that’s just starting to break into the NYC music scene. Approaching the expected summer launch of his band’s first EP, Guargalia will see a new musical journey on the back of Modern Whale.

“It’s just my passion for music and kind of just never stopping that just continues to open up doors that I really never dreamed of, quite frankly,” he says.

Modern Whale plays the Knitting Factory on Monday.
Modern Whale plays the Knitting Factory on Monday. Photo Credit: One RPM Studios

We caught up with Guariglia of Modern Whale to discuss what sets the group apart.

Modern Whale may be a newcomer, but Guariglia is not

Guariglia opened for Van Halen and the late B.B. King and served as a touring member and occasional co-songwriter for the Australian pop duo The Veronicas for nearly five years starting in 2005. Additionally, the performer has played both bass and lead guitar on separate tours for synth-pop band Oh Honey, as well as supported Phoebe Ryan and Natasha Bedingfield on guitar during occasional gigs. 

He dabbled in TV and commercial work in the early 2000s, composing the theme song for Cartoon Network’s “The Life and Times of Juniper Lee” (2005-2007) and doing ad tracks for Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Fox, UGG and ESPN.

When Guariglia decided to release his own music, he says it felt like he was “going back to the basics.” 

A critical moment in Guariglia’s life led to Modern Whale

Landing gigs and touring the country as a backup guitarist since 1999, Guariglia had no intention of becoming a frontman. That all changed when he lost his father to leukemia in 2015. 

“By April of 2016, I was just in a better head space. The first batch of songs that were released was really me just doing something for myself over those days,” he says. “I had no plan or goal to, to do anything like this. It was, especially after watching my dad die, it was more like if anything, I was more interested in the idea of slowing down.”

This whale was inspired by a special wave

His passion for music was initially sparked by seeing the soundwaves displayed on a screen as he was beginning to learn production software — soundwaves that would eventually propel the artist to form Modern Whale.

“Something happened visually for me, it must’ve been in 1999 or 2000,” he says. “The first time I was presented with Pro Tools — software for recording and producing music — it was something about seeing the waveform of the music itself … It was like I was able to understand the language and it just made sense.”

In 2017, Guariglia met drummer Kerel lacy — an introduction through mutual friends that began at a Brooklyn bar — and bassist Rocky Russo. The trio recorded six singles together within 18 months, totaling 68,000 Spotify streams.

The group’s first EP will have a DIY feel

Guariglia has produced and recorded all of his tracks in his own home, on the boarder of East Williamsburg and Bushwick. His first EP will be a collection of four singles that carry the cathartic sound that Modern Whale encapsulates. He says that sound falls somewhere between indie-pop trailblazers Phoenix and the synth-pop cult favorite The Postal Service.

There’s something majestic about a name

The frontman always knew he wanted an animal in his band’s name. He played around with “wolf,” but was drawn to underwater mammals.

“It was just something about whales,” the artist says. “I always saw the big humpback as this majestic giant, and something about the whale, it was almost [Led] Zeppelin-ish to me. The first batch of songs had like this big-drum rock thing that wasn’t meant to be a throwback, but it had this sort of energy that was inspired a little bit by the enormity of rock ‘n roll.”

Nicole Rosenthal