Jeff Pearlman

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Furillo

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We spotted him working the stage at an Asian festival inside the Orange County Fairgrounds. The music was loud, the beat infectious. Five people were paying attention—and yet, this performer brought his A game. How? And ... why? POSTED August 2, 2018

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So a bunch of months ago we attended an Asian food festival-type thing at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

It was one of those overcrowded, what-else-are-we-supposed-to-do suburban weekend events where the sushi was overpriced and the lines went 20-to-30 deep. I was sorta bored and sorta annoyed—and then, out of nowhere, I heard someone playing Snoop and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free.” I looked, and atop a nearby stage stood this guy in a backward baseball cap, sorta rap/singing/hollering over the music.

Enter: Furillo.

I didn’t love the music, per se. But, man, I looooooved the energy, the enthusiasm, the fever. There were probably five people watching. Maybe six. But Furillo didn’t care. He was all in, simultaneously feeding off the crowd and feeding it. From a pure effort standpoint, it was one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed.

And that’s why Furillo, pride of Chicago, is the new Quaz. Because drive matters. Because heart matters.

You can follow Furillo on Instagram here.

He is a man worth rooting for …

JEFF PEARLMAN:OK, So Furillo, I learned of your existence a couple of weekends ago, when you were performing at an Asian food festival at the Orange County fairgrounds. And, if we’re being honest, it was a v-e-r-y small crowd. And you really brought it. Energy. Passion. And I was simultaneously impressed and feeling bad for you. But … should I have? Like, is it hard revving up the energy for that sorta gig? How do you do it?

FURILLO: It definitely was not the biggest crowd but I have performed in front of five people and I’ve also performed for thousands. The way I see it, it shouldn’t matter if there is one person in the crowd or 100,000 people in the crowd. I feel I need to give my best performance regardless because that one person may be my new biggest fan and I want to make sure that I give them the best performance that I could possibly give because at the end of the day, I am a product and I need to sell myself to new fans. So in that sense the product needs to be the best that It can possibly be so that I can gain new supporters. With that being said I’m always going to give my all no matter how big or small the audience is.

I also think there are a lot of performers who will perform based on how big the crowd is and I think that they are shooting themselves in the foot because if they half-assed their show and those individuals who are watching them aren’t fully engaged in what the performers ultimate brand really is when there is a big crowd, then I feel like they will lose an opportunity to gain new fans. The show should be the best it can possibly be because it really shouldn’t matter if there is one person or many and to be honest with you I feel like if a performer is going to half ass a show based on the size of the crowd than he really doesn’t want this career path or he really doesn’t have passion in this and he may be doing these performances/music for other reasons. That’s my opinion.

J.P.: You refer to yourself as a “hip-house” artist. I know house music, I know hip-hop music. But what, exactly, is “hip-house”?

F: So yes, I have used the term “hip house” before but that was early on in my career. I get asked a lot about what genre my music actually is. And to be honest with you I can’t specify specifically what genre it is. Closest that I could say is a mix between EDM pop and hip-hop. It’s a fusion of my top three favorite genres and I had every intention on creating this fusion of music from Day 1.

It’s not just hip-hop because there are dance elements and strong melodic elements. It’s also not just EDM because I’m rapping over the drops. And it’s not just pop because, again, I’m rapping and there is a portion of each song that is only dance instrumental. So if I really had to put a label on it, I would just call it FURILLOmusic. In my opinion my sound has the opportunity to create its own lane.

Anyone is going to want to classify my music how they want, but I try to keep my music as clean as possible as I try to reach the masses on a mainstream level. I definitely do have music that is explicit. And that’s because I want to talk to a certain demographic but I also keep in mind that I do make music for all ages so I don’t want to oversaturate myself with explicit material which would potentially hurt my brand.

J.P.: OK, along those lines. When I watched you, you were sorta yelling over Snoop and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free.” You weren’t singing, per se. And you weren’t rapping, per se. So what is it you’re doing to tracks like that? And how do you choose the music you perform to?

F: For the young wild and free song I actually was doing an EDM remix of the original. So if you notice the beat was different on the verses but then back on the chorus it reverted to the original. I try to create a new and fresh take on music that people—including myself—already know and love. I try to add a twist and add something that’s new and fresh to what others are already familiar with. And actually, I was wrapping on the verses I just kept the chorus because that’s what the crowd already knows so they can sing along with me and then when it’s time for the verse the beat changes to a dance beat and I come in with hype new lyrics. So I guess you can call it an unofficial remix.

And I make these unofficial remixes again because it is what the audience is already used to and know and love with a new fresh take.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? I mean, I know you’re from Cleveland, lived in Chicago, now live in LA. But, soup to nuts, how did this musical career come to be? When did you know you had musical talent? Thay you could make money at this?

F: So what a lot of people don’t know (at least my new fans and supporters) is that I originally went to college in Chicago for film and video production with minor studies in music business.

I was around musicians so much shooting music videos for them that creating music originally stemmed from curiosity and being in studio sessions with them and seeing the process that took place to create this beautiful work of art that we all know as music.

Since it was new to me, I really didn’t have a direction for where I wanted to start as far as what genre of music I wanted to make. I knew one thing though—I love to party. And that was my top two favorite artists were Flo Rida and Pitbull. Whenever I heard their music it instantly made me happy, and of course dance and party and even help me gain motivation in the gym (which essentially created a better lifestyle for me).

So with that being said I wanted to create something that would allow my fans to forget about a lot of the stress and tough times in their lives and be able to smile, focus on them selves and just be happy even if it’s only for that three-to-four minutes. If I am able to accomplish that than that means that I am helping someone.

I also knew that I wanted to rap but I didn’t want to be classified as a “ rapper.” So I decided to take elements from Flo Rida and Pitbull and fuse them with another genre that I was so fond of—EDM. With EDM I’ve always wondered to myself why there weren’t very many lyrics in that music. Typically you have the chorus and then you would have just the instrumental for a few bars with no vocals on them. So to me that made me think, “What if I rap over to EDM drops?” This essentially led me to create the fusion of EDM pop and hip-hop that I have branded myself with today.

A friend of mine—also a very talented artist based in Chicago who goes by the name of Jon De Pledge—helped me create my first original song, which ended up being called “Summer Getaway.”

Originally when I pitched the song idea to him he didn’t want to do it because the concept and feel of the song didn’t match up with his brand. Jon De Pledge classifies himself as “a hip-hop head “ and he had never made a pop song that was directed to the mainstream before so he wasn’t really feeling the idea at first. Eventually I was able to convince him to step out of his box and his comfort zone and try something new. Jon De Pledge literally wrote the hook in five minutes. I did my verse and the bridge he did the second verse and not too long after we came up with “Summer Getaway. “

I realize that I had something because the feedback for “Summer Getaway” was mostly positive and the people who enjoyed it didn’t just tell me, “Yeah, I like the song,” but gave me multiple reasons why they liked the song and everybody’s reasoning was very similar. It was everything from “I could hear this song in a movie or I could hear this song at a sports game or I could hear this song in a video game or I could hear this song at a beach party during spring break.”

And ever since that first song, my curiosity became greater and eventually turned into passion and now I’ve realized that I wasn’t born to be curious about creating music.

I was born to create music.

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J.P.: How does one hype up a crowd? Like, what are the keys? What are the buttons to push?

F: I think crowd participation during a performance is very important. I make it a point that every time I perform I am as interactive as possible with the audience. Whether that means pukking the crowd on stage with me during my performance, or handing merch out to the crowd so they know when they come to one my shows they have a good chance of taking something physical home with them, or popping off calk cannons or confetti cannons to the crowd to surprise them with something new. It’s also important to talk to your audience and ask them how they are and ask them if they are enjoying themselves during your performance to keep them engaged with you directly.

People want to be entertained and standing on stage doing the same thing over and over again gets old after a while. My job is to put on a show. I’m an entertainer. I don’t just stand on stage and sing my lyrics.

I do want to clarify that that’s not always a bad thing to only stand on stage, perform with no extras and be done, because those types of performances do work for a lot of artists and that may be what their brand calls for. For me, i make upbeat party music and I need to involve party elements to get the full effect of an awesome party.

J.P.: You do events for kids—which strikes me as something akin to water torture. How do you handle a room overflowing with obnoxious brats? What do you offer them?

F: The goal is to keep the audience entertained and wanting more. So one of the things that I found works best is high energetic music to keep them moving and crowd participation. Throwing merch to the crowd, having the crowd come up on stage with me and having them involved with the show and not just watching is something that works well when performing for anyone. Not just children.

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J.P.: Weird question—how do you feel about the state of modern hip-hop? I ask as a guy who grew up listening to Tupac, Biggie, Tribe. I’m not really feeling 2018. But am I missing something?

F: I feel like a lot of the new stuff sounds the same or too similar. I like some of it, but someone needs to step in and give us something fresh.

J.P.: What’s the story of the worst gig you’ve ever worked? What happened?

F: The worst gig I played was one of my first shows. I was in Toledo, Ohio and a friend of mine booked me for a spot on this hip-hop showcase. I of course do a fusion of EDM/Pop and hip-hop and jumped up on stage and started performing. They were not having it from the jump. I’m on stage singing “Summer Getaway”—which is a very bubble gum pop record. And the crowd was the complete wrong crowd to perform for. Picture me performing for Chief Keef singing “Summer Getaway” … use your imagination haha

There can always be that one person in the crowd who could be your new hardcore fan and I did gain one. But for the most part it was a learning experience. So now I make sure that the crowd fits.

J.P.: What’s the story of the best gig you’ve ever worked? What happened?

F: The best gig that I ever did was a festival in Augusta, Georgia called Arts in the Heart of Augusta 2016. It was my first big show with more than 100 people. The event averages over 80,000 people in a three-day span so you can imagine how many people were watching when I went on.

They really did enjoy my set and I have the footage to prove it in my visual press kit. They went crazy and were singing along and the feeling of having someone sing your song who had no idea who I was before getting on that stage is amazing. On that day I made a pact with myself that i would never let anyone try and tell me that a music career is unrealistic or that I am wasting my time.

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J.P.: You have a song, “School’s Out,” with Terex. So … what’s the story behind it? How did it come to be? How’d you piece it together?

F: TeRex is a good friend and producer of mine. We created “I’m Alive” together and “School’s Out!” was our next stab at another hit record.

We were in Chicago at my buddy’s studio and started playing around with some sounds. I remember It was late and we just came back from dinner so we had food coma and were ready for bed, so Rex was playin’ around and randomly started playing this melody. And I remember cutting someone off from a conversation I was in and was like, “Wait! Dude, keep going!” And he did. It only took a few minutes for him to come up with the foundation of the song and then he turned around in his spin chair and looked at me and said, “What do you think of when you hear this song?” He had a school bell in there and he would add these random sounds in my records and the first thing that came to mind was school being out. “Schools Out!” Is a classic. The rest is history.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH FURILLO:

 • Why “Furillo” as a name?: It’s my last name and just so happens to sound cool apparently. Haha.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): your elbows, DJ Big BLK, looking at someone else’s vacation photos, Hanes boxer briefs, BTS, Margot Kidder, Whole Foods sandwiches, Wayne Chrebet, fifth grade math: 1. DJ Big BLK, BTS, Whole Foods sandwich, boxer briefs, vacation photos, Margot Kidder, Wayne Chrebet, fifth grade math.

• One question you would ask Piper Perabo were she here right now: Dude, where’s the best place to park your car in Santa Monica?

• Three things you absolutely hate: People being late, lack of communication, mayonnaise

• What are three memories from your senior prom?: Getting hit on by my buddies date, being the only turnt one in my group, my best friend Sal eating 13 Fiber One pancakes before prom and breaking the toilet.

• Do you think the Mets were wise to sign Jose Bautista?: I don’t know

• You’re not very active on Twitter. Why?: I don’t get twitter. I’m most active on Instagram. Every day about and every Friday on tiutuvevfor FURILLO Friday’s where i release new content such as new songs, videos, raffles and giveaways, show tickets and more.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life