Written by Jon 'Stay Puft' Garcia
With a smile permanently affixed to his face, Danny Kiranos sits on a green room couch staring at nothing in particular, soaking in every detail about the night that just was. A happiness radiates from him, and his eyes have a look of both wonderment and satisfaction.
Here was a man that, if the Earth had split open and swallowed him whole that very second, he’d probably go down with a thumbs up and that same, joyous smile.
Karianos’ musical persona, Amigo the Devil, relishes in misery. His style of dark folk can reduce even the most hardened soul to tears, softened only slightly by his wry humor and wit. He’s spent the last decade touring relentlessly, bringing his music to venues that range from dingy bathrooms to The Ryman Auditorium; all the while developing a devoted, passionate fanbase.
But you know what they say about misery, company and all that.
On a bone-chilling January night, two friends joined him onstage at The Basement East for a Writers’ Round. Friends that, to borrow a line from the man himself: “Float in the same kind of dark.”
Like Kiranos, Arkansas folk singer Willi Carlisle and Nashville’s Stephanie Lambring have a penchant for penning beautiful misery. They took turns singing their songs, testing out new ones, telling stories and reveling in each other’s talent and company.
While the weather spit ice and sleet on the city outside, the venue inside held a warm and jovial atmosphere that seemed antithetical to the dismal, heart-shredding music coming from the stage. But anyone who’s seen Amigo the Devil live knows laughter and tears are part of the experience, and Kiranos knew his friends would add to that.
“Tonight was literally a hyper-selfish mood… and I had so much fun” he said faintly, almost overcome with emotion. “I had so much fucking fun. Tonight was genuinely one of the best nights I’ve had at a show, and I enjoy playing shows a lot. I don’t have a bad time playing shows…” his words trail off as he beams, visibly replaying the set in his mind.
“But tonight was something else.”
You’ve never had this much fun being depressed
“You told me you were going to start with a happy song and I believed you.”
Willi Carlisle lamented after Amigo the Devil opened the show with “Another Man’s Grave,” a song about the realization of knowing you’ll never be the person you want to be.
“You’re going to be so fun to follow all night,” Stephanie Lambring chimed in.
It didn’t get brighter from there. Carlisle crooned about the death of his father, codependent relationships, and debuted a new song called “When the Pills Wear Off.” Meanwhile Lambring sang about domestic violence, her neighbor that died alone and forgotten, and how she had to stop writing letters to a retirement home because they were too somber for the residents.
All three artists were intensely vulnerable, each trying out new or half-finished songs, some of which had never left their writing room. Kiranos debuted a song called “Stray Dog” that had the entire crowd howling like an alley pack, and half of an unnamed one that could either be about terminal illness or continuing with a relationship even though you know it’s going to end.
But the heavy, emotional nature of the songs was lifted in between them, when the artists were “existing among friends in a sacred space.” Their camaraderie and respect for one another was clear, and their comfortability allowed them to crack jokes, share stories and lighten an otherwise dismal night.
“They’re dark, dark, dark, until it’s time to talk, and then they’re fucking hilarious,” Kiranos said with a laugh. “They’re just lighthearted, hilarious. They don’t take themselves too seriously.”
After hearing their records, Kiranos knew he wanted to work with the songwriters — though he demurs at the trio being called “songwriters,” instead seeing them as “emotional hunters.” He “threw out a Hail Mary” to see if they wanted to tour together — they both were able — and the three kindred spirits immediately hit it off. His praise for them is effusive.
“I definitely will say, just to really stamp it in to record: Stephanie writes songs I wish I did. Genuinely. My first emotion that I could process when listening to
“And Willi, is without a doubt … Willi’s a legacy artist. He will leave a legacy. Because there is something too pure about what he’s doing. Too unique. Watching them both play was a dream.”
It’s why Kiranos wanted to do a Writers’ Round with them. They’d be able to eschew the usual stern, mechanical and restrictive nature of the format and imbue it with their own style.
“It would be more of: ‘Come watch these three idiots do their stupid thing,’” he said with another laugh. And, true to form, when it came time for the show, not even the artists knew how it was going to go.
“Nobody knew what we were playing. Nobody had planned anything at all. About 10 minutes before the set, we were all three just going, ‘What the fuck are we doing? What do we do? Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.’ And uh..” he pauses again, regaining that contented smile.
“God,” he says with breathy amazement. “I wish I could relive tonight every night.”
Existing for the experience in 2023
2022 was a whirlwind for Kiranos. He finally got to fully support his 2021 album Born Against across the world — including Amigo’s first European and UK tour — while also hitting the road with a full band for the first time. He made appearances at heavy metal and rock festivals like Louder Than Life and Aftershock, while sharing tours with bands as eclectic as Romani-influenced punks Gogol Bordello, folk-bluegrass troupe Trampled with Turtles and indie folk/gothic country band Murder by Death.
But of all the good that came from last year, Kiranos says he’s finally ready to enjoy what’s coming up in 2023.
“There’s a lot of rebuilding I’ve been doing within myself,” he said. “A lot. And it’s been bringing clarity and peace to where I don’t overextend like I have in the past. I’m excited to go into these opportunities with the band, with our crew, our family, in a state that isn’t just fucking misery. And it’s cool to know that I’ll actually be aware of how exciting and opportunity is, instead of just panic about it and live through it.”
He’ll get to play Red Rocks in Colorado for the first time. His first tour of the year is with Maryland rock legends Clutch; yet more proff that Amigo the Devil works on practically any bill.
Hopefully some of those shows will have new music. An album is on track for this year and Kiranos says it’s less centric on the single instrument, the way he’s written in the past.
“This records is a lot more, ‘Let’s build an entire scene, an entire platform of existence.’ For me, it’s more rewarding because I get to fuck around with a lot of weird shit. But I’m a lot happier with this process,” he said, drawing out “lot” for emphasis.
“I’m trying not to be too hard on myself lyrically, because I obsess over lyrics so much that it ends up just consuming most of the writing process. This time I’ve been trying to keep a linear, like a hyper-focus that is more based on instinct than analysis."
But all of that is in the weeks and months ahead. For now, Danny Kiranos just wants to bask in the afterglow of the night he just had with his friends, fans, and musical family.
When asked how he’d sum up the experience, he paused — as he usually does — to really think about how he best wanted to articulate his thoughts.
“I think it was wonderful to see people exist in a patient realm. For once. At no point did it feel like the crowd, or us, or anyone here, was existing for any other reason than experiencing it. It wasn’t to release anything, it wasn’t to just be anything but present.
“And that’s something I haven’t felt in a long time.”
Amigo the Devil sets out on the No Stars Above Tour supporting Clutch starting in April. A complete list of dates and cities can be found below.
4/11/23 – Norfolk, VA – Norva
4/13/23 – Lancaster, PS – Freedom Hall
4/14/23 – Portland, ME – State Theatre
4/15/23 – Montreal, QB – MTELUS BREWTAL Festival
4/16/23 – Niagara Falls, NY – The Rapids Theatre
4/18/23 – Memphis, TN – Minglewood Hall
4/19/23 – Fort Smith, AR – Temple Live
4/21/23 – Cincinnatti, OH – Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Center
4/22/23 – Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
4/24/23 – Winnipeg, MB – Burton Cummings Theatre
4/25/23 – Saskatoon, SK – Coors Event Centre
4/26/23 – Edmonton, AB – Union Hall
4/27/23 – Calgary, AB – MacEwan Hall
4/29/23 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
4/30/23 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory
5/01/23 – Bend, OR – Midtown Ballroom
5/02/23 – Chico, CA – Senator Theatre
5/04/23 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
5/05/23 – Stateline, NV – Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room
5/06/23 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
5/07/23 – Flagstaff, AZ – Orpheum Theater
5/09/23 – Albuquerque, NM – El Rey Theater
5/11/23 – Omaha, NE – The Admiral
5/12/23 – Chesterfield, MO – The Factory at the District
5/13/23 – Grand Rapids, MI – GLC Live at 20 Munroe
5/14/23 – Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavillion
5/16/22 – Hartford, CT – The Webster
5/17/23 – Huntington, NY – The Paramount
5/18/23 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom