Gustaf discuss the influences behind debut album; catch them on tour w/ IDLES
Gustaf have been one of the hardest working, most fun live bands in Brooklyn's recent indie/DIY scene. Lydia Gammill is a magnetic frontperson, and her interaction with the rest of the band -- there's a lot of call-and-response singing -- and their danceable, post-punk-influenced style makes for an entertaining set. The band took their time in releasing a record, but their debut album, Audio Drag for Ego Slobs, is out now via Royal Mountain Records, and they're currently playing to big audiences as openers on IDLES' tour. The album does a good job of presenting their live show in a studio setting: the music has great snap, and Gammill manages to bring that wide-eyed on-stage electricity to her vocal performance. If you haven't checked out the album, you can listen below.
In between stops on the tour, Lydia was nice enough to break down the influences and concepts behind Audio Drag for Ego Slobs for us. Those include artist like Laurie Anderson, and scenes from movies (Soylent Green, Pan's Labyrinth), as well as "The Caprese Salad Effect" and the "Cool Hair Salon Test." It's a very entertaining, insightful read -- check it out below.
Gustaf and IDLES barrel into NYC this weekend for two nights at Terminal 5 on Friday & Saturday (October 15 & 16). Tickets for both are still available. Gustaf will then head to the UK and Europe in November. All dates are listed below.
GUSTAF'S LYDIA GAMMILL - INFLUENCES BEHIND AUDIO DRAG FOR EGO SLOBS
INFURIATINGLY EFFORTLESS GROOVES /The ‘CAPRESE SALAD’ effect
I started writing the initial Gustaf material as a way to get out of my head in terms of my songwriting. Some of my favorite songs have the simplest formulas. For each demo my goal was to putter around with a drum loop, find a bassline captivating enough for 3-10 minutes, and improvise a vocal part on top of it. Then I’d hack away at the thoughts from there. Songs like “Dance” by ESG, “OV Power” by Psychic TV, “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-light and “Earthforms” by Matthew Dear all come to mind as early inspirations. They achieve what I call the ‘caprese salad’ effect — simple ingredients presented side by side for a maximal impact. Drums, Bass, guitar, vocals // mozzarella, basil, tomato: you taste each individual part but they add up to a perfect whole, dancing around uniformly and separately in your mouth.
LAURIE ANDERSON/ BIG SCIENCE
The term “audio drag” from the album title is one we lifted directly from Laurie Anderson. She coined the phrase in reference to the pitch shifting vocal pedal she uses for her alter ego, Fenway Bergamot. Tarra also uses the same pedal effect in our band. All-in all as an artist, Laurie Anderson was a big part of our initial inspiration mostly because of the all encompassing way she approaches her work. She doesn’t call herself a musician or a performance artist but rather a ‘multimedia artist’ and I appreciate a broad tool kit when it comes to making creative work. I wanted the album and the project to start with a similarly specific framework/umbrella the work could nest under. Our album title is supposed to nod to that by saying exactly the world the songs live in. “Audio Drag” refers to the pitch pedal/the hyperbolic expression of an essence, and “ego slob” is a term I came up with to describe someone who does a bad job of contextualizing the outside world within the context of themself (pretty much all humans at one point or another).
I am particularly fond of “From the Air” off of Laurie’s first album. The drums accidentally mirror our song “Dream” a little bit (I wrote the drum loop before hearing it but have always cherished the parallel) and the production on this song is fantastic. I love the cinematic unease of the instrumentation mixed with Laurie Anderson’s wry vocals. She is humorous and absurd and is speaking directly to you. The line, “This is the time. And this is the record of the time.” always gets me -- especially as it is the first track off of her first album, hard to beat!
THE COFFEE SHOP/COOL HAIR SALON TEST
One of my goals for this album was for it to pass what I call the cool hair salon/party test: that unintentional headbob moment when you're in the middle of something else (standing in line for coffee, chatting at a party, or getting your hair cut) and find yourself going “who is this?” I have worked at a lot of coffee shops and noticed how songs with fluid melodic bass lines really cut through the busy space well and uplift the bodies in the room on a nice subconscious level. Artists like Sneaks and Liquid Liquid do a great job of this. I also have Sneaks to thank for defining this litmus test for me. I once got a haircut at a hipster salon that played all of Sneaks’ Gymnastics and even though our styles are pretty different, I was immediately like “This is it! The perfect vibe testing ground!”
THE END OF SOYLENT GREEN
I am a secret ham when it comes to my musical taste (aka big Burt Bacharach fan). I love songs that capture those wells of emotion you can't articulate but feel, the sweet pangs of self. I am always chasing that whirlwind cathartic high in my songwriting. For this album it seems like maniacal indignance won the catharsis battle but I’m hoping we can fold in a wider net of emotional highs and lows in the future. When I think of all the wordless things that great art stirs up in us, I always come back to the end of Soylent Green.
While most people remember the famous final lines of this film, the part that always stuck with me is the thanatorium scene. It reminds me of the manic wonder we feel at any various times in our lives. Driving with the right music on, looking out at the city skyline, the swell of violins and pangs of desire in a romantic movie. I’ve read this wild wonder in Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” watched it in Speed Levitch's rants on a tour bus, heard it in Jonathan Richman singing about that “Summer Feeling” or the croons of Sondheim’s “Being Alive.” I can't say we exactly hit the mark this round but it'll always be a cloud we're chasing in the sky.
GLORIFIED MANIA / THE EGO SLOB ON DISPLAY
There is a lot of preening in rock and roll. And I wanted to add some sensitivity/humor to the rock n roll jerk trope we have seen across the decades sneering in a bunch of leather. I got a real kick out of Gilda Radner's Patty Smith-esque character Candy Slice and wanted to celebrate that essence in a similar way. I think people can be a little self serious in their intense antics so taking the trope and turning the dial to 10 was an attempt to explore why people have built such hard exteriors in the first place. It is a cliche but it is true: 'hurt people hurt people' or something like that...
WALKS IN THE CITY
As the tetris pieces of the album were falling into place, walking around the city was a big part of letting my mind congeal. It helped trigger some of that soylent green wonder. A way to see glimpses of the future—the outline of the product hiding behind the clouds, taunting you as it slowly but surely fell to earth.
UNJUSTIFIED INDIGNANCE/ THAT WEIRD GINGER BABY IN PAN'S LABYRINTH
Because apparently I can only articulate myself by mentioning food and movie endings, here's another visual reference for you. Like I mentioned before, the album is called “Audio Drag for Ego Slobs” and the ego slob part is about aspects of ourselves that distort the process of translating the outside world within the context of ourselves. When I was writing some of the initial lyrics, it was a fun way to explore unsavory emotions that I was carrying around that logically didn’t sit well with me. Instead of trying to bury them or write music that painted the narrator as the hero in their delusional crusade, I wanted to extract the peak feelings and mock them into submission. When I visualize the process it makes me think of that screaming ginger root baby in Pan’s Labyrinth. It is as if I put my hand into my chest and wrenched out the gross thing and then watched it burn in the fire by satirizing it. I wanted the songs to be universally cathartic in a way that played on how we all can be a mess sometimes even if we have no right to be. Everyone has stewed in the shower mentally fighting someone they got annoyed with earlier that day. This is a way to laugh at the times when our emotions get the best of us. So keep on laughing until it is alright again.
Check out photos of Gustaf opening for IDLES in Chicago:
GUSTAF - 2021/2022 TOUR DATES
Fri, OCT 15 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY w/ IDLES
Sat, OCT 16 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY w/ IDLES
Sun, OCT 17 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC w/ IDLES
Mon, OCT 18 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC w/ IDLES
Wed, OCT 20 - The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC w/ IDLES
Thu, OCT 21 - Cannery Ballroom - Nashville, TN w/ IDLES
Fri, OCT 22 - The Masquerade - Atlanta, GA w/ IDLES
Mon, OCT 25 - Stubbs BBQ - Austin, TX w/ IDLES
Tue, OCT 26 - Granada Theater - Dallas, TX w/ IDLES
Wed, OCT 27 - Paper Tiger - San Antonio, TX w/ IDLES
Fri, OCT 29 - Marquee Theatre - Tempe, AZ w/ IDLES
Mon, NOV 1 - The Glass House - Pomona, CA w/ IDLES
Tue, NOV 2 - Gustaf @ The Sunflower Lounge - Birmingham, United Kingdom
Thu, NOV 4 - Gustaf @ The Dome - London, United Kingdom
Sat, NOV 6 - Mutations Festival 2021 - Brighton, United Kingdom
Mon, NOV 8 - Gustaf @ Hyde Park Book Club - Leeds, United Kingdom
Tue, NOV 9 - Gustaf @ YES (Pink Room) - Manchester, United Kingdom
Wed, NOV 10 - Gustaf @ Arts Club Loft - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Thu, NOV 11 - Le Guess Who? Festival 2021 - Utrecht, Netherlands
Thu, NOV 11 - Gustaf @ Windmill Brixton - London, United Kingdom
Sun, NOV 14 - Sonic City Festival 2021 - Kortrijk, Belgium
Sun, NOV 14 - Bromangymnasiet, Hudiksvall - Hudiksvall, Sweden
Sun, NOV 14 - Gustaf @ Witloof Bar - Bruxelles, Belgium
Tue, NOV 16 - Gustaf @ Cassiopeia - Berlin, Germany
Wed, NOV 17 - Gustaf @ Haldern Pop Bar - Rees, Germany
Thu, NOV 18 - Gustaf @ Petit Bain - Paris, France
Fri, NOV 19 - Gustaf @ The Black Lab - Lisle, France
Sat, NOV 20 - Gustaf @ Rotondes Klub - Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Fri, DEC 3 - Pappy & Harriet's - Pioneertown, CA
Wed, DEC 8 - Gustaf @ Barboza - Seattle, WA
Thu, DEC 9 - Gustaf @ Bunk Bar - Portland, OR
Sat, DEC 18 - Troubadour - West Hollywood, CA
Sun, DEC 19 - Troubadour - West Hollywood, CA
Thu, MAY 12, 2022 - The Great Escape 2022 - The City Of Brighton And Hove, United Kingdom