Following his superb 2018 effort The Underdog, GUM (Jay Watson) returns with Out In The World: a darker journey into a magnificent bursts of jangly synth-nectar dusted with psychotropic crumbs, featuring introspective lyrical ponderings. He answered our questions about its creation.
You have mentioned sifting down into Twitter (and its super binary arguments) as sparking a depressed state in your mind; was it because Twitter is a kind of condensing of human interactions?
I think that I live in a bit of a bubble in my job, and I live in even more of a bubble in my suburb in my city in my country, so I’m constantly fascinated to see what the rest of the world thinks about a particular event or issue. The problem with Twitter and sites like that is you only see the most extreme arguments most of the time – definitive statements – and life isn’t really like that. I think a lot of this record was me dealing with the degradation of my own psyche from reading this stuff too much… You have to pick and choose your times to use social media really wisely I think.
In the presser it also says the record documents a need to be “more social, less anxious.” Obviously one of those words specifically has a new layer of meaning in the Coronavirus world. Do you think purposeful isolation/social distancing could make the more anxious of us slip back into an overly analytical groove?
I think that it’s a super dangerous time for a lot of people, a lot of variables have changed in their lives and people are creatures of habit. That said it might really benefit some, allow them to reset and come out again refreshed and ready to rip.
In Out In The World the lyrics go “It’s not too late to change your life or your mind, so just stay out in the world”; in Many Tears To Cry you sing “Pay no mind to what’s out in the world.” They seem like contrasting ideas; how do you see them sit with one another?
I think my brain, like most people’s, is a complete mess of contradictions. I like to pepper my music with them, or rather I don’t filter them out when they happen naturally. Even if it makes a song or verse make no sense. I think it’s really important that music mimics real life and that it’s not all sad or all happy or all funky or all bleak. If I made one sort of music or sung one sort of lyric it wouldn’t seem genuine to me or my personality.
The opening of The Thrill Of Doing It Right is so sonically satisfying, because it ties the song’s title and form neatly together. Do you think about lyrical ideas being reflected in your sound choices while you’re writing?
Almost every song I write comes from me playing something harmonic, and then humming gibberish over the top. The gibberish I then either write real lyrics in that pattern, or I just turn the gibberish into the nearest words. It’ll either make sense to me immediately, or sometimes when it’s more abstract when I hear it back later on it’ll mean something more. Sometimes you don’t like your own songwriting and it’s more fun to make it seem like it’s coming from someone that’s not you.
There are some in-studio details plopped in like your remarks about the tempo of Alphabet Soup, and the drumsticks rattling down to rest at the end of Don’t Let It Go Out. Why do you include these things and how do you decide if they belong?
I’ll leave little quirks from recording in songs if they have lasting appeal to me basically. You find out pretty quickly if they’re gonna have staying power or if they became really grating. I’m impressed you noticed the drumsticks at the end of Don’t Let It Go Out; that’s some detailed listening!
The beat in Low To Low sounds like one of the in-built bossa nova ones on those giant old organs everyone’s auntie has, but apparently it’s from your new drum machine. Did this track begin with the “robot-latin” beat, or did it start with the brilliant organ phrase/riff we hear clearly in the breakdown?
That beat is from a ‘new’ drum machine I got, but it’s about 40 years old so it’s not too dissimilar from one of those organ machines – maybe slightly more ‘modern’ sounding. It only has presets, but there are some amazing ones on there. It’s called an Electro Harmonix DRM15, for all you audio nerds out there.
The song started with the organ riff, but I wrote it on the guitar. I’m not quite sure what I was going for, but I had been listening to lots of Arthur Verocai and Caetano Vaeloso, and recordings with Latin rhythms. Obviously the song doesn’t really sound like them at all, but I liked that the spirit was in there.
Out In The World by GUM is out Friday June 12 via Spinning Top/Caroline.
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