Thursday, July 07, 2011

Gang Gang Dance move themselves

NYC'S Gang Gang Dance has earned a reputation as one of the more unique, surprising and interesting bands on the avant-garde edge of semi-underground music of the current era. Just don't be lazy and try to describe them too much. Their fifth album, Eye Contact, was recently released. LEO spoke with keyboardist Brian DeGraw.

LEO: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard you yet?
Brian DeGraw: Like the sun melting sand into tinted glass... with a lot of drums.

LEO: How do you write - on a schedule, or whenever inspiration strikes?
BD: We write very sporadically, I guess. Sometimes it will happen in the span of a few weeks that we have off from traveling.... other times we will make a song in a day or two before leaving for tour, then we'll usually go back to it and refine it when we have time off.

LEO: When writing, do you think about how the music will move people to dance? Think?
BD: Rarely. It's more about moving ourselves. I guess after I know that it moves us, then maybe I will think about it from an audience perspective and try to imagine the effect it might have to outside ears and bodies. I just think that in order to truly move an audience, you have to put something very pure out there, and the most direct route to that purity is to satisfy your own soul and truly tap into your feelings. From there, you can then share it with the audience. It's very similar to the idea of "you can't be in a happy relationship if you're not happy with yourself first".

LEO: How do your surroundings inspire your music?
BD: Very much so, for me personally. I find that, as time goes by, I am more and more effected by my environments and I have a rapidly increasing desire for wide open space. It might have a lot to do with living in NYC, where your gaze is rarely focused very far from your eyes; it's so hectic that you never really let your vision breathe. It's a very near-sighted existence. We were fortunate enough to have more open space when we were making our new record... I think it made a big difference.

LEO: How much do you feel inspired by other forms of American pop or ethnic music genres?
BD: I feel inspired by music that hits me in the right places - that's all it is. I don't like to think too much in terms of regions or genres. Its all God's music.

LEO: Do you consider your group more of a pop dance band or experimental electronic project?
BD: Ah, see... here we go with the genres. I understand, though - music journalism is difficult without these terms, I guess. I'd say we are Experimental music that has been seduced by Pop. It's a naughty affair.

LEO: In the studio, how much do you try to capture your live sound? How free do you feel to experiment with sounds you might not be able to recreate live?
BD: We have always tried to capture our live sound in the studio. In the past, it hasn't worked so well, with the exception of our very first record, but I think we came very close on this new one. The new one has very good balance; there's a nice relationship between the live sound and the studio sound, I think, and some of the more studio songs, or overdubs or whatever, are now being incorporated into the live set. So the recording is informing the show, and vice-versa. I don't think we are ever too afraid to make something in the studio that we know we can't play live. It definitely is addressed when we start entering into that territory with a recording, but the deliberation never seems to go any further than just a shrug of the shoulders and a few "oh well's". The song itself is most important, I think. It gets to choose where it wants to live.

LEO: When you played in Louisville in 2004, Will Oldham was in the audience. Do you feel differently about playing for other musicians, vs. civilians?
BD: Will is a friend, so it was great to see his face shinin'. I don't differentiate between musicians and civilians. The only time I ever remember thinking about that type of thing was one time in L.A. when Morrissey was in the audience, but I knew there was no way in hell he was ever gonna like our music, so it made it easier. And indeed, I spotted him leaving two songs in...

Gang Gang Dance with Nguzunguzu and Total Freedom
Wednesday, July 13
2100 S. Preston St., 40217
9 p.m., $12 adv. & $15 DOS

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