Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gypsyblood Interviewed on "Songwriters on Process"

[] Sargent House does a great job promoting their bands on Twitter, and it was no different with Chicago-based Gypsyblood. For several days, the label filled my Twitter feed with news about the band's new release Cold in the Guestway. I was excited, then, to learn they were opening for Maps and Atlases here in DC at the Rock n Roll Hotel, since I had already read so much about them.

Before the show, I was talking with Maps' Dave Davison backstage when Gypsyblood started playing, so the two of us ambled down the back hallway to the floor. From a distance, I knew something was different about Gypsyblood. They were uncommonly loud. (I've seen Motorhead, Sabbath, Judas Priest, and similar bands, so I know loud.) And I loved it. Adam James, who along with Kyle Victor comprises Gypsyblood, told me later that their volume level is one criticism leveled at the band. To which I responded: the louder the better, my man! If they come to your city, see them live. They are a fantastic live act.

Gypsyblood draws fair comparisons to Jesus and Mary Chain. I can see that, though they are more guitar-centric. What I noticed, though, is that in the loud, multiple layers of sound, there are hooks. There's melody. So while my ears may have been ringing after their set, it was a melodic ring.

Read my interview with Gypsyblood's Adam James below...

How much writing do you do besides songwriting?

I'm always writing stuff down. I need to know where my thoughts are all the time or I freak out. Writing is one of those things where if I see an inspiring movie or a song keeps running through my head, I need to think about why it's doing that. I need to analyze. I want to stay in that moment, so I write down why it is I want to stay there.

Since you mentioned reading, I have to ask who you read.

I am huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut. So many themes in his writing. He talks about how being a hypocrite is almost a part of the human experience. Something that sets him apart is that while the situations are real, the big picture is surreal.

How do you become inspired to write?

I can always tell when lyrics were written before a song, and for me that's really aggravating. You can tell when someone is trying to fit words into a song. So while I wait for inspiration, it's not like I'm waiting in an empty room. I need to go out and find it. I love to go to museums and get inspired that way. Here in Chicago, we have the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the most amazing museums in the world. I can spend eight hours in there, easily. It drives my friends crazy, because they are ready to leave and I want to look at every piece of art and read every description. I get so lost in those places. So in that sense I'm an active participant. But reading and writing also works. I submit myself solely to to the story, just really immerse myself.

Where do your songs come from?

For me, it's an interpretation of everything I'm exposed to. Like with the song "2-4-6 in the Dark," the first pass had a completely different vocal. It was catchy, and we were pumped about it. At the end of the day, I didn't feel right, so we changed it. One thing that's consistent when we write is that things that are blatant are just boring. Like with Vonnegut's work, there little that's blatant.

I've really never been a lyric person. It's always been about the initial feeling of a track, and the words come later after the music gives me a feeling. I think I'm a perfectionist. But there are so many great songs out there with great words, and I was always tense when someone was listening to my songs with me. Even listening with my friends in the car, it took so long for me to get to that point. As an artist, you have to take a step back and realize it's an interpretation at a specific time, not an absolute.

Do you have consistent themes in your songwriting?

It's really not until listening to the album now that I hear themes emerge. As a band, one ultimate idea we think about is the concept of past lives, which is related to our band name. There are people you know in relationships who have been here for more than just one lifetime. We love to explore that. And also the hypocrisy of human nature.

Do you have a somewhat consistent songwriting process?

It usually differed throughout the album, "Dirty Thieves" was done in one night over a few bottles of wine, where we kept layering and layering. But "A Song Called Take Two" is a beautiful track that we wrote in like two seconds. That was the easiest song to write. Every song takes on its own personality. It sounded great at first, but when we tracked it, it was too open. We just kept revisiting it, and it finally took on a life of its own.


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