Del Water Gap Tells Talia Ryder About the Melancholy of Hotel Rooms
A few years ago, after various shows were canceled due to the pandemic, the Brooklyn-based musician Holden Jaffe, known as Del Water Gap, began to question if he wanted to continue his music career altogether. “Things were getting really complicated,” he recalls. “I was starting to get really tired of navigating the business part of this career by myself.” But now, DWG is back with “All We Do is Ever Talk” a heartachy single from his upcoming album Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet, out in late September. The song charts the arc of a relationship, from the honeymoon phase to its eventual dissolution, and is accompanied by a music video directed by Jaffe’s friend Talia Ryder, the actor and budding director, with whom he first bonded over their shared love of film. So last week, the native New Yorkers linked up over the phone to reminisce about their first encounter in Marrakesh, the ennui of hotel rooms, and Rosemary’s Baby. – ERNESTO MACIAS
TALIA RYDER: Hi
DEL WATER GAP: Yo.
RYDER: How are you, Holden?
GAP: I’m good. Nice morning in L.A. Where are you?
RYDER: I’m in San Francisco right now. Actually, Leia (Jospé), who shot the video, is doing a documentary for The Grateful Dead.
GAP: Oh shit.
RYDER: I ended up getting a last-minute ticket for their last tour. I was like, “You know what, I have the Delta miles, fuck it!”
GAP: That’s epic. You vibing to the Grateful Dead?
RYDER: Vibing hard. It was an amazing show. Speaking of concerts, when is your New York show?
GAP: [I’m] Playing in New York October 21st, so you can come vibe there.
RYDER: Id come vibe with you for a few shows. You just got off tour, right?
GAP: Just got off tour and am about to do some more, so it goes. But honestly, the one week I had off was the week when we saw each other in New York. I was supposed to be here working on music and then I came to New York instead because I wanted to be with people I love and see my grandma. It ended up being absolutely the right call.
RYDER: New York is always the right call.
GAP: That movie night capped it off.
RYDER: Honestly, I feel like it will be one the best days of my summer this year.
GAP: Yeah, it was really special.
RYDER: Do you want to talk about the video?
GAP: In thinking about this conversation, I was trying to think about the first conversation that we had. I really do think that one of the first things we bonded over was being film bros. I remember when I decided to reach out to you, feeling like it was such a shot in the dark, as soon as we got on within 10 seconds it was like, “Oh shit, we vibe.” And then we were talking Wong Kar-wai, David Lynch. Then you gave me some movies to watch. It’s a good sign when someone gives you some art homework.
RYDER: What did I tell you to watch?
GAP: You told me to watch Buffalo ’66.
RYDER: Oh, yeah. You have to watch that after meeting in Marrakesh. You were chilling with Vincent [Gallo] that night. How can you hang out with him and not have seen Buffalo ’66? I was trying to think back on our OG link-up in Marrakesh conversation…
GAP: My memory of the OG moment was you running up to me and saying, “Do I know you from somewhere?” And I said, “I don’t know, maybe.” Then you ran away. I was like, “Who is that?”
RYDER: I was dancing.
GAP: Oh no, I was full weird dancing that night in Marrakesh.
RYDER: It was awesome. Do people weird dance at your concerts?
GAP: Not really. I wish people would weird dance more. People at my shows are generally very attentive, very sensitive, and listening to every word, which is wonderful. I think I’m going to try to get people to get weird on this tour. I want people to mosh a bit.
RYDER: Dude, the drop on this song? It’s crazy.
GAP: Yeah, it is such a drop. I feel like crowds really follow the artist’s lead, too. There’s some shows where I’ll sort of climb on shit and crowd-surf.
RYDER: I want to see one of those shows.
GAP: Okay, cool. I’ll climb on some shit in New York.
RYDER: Do your fans have a name?
GAP: Yeah, they’re called the Guppies, like the Del Water Gap Guppies.
RYDER: That’s hard. I’m a Guppie.
GAP: They named themselves that. The name that I used to use for them was the Horsies because my logo is this really stupid horse with a bowl cut thing that I drew.
RYDER: I like Guppies better. Are you planning on releasing more art? Is that an avenue you’re exploring as well?
GAP: I really do. The Horse with Bowl Cut thing was obviously a joke, but I love taking photos and I love drawing.
RYDER: I mean we made those sculptures for the video too. We each made a mask and they turned out pretty cool.
GAP: We should definitely talk about the masks. I feel like a lot of people have been bringing them up to me and I know people brought them up to you. Obviously the clothing is this very chic Saint Laurent vibe, and your idea to contrast that with the masks was really brilliant. At the time it felt like a fun detail, but I think in retrospect it really gave the video the energy that we wanted. That feral, animalistic thing.
RYDER: Totally. We had planned for all these specific moments to show mutual and solitary destruction and they all naturally came out. We never planned for that cake moment. But now when I watch the video, it’s so sick. You destroy the cake after you built up this whole room for her to come back. It’s really beautiful. A lot of people have told me that it’s really sad. The moment with the truck at the end got me; that’s how you think about people. Sometimes they pass through you.
GAP: It’s a real cycle within relationships. It is building and destruction. I remember something I’d written down from one of our earlier conversations was mutual and solitary destruction. And I think we did a good job of capturing that in the video as well.
RYDER: Totally. We have all these specific moments of mutual and solitary destruction and they all naturally came out. We never planned for that cake moment. But now when I watch the video, that’s so sick. You destroyed the cake after you built up this whole room for her to come back. It’s really beautiful. A lot of people have told me that it’s really sad. The moment with the truck at the end got me; that’s how you think about people. Sometimes they pass you.
GAP: I think a hotel is such an interesting venue for obsession, too. I am sure you’ve spent a lot of time in hotels. It’s a big motif in the album. Writing about starting and ending relationships in hotels and trying to find a semblance of stability when everything’s moving.
RYDER: Did you write this song in a hotel or no?
GAP: I made a lot of the album on tour last year in hotels. This song I made in L.A. I wrote a lot of my album in Beachwood Canyon.
RYDER: Where’s that?
GAP: I guess it’s on the west side of L.A. I met this guy, Sammy [Witte], who I ended up making most of my album with. I had worked with 30 or 40 people. I was really getting frustrated and having trouble clicking. It was exhausting.
RYDER: I thought you meant 30, 40 people had made it with you. I was like, “Oh, cool.”
GAP: That would be fire. But no, when you go into making a record, one way to approach that is speed dating basically, working with a ton of people and trying to see what clicks. Basically, 38 of those dates did not go well. Sammy was one of the people I met and really, really clicked with. And he has a great dog named Sonny. When anyone has a dog, I’m kind of in. They still have to be good at music, but having a good dog makes a huge difference. We clicked really hard and we got this writer named Scott Harris, who’s an absolute legend, a New York guy. And we just started writing this love song about the early, fun part of a relationship. we got an hour into writing this song and I was just like, “Man, this is not where I am. I can’t do this.” We ended up talking for two or three more hours about the thing that this song is about, which is how it feels to look back on the first part of a relationship and ask that question of what happened. It was really emotional. I was crying and talking about this feeling.
RYDER: Sounds like therapy.
GAP: It was definitely therapy. A good writing session can be therapy. Then Scott said, “That’s our song.” We literally wrote it in 30 minutes, the whole song. That was that. It was the first song I really wrote for the album.
RYDER: Once you wrote that song the floodgates opened?
GAP: Yeah, I’m sure you have this with certain creative things too. Once you figure out the framework for yourself, it can write itself. That’s true of a lot of songs that I’m really proud of. When those things click it can really feel out of body. And it’s like the greatest high. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s what I chase.
RYDER: I wanted to ask you about the original title and what made you change it.
GAP: The original title was the obvious choice: “That Feeling,” because it’s what came out. The funny thing is my manager Carson got “That Feeling” tattooed on his arm. And then we changed the title. Which is amazing.
RYDER: It’s still a lyric. Well, it’s a more niche tattoo now, so obviously it’s cooler.
GAP: Yeah, the real ones know it was “That Feeling.”
RYDER: I want to ask you also about the album title itself. I don’t actually think we ever talked about that? What do you mean by it?
GAP: I’m really close with my grandma. She’s really old. My grandma is 98 and lives in New York. She’s lived in this apartment since the 1950s. She just has this whole world of belongings from her life in there. I spend a lot of time there with her and she has become a big influence in my life, my art, over the last six years. We started this film club together when COVID started. We watch a movie every week, she chooses the movie, and it’s a few of her friends and it’s a few of my friends. We meet up on Zoom every Sunday and we talk about the movie. She lectures us and we have a discussion. And this week was Rosemary’s Baby.
RYDER: Did she like Rosemary’s Baby? What’s her movie taste like?
GAP: Yeah, she really liked Rosemary’s Baby. I think at the time the film was very artistically ahead of its time. There’s a lot of really great handheld stuff in that film. The way that the film builds tension and deals with foreshadowing is really masterful. They have a lot of shots early on in the film where the camera will linger and focus on a detail a little bit too long. It’s really subtle and really masterful.
RYDER: Have you seen The Babadook?
RYDER: That’s a horror film I really like, it’s another one that’s not that scary but it is very suspenseful.
GAP: I love watching New York films. I think the other thing I really liked about working with you is just that you are such a New York kid and you know New York. I think we were able to really capture the New Yorkness in our video. I love watching old New York movies and I think Rosemary’s Baby was a good example, 3ven just the shots passing through the city…
RYDER: New York is such an ever-changing place that whatever moment you capture, it’s going to be different so soon. Seeing another Upper West Side movie, like Rosemary’s Baby, it’s like, “Oh my god, that still looks the exact same and this looks totally different.” Yeah, the roof that we filmed part of a video on—
GAP: Oh, shit. The Dakota, right? I think we can see the Dakota in the video.
RYDER: Yeah. You literally can.
GAP: Fuck, I didn’t even think about that. Yeah.
RYDER: That’s why I was like “Of course, I’ve seen Rosemary’s Baby”… that’s my neighborhood.
GAP: I didn’t even connect that.
RYDER: And you can’t be bored watching a New York movie because there’s always something or someone in the background to be looking at. There’s just so much going on.
GAP: Right. Totally.
RYDER: Does your grandma like David Lynch? I know you’re a big Lynch fan.
GAP: Yeah. I don’t know that we’ve watched any David Lynch in film club. But my grandma really loves [Pedro] Almodóvar. He’s one of her guys. She spent a lot of time in Spain and loves Spanish culture.
RYDER: You guys have to watch the new Almodóvar/Saint Laurent film.
GAP: Oh, yeah. I haven’t seen it.
RYDER: It is really good.
GAP: What a collab.
RYDER: How do you feel about your tour being almost entirely sold out?
GAP: I feel great.
RYDER: I’m just flexing for you.
GAP: It’s surreal. I’ve been working really hard the last few years and it’s a moment where I’m trying to remind myself to take a second and just be grateful for the work I’ve put in. Because three years ago I didn’t know that I was going to play a show ever again. I was really thinking about quitting music.
GAP: It was just the middle of the pandemic and a lot of things were not working for me professionally. Things were getting really complicated. I was starting to get really tired of navigating the business part of this career by myself. I didn’t have a good team. I didn’t have a good manager. I was really burned out and I had a bunch of tours canceled because of the pandemic. It was one of these moments where I said, “This is the universe giving me a sign, or this is my time to walk away.” As soon as I decided that, literally, within 48 hours things changed.
RYDER: When you start looking for signs to keep going or give up, you end up seeing more signs of why you should keep going with something like that.
GAP: When I think back on that time now, there were way more signs to keep pushing. And I’m happy I did.
RYDER: Well, Holden, I’m proud for you. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to the whole album, but when can everyone else listen to the entire album?
GAP: Everyone else could listen to it on September 29th. We’ve got to make some stuff.
RYDER: I’m already going to be in L.A. tomorrow.
GAP: Oh, hell yeah. I’m getting on a plane in a few hours to Australia. We’re just going to pass each other. Bye Talia.