ABOVE: GOSPELS. PHOTO COURTESY OF TORY WILLIAMS
Over the past two years, Queens-based band Gospels has maintained a mysterious and under-the-radar presence within the ever-changing New York musical scene. The dream-pop harmonizing five-piece met in college at SUNY Purchase and currently lives, writes, and records under the same roof in Forest Hills, Queens. In their short time as a band they’ve opened for MS MR, Atlas Genius, Terraplane Sun, MisterWives, Half Moon Run, and recently headlined Glasslands.
After releasing their debut single “Animal Feelings” back in 2012 along with an EP of demos, Gospels contemplated a more polished sound for the songs that they had originally recorded sans producer. The band has spent nine months in their basement reconstructing their sound, song repertoire, and live show (in which they like to create their own instrumentation). The result is a forthcoming EP produced by Chris Zane (Passion Pit, The Walkmen, Friendly Fires). In the meantime, the band will play live shows throughout New York City.
We spoke with Gospels’ Alex Marans on working with Chris Zane, creating their own instruments, and musical isolation.
BAND MEMBERS: Alex Frenkel, Mike Gordon, Alex Marans, Gabe Garzón-Montano, and Owen Murphy
CURRENT RESIDENCE: Forest Hills, Queens
ON WORKING WITH CHRIS ZANE: We were talking about producers early on, and whether we wanted to do the DIY thing or record in the house, because we have a studio in-house. By the time we got to halfway through the year, we realized that with the body of work we had, we wanted to take it to someone outside of the house a little bit. Chris had been a name that had been kicked around for long enough that we decided to meet up. It clicked and felt like the right way to go. We’re well into the recording, and it’s coming along really, really well. We’re pretty excited with the results so far. This is going to be our first release that we’ll put out since we started.
PREVIOUS BANDS: We all played in a bunch of groups when we were in school together. We’ve all been in various solo projects. Over time, after we all left school, we gravitated back towards each other; no groups that were super well-known, just the groups you have to play in along the way to get to this… the band you want to be in.
FROM SCRATCH: We definitely like to create instruments. We’ll take a horn sample and run it across the keyboard and create its own sound. We try to develop our own sound with unique instruments with each song. People have [called it] warm, fuzzy, and beautiful music. We definitely look to soul stuff, old ’70s pop records, but also modern stuff like Flying Lotus, Foals, and a bunch of other groups. Personally, I tend to go back and look at Sam Cooke, The Police, or Joni Mitchell. I look to older people for influence. Some of the current people we check out are FALTYDL, or something on the folkier side like Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear. They’re critically acclaimed and they’re maybe not as underground as the music we listen to, but we tend to gravitate towards great songwriting and the crafting of unique sounds. So we tend to look towards those bands.
FEELING THE “ANIMAL FEELINGS” REMIX: The Archie Pelago remix was cool because we’ve been friends with those guys for a while and what they’re doing with their New York, electronic dance music thing is such a left-of-center take on some of the more popular electronic groups. Their use of live instruments and sets seemed like a really cool thing to us. When they asked us to get together and do this remix, it seemed like a really good fit. In terms of the song itself, it came pretty quickly and naturally. It’s always weird talking about your own song and what it means, because you want it to be left up to the listener to interpret in their own way.
ON EP STORIES: There are definitely individual elements in the songs, but there’s sort of this dreamscape, sleepless theme that runs through some of the stuff. There’s this surreal take on every day scenarios, trying to blur the lines between the imagery and some more nailed-down themes of relationships and social dynamics. Just things that strike us as odd: Day-to-day life stuff. We’re just getting as abstract with that as we can.
MUSICAL BUBBLE BOYS: There are so many bands and setting yourself apart is never easy. I think one of the things we do have is being so far away from your Greenpoint or Manhattan or whatever. It does feel like we’ve isolated ourselves to a point where we have our own insular way of doing things. I think that our music is in its own bubble. It’s cool to be able to finally see that we’re going to be bringing that bubble to people and see if people want to get in that bubble with us.
HEADLINING GIGS: Mercury Lounge will be our second headlining show, which is a really cool thing. The first one we did was Glasslands and that turned out really well. We’re feeling really psyched to come back to Mercury Lounge as the main act. It’s always cool to see where you stand in a big city when you are the headliner. It’s exciting and there are positive nerves that go along with it. The live show has been sort of the way people gravitate towards our music. We’re stoked.
DEBUTING THEIR EP: The plan is to finish the EP and put it out. Then, basically, we have this huge pool of songs that we’re looking to record as well. Pretty much promoting and playing the hell out of the EP is what the rest of the year looks like. It’s definitely coming out this year. We had a set of demos and we were going to release as an EP a while ago, but we decided to make this setup to work with a producer and re-visit the idea of what this EP could be on its first release. This is how we’ve been planning it out. We tend to be pretty meticulous about all of it. I can say this year, for sure.