Artist Interview: Gabbo

Posted: by The Editor

Gabbo’s been pumping out great tunes for about a decade now, but has only just now gotten around to releasing a full LP. Corn dropped in early May on Gardenhead Records, and Hanson caught up with the singer-songwriter to discuss the project.

How have you been feeling?

I feel good. I feel stable, and there have definitely been times in my life before where I have said that I feel stable, but maybe wasn’t really stable. I have health care now. I have like a partner who supports me and respects me and is an autonomous person. I depend on myself. I love my coworkers. I have a really good community around me. DC rules. I’ve got a lot of people on my team, so yeah, I feel stable. It’s taken a really long time honestly to like figure out what works for me. Get over the kind of like – I have a little bit of like, a fear of being medicated, I guess, like the subconscious thing where my mom would always talk about it, but like Etai honestly was the one who was like, “well, I’ve been on Wellbutrin since I was like X years old, and I’m doing really well,” and I was like, “Well, yeah, you kind of have a point.” So I don’t know… it’s kind of like an ebb and flow thing, phases of life that you have to go through to sort of understand yourself a little better — and I obviously don’t fully understand myself. Yeah, I’m 24, still growing still learning every day. I don’t know anything. I don’t know shit.

How has that journey helped you get to Corn?

Yeah, I mean, it was like… I don’t know. I kind of generally am embarrassed to exist. I think a lot of people can relate to that. And it really really comes to the forefront when I’m like looking at the music I’ve written, or taking a step back and looking at the moment that I’ve just experienced, or like last year, I went through a lot of bullshit. And I look back at what was happening last year, and then I compare it to this year, and I’m like “things did not have to be like that,” you know. So Corn is kind of like me processing all that bullshit, me finally coming to an understanding — “Big,” especially, the last track on the album is just love. It is just like family and acceptance of myself, acceptance of the circumstances trying so hard not to feel guilty, or even feel like a victim, even though it’s very easy to — and justifiably so! But just like being able to look back on things and be like, yeah, that happened. And now I’m here, and things are fine. Yeah, it’s difficult. Last year I also tried mushrooms for the first time, and I have been like coming to terms this year, really, with the fact that I have CPTSD. Which is… more specific: but its like the symptom checker, right? You know, like on webmd. They have the list of symptoms? Every single one: I check off. I’m like, okay: flashbacks, dissociating, not being able to sleep properly, night terrors… let me just like exist in a space without being scared. So all of that was kind of amalgamated into the songs that were on Corn, and also just like the anger and vitriol that I had just like stewing inside me, being okay with my anger. On the album to there are like samples of protests that I attended, or like, you know, just shit that’s happening in the world – coming out as non-binary! You know all that shit like really big — it feels like, for me — big stuff that I’ve just learned to be okay with. And, continue day by day, just like existing and not being embarrassed about it.

How do you think that process has impacted your art? How do you think it is impacted the difference in your sound, from Gabbo to Corn?

Right. I have stopped giving a fuck so much. I’ve just stopped caring. I do shit for myself. I don’t do it for anybody else and I try to stick to that, as like a principal, with music and with everything. I don’t need to depend on, you know, someone with clout, or a name in order to continue doing what I’ve been doing since I was a child. What else changed? So many things changed, I moved in to this new apartment… I don’t know what. When we last talked I was in Northeast, in D.C. And I didn’t really know that many people in DC. I didn’t have the community that I have now I didn’t have like. We have this whole community of gender non-conforming people that provide food and clothing, and just any kind of resource — housing, what have you — that really helped me out last year. 

I love to hear when artists bring in their personal stories into their work. Of course, I mean, one of my favorite songs of yours is “Baltimore,” of course, because you know I’m like, “oh, I can’t wait to hear the song about how great Baltimore is!” and then, you know 100%! I love the song, and I just think it’s very fun to hear an artist that is so up front about a lot of you know what you’re thinking. Along those lines, are there any standout moments from corn that you think are gonna come across as: “this is Gabbo, and this is the art that I want to be producing”?

There are a couple of throughlines through the album — melodic themes, which I did with the EP, too, actually, a motif — that’s what it’s called. I do that a couple of times on this album and the motif on this one is: I feel like a normal person. I go to work. I drive back home. I act like a normal person. It’s like: I live, I experience every day. This is what I am, I’m a fucking person. On the sixth track, “Too Far,” there’s a series of twos on the album: “To Be Alone,” “Too Far,” “To the Country.” And “Too Far” opens with “I miss Tom, I miss Beans / I missed my family” so a lot of just like, you know, me calling shit out. Basically, I like to call things out. I like to use names. I talk about Crushed Velvet, which is a band from Salisbury, that I adore in “To the Country.” There’s a line in “To the Country” that’s like, “Surround yourself with lies and art, and treat me like shit,” so experiencing class disparity, right, in a relationship where you’re surrounded by all this cool shit and things that look and sound cool that you feel so personally connected to… but then, underneath the surface, it’s shit. So what are you really there for? And and you could say that about the music industry, you could say that about any industry. But it’s class, learning about that. I mean, the the album ends with – there are a couple of samples on “Big” — my friend Lee, their name-change party is one of the samples I used, and a conversation between Etai and my dad about my dad having to chop down a tree between two houses, which I thought was a really apt metaphor, a difficult thing to do. And I enjoyed putting my dad’s voice on a song, I don’t know, feels special, connecting with family again. That kind of stuff!

Speaking of the industry, how do you feel about what’s going on in the wonderful world of music?

So many cool things — a lot of really cool people that we have, sort of, you know, kind of crossed paths with, who are doing really huge things. We just went to Boston last weekend, and the house show scene in Boston is fuckin’ booming. It’s crazy. The guy who hosted us, Jack, is such a sweetie — amazing person — makes a living selling vintage band t-shirts on Instagram. That’s how he pays rent! It rules! It’s so cool! He went to a club on Saturday night in Boston and turned around, and Reggie Watts was dancing next to him! And I was like what the fuck is going on in Boston?! Music industry: I don’t know, I feel like there’s a lot of advocacy. There is Bandcamp United, UMAW  [Union of Musicians & Allied Workers] — all these unions forming. Keep up the momentum — like, support your local union, support workers’ efforts. And don’t bootlick. I feel like that’s pretty easy to do. What else? Local community involvement — I was talking about [the local LGBTQ community] in DC: so welcoming. It is so safe here. I feel so normal in this city, despite its reputation. If you just take politics out of the equation, DC, punk music has been here forever and really cool people like freaking Ian McKay. He comes to shows sometimes! He was at a show of Moon By Moon’s last year at Comet Ping Pong, and, like, someone had to point him out to me because I did not know what he looked like. He’s just like a guy now. But there’s an old Fugazi cover on my soundcloud that I made when I was in eleventh grade. It’s cool. I appreciate DC. But I really don’t care about the music industry anymore. I try not to think about it. My My motto now is like: Imagine a world where musicians, anyone really — workers, creatives, whoever — could make a sustainable living, just doing what they do. Job security is important, and if I want to go on a tour,  I shouldn’t have to be in debt from doing that. I’m still paying off student loans and bills and rent and groceries, and all that. Add to that the tour went on last summer, which was a total of 9 days. We took Sebastian —our bass player – mom’s minivan, because we could not afford a van. What the fuck? Also, none of us are 25. Everything is so expensive, and there should be a better system in place for independent artists to live, survive — not survive — but live comfortably and do what they want to do.

I know you’re a big Zinn fan. Do you have any book recommendations besides People’s History of the United States?

Let me look at what I have saved on my laptop that I read. I read Siddhartha by Hermann Hess, which I really adored. That’s really only because Noah Lennox read it. Judith Butler of course. 

What do you see as the next step for Gabbo or Moon By Moon? For you in general?

I’m definitely not going to stop. I’ve never done that. Etai and I now, for Moon By Moon, we’re doing duo sets where I’m using a sampler and a synth and Etai is playing acoustic guitar, so we’re just kind of like copying Animal Collective. We were listening to disco music on our way into work today, and we were listening to fucking Gordon Lightfoot yesterday on our way into work. So goofing around and pooping stuff out, and not really caring about the optics side of it, you know.

Do you have anything that you want to share or promote besides the album?

We’ve got some shows coming up in May and June and July – mostly stuff lined up for DC and Baltimore. But we’re also trying to do a weekend for in July. We don’t have anything set in stone yet. We will be posting about it. Moon By Moon has a full album recorded, and we’ve sent a couple demos out to a bunch of labels because Etai wanted to do that. We’ll see what happens with this entire album of music that we have recorded! Hopefully, Gardenhead will be able to continue doing benefit compilations. We have a couple of ideas in mind, and we’ve reached out to people about it to see who would potentially be interested. So — eyes peeled!


Corn is out now.

Hanson Egerland | @pseudodiscourse

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