"I'm definitely into the feeling that a song is just the most distilled or specific crop of a much larger feeling, moment or emotion."
Photography by Carlos Semedo @carlosmsemedo
Honesty, light-heartedness, art, and brash openness precede Massachusetts transcendentalist, Gabe Gill and come vibrantly alive across the mediums of his creatively-driven lifestyle. On the heels of recent release, Carousel, the young artist – who is impossibly difficult to label as anything more specific – boasts an understanding in his creative output as expansive as his list of influences. A true student of music, film, and the remarkability of everyday life, an understated relatability floats from the sounds and sights of his work, while an impossibility of replication veils it in stark individuality and self-assuredness.
His music and video productions change and adapt at the whims of emotional stance and introspective innovation, granting him a breadth difficult to grasp, but easy to subconsciously correlate with. He doesn’t seem to believe in a single defined space of the imagination, but with any imagination of your own, you’ll find yourself at home within the bounds of his far-reaching art.
Subtly genial, quietly innovative, personally relatable, artistically his own. This is Gabe Gill.
RNGLDR: The first time we listened to your music was by the recommendation of our close friend and collaborator, Dan Ross, who told us that we HAD to listen to Carousel. From the moment we pressed play, we were taken aback by the brash audacity of the album’s introduction, Soft Hit. Was there a particular process in choosing the track with its intensive, hard-hitting nature as the opener? It certainly does a great job of capturing the listener’s attention in full.
Gabe Gill: Soft Hit was the first song I wrote for the album. I had been in a band where I was writing songs that were definitely emotionally real but often kind of vague, fictional or conceptual. Soft Hit was one of the first times I was just unfiltered about certain things. I put up a lot of barriers in my mind about parts of my childhood and a lot of Carousel was just me kinda pulling up stuff that I repressed. The track is pretty dark but ends with this kind of peaceful chorus that sums up a lot of the energy of the ‘Gabe Gill’ project- acceptance & sadness.
RNGLDR: From there, Carousel never seems to stop changing. Each track feels so vibrantly different from each one before, yet so very personal – so very you. So, we have to ask, as far as your influences are concerned, what are the influences that played the biggest role in the creation of the album’s complex and varied sound?
Gabe Gill: In middle and high school, I was (and still am) a huge Kanye fan, and always loved how each album of his would arrive with some foray into a new genre. I think a lot of the artists I love will do this, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do myself. Other artists that influenced the album are Frank Ocean, Sade, the Police, the 1975, James Blake, Bon Iver, Gwen Stefani, Maxwell, The Isley Brothers, Fiona Apple (the greatest), Nelly Furtado, Imogen Heap, John Mayer, Shuggie Otis, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
RNGLDR: The intricacies of Carousel’s sonic texture extend far further than just your cadence and vocal delivery, but deep into the production of each track. The project’s title song has this bubbly, synth-driven beat while the next track, Clean has an emotionally stirring acoustic melody. There is a pretty limited list of credits in the song’s production – yourself, Tieren Costello, and finalization by Rafael Moure – so, what is the creative process like for such a shortlist of contributors to develop such a smorgasbord of sonic texture?
Gabe Gill: First of all I just have to say, Tieren is a brilliant, brilliant artist who taught me how to make music and I owe him everything. A lot of the tracks started pretty simply, with a keyboard/drum machine demo which Tieren and I fleshed out with more instrumentation. The song Pastels was produced by Pretty Boy Aaron, who sent me that beat, and Anonymous Johnny did some guitar on the intro to the title track, but otherwise it was just us. The process was pretty free, we made a lot of it very fast and the ideas came together quickly. We wanted to work until every song could be seen as the best song on the project, and I think that happened. The production by myself was mostly FL Studio and Tieren’s parts were done in Garageband. Raf gave the whole thing a great master and re-excited me about songs that were, at that point, pretty old. Grateful for the shine he brought to it.
RNGLDR: The best thing about Carousel having such a broad soundscape is that there’s something in it for everyone while still ringing true to such a personal Gabe Gill style. In the future, do you think that style will continue to expand, or do you find yourself whittling down your approach to something more particular?
Gabe Gill: That’s a good question! I think my palette will definitely continue to expand but I may take longer per sound, maybe using a whole album or EP to explore a particular area instead of having literally every song try to sound different. I’d like to try to find the next iteration of a lot of the sounds on Carousel as well as adding some new flavors in time.
RNGLDR: In a modern scene where the foundations of genre seem to be breaking down and in their place is emerging a grand acceptance of sorts for artists to be considered and labeled by their personal approaches, how is it that you would describe your sound? Essentially, if you had to define your sound with the made-up name of a style, what would you call it and why?
Gabe Gill: Usually when people ask me, I just say ‘indie pop’ or ‘alternative pop.’ Pop music with interesting sounds. Really, I feel like it’s closer to a rap/indie rock/pop/r&b/soul hybrid, but pop music is the genre that absorbs everything else so that’s easier to say in broad strokes.
RNGLDR: From an outsider’s perspective, Boston seems to be experiencing a musical renaissance at the moment with a longer list of artists than ever before making an impression at a huge scale. From your experience coming from Boston, what is the scene like?
Gabe Gill: I’m proud of what’s going on in Boston! I think because of the geography of the city and the social climate it can feel like Boston has a lot of small groups that are sort of exclusive which can make it feel like a fragmented set of scenes vs. one, but I think it actually does all come together in a macro way. I’ve experienced a lot of the rap community as well as the indie/house show scene and I don’t get the feeling that those worlds mix as much as they could but I feel like I’m somewhat of a product of both.
RNGLDR: On the subject, who are some of your favorite Boston artists – or Massachusetts artists in general – at the moment?
Gabe Gill: The GOAT Patrick Michel, my dude Connis, Hasaan Barclay, Dad Jeans, and Sidney Gish. In Western Mass, Honeyfitz.
RNGLDR: And who are some of your favorites of all time?
Gabe Gill: Cousin Stizz, Rothstein, Bad Rabbits.
RNGLDR: Two interesting comparisons that have been brought to our attention the most when discussing your sound(s) are those of Beck and Cage the Elephant. Out of pure curiosity, what are your thoughts on either artist and do you consider either of them influential in the development of you style?
Gabe Gill: Definitely a fan of Beck, I appreciate the lane he has in pop culture and in music. I don’t know that I really listen to him for inspiration but I’m definitely a fan. I’m flattered by the Cage the Elephant comparison but I literally could not name one song of theirs for you. I guess I should probably listen to them now!
RNGLDR: After discussing your music, we have also been pointed in the direction of the exploding mellow pop movement. Whether you refer to it as bedroom pop, DIY, etc., the scene – driven by artists like Gus Dapperton, Yellow Days, Still Woozy – marks an interesting moment in music development where artists can take a non-traditional route to creating and sharing their music with the world. What are your thoughts on the scene and what it means for the future of music? Do you consider yourself a part of it?
Gabe Gill: I’m definitely a fan of those artists and I’m really happy to see sort of weird pop artists thriving in an internet setting. I think it’s super positive for the future of music especially if those artists end up feeding into the more mainstream pop sphere. I think that would be great to see radio honor more lo-fi or trippy sound choices that are clearly popular already. I don’t know if I consider myself a part of it but it’s probably where people would group me. Some days I wake up feeling like I want to be sitting next to Lorde, some days I feel like I should be in the category of Lil Peep or BONES.
RNGLDR: Now, we don’t want to only discuss your music. A certain amount of effort needs to also be focused towards your videos. For you, what is the importance of the music video spectrum for your creative output?
Gabe Gill: It’s hugely important to me. I’m a very visual person. Before I ever wrote music, I drew a lot as a child and have always been really into books and films. For me, I want to give a couple different ways for someone to take in the story, so I try to keep the visuals and the artwork consistent with the tone of the music. Filmmakers and visual artists like Satoshi Kon, Audrey Kawasaki, some Wes Anderson, some Tarantino, Ren Hang, and my friends Kendall Pestana and Carlos Semedo are equally as influential to my work as my favorite musicians. I want to keep making the videos and images more interesting and higher concept as the music grows. I’d like to direct a movie or make a photo book someday.
RNGLDR: Your video for DEATH VALLEY is particularly innovative and unique. How did you come up with the idea of using a 360-degree camera?
Gabe Gill: I’m not sure where the idea originated from but I know Jake Bridgman, who’s done all my videos, told me that he had access to a 360 camera and I was really interested in the idea of doing something with that. There’s an alternate video for the song playing on a TV within the 360 video which I thought was a cool idea. You can choose to watch that video or watch me, or look at anything within the space. I like the idea of making things as interactive as possible and pushing the immersiveness of any experience. For each of my videos I try to do something a little new that people might not be expecting.
RNGLDR: The way that you were able to display your lyricism in the video for Clean as some intricate collection of words excerpted from a greater journal entry is really poetic in the sense of doing impressionistically less with more while a larger, more complex underlying story drives a literal meaning. Is this actually how you were able to write the song?
Gabe Gill: I co-wrote that song with Tieren Costello and then later went and built the journal entry around it for the video. I’m definitely into the feeling that a song is just the most distilled or a specific crop of a much larger feeling, moment or emotion. When my friend Kyle and I made that video we were thinking about communication, like the text screencap in the Boys video, but one where much more was being left out than was being articulated.
RNGLDR: If so, is this how you’ve written other songs? / If not, is this journal entry real or did you write it out of the less in-depth lyricism of the song? Either option is amazingly impressive and perhaps the most unique approach to songwriting we’ve ever come across.
Gabe Gill: I wrote that entry/letter out of the framework of the lyrics! It was a fun challenge. I do pull lines for songs from texts or conversations with people in my life frequently, so it was sort of an analog for that kind of collecting process or the idea of boiling down a really complicated message to someone into a really simple line for a pop song.
RNGLDR: We write a series called Collab Elation where we discuss the hypothetical collaborative projects that we want to see in the music industry. So, if you could choose any two artists to work with one another, who would you choose and why?
Gabe Gill: I might be the only person on earth who wants this but I really want John Frusciante, who used to be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and has a rich and beautiful solo catalog of his own, to play guitar or produce on a Frank Ocean track. They both have kind of a left-field approach to minimal, soulful pop and both of their music is so rich and emotional to me. I don’t think this will ever happen, though, so I think I’m just going to have to approximate the results on my next project.
RNGLDR: And speaking for yourself, if you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
Gabe Gill: I would really like to work on a Kanye album someday and just have him use me as an instrument, sample a little bit of my voice as a background sound or something like that. I also really really want to make a song with Justin Bieber, that’s my dream.
RNGLDR: We also write a narrative series called Dream Venue where we aim to take the reader on a journey that culminates in the perfect live event. So, if you could attend the perfect show, how would your journey leading up to the event unfold, who would you end up seeing, and where?
Gabe Gill: I don’t know why this is the first thing I thought of, but I’m envisioning like a concert where the first opener plays on a beach, the second on a boat, and then the headliner is on an island that the boat takes the audience to. I’d want to see some calm, soulful artists. Sade would headline. Maybe like Jeff Buckley and Kenny Loggins open. Those are all kind of headliner-tier artists though.
RNGLDR: How about in the opposite direction: What would be your Dream Venue as the artist performing?
Gabe Gill: I’d like to perform in a museum. Autotune mic’d up under a T-Rex head.
RNGLDR: As for the future of Gabe Gill, what’s in store?
Gabe Gill: New music really soon, Carousel has a second half that should be out next month. After that I have another project that’s a bit of a different sound but still cohesive. Calm, introspective, loving pop music. I just left school to try to pursue music full-time, so I’m working on booking shows, making more t-shirts, producing and writing with other artists and just getting better in any way I can. Pushing the sound further, pushing the lyrics further, making things better and faster. I also have new work on the way with my band DEADMALL as well as new music with Rothstein under the name ‘Citrus.’ Love.
Photography by Carlos Semedo @carlosmsemedo