In The Middle with Gengahr
Speaking to Gengahr frontman Felix Bushe ahead of the band’s stint at Nation of Shopkeepers, you could tell he was eager to speak of the new album they had been working on in the studio earlier that week. Aiming for a release date at “the beginning of next year” the band are at the point of mixing and printing what will be their second LP.
The last year “started off pretty hectic but we’ve spent the last six months basically writing and recording the new album. It’s been great and a lot of fun, but at the same time when we came home we were very much aware that it was time to start working again. We were really excited to start writing and had a real sense of energy about going in to start the new record”. With the notorious ‘second album’ pressure and a full run of intimate gigs up and down the country this autumn, it sounds like the band are keeping busy but enjoying it nonetheless.
Since the release of their debut album A Dream Outside in June 2015, Gengahr have played to some big crowds at some truly exciting venues, including the Festival Republic Stage at Leeds Festival 2015 and 2016. Despite this, Felix admits that “we all prefer playing the smaller shows. I don’t think you ever lose a love for those. The bigger the stage, the further away you are from the crowd, whereas you really feel the energy when you’re in a small club. We played a show in Paris recently with about 100 people in a tiny room, and it was chaos with people knocking into the mic stands, but it adds to the atmosphere. That’s not something you’re going to get playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury- although I’m sure that has its charms!”
If you’ve listened to Gengahr’s music then Felix’s earliest influences may come as somewhat of a surprise. Recalling memories of singing James Taylor covers as a child and citing folk artists such as Nick Drake, John Larklin and Joni Mitchell as inspiration, Felix explains that “even though they’re people that I don’t listen to as much anymore, the ways their songs are structured still plays a strong part in the way I think about music.” Perhaps the amalgamation of these earlier inspirations combined with his later tastes in heavier bands, such as Nirvana and Sonic Youth, is what has led to Gengahr’s unique sound that is difficult to pinpoint as an exact genre or style. When creating their music they have no set formula, instead opting to “play around with melody and put something together that works well- not necessarily a chorus or verse, but feeding one idea into another- until the chords are strengthened enough to grow and structure into a song with the band, when we add extra instrumentation and embellishment. I think it’s important to have one or two good ideas between melody and chords, and from there you’re at a starting point to add lyrics and the rest of the piece”.
So what can the audience expect at Nation of Shopkeepers on Wednesday 30th November? “We’re going to play some new stuff and we’re looking forward to it. Some people have only just discovered the first album but for us we’ve played those songs a lot, so it’ll be great to mix it up a bit.” With regards to their approach to playing their music live, “some songs work better in their original recorded form, but others are better when they transform live, whether they become more energetic, heavier or faster. Sometimes the crowd on the day may pull you in one direction or another. We try not to think about it too much before we go in; it’s best to think on your feet when playing live shows, especially in a club. It’s going to be interesting and we’ll play it by ear- ultimately there are no set rules.”
Tickets for Futuresound Presents… Gengahr + Caro at Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds on Wednesday 30th November 2016 are available from www.seetickets.com for £12.10 (inc. booking fee)