Gap Dream: Garage Synth Exuberance Interview | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Gap Dream

Garage Synth Exuberance

Dec 23, 2013 Web Exclusive
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Gabriel Fulvimar is positively jazzed. The singer/guitarist/mastermind behind the indie garage-synth outfit Gap Dream is waiting to see the covers of his band's sophomore album, Shine Your Light, and he can barely contain his excitement.

"We pulled [out] all the stops, man," says Fulvimar. "It's got a holographic cover. The vinyl's glow-in-the-dark. It's got this crazy band that goes around it, like a Japanese import. So that's going to be something for people to flip out about. The best part of it is the jacket. It's like flimsy, like an import sleeve. They wanted to go with a tip-on cover. Tip-on covers are great and they're cool, but if you're trying to DJ and you're trying to bust out a record with a tip-on cover, you're going to be fighting to get that thing back in and you're going to miss your cue. So we got these nice flimsy import copiesyou can just whip them out and put it on the turntable and put it back in. We thought of everything."

Gap Dream got its start after a period of musical experimentation for Fulvimar. The Akron, Ohio native, who worked with The Black Keys on the that group's debut album, had since been jumping around between projects"finding his voice," as he describes ituntil he, on a whim, sent some of the songs he was working on to Burger Records. Burger loved what they heard and agreed to release Gap Dream's self-titled debut, a garage pop work with stellar melodies and gritty lo-fi charm. Though he released a 7" on Fat Possum in the fall, Gap Dream released its sophomore album on Burger as well, and this time Fulvimar has moved slightly away from guitar-driven garage rock to more synth-led rock, while retaining all the scuzzy appeal of the debut.

Fulvimar, who now lives in Fullerton, CA, took a moment to speak with Under the Radar about Shine Your Love, Gap Dream's evolution, and his musical ideals.

Frank Valish (Under the Radar): Shine Your Light came out on Burger Records. Will it be coming out on Fat Possum too?

Gabriel Fulvimar: No. I don't know how that rumor got started. I just did a 7" with Fat Possum. I never said I was going to put the record out with them. We have an open relationship. You know what I mean.

I didn't know whether the single on Fat Possum was preceding a move from Burger to Fat Possum.

Basically how it worked was that since I put the first record out on tape and then did the LP a few months following that, Fat Possum started emailing me. They didn't know the LP was coming out on Burger. For a minute it was up in the air who was going to do the first LP. There were a few different labels submitting offers, but I wanted Burger to do it, because at that point I felt like they'd done a lot for me, and I just felt that a move would be in poor taste. Like, "Thanks for putting this tape out and getting me recognition. I'm going to jump ship." Fat Possum was one of the labels that had originally approached me. They wanted to work on the first LP, but at that point Burger had finally said they wanted to do the vinyl and I was really stoked, so I told Fat Possum I couldn't.... Burger had already bought me equipment, so they had already, in my eyes, invested in the record. Fat Possum really liked the song "Shine Your Love," and they wanted to do a 7", so that's how that came into existence.

You grew up in Akron. What kind of music was around in your home when you were young?

My parents were into tunes, but they weren't really, really into tunes. I don't think they were ever seekers. But they fortunately had been lucky enough to be alive in the time where popular music was a lot better than we've had for the past however many years. They listened to a lot of disco and they liked soul and R&B from the '60s. And they liked The Beatles. They were kind of a product of [the] '80s lifestyle, the materialism. They liked Giorgio Moroder and all the soundtracks he did. They used to listen to Vangelis. They started to get into New Age music and Windham Hill and stuff. I couldn't really follow them there, being however old I was. It wasn't until recently that I realized that I did grow up with a lot of cool influences, things that I wouldn't really consider cool back then. Now I think is an appropriate time to look back and say, "Oh, that is cool that they were listening to the Midnight Express soundtrack."

You grew up in the '80s, right?

I was born in 1980. I feel like I actually grew up in the '90s, but I was a child in the '80s. I got to experience it, however much experience a child can get. I was really into the cartoons and I was really into the cerealthat was what I liked. It wasn't until middle school that I realized what reality was and how life was, and then I started to have my own identity. Trying to find the many ways to avoid people. Music is very good for that.

For avoiding people?

For sure. If you ever want people to leave you alone, lock yourself in your room and make a bunch of terrible noise and record it into a four-track. You'll get some privacy.

Did you start doing that through middle and high school?

I got my first guitar in fourth grade. My mom wanted me to take some kind of instrument training. When I was little, they'd buy me toy instruments all the time, because I used to like to bang on the pots and pans and Tupperware when my mom was cooking. They noticed that I had an affinity for sound. I was always getting in trouble because I used to like to listen to the dial tone on the phone. And then when I discovered that if you left the phone off the hook for long enough, it turned into the off-hook dialing, and I used to listen to that. I used to always listen to pitches and ask my dad about sound. So they knew that I had an inherent inclination toward sound and music. They'd encourage it. They would encourage it and then see how encouraged I would get by it, and immediately become frightened by how seriously I was wiling to take it. Lately, when my parents realize what I'm doing and they realize that I'm making music and I've somehow fashioned a living out of it, they're happy with that and they're proud of me for that and they're excited. Because in Akron, Ohio, when you tell people that you want to be a musician when you grow up, they laugh you out of the boardroom. That's just a shot in the dark. That's something that you never get to do.

I know that you were involved with The Black Keys way back and then there was a 10-year interval between then and now. What have you been up to in the interim? I wasn't aware of anything. What did I miss?

You didn't miss anything worth mentioning, honestly. Just a lot of trial and error. And a lot of experimentation. A lot of going different routes. A lot of trying to find my voice. I started doing guitar. The first band that really showed me that you're only really limited by your imagination, not really so much by your ability musically, was Sonic Youth. I was really into them in high school and the reason was because I could listen to their records and be inspired to do something similar, if not entirely my own. I didn't know how to play. So I learned how to play guitar that way, by making up my own tunings, and just setting up no rules. And it got to the point where I was playing in a standard tuning and I was playing actual lines, learning things off record, being familiar with the fretboard. Then I caught wind of synthesizers when I was listening to The Rentals. In high school I was listening to The Rentals a lot. That inspired me to buy a Moog Source. I saved up a thousand dollars working in a pizza shop, burning myself, being covered in grease, and all those nightmares you can associate with working in a pizza shop. I bought that and had that for about seven or eight years until I learned every in and out of it and didn't want to touch it anymore. I always had a soft spot for electronic music. That's what I was doing, to answer your question. There were a bunch of different projects that I could do. They would all be different. I was honing my skills that way. And then I played in a few bands that never did anything.

Then it all started to steamroll when you sent some of those tracks to Burger.

That was literally completely unexpected. I thought Gap Dream would be another album that I recorded that would just sit on my hard drive and never see the light of day. And then it turned into something that would lead to a lot of other opportunities.

The new album is more synth-based than the first one. What inspired that change for you?

I'm always back and forth between wanting to do rock music and wanting to do electronic music. Since I started doing Gap Dream, that's become the main thing that's taken up all my time musically. Usually I have different projects. I like to categorize them differently by having different names for them or having something different about them to keep them from merging. But I was just feeling synths and really working with them on this record and just decided on a whim to say it's going to have synths in it. The next record, who knows? It could be entirely different. That's just the way I work. But I try to keep the pop sensibilities of the songs as consistent as possible.

It seems like a lot of '80s-like synthesizer sounds have come back in bands like CHVRCHES and HAIM. The synth line on "Shine Your Love" sounds very much of that kind of era. I wondered what you thought about that sound maybe coming a bit more into vogue.

I like it. I see where you're going by saying that [the line on "Shine Your Love"] is '80s. That synth line, that patch, everything about it, is entirely inspired by Wendy Carlos, by listening to Switched-On Bach. When I was making this record, when I got back into synthesizers, I felt rusty at certain things and wanted to get back up to speed, and the best way to do that is to listen to a lot of those Moog records of the '60s and '70s. They're tapping into new ground there. And the thing with Wendy Carlos, why it's the perfect example of something that you should listen to while you're making a record, especially if you're going to use synthesizers, is A) it's going to teach you classical theory. That's going to seep in there. "Shine Your Love" is a perfect example of that. It has classical composition. It follows the Pachelbel's Canon kind of chord structure. I'm not really trained, so I could be speaking incorrectly here. But at the same time, she's such a wizard with her synthesizer programming and patching. You get great ideas for patches. She often uses the single oscillator patches that have a nice perfect envelope that perfectly replicates what it would sound like if somebody was blowing on a horn, but it also sounds kind of weird. But ["Shine Your Love"] definitely also has a vibe of Toto's "Africa." And it definitely does have that '80s feel. Like a yogurt commercial from the '80s. Or a Nike commercial. Just fitness. For some reason that patch just makes me think of fitness.

I also read that you see your two records as a thematic sequence of sorts. Can you talk a little bit about that?

The first record is from a different perspective. It has a lot to do with myself, and there are a lot of feelings and things that I think were repressed, emotionally, that I kind of exorcised with that record. The overall tone of that record is really dark. It's a record of self-loathing. It's a fog of self-loathing. It's feeling sorry for yourself, and feeling sad, and being heartbroken. I wasn't really a happy person when I made that record. A lot of it was dwelling on problems that I should allow myself to let go of. And Shine Your Light is the discovery of how to do that. The songs are not really about myself. They're about everybody else. They're about all of us. The songs are about humanity, how people treat each other, the good ways they can treat each other and the bad ways. It's cryptic and it doesn't explain itself very easily, but I can guarantee that someone will listen to that record and, at least one song, at least one line, they'll have something to relate to.

So you feel that you've come out of the fog of self-loathing, as you call it, for this record?

Not entirely. Because I don't think you can ever entirely do that, but I feel that between the time that I recorded the first record and the second record, I maybe discovered a way to tolerate myself a little bit more than I used to.





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