GUM - Jay Watson of Tame Impala and POND on His New Solo Album “The Underdog”

Putting the Puzzle Together

Jun 21, 2018 Web Exclusive
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For fans of Tame Impala and its many side projects, few might be familiar with the solo work of one of both group's common denominators: Jay Watson, aka GUM. Watsona multi-instrumentalistis known for playing drums, bass, keyboards, and synths in both Tame Impala and POND. But Watson has released an extensive body of solo material (four albums to date) under the GUM moniker. His solo work varies from Tame-adjacent, '80s-flavored psych rock, to more controlled synth-heavy tracks. Watson's latest album as GUM, entitled The Underdog, explores themes of growth in self and in confidence. Quelling some of the eccentricities of his past work, it feels like the most cohesive solo "album" that the Australian has released so far.

However, Watson is never really aiming to make an "album"rather, his releases sum up the place he is in life, and in the world. Most of the musical ideas that Watson has for his GUM projects are songs that either won't work with his other bands (such as the sample-heavy track, "After All (From the Sun)" or songs that he wants to keep for himself. "We know that POND has a bit more reach than with our own stuff, so we tend to put our best foot forward with those albums."

The Underdog, like every past GUM release, comes after a period of extensive touring for Watson. "Well, I'm on tour a lot," he explains. "I like to record in friends' studios and at home, and then tend to mix while I'm on the road. When I'm not on the road, I'm on YouTube listening to music for hours."

Watson's diverse music diet makes way for a lot of the sonic textures on The Underdog. This record features elements of hip-hop, prog, soft '70s rock à la The Beach Boys, disco psychedeliain truth, the influences for this album fall in the ranges of music Watson happens to find himself listening to on YouTube. In recording and putting together his music, Watson has described the process as not unlike putting together a puzzle. "I would consider my music to be rock," he says, "but my approach, with pulling together the pieces as opposed to recording it live, is more of a hip-hop style, I think."

This approach, which Watson has more than perfected over the years, perhaps fits his solo material better than it fits his work with POND and Tame Impala. But the deeply collaborative nature of his and his contemporaries' approach to music is one reason why the music coming out of Perth, Australia is so damn good.

"Part of the problem with making music with samples is that you can get caught up in royalties and legal trouble," says Watson. "Bands like The Avalanches, I have no idea how they can make music like that." For this reason, Watson enjoys the idea of combing through tracks from his fellow Australian psych-rock friends, like heavyweights King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, to find even the smallest of samples. "I feel like they've got a lot of stuff they'd be willing to give me. I could make a hip-hop record or something."

When asked what's next, Watson feels inclined to produce even more: "I've been thinking about making a record of 20 tracks, each one a different genre, like a hip-hop track, a metal, a country. I'm a bit afraid of people getting frustrated with it like halfway in, though." Watson also has a great deal of early recordings stored on an old Mac ("the bubbly kind," he calls it) that might see the light of the present day sometime soon.

Either way, Jay Watson is poised to maintain his stark originality. Whether through projects with Tame Impala, POND, or GUM, he represents part of a creative community that won't stop producing.

www.jaywwatson.com

www.facebook.com/gguumm/

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