Don’t box me in, man. Discussing hype hyphenated labels such as ‘new-rave’ and ‘neo-tribal’ which are all the rage in music journalist, Gang Gang Dance’s Brian Degraw is cynical. “It’s… nothing more than an attempt at using two words and a hyphen to describe something that requires much more than two words and a hyphen. It’s really a bit lazy…”
This member of the New York tribal inspired dance act may be appreciative for the coverage his outift’s newest album Saint Dymphna has received, but let’s not fuck about – he’s a realist about mainstream media coverage of the outfit’s output. “If we are able to do what we naturally do without making a conscious effort to be more listenable to the general public, yet having that same general public somehow be more open to the music, then I think that is the best of both worlds,” he states emphatically, painting a portrait of a creative spirit that refuses to be marred by the hither-thither, hot-cold attitude of the big music business.
Warming to his topic, he continues: “I don’t sweat reviews at all. I used to be more conscious of them than I am now but at some point I realised that there is no way in hell that a review is ever going to influence what motivates me to create music. In this day and age the review is fairly endless as well”
Indeed, naming their album after the patron saint of depression and mental illness was never going to attract completely positive cover: “there is blog after blog after blog, so essentially your album is being reviewed by not only music based publications, but also by Johnny who is sitting in the basement of grandma’s house or Lisa who is writing her two cents about your record during her lunch break at the law firm……it’s just so endless that the idea of expecting purely positive reviews is just ridiculous.”
Blunt, honest and switched on, Brian’s determination to interview with brutal candor reflects the ferocious and unrelenting pace with which GGD’s music hits you. The band is focussed around heavy, deep drum beats that pulsate in an intense, almost tribal insistence to move your groove thang up, down and all around. Hippie free-love is a positive attitude to approach GGD’s sound, as Brian confesses that “the idea of this eternally expanding spiral of drums…one that stretches throughout the world…a giant snake around the globe…. into a universal infinity” is a motivation for him.
Being a part of 88 Boadrum, a festival featuring drummers numbering, you guessed it, eighty-eight, GGD’s sounds is most certainly centered around beats and big, crazy noises. Bringing glitch back, GGD insert tech-y sounds over electro-keyed chords on offbeats to create an anti-syncopation effect that leaves the listener wondering exactly how much acid they have munched for the eve.
Re-employing the hippie theme, Brian describes their process much-like some drugged out scene from Woodstock footage: “Everyone has their own role but those roles seem to sort of just gel into one giant glob like a sort of gelatinous mass that is driven more by the subconscious than anything else.”
Solidified around the 4/4 structure of current electro trends, Brian is however confident in the positive and pop aspects of their music. Having played shows with other acts such as old friends TV on the Radio (“We’ve known that crew, the TVOTR guys, for a really long time and we love them dearly”) and Massive Attack, a fundamentally interesting tenet to GGD’s output is their blend of typical ‘rock’ instrumentation with a more slick production-vibe a la mixed act Gorillaz or Mark Ronson.
Their multifaceted sound is quite possibly a result of GGD’s ever ongoing lineup rotations – as he admits, “Gang Gang Dance formed very slowly through the years…. through many incarnations…until around 2002 when the higher powers magically morphed us into a more solidified group. Before then it was a lot of open jamming with different people under various names…”
Indeed, the anger and sense of a lack of resolution within their sound may reflect this constancy of member changes. Similar to the way in which Bernard Zuel (SMH) labeled Bloc Party’s latest album cold, distant and inaccessible, so too is GGD’s feel not one of warm fuzzies and cuddles. Instead, GGD’s music is almost like that passive-aggressive partner we all suffer from at some point – pushing you away for fear of exposure, of being hurt, fearful, afraid – whilst all the while luring you in, drawing you back with their vulnerable sounds of raw fury and ache.
Having just finished touring – “very literally “just” finished” he continues – “I am answering these questions at 6:23 in the morning after just having gotten home from playing the last show of tour”, it is only natural that he may be a little tired and aching. Music Feeds is generous enough to let him get a little sleep – but not before we demand that GGD continue with their impressive output and live shows in Australia he laughs. “It is pretty nonstop,” is all we can get him to commit to. “I should probably go to bed now….I don’t get a lot of time to just chill lately….maybe it’s better that way though!” We agree.
Gang Gang Dance’s new album Saint Dymphna through Inertia/Warp