If you were lucky enough to catch North London’s Gengahr rattle through their debut album from start to finish at Dalston’s Rio Cinema in June you will need no extra encouragement to catch their Scala on Thursday (October 8th).
Signed to Transgressive Records, the impressively tight quartet have a mature sound and confidence that defies their tender age. Their debut – A Dream Outside – arrived fully-formed with its hooky and sunny guitar lines providing a terrific foil for frontman Felix Bushe’s rather macabre lyrics.
‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ is a good example. It’s the tale of “a little boy vampire who falls for a girl”, Felix says, while Powder’s gloomy spectral groove implies a wistful pondering on death which contrasts nicely with Bushe’s falsetto delivery.
“The fantastical side of the world is more exciting to me than the mundane,” Felix explains. He cites early exposure to Lou Reed and David Bowie and their respective adoption of alternate worlds within their lyrics as a huge turning point for him, adding: “Hearing them was the point that I realised there was more than just writing about smoking cigarettes and drinking beers.”
The group is blessed with a powerhouse guitar player in John Victor. He studied jazz bass at university and only met the rest of the band when playing bass in function bands. Backed by drummer Danny Ward and bassist Hugh Schulte’s alternation between a rhythmic, almost CAN-esque krautrock vibe and a more funk and Motown infused groove, Gengahr’s sound is an impressive hybrid.
“All of our friends were in bands, there was so much creativity going on in our groups” says Hugh when it comes to their fusion of sounds, citing everything from amateur covers bands to local grime talent as alumni of the school’s practice rooms. “Our school was really good; we got to rehearse at lunchtime, so to avoid being beaten up we’d often just go and sit in a rehearsal room.”
Their initial three-track demo brought them praise from Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and 6Music’s Lauren Laverne, and landed them on bills alongside fellow raucous upstarts Wolf Alice and Superfood as well as more established countrymen alt-J, Dry The River and The Maccabees.
“Touring is what makes it feel really legit for bands,” Felix reflects. “We don’t play new stuff on the road. We find it gives us a lot of energy, so when we get back home, it’s strange, we have this build-up of new ideas come from that starvation of not being able to write properly. You don’t get to rehearse, you don’t get to play new things for weeks on end and then when you get back it’s really exciting again to try something else, to try something new.”
But it’s the band’s London-based upbringing that Felix cites as pivotal when it comes to their work ethic and productivity. “Everyone here is so fucking busy, you feel like you should always be doing something. For productivity it can’t be a bad thing, for your mental state of mind, I’m not sure how great it is…”
Upon their return to the Big Smoke, I caught up with Felix to quiz him on his top five musical influences. And you won’t be surprised to see it features the aforementioned superkraut group from Cologne…
Metronomy – Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 you owe)
This is one of my all-time favourite albums – mostly because it’s fucking strange. There’s such a mix of stuff on here, from beautiful chill out vibes to really traumatic, experimental pieces. Its Frank Zappa meets Aphex Twin. Being Metronomy’s debut it’s now 10 years old, but it still sounds so fresh. It’s almost entirely instrumental, but on Trick or Treatz the eerie vocals from Joseph Mount offered a hint what was to come.
Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information
Got to be one of my desert island tunes – it’s one of the sassiest songs I’ve ever heard. The rhythm section’s groove is so on point. And when the chorus melody drops it’s just so delightful. Shuggie is short for sugar (according to his mum) and that just about sums this guy up. Check out his more recognisable hit, ‘Strawberry Letter 23’, for more sugary goodness.
Philip Glass – Glassworks
I first got into Philip Glass after watching Koyaanisqatsi as a teenager – it’s an amazing film with an amazing soundtrack. Glassworks was meant to be his break through into the mainstream album and it certainly achieved its objective. I love the idea of him restraining his wild experimental ideas into something a little bit more pop. The results are a perfect balance for me. Floe is my standout track, as the sharp cuts from achingly slow to ridiculously fast and back again are just so satisfying.
The Falcons – You’re So Fine
This is one of my favourite love songs. It does exactly what you want from one. The chorus line is absolutely gorgeous, and the delivery is perfect too. A very snappy 2:26 will keep you hitting repeat all night long. A little gem obscured by history – it deserves a lot more attention.
CAN – Sing Swan Song
Sing Swan Song is one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands. It’s the second track on Ege Bamyasi it comes in after the 10- minute and rather unforgiving tune Pinch. It sounds so lovely and melodic in comparison (clever!). Having said that, with the strong vocal line comes some weird ambient noises and is anything but straightforward!
Live: Scala – October 8th