Gengahr – Interview – 2015

The first track BrightonsFinest heard from Gengahr was ‘She’s A Witch’ and we were obsessed. Their early Radiohead vibe with a sunnier disposition is a guaranteed pull that will get stuck on repeat throughout the summer. The North London four-piece (Felix, Danny, John and Hugh) have supported stadium tours with Alt-J and The Maccabees, a well as a successful showcase for the BBC at SXSW festival in Texas and are now getting regular radio play on BBC 6Music with their latest single ‘Heroine’. They are quickly becoming one of the UK’s newest ‘must see’ bands and having seen them recently at Bleach and The Great Escape, it is easy to see why. I caught up with Felix Bushe (lead singer/guitar) and Hugh Schulte (bass) to find out about their newest album A Dream Outside and their musical journey up to this point.

When did you both realise you wanted to start a band?

[FELIX] We are from Stoke Newington near Hackney (London). We met at school a long time ago when we were 11 years old. I think we always wanted to do music. We started playing together before we could even play music. We had access to electric guitars and drum kits at our school, and it wasn’t very conventional how they taught music – they kind of just let you have a go.

Can you remember the first instrument you picked up?

[FELIX] My grandma was a concert pianist, so my dad really wanted me to learn the piano. But I hated it, or I hated learning music and found it really frustrating. So I gave up and decided to write my own music on the guitar instead. Guitars are so much cooler anyway. I had the impression that it was easier too – you see Nirvana playing three chords and jumping around looking cool, it had to be easier than trying to learn Mozart.

Has Gengahr’s sound changed much since the beginning?

[HUGH] It started off quite punky in our adolescence.

[FELIX] When you can’t play, what option do you have!

[HUGH] Then we gradually mellowed out into something hopefully more sophisticated.

[FELIX] Its changed purely because we have been able to play our instruments better. There isn’t any other reason for it really. You do the best with what you can. If you can’t play, you will do something loud, heavy and fast. Then when you learn a bit more and learn the intricacies, you get a bit smarter about how you write songs and how you play them.

How did Gengahr come together?

[FELIX] We played in lots of little bands before with other friends. Jon joined us about two years ago but have known him for about five years now – we met him in a Weatherspoons. We were auditioning for one of our old bands as someone had left, Jon played one show and that was it. We then took a break for about 6 months, then came back to pretty much start again and had almost an experimental stage trying to work out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We started playing around with keyboards, synthesizers and samplers, loads of different things, but almost went in a full circle as we knew what we were doing with the guitars. It took a little while but that’s how we stared Gengahr.

[HUGH] We definitely learnt a lot from just fucking around. You have to find out what to do and what not to do.

[FELIX] We had worked with lots of different management companies when we were younger and they give you an idea of what you should be doing which can be quite a dangerous thing, especially if you want to be in a “famous band”. Reality is, if you are not doing something which isn’t real, it’s never going to be that good. Especially in the way we do things.

What is the story behind the name Gengahr?

[FELIX] We were called Rez before, when we started putting songs online. But shortly after that we got a message from another artist called Rez. Then a little bit down the line when we had a lawyer, they said we can either fight it out or nip it in the bud and start afresh as no one really knew who we were then. Rez was a logistical nightmare – if you put it into Google, nothing would come up unless we got huge. In a way, it’s was a bit of a blessing in disguise. The name Gengahr was a bit of a rash decision – we were in the pub and we had given ourselves two days to choose a name. In the end we went with our favourite agreed Pokémon, which is Gengahr. A bit silly really. We thought, you either know that it’s a Pokémon, or you don’t and it doesn’t matter.

What are you main musical influences?

[FELIX] It is very, very eclectic. When recording, we knew what artists we liked the sound of on a production level – stuff like; Twin Sister, Dearhunter, Arial Pink, Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Melody’s Echo Chamber. Stylistically they had it spot on for us. Writing wise, it gets way more diverse – we don’t really pin ourselves down. We all have our own favourites, so we add our own little elements to it.

How did you attack the recording process for your debut album?

[FELIX] We tend to lock ourselves away. We go to Devon to this amazing studio farm which has done loads of great stuff. We wanted to do something with Pete Miles but he wasn’t available to do some demos with us, so we ended up doing it with Jamie Bragg who is his right hand man. It was our first experience of staying on site whist we recorded, sleeping in bunk beds. But it was all really good vibes – no distraction, no phone signal. After that we didn’t want to go anywhere else, so did the whole album (A Dream Outside) there, and co-produced the whole thing with James to as he did such a great job on the demos. It was a really great experience.

What has been a musical eye-opener?

[FELIX] Meeting Alt-J and The Maccabees was really great, mainly because they were such nice and professional guys. When we supported them I was blown away at how welcoming, hospitable and interested they were. Lou Reed’s Transformer was a massive eye-opener.

What would your perfect line-up of three be, and where would you put it on?

Stat with an acoustic sounding Neil Young, then Lou Reed without Velvet Underground would start to get things going, finishing off with David Bowie at the Old Historian.