Following on from a handful of well received singles, North-London quartet Gengahr have just this week released their debut album ‘A Dream Outside’ and the response has been rather extraordinary. Glowing praise coming in from all sides, reviews skirting around the highest marks that can be given and their contemporaries taking to Twitter to gush over the four-piece. The praise is totally warranted too – The new album is 11 tracks of sun-soaked, blissful indie-pop gems. Songs that sound timeless yet refreshing all at the same time. On the off chance their singles passed you by, the album certainly will not.
To coincide with the release of A Dream Outside, Gengahr have been doing special, stripped back in-store sessions at record shops across the country. Monday they were in Kingston at Banquet Records, whilst Tuesday had them down in Bristol at Rise. It’s in Manchester, at their in-store session at Fopp yesterday, where I caught up with guitarist John and drummer Danny to talk about the new record and the remarkable year they’ve been having thus far.
As I walked toward the store at just before 5, I could already see a group of kids had started to form a queue outside the building, copies of the new album in hand. A scene that’s likely been the same at their in-store’s across the land following a wave of hype. I quizzed the pair on whether they were expecting such a response from their debut album. Danny “Very unexpected. I dunno if we thought it would have been this positive – we would hope it would be – but we’ve yet to have a negative review yet, but…”
“Now you’ve said that, we’re gonna get loads!” laughs John.
From the release of their first single ‘Powder‘ at the tail end of October last year, to the release of their debut album this week, it’s been a quick rise for Gengahr and one which has seen them make great strides as a band. John “We’ve been doing it a fairly short time, like two years I guess – two and a half? We just haven’t stopped, so it feels quite natural (laughs)”
Danny “It’s definitely gone quickly – the whole thing. We’ve been so busy; played a lot of shows last year and obviously a couple of tours this year”
John “Whenever we’ve got time off we’ve been either writing or recording for the album. It was recorded over the year-”
Danny “-in short bursts. It was a nice way of doing it actually, because you didn’t have to toil over things for ages; just get ’em done real quick”
John “Yeah, not a month in the studio going mad, thinking everything’s terrible”
Danny “It was a fairly stress free process recording it actually, the mixing was a bit difficult but the recording was fine really”
A Dream Outside was recorded at Middle Farm Studios, set in the idyllic South Devon countryside. Not likely a good area for phone signal, but perfect for recording an album.
John “We tracked everything live, other than vocals and a little bit of guitars, so it was pretty straight forward”
Danny “Yeah, and it’s in a studio out on a farm out in Devon, so there’s no distractions”
John “No internet”
Danny “No internet – pretty easy just to crack on. It was a very easy way of doing it. It was great.”
Whilst it’s still only very early days on this record, with their studio experience being so beneficial for their debut album, I was curious to see if they’d consider going down this route again for any future releases. “I guess it depends on budget.” says John with a smile “How well the first one does – We might have to do it the same way. But I like the live recording; really happy with that”
“Yeah a kind of DIY way of doing it. We tried to do most of it ourselves – we didn’t work with a producer, just an engineer,” adds Danny “So we kind of co-produced it with him, but I think we’ll probably do it in a similar way – maybe in a different studio – but who knows”
This DIY ethic is strong within the band, with the album and singles artwork being taken from paintings produced by bassist Hugh (“It seems to suit the music quite nicely” comments John) and their stylistic music videos coming from in-house too.
Danny “Felix has a kind of idea of how they should be, and then we find the director who can make it come across on film”
John “As cheap as possible (laughs)”
Danny “As cheap as possible…The whole thing is very in-house. We don’t really get many people to do other things like the artwork and the video ideas, the recording’s all done by us really”
John “…It’s just the song writing, that’s all shipped out (laughs)”
The album’s release marks the halfway point for what’s already turning into a terrific year for the band. March saw the four-piece head stateside to Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW Festival. Even earlier in the year, late January saw them supporting Alt-J at London’s O2 Arena, before joining them on their European Tour throughout February.
Danny “I think the O2 Arena with Alt-J was just crazy. That was amazing, and the whole tour with them was similar shows, big arenas around Europe”
Danny “Really good fun. Great start to the year – prepared us well for the rest of it”
Whilst the idea of heading out on an Arena Tour across Europe sounds incredible, John explains that it’s not all quite picturesque views…“Because it was all arenas, you basically park up in the outskirts of the city. So we went to Milan, we saw a car park in Milan. Across the road, saw another car park in Milan. We took some photos (laughs)”
Danny “It was pretty much like that. The shows were so big that they had to be outside the main city. We went to Berlin a little bit”
John “We found that crazy little bar in Offenbach. It was like – I can’t work out if it was someone’s hen do or like an 80 year olds Birthday party – but there was about five women in their 80’s, and then Alt-J, Wolf Alice and us, all completely smashed. The DJ was this 80 year old man, just playing songs on a keyboard and singing. It was amazing (laughs)”
Danny “So that was the kind of stuff we got up to”
“It was like that every night” adds John with a smirk.
Back on UK soil, Gengahr celebrated the release of A Dream Outside with a special live performance at the iconic Rio Cinema in Dalston. Much like everything leading up to this point for the band, it sounds like a really cool experience and one in which the pair are very humble about, as Danny looks back on the evening “Fantastic – it went really well.”
John “Nicely busy and just a slightly surreal experience playing in a cinema”
Danny “Yeah It went so well, I think we’ll probably do our future album launches in a similar way. But it was quite kinda last minute; we had this PA which was my Dad’s and it sounded fuckin’ terrible, so we had to hire one in last minute. Luckily, it all turned out really well and apparently it sounded great, so yeah – it was a success for sure”
With Manchester being the last stop on their mini-tour of record stores, their next proper show sees them heading back down South to Hyde Park for British Summertime Festival, playing alongside the likes of The Strokes, Beck and the mighty Future Islands.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow, ‘cus we get to actually play a proper gig – Standing up. Get to turn distortion pedals on. I’m probably gonna get lost and confused and sit down half way through – pick out an acoustic” jokes John.
Danny “…We haven’t played our full set-up for over two-three weeks now, so it’ll be our first time back. Hopefully it’ll be fine”
As they come to the end of the first half of the year, it would be easy for the quartet to rest on their laurels and happily bask in the glowing reviews for the new album. But these guys are hungry for more, and over the coming months their festival schedule is relentless. Here, there and everywhere…and then back again. As well as that, they’re looking forward to their first headline tour at the tail end of the year, but as they take further giant steps ahead, it’s a challenge Gengahr are more than happy to tackle.
Danny “Yeah – the more the better for us, really. We did so much last year, I think we just kinda wanna do more and more to keep it full steam ahead – keep going”
“We’re not tired yet” adds John with a smile.
You can check out the full interview below, and be sure to pick up A Dream Outside – it really is a wonderful record.