There is a sense of polarization of human psyche in the songs of Gengahr. “I’m not gonna miss you / But I always wanna kiss you now” the lead singer Felix Bushe sings in their 2015 single ‘She’s a Witch’ where the triviality of human nature is revealed through his words on the complexities of our relationships with other people. Gengahr is a fascinating oddity forming peculiar mixtures of upbeat guitar sounds with trivial and dark lyrics.
It is a typical Sunny yet freezing day of Spring when we set up for an interview with Hugh Schulte of Gengahr. Feeling the murderous wind on your face while bathing in the sun seems like the perfect weather for unveiling the complexities behind Genghar’s unique sound. Emerged in Spring 2014 with the single ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’, the band has slowly but surely been creating a stable fan base whilst touring with other indie bands with a very distinctive sound such as Alt-J, Wolf Alice and Dry the River. At the time of our interview, the band has just finished working on their debut album “A Dream Outside”. “We have only been playing support slots till now so we have not played the full album yet. The ones we have been playing on our 30 minute sets sound pretty sick but with some of the songs we have to go back and sort of relearn them”, Busche admits and chuckles.
Mixing classic indie rock elements with psychedelic sound, Gengahr is a band with a one-of-a-kind sound. Writing the songs collectively, the band keeps their sound alive without falling onto the traps of repetitiveness. “We write collectively and when someone brings something in, like chords or Felix with lyrics, we all just put it together. When we put it together as a group, the song becomes a collective memory”, Schulte explains. While the band has managed to discover their unique, sleek sound, they celebrate the individuality of each band member and them collectively as a band. Met at school, the band got together when they were just friends. When looking for their sound, each of them would highlight their individual musical backgrounds creating an interesting amalgamation of sound. “For the recent album, me and Danny in the bass and the drums have more kind of a funky hip hop and soul influenced background whereas John came from a more punk background and put those guitar sounds on top of that”, Schulte explains and continues: “So yeah, I think we all add something to our sound, hopefully something a bit more contrasting.” When asked whether their sound was well thought of before starting the writing process, Schulte admits that there was no straightforward direction they wanted to take yet there were things they wanted to avoid. “We never wanted to be a jingly jangly indie band with a mid-noughties sound”, he states.
With this mid-noughties indie rock hype in the back of our mind, the indie scene has had to reinvent itself, allowing bands like Gengahr become more experimental with their sound. While Gengahr bares similarities to the likes of Alt-J and Glass Animals, they stand out with their poetic lyrics entwined with the psychedelic yet upbeat indie sound. However, Schulte reveals that their debut album will be more experimental regardless of including tracks like ‘Heroine’ that have been “knocking about for ages”, as Schulte says. “I think mine and the band’s favorite track from the next album might be ‘Dark Star’. We wrote it collectively in the rehearse room and recorded it but decided to tear it apart in the studio. It used to have vocal lines and it was a proper four minutes long track but we took out the vocal lines and turned into an instrumental track”, he says. Schulte also reveals that the band co-produced the upcoming album together, allowing them to have a fairly big control over the sound of the album. “We were quite keen to do as much as we could because it might be the last opportunity to have that control over the music as the producers can make a big difference to it”, Schulte says, highlighting the integrity they want to maintain as a band.
With a debut album coming out and several festival appearances ahead of them this Summer, Gengahr is breaking free from the support slots. “Within the past couple of months, we have actually started getting people in the shows who know the lyrics which is such a novelty for us and such a bizarre yet experience. After touring around supporting other bands, it is such a significant change”, he reveals and continues with such modest excitement: “We played Nantes this Spring and there was a bunch of people who knew who we were!” There is a sense of honesty in Gengahr as a band. When asked how they got discovered, Schulte frankly states: “We are not actually quite sure how we got discovered.” In some ways, one might say that Gengahr got quite lucky. Previously known as RES, the band uploaded songs online under their old name and a couple of months later they were sitting and having coffee with labels and management teams. “It was really unexpected because we did not really push our music”, Schulte admits. “We are still trying to trace it back to someone and I think we have found that person who managed to get it spread through the industry”, he explains and continues: “I think it is quite rewarding when you are not pushing it and you see that people actually like it. In other projects we have tried to write sort of pop songs and the change with this project is that with this we did not really think too much about it being pop or it being on Radio One and all that shit. We just kind of did what we enjoyed.”
In Gengahr’s tracks, the 1970s psychedelia and 2000s indie rock is reinvented in a fresh way that seduces you with the decadent guitar riffs and funky bass lines but leaves you feeling teary eyed with their gentle yet heartbreaking lyrics. It is an eclectic mixture of powerful sounds that finds its counterbalance in the poetic lyrics, serenading you and luring you into the complex world of Gengahr. They are one of the most distinctive bands in the industry yet they have managed to hold onto their integrity and authenticity as a group without falling into the trap of becoming one of the “jingly jangly” indie bands as Schulte describes them. Gengahr is most definitely a band on the rise.
Gengahr’s debut album “A Dream Outside” is out now.By Kasimiira Kontio