Interview- Experimental rockers Gang Gang Dance find comfort, color in the crazy [plus, win free tickets!]
Dreamy Manhattan experimental rock quartet Gang Gang Dance fits nicely in the lineage of New York blog bands like the Black Dice and definitive 2009 critical darlings Animal Collective, but just a few years ago they didn't have as many peers.
"When we started, the kinds of bands that were around really annoyed us," says guitarist Josh Diamond. "We thought they were really square, and wanted to do something different."
In this case, "different" means melding avant-garde rhythms, colors, and textures as diverse as Middle Eastern-influenced synths, African tribal rhythms and beats, and contemporary noise rock into danceable pop-rock. Paste magazine called it "a dangerously sane blueprint for producers trying to capture what 'futuristic' sounds like right now." And as for what it might sound like in the future, well, anything goes.
The Hook: How did your experimental edge manifest itself early on?
Josh Diamond: Most bands at the time were doing rock 'n' roll kinds of things and we weren't interested in that. We'd rarely practice, show up and do improv gigs–- just an explosive mess on the stage.
The Hook: Like Animal Collective?
JD: There were a few bands we shared a practice space with, like Animal Collective and Black Dice–- we were all influenced by each other, but not in a direct way.
The Hook: How do you feel about being grouped with them?
JD: It's always been sort of frustrating. Part of the point of what we're trying to do was to do our own thing, and that detracts.
The Hook: If people have trouble understanding your music, where should they start?
JD: We have a really talented rhythm section, and Brian and Jesse are very locked in, have a telepathic connection.
The Hook: Do you consciously try to include spiritual elements?
JD: Sometimes when we play a lot, I lose myself; my ego disappears. It's a spiritual experience, similar to the experience of other spiritual practices. We try to do things with love, and that's a spiritual thing.
The Hook: How about emotional content?
JD: In the early days we used to hand out our instruments to the audience and let people play with us, and eventually they're playing the music, and we're not, it's an amazing transfer of energy. But we can't do that anymore, stuff is so expensive.
The Hook: Are you crazy? If so, how crazy are you?
JD: There's madness everywhere. The last record was named for Saint Dymphna, who's the patron saint of madness, but she comforts people who are in madness. It's more about trying to work through things that are crazy with things that are pure. Brian has synesthesia and is a visual artist. He sees blobs of color and different shapes that represent sound. In the past, we've had this sound in our music we called the "magic layer"–- you can hear if it's there or not, but Brian can see it, a layer in between that has different colors and represents different frequencies. I don't know if it has a specific color. It's different for every piece of music.
Gang Gang Dance performs at The Southern on Monday, March 29. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are $12 in advance or $14 at the door.
Psst –- want a free pair of tickets? First check out McSweeney's whimsical take on the popular video game Dance Dance Revolution, and then leave us a gang-gang-dance of your own below; best response takes it, or we'll pick one at random if they all suck. We'll announce the winner on Sunday, March 28. Be sure to give us a real email address so we know how to contact you.