A chat with Brooklyn based music artist Gabrielle Smith

When in the music scene in D.C., you just might be given the chance to meet a cool musician from a pretty neat band.  On September 7th 2016, I had the exciting chance of meeting, talking, and interviewing an up and coming music artist Gabrielle Smith of the band Eskimeaux (now called Ó). Gabby is a part of a small indie music scene artist collective called “The Epoch” which she helped create. It consists of a series of small bands that have collaborated with one another, and work as a supportive system of musicians to showcase their work. Collaborating with these people helped Gabby to incorporate new music styles into her work.

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Eskimeaux opening for “Basement” at the Rock n’ Roll hotel in D.C.

Teresa: I saw your show at the Rock & Roll Hotel in D.C. earlier this month where you opened for “Basement,” first things off, I have to say your entire band sounded stellar and I loved hearing some of the songs from your newest album. For people unfamiliar with your musical genre and sound, how would you go about describing your band?

Gabby: Thanks!!! I guess the best way to describe it is “dynamic, poppy poem-rock.”

Teresa: I know that you used to perform in another band called, “Frankie Cosmos” as the keyboardist, where you controlled a lot of the synths, and added harmonies – I saw you perform with them earlier this year – what made you leave that band?

Gabby: At the time I was in Frankie Cosmos I was in four bands at the same time. As each of the bands became more and more busy it just started to make sense that I couldn’t be in all of them at once anymore.

Teresa: How did the four of you (Oliver Kalb, Felix Walworth, Jack Greenleaf and yourself) form Eskimeaux – was it an endeavor after being with Frankie Cosmos, or was it an ongoing project previous to that?

Gabby: Eskimeaux has been my project for eight years, but it’s not fun, when you’re surrounded by such talented musicians, to just do it alone. Oliver, Felix, I had been working together since around 2011 and Jack joined in 2014. Since then we’ve all worked together on live and recorded Eskimeaux songs.

Teresa: What really got you into being the singer of a band, let alone pursuing music as a career?

Gabby: I weirdly just fell into it. When I was in high school I dated the singer of a band and I was like, “I wonder if I can do that,” so I tried it. And I liked it! I sang in a couple of (very bad) bands before starting Eskimeaux in 2007 as a solo recording project.

My bandmates and I have worked super hard to make this fun thing we do together into a career. We booked our own tours pretty relentlessly for about four years until 2015 when we started working with our record label, PR person, and booking agent. Working with them has really expanded our possibilities for making this into a career.

Teresa: What does music do for you? This is a general and open ended question, but I feel like it would be interesting to know how pursuing this as a career (full time I assume?) affects your life.

Gabby: Music provides catharsis for me. I don’t really know how else to put it!

Teresa: You must travel and tour a lot, what was your craziest touring experience – whether it was staying at someone’s place in the specific area or something someone did in the audience?

Gabby: One time we had a school bus that was parked outside the venue we were playing as a green room…that was pretty cool.

Teresa: Off your newest album that was released in April, “Year of the Rabbit”, what exactly inspired the name?

Gabby: The lyrics of the first song are “2011 / The Year of the Rabbit.” The whole EP is set between then and now.

Teresa: What would you describe is the biggest difference between your 2015 album, O.K. and this year’s album, Year of the Rabbit?

Gabby: When we were recording ‘O.K.’ the idea was to make a super produced, lush record that probably wasn’t going to be able to be reproduced live. “Year of the Rabbit” is just stripped back; there’s almost nothing extra on the record, it’s just how we play the songs live.

Teresa: What’s your favorite song off the newest album? Why?

Gabby: My favorite song from “Year of the Rabbit” is “Sleeping Bear.” I think it has the best lyrics and the most dynamic, exciting arrangement.

Teresa: You have a pet bulldog named “Frankie” that’s sported on some of your merch, and in some of your songs – when did you get your dog companion and do you find that he inspires you in a lot of your songs? Do you miss him when you’re on tour?

Gabby: I got Frankie on the first Eskimeaux tour. He was given to me by someone named Cris, who was living in Ohio and who became a friend once they gave Frankie to me! I definitely talk about him a bunch in my songs. Of course I miss him when I’m on tour! But I’m lucky to have really amazing friends who love him almost as much as I do who want to watch him while we’re gone.

Teresa: To new and upcoming musicians, what advice would you give to them in terms of success and putting themselves out there in the world of music?

Gabby: Don’t be afraid to be weird.

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You can follow Gabby and her band on their Facebook page for upcoming tour dates!

Porches @ the Rock and Roll Hotel – North East D.C.

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Maya Laner and Aaron Maine from Porches at the merchandise table before performing.

Sunday evening, September 04, 2016 I had the pleasure of seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, “Porches” at the Rock and Roll Hotel in D.C.. I previously purchased my tickets a month prior to coming down to the D.C. venue, but knew that this was one concert I could not miss. I was unfortunately sick all of this weekend with a stubborn head cold, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going – music has a special place in my list of priorities.

If you’ve never heard of Porches, it’s about time you had! In particular, they’re an indie rock band that includes electronic synths in the majority of their songs. New York based, the band formed in 2010 and has rapidly been growing a larger fanbase. Their Fall Tour includes their performance of their newest album, “Pool” which was released in February of this year.

My personal favorite song from the album is, “Security” which includes a lot of heavy electronic synths. The lyrics also resonated with me, because they referred to the need for having a sense and place of security. It’s just a song that’s really been with me in times of feeling troubled, and I have a natural tendency to favor songs with a lot of electronic synth. However, the entire album is absolutely breathtaking and this August Porches also released a varying version of “Pool” as a single called “Water” which includes six songs from Pool that are fashioned in a more acoustic sounding, ambient remix. It also includes two additional songs, “Black Dress” and “Black Budweiser T-shirt” which just provide solidarity that Porches has that incredibly unique sound like no other band.

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Porches pin – I’m an avid pin collector, so I had to add this one to my collection. Only $5 on tour, so bring some cash if you think you’ll be seeing them this Fall!

Before purchasing any merchandise, I spoke with Maya Laner, bass guitarist, at the merchandise table and was a little awestruck, however I didn’t hesitate to buy a couple items to sport my love for the band and represent the indie music culture scene that I’m proud to be a part of. I showed her my Frankie Cosmos pin on my jean jacket that I purchased about a month ago when I saw her perform, and told her I was a pin collector, so I had to get a Porches pin. She jokingly laughed after I showed her and exclaimed, “What are you waiting for? You have to buy a pin, only then will I know you’re a true collector!” It should also be known that the lead singer of Frankie Cosmos, Greta Kline, that I had seen a while back a couple of times, is actually dating Aaron Maine, the lead singer of Porches, so I thought it would also be cute to get a Porches pin, as a way of having a pair – two great bands, who are ironically pretty close. It should be known that I placed these pins together on my jacket, close to my heart too. I really cherish both of these bands in general.

In a recent interview conducted by A Music Blog? Yea on YouTube, Aaron describes “Dark Muscle” (which you can see pictured on the pin above) as the term used in the way that he feels the energy from the music he creates. Similar to receiving dark vibes from his unique and electric sounds, with this term he refers to the human heart – where it’s dark inside your body, but “you imagine the heart lit up” which reflects the impact the music has. I thought it was interesting concept since I wasn’t really aware of how the term came about at first since it isn’t listed as a song.

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I was towards the very back when Porches performed, only because I wasn’t feeling well, but even from the distance where I was standing, every song resonated within me. They came back on stage for an encore and performed Security as well at the end of the show. Honestly I consider this one of the best concerts I’ve seen in quite some time, and I’m not just saying that as a biased reviewer, it was a solid performance that left a good kind of vibe within the atmosphere. Their sound includes variety that is generally great for all audiences. The majority of people in the audience seemed to be in their early to late twenties, but I even saw some folks that looked as if they might have been older. At smaller venues like the Rock and Roll Hotel in D.C., you get a more personal feel for the music, and you get to talk with the artists when they’re not performing. If that’s not considered cool, then I don’t know what is!

Opener Bands – Japanese Breakfast and Rivergazer

Also, as a side note, Japanese Breakfast and Rivergazer performed as Porches‘ openers and their sounds were unique in their own right. Lead singer, Michelle Zauner, performs in Japanese Breakfast, and she signed “Psychopomp,” her newest album, for me. Rivergazer’s Kevin Farrant also plays lead guitar for Porches, but opened the concert with a few songs from their album, “Only 4 U” which you can check out here on their bandcamp.

Something interesting that I learned after reading an article in Rookie Magazine about Michelle, is that the band name, Japanese Breakfast, has nothing to do with her ethnicity – in fact she’s actually half Korean. She stated in the article’s interview that she simply liked how both words sounded together. How “breakfast” was a very Americanized term, whereas Japanese sounded more foreign and mysterious. People would automatically assume she was Japanese, which wasn’t the case at all. I guess it’s just important to note that not every name associated with something necessarily has to define the way something is. Michelle was super sweet and down to earth, and I’ve been playing her album on repeat with the portable CD player I own. “Psychopomp” is definitely an album worth giving a listen – with its experimental indie pop vibes, it’s definitely a sound you’ll want to keep listening and grooving to.

If you were interested in hearing some of Porches‘ music, take a look at this really rad music video to their song, “Car.”