It's still only February, but I feel fairly certain that Yeah?, the debut full-length from Pittsburgh, PA's Gaadge, is going to be one of my favorite releases of 2021. Out March 19 via Crafted Sounds (and available for pre-order now on cassette or CD), the aesthetic of the album's cover art might imply something on the lighthearted side, but while there is a degree of fun and catchy energy to some of the material within, that all acts as somewhat of a disguise for what lies beneath, which is a moody and meaningful form of experimental indie rock with occasional shoegaze tendencies.
When I looked at the "for fans of" list included with the promotional materials, aside from obvious names such as Pavement and My Bloody Valentine, I was pretty much like, "Who?" So, I was unsure of what to expect here. The only elements I picked up on that pretty openly reminded me of anything were a number of those bent-up 'n' warped Archers of Loaf-style guitar riffs—which is actually a pretty rare characteristic. But aside from occasional keyboards/electronics and the sparse appearance of restrained acoustic strums, the varied amalgam of Yeah? truly centers around a little jangle, a little sizzle, and a lot of heart. I'm already eager to hear what will come next.
The group's new single, "Do What Now?," is actually one of the most straightforward and direct examples of the band's surging shoegaze side to date. Check out the tune below, followed by a quick interview with Gaadge founder Mitch DeLong:
Come to senses, do what now? Flip the switch and figure out how to pull this off all before it's gone. What is wrong here? What's gone right? Is it too late to decide? Are we in too deep? Is the talk too cheap?
It's been a few years since the last substantial release from Gaadge. Checking out some of your earlier material to compare, Yeah? feels like a natural growth in the sense that all of the ingredients were already in place, but the overall execution has started to evolve in a way that's just... better. What has that progression felt like from your own inside perspective?
I think with the earlier stuff, I had a feeling and direction for the band that I was happy and comfortable with, but with the release of an actual album there was a lot more that I sat down and thought about. The sound was there, but this record was more about how we could chop up the compositions a little more—throw a wrench into the cogs of this machine that we already had going. The big question was, "How do we have this album keep pace and not lose steam, while being a cohesive collection of songs? How much can we pack into this?" And I think we were able to pull that off with Yeah?
How do you think you fell into your own brand of weird, sort of lo-fi but still crisp, swirly indie-gaze with occasional bits of synth-y/electronic elements? It really speaks to the quality of your work that that description could read as somewhat irritating, but Gaadge executes this mishmash of sounds and atmospheres in a manner that's totally listenable and charming.
It all began with the Barlow boys years ago. Ethan Oliva, who's actually a member of Gaadge, got me into My Bloody Valentine. Then Jake Nowoczynski got me into Swirlies and Lilys. Up until then, I had really only listed to straightforward indie rock stuff like The Strokes and The Shins. I consider myself more of a songwriter than a musician because of my foundation being in those pop bands, but being introduced to these noisy, chaotic new bands helped me realize what I wanted to create. I fell in love with hooky melodies in the middle of absolute storms. And then I threw everything else that I knew into that and Gaadge has been settling into itself ever since.
Somewhat along those same lines, I truly appreciate that your lyrics strike me as being atypical. I've been exposed to a fair amount of quirkily rugged indie music whose content can tend to be a little bit silly or "light" in a way that—for me personally—can lack meaning. That's not the case here at all. Your lyrics are handled with a sense of curiosity and openness that's both somber and cool. How intentional is your approach to putting lyrics together?
While vocal melodies come very early in the songwriting process for me, the actual lyrical content is always the last thing I do. By that point, the song has a mood and I have the melody in place to write on. Then I sit down and it becomes somewhat of a puzzle. I'm always more concerned about phrasing and how the rhythm of the words flow, so while I have a vague idea of the theme or message, it's more of me trying to make it work. I like going, "How can I say this using these words?" I am constantly using a thesaurus to search for exactly what I need.
When it comes to the album's mid-paced shoegaze layer, the new single, "Do What Now?," is one of Yeah?'s more straightforward and driving compositions. Share a bit about this song in particular, and how you feel it fits into the entirety of the album's landscape.
"Do What Now?" was one of the later songs written, and it was written very quickly. We already had these songs with changing parts and segments, and the melody for "Do What Now?" came to me and I went, "This is all I want this to be." That was the one song that I was okay with being unapologetic shoegaze worship for a few minutes. Very straightforward and simple, but a total assault of sound.
You started recording Yeah? almost a year ago, and we're all still embroiled in these strange pandemic times. As somewhat of an encapsulated, self-sufficient band in terms of recording, have you been continuing to work on new music in the meantime?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. One of the only nice things about what's happening now is the fact that we all have this time to sit in our respective little recording "studios" and hash out new stuff. The next record is gonna be done properly in a real studio, but all of us are kinda piecing together these new songs right now. The next release will also be much more of a collaborative process than Yeah? is, too, so I'm pretty excited to see how it all falls into place.
Kinda looping back to the second question, I'm always on the hunt for new (and new-to-me) music, and looking at the "RIYL" list that Crafted Sounds put together for Gaadge, aside from the few classics, I was mostly like, "Uh... who?" So, if a grumpy old dude like me who grew up listening to heavy metal falls in love with your new album and is like, "Damn, I want to dig into the record collection that helped lead down the winding path to this," what are a handful of key albums that you'd recommend?
The first thing I always suggest is an album called They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons (an absolute mouthful), by a band called Swirlies. Especially dive into the song "San Cristobal de las Casas." That track alone hits so many highs and lows and goes really, really hard right from the get-go. I'll rehash the band Lilys, too, and mention their album Eccsame the Photon Band, which is just swirling and beautiful. There's a band called Technicolor Teeth with a good album called Teenage Pagans. Duster's Stratosphere is a must. Definitely the Unicorn's Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? Anything by Guided by Voices. Anything by My Bloody Valentine, specifically some of their singles and deeper cuts. I have a bootleg pressing of their Lost Tracks and Rare Cuts, and that's an essential album for me. I could go on for days about influences, because I try and include everything I hear into what I make, but those are some important starting points.