Katie Costello, Music Editor, talked to Gengahr frontman Felix Busche ahead of the release of their debut album on the 15th June, about the bands mystical sound, playing festivals and Pokémon.
You played Glastonbury with BBC introducing. What was that experience like?
That was the first festival we’d ever played and it came off the back of Huw Stevens playing our record on Radio 1. We didn’t really have any expectations, we didn’t know what we were doing. We just recorded some tracks and put them on soundcloud. When we found out we were being played on Radio 1 and that we were going to play the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury, we were kind of shocked and overwhelmed by it all. It’s probably not the best show we’d ever played in our lives but it was an amazing experience. We played before Bombay Bicycle Club so we ended up playing a completely packed tent, so as far as first festival experiences go, it was pretty immense.
You’re playing a lot of major festivals again this summer, both here and abroad. What are you looking forward to this year?
It’s going to be a bit different this time round because we won’t be doing the bottom level slots, we’re being billed now as slightly more than the introductory acts. There’s more pressure on us now because you’re expecting some people to know who you are already, whereas the first time round we were going there just trying to win people over and do your best to play your songs and hope the people who are there like what you’re doing. This time it will be harder, it will be more like we’re doing a job.
You’ve supported some really good bands like Wolf Alice, Alt-J, Circa Waves and the Maccabees. Did you enjoy following these bands and did you learn anything from them?
When you get to play with bands who are doing really well themselves, you really challenge yourself to see if you can get to a similar level. It’s really aspirational doing support tours because you’re watching other bands. It’s their show, you’re really just a guest, you don’t have any fans, no one knows who you are. You’re really there trying to capture the audience and trying to steal away as many fans as you can. We’re very accustomed to coming against a cold crowd and trying to win them over. But we’ve been very lucky. We’ve supported a lot of bands which are similar to us, especially when we did the Alt-J tour, the kind of people that come to listen to a band like Alt-J are very open minded sow we get a really good response from those guys. But to be fair we haven’t really had any bad ones, so it’s been great.
What are you looking forward to most about having your own headlining tour next year?
It’s a really different experience. People are just turning up to see your band and that’s not something we’re really used to. It’s much more fun than doing the support tours. It’s a real buzz, especially seeing people who already know the songs and are singing along. Then the job really becomes trying not to get too carried away and to play to the best of your ability. It can be a bit of a whirlwind. You can get a bit taken aback when you see people who know the music. For us it’s still a very new, fresh thing. It’s a whole new added pressure because you realise people have bought a ticket to come see you and you don’t want to let them down. With all the fun that will come with it I’m sure we’ll be a lot more nervous than we would be before a support show. There’s a lot more to lose I guess.
You have a pretty distinct mystical sound. How did you develop that?
It’s all a process really. You don’t start with anything how you finish it with music. It’s been a process of experimentation with a lot of it. And the change in our sound is a product of us all growing up a bit. We all played in heavier, thrashier bands in our early teens. We’ve all matured a bit and our tastes are all slightly different now. We try and write music. There’s a difference between writing songs and writing music. We’ve always written songs but now we write music as well. We’ve all got more into the production side of things. We’re concerned by how each instrument sounds and what job it does in each track. These are all pretty new experiences for us in the last few years. Prior to that we all played in guitar bands. You’d turn up to the studios, have a few beers, thrash around for a bit, knock a song out and then you’re done, but now it’s much more of a labour of love for us. We’re checking that each instrument sounds
Did you have any bands that particularly influenced you?
I normally divide it between more contemporary bands and more old stuff. When I was younger I was aspiring to Lou Reed and David Bowie, I was always in awe of how they constructed their lyrics and songs. More contemporary, and more sonically, with how we recorded the album, bands like Twin Sister, Deerhunter, Ariel Pigs, Underwater Orchestra Tame Impala, the more left-field interesting guitar bands that are trying to do something slightly different to the garage-things we became used to through the 90s and the early 00s and perhaps the classic indie stuff that was happening in the UK. I think we were looking more at bands in the States and Australia because they had a slightly more interesting take on guitar music. There weren’t that many local influences in making the record, we were trying to branch out. The bands that were coming out of America had something we really enjoyed at the time.
Where does the name Gengahr come from? Does it mean something?
No, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a really stupid thing. We were initially called something else but we had to change our name because there was this female rapper from Brooklyn who said we had the same name as her. It was a really frustrating position because we had just started to book shows and we had to change our name or we’d have to a really long drawn-out law suit with someone from another continent. So we decided to pack it in and change the name. We sat down and tried to think of band names for ages and everything we came up with sounded super pretentious and irritating, so in the end we decided to cut our loses and pick our favourite Pokémon and as a joke, it kind of stuck. So we picked Gengahr. We thought it sounded pretty cool. You either knew it’s a reference to something from our childhood or you don’t know it and it doesn’t really matter. It’s probably not the smartest thing we’ve ever done it just seems to sit now. It doesn’t bother me so much, but it’s quite a silly thing.
Now everyone thinks we’re massive Pokémon geeks but were not really that kind of nerdy. It’s probably the persona we’ve given ourselves for whatever reason. It is a ghost Pokémon so it does seem to make sense in sort of way.
Gengahr’s debut album A Dream Outside is released tomorrow, find it here.
Katie Costello, Music Editor