Photograph by: Michael J. Fox
Gang Gang Dance‘s Brian DeGraw has announced a new solo album for 4AD, SUM/ONE.
Due out on December 2 under the name bEEdEEgEE, it finds DeGraw collaborating with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Gang Gang Dance’s Lizzi Bougatsos, CSS’s Lovefoxxx and more. It’s not the first time DeGraw has strayed from Gang Gang Dance: he’s remixed Hot Chip as a solo artist, and released a short-run vinyl soundtrack to art film Sonic the Warhol. As he told FACT, however, he very much sees SUM/ONE as the start of his solo career. You can stream the first track from the record, ‘Bricks’, below.
You’ve released solo music before, but this is the start of the bEEdEEgEE project. Why did you decide to start using the new name, and what distinguishes SUM/ONE from your past solo work?
Well, BDG has been how I refer to myself since a very young age. As early as the first grade I was signing my drawings as it, so it’s a name that has always been there, and a lot of my friends refer to me as BDG as well. So I just wanted to keep it simple. I added the EEs as a way to add some form of symmetry and repetition to it. I like the idea of names that can evolve into something else and letters that lend themselves to graphic patterns… maybe in the future it will just be EE EE EE.
My past solo work is far from vast so it’s difficult to even make comparisons. When I think of solo things I’ve done before I usually only think of an LP that was released as a soundtrack to the Oliver Payne and Nick Relph film Sonic the Warhol. That record was about 80% improvised. This one was tracked more piece by piece and I made some attempts at pop-ish type things, which I haven’t done much of in the past.
None of the record started as Gang Gang Dance sketches, it was all made on my own time and in a space of my brain that was completely isolated from GGD. I think the musical difference is pretty extreme because with this record I used a lot of it as an opportunity to try things that were less natural to me… new approaches that I thought I could benefit from exploring.
A lot of the record feels like a learning experience to me. It was very much about just giving myself some time to learn recording and mixing techniques and exercising sensibilities that were lodged somewhere within my mind, untouched. So I think it’s very different from GGD. The music i make with GGD is all about channeling some mysterious energy… in that process I feel I act as more of a medium between that energy and the outside world. The approach to SUM/ONE was more direct. Concrete as opposed to fog.
Are there particular themes, or ideas, that bind these songs together? Topics that you kept coming back to, for instance?
No. If anything I would say its the complete opposite. I let myself be at the mercy of the direction that each song took, knowing full well that a lot of the songs were in harsh contrast to one another… but that was part of my letting go. I wanted to allow myself to make whatever struck me at the moment without being overly concerned about a common thread or a unified aesthetic. When I DJ I do a lot of genre jumping and I always enjoy finding a way to have drastically different vibes merge and melt together through mixing, so i kind of wanted to treat this record like that. As if someone handed me a bunch of random songs and told me to make a mix CD of them.
How did the collaborations on the record come about?
The only collaborative aspect of the record are the vocals, and they are all people whom I admire as friends and individuals who also happen to have great unique singing voices. Everyone on there is my close friend and my instincts seemed to just naturally lead me to them when I thought of having any vocal stuff. I don’t have much experience with collaborating with vocalists in the sense of me making a track and then passing it off to someone to do vocals, so again, it’s a very new and unexplored territory for me that I wanted to open myself up to. Everyone had a slightly different way of going about it though I suppose, it wasn’t all just handing off tracks. I guess with Douglas Armour (‘Empty Vases’) and Lovefoxxx (‘Flowers’) that was more the case, but with Lizzi she just came to my studio and improvised over stuff I was playing live and looping and then i went back through it and found a few nice loops and structured the song around that… treating it more like a sample than a lead vocal. With Alexis I asked him to send me an acapella with nothing else, so that I had no point of reference as to how the vocal was intended or what it was meant to “belong” to.
What’s the significance of the title beyond, obviously, it sounding like Someone?
It is some sort of reflection of the past year for me, which has been largely about very major changes in my life. In 2013 when it rained it poured, and it has been both extremely confusing and enlightening for me. I spent the majority of it in relative solitude, on top of a mountain in Woodstock, trying to sift through all these changes that were happening to me… things in my life were falling apart, new things were coming together, my mind and body were reacting in crazy ways.
I think throughout this a lot of what I ended up thinking about was the whole idea of the Earth as a singular organism, with every living thing that inhabits the planet being just one of its cells, so there was a lot of zooming out going on… lots of looking at myself and others from the point of view of outer space rather then the more programmed way we look at ourselves and one another, always in close range and always consumed by the drama of our interactions. So maybe I ended up coming to terms with this zooming out and embracing the idea that to really understand ourselves, to be a true “someone” , we have to understand that we cant be one without contributing to the some, and the sum also cant exist without being comprised of all the ones. It’s a Mobius strip of thought, but one with a very definitive answer buried somewhere within itself.
What’s the status of Gang Gang Dance at the moment? Is a new record in the pipeline?
Gang Gang has been blown apart for the past year due to several 2013 factors but we are just beginning to get back to it and to figure out how to approach the next record. All we know is that the writing approach is going to be extremely future or extremely past. We are either going to try to write in way that is completely unlike what we have done for our most recent record, or we are going to do a massive rewind and take it way back to the start and approach it with a completely improvised recklessness. Both are very appealing to us. Our next record could sound like Albert Ayler or it could sound like Madonna.
Like Rain Man
(F.U.T.D) Time Of Waste
Quantum Poet Riddim