Gengahr are the North London four piece rising through the ranks, taking on Glastonbury, touring the world and getting dressed up by Converse for festival season.
Gengahr are racing up the ranks of rock and roll stardom, so fast you might have missed it. Touring world wide, writing and recording an album its been a whirlwind ride that the North London four piece are taking in their stride. Their music is uplifting, easy to listen to and damn right infectious, whilst their honest lyrics, soothing vocals and addictive guitar hooks promise longevity.
This festival season Converse have partnered with these laid back boys for, because nothing says rock n roll chic quite like a well used pair high tops, does it? Converse have always pioneered and supported individuality and talent, which is why its no surprise they teamed up this summer.
Charmingly humble with a great attitude, we chat to the boys about their music, their style and their success so far.
Did you all say from the start, “we’re going to take this seriously, this is what we want to do” or did you get to a certain point where you thought “okay, let’s do it, lets get a career out of it?”
I think it’s changed, right at the beginning when we’re were very young like 13/14, I think we probably had a similar attitude to what we do now, saw this as the kind of thing we could do, but as you get slightly older things get a bit harder and life becomes a bit more real I think you kind of your belief does waver at times. Yeah I think really the point that changed for us was probably the realisation that if we don’t do this now and properly take it really seriously there won’t be another time to do it, everyone will have to go off and get proper jobs. I think it felt a little bit to us like the last big chance to do it and do it properly.
Does it ever feel like a real job, do you ever have days when you think “I don’t want to go to the studio, I don’t want to play that show?”
No, not really, I mean just before you jumped on we kind of joking about, we had to get up at 2:30am for a flight and then you sit in an airport for five hours and at times you kind of think that sucks but at the same time it’s not really something you can complain about. None of your friends are really going to sympathise with you. All we do is do stuff we want to do, make music and make art and that’s the dream really isn’t it. Definitely no complaints from us at the moment.
Good definitely, you’ve got the best job in the world!
We do, we definitely do.
What was the point where you all noticed you were getting more and more attention and everything was really happening for you?
Well it started after we put stuff on Soundcloud, after the point which we did our first actual demos, we went and recorded them and then that was a time when we weren’t fully just doing the band, everyone had jobs. Dan and John were playing in other bands as well at the same time, and Hugh and I were both studying and working, so it was juggling a few things we didn’t have anything like the focus we have now, I think after putting the songs online we didn’t really know what to expect, it wasn’t like “oh yeah these are great, everyone is going to love this!” We just left them on Soundcloud and then checked up on it a few months later. A whole load of blogs started saying that they liked it, off the back of that as well we were chucked into the BBC Introducing stuff and I think we submitted our own songs but there was no response to it until there was this appreciation on the blogs and that really picked up and we ended up being played on Radio 1. That was the seal of approval I think and made us think, “we’ve got something here and we can probably make it work if we try hard enough.”
Did you ever see yourselves becoming as big as you have so quickly?
No I don’t think so, I mean we’re pretty level headed. As far as bands go, we’re probably fairly humble. Our aspirations were never really to get big, that’s not what we wanted to do, we wanted to make good albums and be a band that we, ourselves, would like I think that’s something that remained really important to us, you know it’s not really about trying to get famous or get big it’s just trying to make good music really and that’s our goal.
Definitely the right attitude to have, so now that you’re successful band, is it everything that you imagined it to be, you must have had daydreams about success, is this how you’d imagine it to be?
Yeah I guess so, I mean I don’t know really to be honest. I try not to dwell on it too much, there is always so much happening and so much to look forward to and even in a real immediate sense, there is always a show that’s just a couple of days away. There is always so much room for improvement, that’s what I try and focus on rather than anything else because I think it’s a good way to keep your work ethic up and not get distracted by everything else that happens around you.
What has been you’re highlight so far of being in the band?
That’s hard as well, there have been so many good ones recently. I mean maybe it might be America because that was a first for me to start there and to play there as a band that was kind of a really big thing, I think that was something that I had long given up hope on so yeah that was really special, we had such a good time out there and it was just nice to see that there were people that far away from us knew the songs and wanted to come and see us. So that might be my highlight. But then again maybe playing the O2 arena was pretty nuts as well.
What about Glastonbury though, is that not everything?
Glastonbury was a really fun one, obviously we played it the first time, that felt really bizarre, getting to the Introducing Stage is kind of like winning a competition in a way ’cause you feel like you’re a prize winner, you get to go and play Glastonbury but this time when we got to go down to the John Peel Stage it felt very real, it was a whole different feeling. It felt like we kind of earned our place there, you know we got an album out and people liked it and thats why we got to go back. It was more special this time and it is the biggest festival in the world, it is crazy to get to invited back, we definitely didn’t expect to be invited back this year it was a real pleasant surprise for us.
To play at Glastonbury is such an amazing thing but do you have any other milestones that you really want to reach?
For us it’s focused on making albums so I think even when we started out and when we were first signed there was talks about “Do you want to do an EP?” and we were like, “No definitely not we want to do a debut album, it feels right,” thats’ where we focus our attention really on making albums and I want to make as many consistent albums as possible and try and focus on our musical output, that’s where I’ll judge our success later on, how many good albums we put together.
So actually making the album was that an easy process or did it take quite a long time, did you ever think you weren’t going to finish it?
It was fairly straightforward for us, the way we write music, a lot of its done in rehearsal so by the time we come to recording, there’s not really all that much we need to think about ’cause everybody sits down, plug in, we just record until we get a take we’re happy with and then just drop some vocals and guitar over the top so it’s a really physical process. We felt like we had pretty much half of the record written before anyone had heard of us, so that took a lot of pressure off. We knew we only needed to write five or six songs throughout the whole time anybody knew us so that made life a bit easier for us.
Yeah so kind of did it half and half?
Yeah because we were touring so much in the first year, we were lucky to be booked for so many shows, it was really just a case of whenever we got home, we either kind of write something new or we’d book a couple of days in the studio so it was short three day bursts every time we went back in it felt exciting, and then we went back to playing shows, nothing really got too stressful, I think the fact it was all broken up really quite enjoyable the whole way.
Sounds like you’ve done it with a sensible formula, when you were recording how much did you think about the live performance and has it been easy to translate the record into a live show?
I think we don’t really worry about trying to match them up at all to be honest, we treat them as two different things, which is quite nice in a way that you get something different when you come to the live show. If you wanted it to be exactly like the record you could just go play it at home. We play slightly heavier and it’s more thrashy live and probably more dynamic than on the recordings. We definitely think quite closely about how we’re going to make the show dynamic and the songs, it’s not just a case of taking one of our slow songs and rocking it out. We had a lot of people say it’s varied from live but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, we’re just trying to make both equally good and a bit different you know.
Saying you’ve played a lot of shows and done a lot of touring, have you found yourself any die hard fans yet?
Yeah, it’s slowly but surely happening. There are definitely a few cropping up. You get to learn their names quite quickly which I find bizarre, and I know these people now and it feels very strange.
Do you enjoy the whole process of packing your life up into one bag and going everywhere on tour or do you find it quite hard to adjust?
No I like it, to be honest. I like travelling it’s something I never really did as a teenager. I always had jobs I never really did the whole backpacking thing, I was waiting for something like this to happen when I get to do it in my own way so I love it. I get to see new places all the time and its a nice change of pace I think, you know.
I imagine touring to be a lot better than backpacking! It seems more important to everyone now how you present yourself, your art work or your clothing, it has to count for something, how important is it to you to have a look that matches your sound?
To be honest, it’s not something we’re that concerned about. I mean everyone wants to look good to a certain point but I think we’re as far as bands go I think we’re probably not particular style conscious, I think we have are own style and you know it may be more a slacker nature than anything else, we’re certainly not a glam band. I think its something we’re slowly learning the importance of. We were probably slightly scared of it in the beginning but we’re warming to it as we get a bit more confident.
We know you’re all fans of Converse! What do you like about the brand?
I’ve always seen Converse as alternative and that’s why I wear them. I like the lifespan of the shoes and with age they develop their own identity.
Now you’re getting more concerned with the fashion side of things, give us some tips, what do you wear your Converse with?
I could just as easily wear my Chucks with a suit or jeans and a t-shirt.