I was lucky enough to stumble upon Gulfer recently. They're a Montreal-based band that is keeping math/emo rock fresh. The most important thing about Gulfer is that they're honest. From the outside in, Gulfer seems to embrace mid-late 00's math and emo heartily, and because of that they're nostalgic. Maybe nostalgic isn't the right word. More like a revival. Gulfer hasn't taken the formula of the genres that influenced them and decided to be another anonymous math rock band that's complicated just to be complicated. I think Gulfer is rather carrying the torch of great bands before them, and crafting a new sound for the genre, and keeping it relevant. We'll have to wait for the release of their new LP to find out where they're taking us. Anyway, enough from me. David from Gulfer stopped by the Townhouse to give his two cents on the matter. Enjoy!
David My name is David! I play bass and sing occasionally. Vincent plays guitar, and sings, and writes the songs. Joey and Julien are the newest members of the band and play guitar and drums respectively.
EJ What have you guys have been listening to lately?
D Collectively we've been stoked on new releases from Hovvdy, Jank, Tiny Moving Parts, Horse Jumper of Love and Frameworks. Personally I've been listening to Fraternal Twin, ASC, Kiyoko, Sales, Weatherbox, Viva Belgrado, Deer Leap...I could go on forever.
EJ Anybody you recommend I put on the ol' radar?
D All the bands we're touring with! Alaska are a super talented, young prog-emo band from Las Vegas that are really mind-blowing. I Love Your Lifestyle from Sweden are reinventing that riffy emo-punk sound and are the nicest coolest people. Vasudeva, Pipedream, Bayone...all those bands.
EJ Awesome. Musical heroes of yours?
D It's hard to speak for the band but personally I would say Sigur Ros, The Smiths, Coheed and Cambria, Burial, The Mercury Program, Aphex Twin, Colossal, Do Make Say Think...but I'm probably the only person in the band who cares about any of those groups!
EJ That's a great list, though. Speaking of the band. How long have you guys been Gulfer?
D We formed at the end of 2011. We've had a few lineup changes since then, growing to a four piece in 2013, and then switching out two members this year. So Vincent and I are the only original members.
EJ You're members of some other bands as well, right?
D Yup! Vincent and Julien have another math-rock band called Golden Python, Vincent has a slacker-punk band called Stevenson that I just started playing bass in. Julien has a crazy math-metal band called Bisbaye. I have an electronic project called Bas Relief, I play in my friend Andy's band Commander Clark Group, and my old band Names is starting to write again. Joey used to play in Quaaludes.
EJ Wow. Ya'll are busy. Did somebody misspell golfer one time and thought it was a good band name?
D Pretty much. We were really frustrated and couldn’t come up with a band name so we started joking around and I threw out the word Golfing, which became Golfer, which became Gulfer. We were looking for a short, memorable, unique name and it stuck.
EJ Who helped shape Gulfer's sound?
D I attribute it to a combination of UK groups like Colour, TTNG, and Tubelord, Sargent House stuff like Tera Melos and Maps and Atlases, and USA riff-emo like Algernon Cadwallader. Basically everything that was popular in 2012.
EJ TTNG'S new record is pretty rad isn't it? I've read you guys like them. That's who led me to Gulfer.
D It’s awesome! I can’t wait to see them in a giant festival setting on their home turf, that will be such a fulfilling experience after having been obsessed with them for a decade now.
EJ So what's the weather like in Montreal? There's a reason I ask. We'll get to that later.
D It is raining pretty torrentially as I write this but generally the summer has been pretty good. Of course it gets super heavy and gloomy and cold in the winter.
EJ Hmm. Anyway, how do you guys feel about the term math rock? Is there a collective hatred for the definition as I find other bands have? Seems to be a touchy subject.
D We are pretty cool about it. I guess we don’t fit in 100% to the math-rock paradigm because we have some pretty poppy parts and we sing a lot. So it’s only one aspect of our sound, but one we definitely identify with. It’s the only genre of music I haven’t gotten sick of and find consistently interesting. I totally understand why people don’t like the term, or genre names in general, but I think it acts as an important frame of reference and perhaps as a vehicle for people to discover lesser known bands.
EJ I haven't really heard anybody express that view on it yet. I like it. A YouTube commenter on one of your videos said they wish you guys could be their math teachers you're so good at math. Are you guys good at math?
D I am awful at math, dunno about Vince or Julien but Joey is a neuroscientist so he can probably solve a bunch of math problems on our behalf.
EJ Haha I would imagine he could. And what about the 'emo' classification? I've never really liked the term myself...I don't think it conjures up the correct associations with a lot of bands' music. I'm not sure I even understand it. What is emo music to Gulfer?
D I guess when the band started we got really into the emo-revival scene. Bands like Prawn, Brave Bird and You Blew It! were and still are huge influences, and bands like American Football, Empire! Empire!, Colossal and Castevet have been really important to me for many years. We wanted to take that sound and fuze it with the math-rock sound that we’d loved since we were teenagers. It was also our attempt to fit into a community that we didn’t have much of a reputation or connection to.
EJ Is it an accurate definition of your sound?
D I think it is, but at the same time I kind of regret classifying ourselves that way. Ideally we should have let the music speak for itself, and not be so fixated on genres and scenes. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.
EJ Does it even matter?
D I think it does, but that is probably because I think about this stuff way too much haha. But at the end of the day I think our preferred designation would be math-pop.
EJ Somebody's gotta do the thinking! Anyway, back to the weather. I see your music as really bright and optimistic, in the way of TTNG or Enemies. Like those bands, Gulfer doesn't seem to match what I picture the weather to be like in Montreal. Is that true?
D I mean it is super gorgeous in the summer here! So maybe not. It depends on the time of year I guess! It also comes through in our lyrics, like Freal for Real is basically all about how horrible the winters are here.
EJ That leads me to this question: what is truth? Jk. Or answer if you'd like…
D Cigarettes are simultaneously dangerous and healthy.
So you mentioned Maps & Atlases in another interview. How do y'all feel about the change in their sound over the years? I think it actually says a lot about the state of music (maybe it will always be this way and always has) where to 'break' a band has to compromise some of the sound that made them great in the first place. I always find it odd when bands do that. Would Gulfer ever change its sound to ‘break'?
D I don’t really like the more recent Maps & Atlases releases but I’m happy you brought this up because I haven’t listened to them in a while and I’m gonna check them out again! I think our tastes and all change and develop and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to any particular sound for any reason. I think lately we’ve been influenced by a lot more straightforward songwriting and I think we’ve begun incorporating that into our sound. But it’s not calculated by any means, just a reflection of what we’ve been influenced by lately!
EJ Are you guys hopeful for music? People have strong feelings about the internet and music. I for one might've never found out about you guys had it not been for the internet, and I've been in contact with some of my favorite bands thanks to the internet.
D I am so hopeful for music. It is a wonderful time to be involved with music, almost exclusively because of the internet. I don’t think there has been a better time for small-scale, DIY, niche music to flourish.
EJ In the interview I mentioned above, you also talk about the importance of an honest sound in your music. That's actually what led me to contact you guys. Honesty was the first word that came to mind listening to you. What are some of the things you're trying to get across in your music? Thematically, emotionally, sonically?
D Well we are just writing and playing the music we wanna play. So I think the most important element of our music is showcasing what we hope is a sound completely unique to our band. Other than that, we are just trying to have fun, be positive and be funny in our own way. And of course we want to impress people with our shredding.
EJ Shredding is most important. What would you guys be doing if you weren't playing music?
D I would still be involved with music in some capacity, working as a promoter or booking agent. Julien works at a bike shop so maybe he would be doing that more full time. Joey is a scientist of course so he basically does that full time already. And Vincent would be a daddy professionally. Stay at home daddy.
EJ And you just got signed, correct? Working on new material?
D We did and it is the greatest thing that ever happened to us. Seriously. BSM saved us from breaking up. So ya! We are working on a full length for them. We have 5 songs written. Hope to write the rest after tour and record it this winter.
EJ Any hints as to where your sound might be headed?
D Simpler, more simple-punk parts, and more of an indie rock influence. I think there are parts that sound really disjointed, kinda like that band Palm, but also super pop-punk at the same time.
EJ Awesome. Anything else you care to say that I've missed?
D More touring bands should come to Montreal, it is beautiful here!
EJ Great weather I hear haha! Anything to promote in closing?
D We are touring Europe ! Our first LP What Gives is being pressed on vinyl and should be available soon. Check out our other bands - Golden Python, Stevenson, Bas Relief and Bisbaye!
EJ Well I've got some heavy listening to do! I really appreciate you stopping by the Townhouse.
D Thanks for having us!
You can find Gulfer on their bandcamp, and be on the lookout for the release of their debut LP with Big Scary Monsters.