Words/Interview by Emily Hollitt – AKA – Malina Claire
Admittedly, Gordi is one of those artists I had heard a lot about and appreciated, yet never fully delved in to. However, once I heard about her newest ‘Our Two Skins’ and the stories weaved in to it, I couldn’t help but immerse myself completely in to the music, in to her world and in to her mind. “Do you feel yourself unravelling?” she begins in the record’s opening track Aeroplane Bathroom, remaining a consistent theme throughout. Detailing an isolating trip to Europe while her life was full of endings; finishing her degree and a safe, long-term relationship, she explores her anxieties with where here life is headed. Most prominently, she explores her newfound love and how this caused an internal battle as she learned to come to terms with the shame and guilt that comes with discovering you land differently on the spectrum of sexuality than you thought you would. The record also deals with grief, beautifully summarising the loss of her Grandmother in rock ballad Sandwiches and going through her experiences with anxiety in tracks like Radiator and Volcanic.
The record plays out like a movie- the imagery she conveys throughout so strong, you feel like you are on the journey with her. Closing much like the way it opens, the album is produced in a way that it intentionally loops- you can go on this journey with Gordi many times and discover something new, whether it be in your music or within yourself. The striking vulnerability of the album captivated me and I just had to pick her brain and find out more about who she is, the stories behind the songs and how this emotional record was produced. Luckily, she had a spare moment of her time to share…
To start, your new album ‘Our Two Skins’ comes out today! Tell us a little bit about it and what it means to you?
“…The title ‘Our Two Skins’ can mean a few different things like, a kind of intimacy you can have with somebody… it talks about loss as in when someone close to you dies and you lose that kind of skin-to-skin contact and I guess it also means skins as another sort of word for identities… so, the different things that make up who you are and how those kind of things can change or stay the same over time.”
As you said, the stories and meanings behind the songs were incredibly emotional. Do you find song writing about this stuff to be therapeutic experience for you or that songwriting is a detrimental part of processing these emotions?
“Yeah, it’s incredibly therapeutic. I’ve been writing songs since the age of 13 to process thoughts and …. sometimes when you process them you don’t even realise what they are until you’ve written the words. And, I guess you could say, a good example of this would be Aeroplane Bathroom, the first track for this record, where writing was literally the way I pulled myself out of a, you know, really dark place. And that’s the same for a lot of songs on this record. Another song Volcanic kind of analyses that feeling of panic or an anxiety attack and I think sometimes it’s not until I write about something that I can hold it away from myself and examine it and think I’ve got a bit more control over that feeling.”
And do you find that it’s important for listeners to listen to these songs and find something to connect with?
“Yeah absolutely! I think that’s the purpose in writing for me and it has been pretty amazing in the past few months. Like, with Sandwiches which I wrote about losing my Grandmother to Aeroplane Bathroom and Volcanic which is sort of about anxiety, like, people are reaching out and sending me messages saying like “This totally captures how I’m feeling” or “I’ve never really had the words to express all those thoughts I’ve had and now I’ve finally found them through this song.”. It doesn’t get much more affirming than that!”
Wow, that’s amazing. With the deep emotion of your songs, when I was listening I found your vocals really captured those feelings well. Do you find, particularly in a studio, to capture these emotions, that it is a difficult or an easy thing to do for you?
“Yeah, it’s a really difficult thing to the point where most of the vocals on this album where the demo vocals because I would try to re-create these emotions in the studio and sometimes I could but, sometimes I just couldn’t. And, I think the demo vocals are for like Aeroplane Bathroom and Sandwiches and, uhhh, I think even Volcanic, and these vocals I kind of did, you know, on a cheap mic for the demo that was like a kind of blueprint for the record to make the process a little easier. But, sometimes we’d get in to the studio and I’d spend a couple of hours trying to re-create that vocal and Chris and Zack who I made the record with were like “Man, we’re kind of wasting out time with this. The original vocal has so much feeling in it”. I think, in making this record, that was what took priority over everything- over audio or perfect quality; we wanted to capture the perfect feeling. And sometimes, it was already there.”
The sounds on the album are super atmospheric but it’s got other elements as well. What kind of artists and sounds inspired this record? And what artists and sounds shape your music?
“Yeah! I think going in to the process I was listening to a lot of records that are, you know, amazing records start to finish like ‘Are We There?’ by Sharon Van Etten or ‘The Trouble Will Find Me’ by The National or another great Swedish artist named Amanda Bergman who I was listening to a lot. In terms of, like, sound design development, a record that I’ve loved for the past couple of years is the debut record by serpentwithfeet and there’s just a lot of like, you know, amazing, quirky sounds like “I don’t even know what that is or how they would have made that” and I wanted so many of those moments on this record. So that’s why I chose Chris and Zach to work with because I don’t know anyone better at creating that stuff. So, the three of us would walk ‘round with a field recorder and bang stuff and clang stuff and take it back in to the studio, plug it back in to the Vox and plug pedals in and sort of, like mess around with it. A big underlying principle of this record from an audio perspective was re-amping, so taking a recording of something we had from say, a demo or something we already had and, live in the studio, seeing how we could make it as textured and interesting as possible. So we’d run it through different speakers and re-record it or through a tape machine and re-record it or run it through a cassette and re-record it so you’d get all those little, like, intersections which was something we were all striving to find.”
Hell yeah! That would have been fun!
“Haha, yeah! It was!”
In your album, you talked about going off on a really isolated trip to Europe. What were the most important or confronting things you learnt from that trip?
“Yeah, I think that was what, hopefully, will be the worst time of my life. I felt so lonely and isolated. I was on a tour bus with like 13 men who spoke limited English and I was coming to terms with all these new things in my life. At 25 I was confronted with the spectrum of sexuality that I’ve never really thought about before. I was confronted with it because someone new had entered my life, I was falling love and, you know, I felt a lot of shame and I was really scared. I had all these feelings and my brain was telling me like “This is stupid! Why are you feeling this way?” and it was like, all through my body and I felt really low. And I sort of couldn’t talk to anybody about it so I channelled it all into this record and I wrote a large portion of it in these two months… I’d like to say I’d learnt all this in those 2 months but it probably took a little bit longer but, at least, I started the process then. But, who you are doesn’t dramatically change because of who you like or because of how you identify as from sexuality to gender to whatever it is. You always feel like those things should change who you are but ultimately you are who you are and you decide that and the voices of other people that you’re scared of don’t matter.”
Wow, thanks for sharing that! On a lighter note, I see you’ve appeared in many different places that are goals for musicians like: KEXP, NPR Tiny Desk, Like a Version and supported lots of big artists like Bon Iver (who I saw you went on Jimmy Fallon with, oh my God!) etc. Congrats! What do you think is the highlight of your career or a point where you’ve thought “Oh crap! I’ve made it now!”?
“I’m still waiting for that point to be honest! But in terms of a career highlight, I mean, the Jimmy Fallon thing would be up there! I think, probably, getting up on stage with Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner and the lead singer of Arcade Fire and, you know, singing with Justin and Aaron’s band Big Red Machine at the Eaux Claires Festival. Or, we did it again in Berlin a couple of months later but, looking out in to this crowd of people who are just absolutely hardcore music fans and they really buy in to the story and the magic of that kind of community of artists. And being up on stage on singing with those guys- I would have been in that crowd, and now I’m on stage! So that’s really been the career highlight I guess!”
You said that you feel you’re ‘still waiting for it.’ Do you think you success just feels like a natural progression or that you’re in such an open community that you don’t feel like anything’s that different? Or maybe even a little bit of imposter syndrome towards everything?
“I think it’s imposter syndrome probably. I just think, you know, when you’ve finally made it I just have no idea! Like, maybe when I sell out the main room of the Opera House I’ll be like “Okay, this is it!”. But, I think also it’s an aspect of keeping yourself motivated and thinking there’s always a next thing to achieve. That kind of keeps me going but it’s also important to take time and reflect and, I think the biggest thing I can really identify with is getting up on stage with my literal heroes and trying to do it in a nonchalant enough way that they’re like “Oh my gosh who is this get her off the stage!”.”
Just before your album came out I read you were also working on a strenuous medical degree? What were the biggest challenges in balancing your studies and your career? Because medical degrees are HUGE!
“I mean, it’s been incredibly challenging. While I was at uni I was kind of doing both [music and uni]. The university was very obliging and let me take, you know, an 8 week block off for touring and then I’d tack it on to the end of the degree. But… it was incredibly stressful, but, I think that you kind of just do what’s in front of you, you know? I think about people having, like, babies and having jobs and that seems like “How do you ever do that?” but I think once you just commit to whatever it is, you just execute it and you just do it. I was really determined to position myself in a way that I could have more choice and like, how I kind of made this record, but like I sort of wanted more choice in my life and more options. And I also have 2 passions; a passion for music and my passion is being a doctor and so I worked all of last year and now I’m switching back to music for a bit. And I think if you’re sort of in those early years it’s a damn logistical nightmare…. You don’t know where to position yourself in a way where you have access to a couple of careers, if that’s what you want, then it’s totally doable. You just need a good support system in place and you need to check in with yourself mentally every month or so. And sometimes I didn’t do that which resulted in me writing a heartfelt and sometimes depressing record!”
A very good heartfelt and depressing record! Do you think that both of your passions, because as you said a lot of stuff you speak about in your record you hope resonates with somebody, come from a place where you have a need to help others?
“Yeah, that’s an interesting question because I actually often feel that music and being an artist can wear me down because I do find it so inward looking? And talking about myself and posting photos of myself on social media and reading articles about myself and I’m looking at photos of myself and videos and I’m like “Oh, I’m so fatigues of myself.”. Whereas, with medicine, you’re literally in service of the person in front of you. But then, sort of conversely to that, I was thinking about this the other day, that you’re, you know, a doctor and you’re working in an ED sort of helping one person at a time and hopefully making a tangible improvement in their life. But, when you release a song, it instantly hits millions of people and maybe you don’t always see as tangibly how you’re helping those people in their life but, I think about the songs that I love and the music that I love and it’s gotten me through some really, really hard times. So, it’s interesting that, with music, even though it can feel sometimes that it’s so inward looking, it’s the fastest way to reach and to help a large number of people.”
With the current apocalypse we’re in, how do you think that affected your release process because I know in Australia we’re kind of coming out of it while the rest of the world really isn’t, but how did it affect your release and any other aspects of your career? And did you find any positives in the forced isolation period?
“I mean, yeah, it has been pretty rough you know? And proceeding with putting a record out… I guess, sometimes it can feel like “What’s the point?”. And sometimes it can feel like there’s such MASSIVE issues going on in the world that I think “Is this important?” or “Am I just adding to noise?”, “Should I just take my voice out of the equation so other voices on this issue can be heard?”. But I think that throughout history, arts and culture run alongside what is happening in the world and people can choose to dip in an dip out of it as they wish. And sometimes arts and culture comment on what’s going on and sometimes it doesn’t because sometimes people need to see music mirroring what’s happening in the world. But sometimes people need it as an escape and I think that is the main thing that’s come out of this pandemic for Australia is the social isolation and how that’s really affected a lot of people. And I spent a lot of time thinking “How does this record fit in to that landscape” and, you know, these songs were written about being isolated and being panicked and anxious and lonely and I think that provides solace to some people. Have I gotten anything else out of the pandemic? No haha. I’m very excited for it to be over! And I want to play live shows again!”
Did you lose a lot of shows, particularly touring your album, because of everything going on?
“Yes! I was supposed to do a tour with Of Monsters and Men in America and was supposed to be on tour with Bon Iver right now in Australia but that’s been pushed to next March. And then I was supposed to go back and do my headline US tour in July and back to Europe at the end of the year so, yeah, it really f*cked my whole year!”
I noticed your career has had a HUGE trajectory, and as you were saying, you’re supposed to be going around America with all these big names. I see you’ve built a lot of the steam off of triple j Unearthed. Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to find their place in the industry- anything that worked for you, anything that didn’t. Any bits of wisdom?
“I think something that’s really important as an emerging artist is to think about how you want to position yourself and that means looking at other artists that are further ahead of you or are your heroes or whatever it is that you want to be like.“I want to see myself in that community”or “I want to be like these artists”. In my opinion, it’s an interesting place to start and think “Okay, what are the steps I need to take myself there.” You know and “what are the sorts of labels I should look at?” and “what are the sorts of bands I should look at supporting?” or “What are the sort of venues I should look at playing at?”. Sometimes you can think the choices you make early on in your career don’t matter but they always do. And having a strong idea of who you are and the type of message you want to be putting out there, and sometimes that takes a while to develop and that’s okay! But once you have that, trying to make that seep into every aspect of your career from touring to merch to the kind of music you make and the kind of producers you work with or how you make records, because I think people that find success have a really sure identity that crosses all of those aspects.”
Finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“It was given to me by my Grandmother who passed at the end of 2018 and is a real inspiration for the record. She always used to say to me that “everything passes.”.”
Wow! That’s nice, a nice way to tie up your album as well!
“Yes, and hopefully pandemics will pass too!”
‘Out Two Skins’ is available NOW via Liberation Records on all platforms.
You can purchase/stream/listen to the record HERE
You can also read Emily’s album review of ‘Our Two Skins’ HERE
With thanks to Mushroom + Liberation Records