Stokie quartet Gengahr are dreaming of a debut to remember
- Credit: Archant
The band’s singer Felix Bushe tells Alex Bellotti about lyric writing, telling fibbs to journalists and the troubles of being named after Pokemon.
Much like indie heavyweights The Arctic Monkeys and Bombay Bicycle Club, Gengahr follow in the fine tradition of talented bands with silly names.
The East London four piece met at Stoke Newington School and, after dabbling in other musical projects, formed in late 2013 under the name RES. As fans began to fall for their melancholic brand of falsetto guitar pop, a sudden legal threat from a Brooklyn rapper saw them rush down the pub to think of a name in two days – eventually discarding “pretentious” suggestions to pay tribute to their favourite Pokémon character.
“I don’t think we thought it through because now we’re constantly being asked about Pokémon,” admits lyricist and lead singer Felix Bushe. “The logic was that if you knew what it was you’d think it was funny and if you didn’t know, then it wouldn’t matter, but it is a bit stupid.”
Fortunately, the early output of Gengahr is promising enough to take centre stage, and on June 15 their debut album, A Dream Outside, will be released on Transgressive Records. Their new single, Heroine, is their most ambitious to date; MGMT-esque verse and chorus melodies builds steadily, before bursting into the sort of monstrous guitar section previously favoured by the likes of Johnny Greenwood.
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Underpinning it all is the yearning, gothic wordplay of 25-year-old Bushe, and the Stoke Newington resident reveals that his distinctive lyrics stems from his love of films.
“I was pretty dyslexic at school and I always struggled with the idea of sitting down and finishing books, but I could always write. I’m better at writing than I am at reading.
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“I spent much more watching films and building storylines and plots by learning from that sort of medium. That’s where I draw my inspiration from, so when I’m writing I generally think about things in a visual sense and how it will look when it’s put down on paper.”
Last year offered several breakthroughs for Gengahr; after finding music industry interest hard to come by, DJ Huw Stephens picked up their track Fill My Gums With Blood out of the blue and played it on his late night show.
That led to offers for festival shows, support from the BBC and eventually offers from record labels. Having initially claimed they were from North Dakota on their website, the band were reticent to give too much away about themselves and at first cultivated a “kind of mystery”.
“People come to their own conclusions when you do that so it worked really well. It frustrated some people – I think a lot of journalists felt a little cheated when they’d been basically saying things that weren’t true about us for ages. For us, we just didn’t really think it mattered and didn’t see why we had to be honest.”
Having worked with management companies in other bands, Bushe was aware of the perils of being pushed to make more ‘commercial’ music. The secret of Gengahr’s rise, he suggests, is staying true to their own vision.
“Once we started to love what we were doing again, other people did. I think that’s a very simple but true fact in music. You have to believe in what you’re doing because people can sniff out when something’s fake very quickly.”
Gengahr’s debut record, A Dream Outside, is out on June 15.