Gang Gang Dance is a band with a sound that’s hard to describe. They’ve been labeled “avant-garde,” “experimental,” “innovative,” and everything in between. While those descriptions are all accurate to some degree, we prefer to think of them as an amazing band that continues to grow and surprise us after ten years of playing music together. They’ve carved a distinctive niche for themselves in the New York music scene and acquired a loyal international following as well. Their music relies heavily on both electronic and traditional instruments played in non-traditional way, and their live shows have become particularly infamous. It has led them to play shows with the likes of Sonic Youth, Animal Collective, Spank Rock, and TV on the Radio throughout their career. Though busy recording their new record (their fifth), they agreed to sit down and let us pick their brains about the bands early beginnings, how they like to define their sound, and the future of Gang Gang Dance.
The Creators Project: Please introduce yourselves and tell us what you play in the band.
Liz Bougatsos: I’m the singer for Gang Gang Dance. Sometimes people call me Blizza because it’s like an emotional blizzard when we’re on stage. It’s like a cool catastrophe.
Brian Degraw: I play the synthesizers and percussion and do some vocals and effects.
Josh Diamond: I play sounds through my guitar.
How did you guys first meet?
LB: There is this café in New York called the Pink Pony where a lot of avant-garde musicians hang out. Josh actually worked there so he would curate shows and stuff and we would go and play together.
JD: I moved to New York in 1995 and didn’t have anyone to play with. Then I met these guys and we’ve been doing this for ten years now.
A lot of people describe your music as avant-garde. Do you think that label suits your sound?
BD: It’s more like spiritual music, more instinctive. It’s about emotion and feeling more than anything else. I think a lot of electronic music strives to be the opposite—to be sort of robotic and futuristic. We’re just trying to approach music more like everyone’s a drummer.
LB: I don’t even know what avant-garde is anymore as a term, but I think it’s just people doing their own thing in their own way.
JD: Maybe that is what avant-garde is these days. What means something to me is that our music sounds like our music and not anyone else’s.
How is technology utilized in the creative process?
LB: I’m the least technological person in the band. Give me a stick and I’ll play you a rhythm. That’s my style. I really think it’s the man behind the mirror when it comes to technology. Now that we have the internet, electronics goes hand-in-hand with that. But we’ve always been an electronic band. We’ve always wanted to plug in.
BD: The biggest influence technology has on our music is purely from the sounds we use and the places they come from. They’re some pretty obscure electronic instruments and some not so obscure, but it’s the basis of the whole sound. Our music is a synthetic sound.
But it feels very organic as well. How do you get to an organic sound using a synthetic one?
BD: By not knowing what we’re doing. Rather than sitting and reading a manual and learning every possibility of a certain instrument, we actually have to play it live and be more physical with our instruments. That’s the key. I think that’s how we end up sounding more organic and electronic at the same time.
Technology, especially in the last decade, has changed how music is being composed, recorded, and listened to. Do you see this as a positive thing?
JD: Now it’s just so accessible. These days a 15-year-old with an average laptop can make an amazing record in their bedroom after school. I think, because technology is so involved these days, it’s made the process of making music a lot easier and a lot more accessible to everybody. It’s a difficult time because people want to hear these new sounds and everybody can make them, but I think it takes something special to make special sounds.
What else is on the horizon for Gang Gang Dance?
LB: We’re working on our new album now.
BD: We’re going to try and make a book, which we’ve wanted to do for a long time. I don’t really know what it’ll be until we start it. That’s kind of how we do things.
JD: I’d love for this to keep going. That’s a bit of a dream because I think it’s hard for people. But I think as a creative dream it kind of satisfies itself because something is always going on that is innovative and artistic.