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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Gretchen Lohse

Gretchen Lohse, Bandcamp, Interview

Philadelphia native Gretchen Lohse comes from a musical family and has been the front woman for psychedelic band Yellow Humphrey for the last couple years. This year, she embarked on a self-titled solo project and released debut album, Primal Rumble, on Dec. 10.

The release features Lohse’s vocals paired with flutes, strings, analog synthesizers, and sounds pulled from old, warped VHS home movies. The 10-track album can be purchased and streamed on Bandcamp.

Below, read The Spec‘s interview with Gretchen Lohse and listen to tracks from Yellow Humphrey

How long have you been making music?
Both of my parents are musicians, so as soon as I was old enough to hold something, I was given a violin. Both of my brothers also play music, and our house was always full of creative projects and art.

Can you describe your typical music-making process with integrating the analog synthesizers, strings, VHS and various other elements?
I’ve been recording strings for years on my own music as well as other people’s, and Thomas [Hughes] has done the same with various types of synthesizers. When we started playing music together, it was pretty natural for us to combine those two sounds.

Then when he and I were using a video-editing technique for a music video, where we took images from my old VHS home movies and layered them under recently shot footage, creating a flickering, ghostly atmosphere. I was inspired and decided to use a similar process with the audio, lifting sounds from the same home movies and distorting them and burring them in different parts of the album.

Who/what are your influences?
I am constantly inspired by the incredible musicians who I am surrounded by in Philadelphia. They are consistently introducing me to new ideas and involving me in their projects. I’ve been working with a group of musicians who have teamed up with filmmaker David Kessler. We’ve been scoring some of his projects, one of which is a documentary on the pine barrens of New Jersey. Once, we went out and recorded in the stone basement remains of a house in the abandoned village of Friendship. Right now, we are collaborating for a video he filmed in Iceland that will be featured in an art show which opens in January.

My family is also a big influence on me. I am lucky to be related to a close-knit group of musicians/scientists/artists/sea captains/teachers who all happen to have a great sense of humor and understand the value of hard work.

What is your favorite song you’ve released and why?
Spider at the Gate.” I felt like I got to be the most experimental with this song and it took me down a path that I want to follow for my next record.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
I’d love to experiment even more with layering non-musical audio and incorporating it into songs. And drums. I need more songs with drums!

What inspires your music?
I am inspired by are fairytales, silent films, nature, and the stories of my grandparents. Sometimes, I like to read through the descriptions of early films because they are often so simple and surreal. For example, this is for an 1899 Sigmund Lubin film:

“A large frame is seen hanging on the wall. Suddenly a basket of flowers appears therein, followed by a picture of a beautiful lady. This picture becomes animated and pleads to be taken out. The visitor approaches to comply with her request, she fades into a skeleton and from that to a huge satan’s head. Wonderfully startling.”

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
Anyone trying new things, working hard and having fun all at the same time. The guys at Data Garden (a journal, record label and events producer in Philadelphia) are making music from plants, I find that exciting. Thomas’ band, The Spinto Band, are always working on some new project and having the best time doing it. They’ve been an influence of mine for years. I look up to people who are playing music for the enjoyment of it, the musicians I’ve never heard because they’re playing in their bedroom for their cats or their children.

Why do you make music?
I’m not sure I know how to not make it, in one form or another!

What would you want to be if you weren’t a musician?
I enjoy working in film, which combines creativity with problem solving – two things I like.

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