KA: Congratulations on this new record! Are you as excited as we are to hear some new rock music coming out of Austin? What has been the reception so far, and are there other local bands you’ve been especially fond of lately?
GL: The reception has been really great overall! It’s been nice to have some positive feedback and just feel like the ball is finally rolling.
I really love Pelvis Wrestley. I think Ben is one of the best songwriters in town. Also, I’ve been digging on the Juniper Berries a lot lately. They’re new to town and I think they’ve got big things in their future.
KA: So...Bummer Year. Is this a direct reference to your quarantine experience, or are there more universal themes at play with this record?
GL: I actually wrote that song in late 2017, and it was more of a response to Trump being elected and at the same time dealing with some pretty serious depression. But it’s odd how things turned out with the pandemic and all. I probably should have called it Bummer Years (ha.)
KA: How did you navigate the past few years in Austin as a musician?
GL: I put my head down and worked more hours at my day job at the time as a house mover. I met and moved in with my current partner. I wrote 14 or 15 songs over the course of a year, which is a lot for me. There was just a lot of time for everything. You kind of don’t realize how much time and energy you put into playing shows and practicing. When those things disappeared it was really apparent.
KA: Let’s talk about the single, “Vision Boards”. This has been an anthem for me since it came out, in that I can’t help but sing along to it. Is this song an anthem? What does that term even mean to you, and is it something you feel in the recording process?
GL: I actually wrote “Bummer Year” and “Vision Boards” around the same time. Probably within a week or so of each other. The song was me coming to terms with how hard it is to make it in the music industry, while also grappling with my own personal shortcomings that made it even harder. It definitely added a lot of muscle to the song after I brought it to the band. I have no idea whether it’s an anthem or not. Ultimately, it’s really hard to be the judge of your own work. I just write and hope people can relate.
KA: Lyrics from “Vision Board”: “Rip the demons off my back / Let ‘em know that I tried my best / Even if they kill me / And if there really is a god / Let 'em know that I tried my best / With the hands that he gave me / And to that voice inside my head / Shut the fuck up / Because I tried my best.”
That last stanza was the high point of this record for me, really solidifying this track as an anthem for 2022. During the quarantine I know a lot of artists out there were faced with an unexpected proposition — all this new time to create, yet so much fear and uncertainty outside the front door. I imagine so many musicians in Austin got to explore intimately their own creative ingenuity, but also their limitations. Regardless of whether this record was created under those circumstances, I’m certainly not the only one to feel thrilled to hear this track, and sing along to those lines in particular. I guess my question is: Where does the confidence to create come from for you? And how has that source of confidence changed over the past years of your life to emerge with this latest work to share?
GL: I’m glad that you like this song. It’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written. As to where the confidence comes from, I have no idea. Maybe it’s just through doing it. I’ve been writing songs for 17 or 18 years at this point. I wrote a lot of bad songs as a teenager, but I wasn’t aware that they were bad. I think it helps to go through that trial and error process as a young person. It’s harder to be willing to fail at something when you’re older.
KA: This is an unapologetically Texan record. Between the video for “Vision Board” and lyrics like: “Headed out to some west Texas town / Pull the car over / Watch the sun go down”, to perhaps more critical lines like: “Hill Country / bluest sky / rich folks come out here to die,” where you grew up seems to have informed the sentiment of some of these songs. What role do you think your location or Texas culture plays in the album?
GL: I’ve spent my whole life in Texas, so I think it makes sense that the location factors in. I write very, very literally. So in “Almost Automatic”, I’m talking about a trip I took with someone to Balmorhea and Marfa. In “First Crossing”, I’m talking about different elements of my time spent at the Kerrville Folk Festival. It makes sense the setting of these songs is in Texas, because that’s where I spend most of my time.
KA: One more thought about the single, because it’s really fucking good. One of us at KA said, “To me, the record is best summarized by the lyrics, 'Try to manifest it more / no, it’s just not working out / These bootstraps are so short / just not working out,” from the song “Vision Boards”. Bummer Year is made cohesive both by its production and by its lyrical content. Do you see this as a concept album? If so, is that something you set out to achieve, or did you come to realize it once all the songs were written?
GL: I think it’s mainly the production that’s tying these songs together, and maybe just the way that I write and choose melodies. These songs were written slowly over a period of 4 years or so, and I think when they’re stripped down to just guitar and vocals, they sound extremely different. These are the songs that I had ready when it was time to record. I definitely didn’t intentionally put them together in any sort of way.
KA: Reading the lyrics, I’m reminded that pronouns can often be interchangeable in music, meaning that you could really be writing the song from any perspective or embodying any subject’s persona in a given line. On the flip-side, though, are moments where you may use a name or a character to get an idea across, like the “Lindsey” that appears several times on the album. What purpose do you think writing about specific characters may serve for you rather than being a little more ambiguous?
GL: I feel like you’re going to be disappointed with my answer here. Lindsey is a real person that the songs “Almost Automatic” and “Balmorhea” are about. A lot of times I’m writing to a specific person, because I’ve been unable to express my feelings directly. It’s not a literary device or anything, it’s just me being literal again. I want the person to know that the song is about them, so I often put their name in it.
KA: “I ain't much on polyamory / You might blame it on my Christian family / But I would rather have you lie to me / About most anything / Without you / It’s an easy way to feel let down.”
So perhaps this is too personal, but I found these lyrics to be especially captivating in their honest look at the nuances that lurk in 21st century love. And they seem to chart a motif that continues through this record, that is, one journey to navigate life’s major themes: work, love, success, growing older. Is that a fair assessment? Is there a pervading disposition on this record with which you are standing in the face of those themes?
GL: I guess those are the major themes of most anyone’s life. Work, love, success, failure, and getting older all the while. I’m just writing about my life. I’m very left-brained and I feel most comfortable when writing about things that I know. Writing a song allows you to access your creativity in a very structured way.
KA: Okay more lyrics — “O2 21”: “My body could be put to better use / Instead of working all day long / For someone else’s dream to come / Strip the value right out of my bones / Wish that I was 21 / Somewhere swimming in the sun / Watch me floating weightless / I am free.”
This segment is especially relatable to those of us approaching, or having already past, our late 20s and are now taking stock of our first decade or so in the “real” working world. Amidst accelerated housing costs in Austin, and a worldwide pandemic putting our lives on pause, I think lots of us are seeking comfort in the good memories of our youth. What were the circumstances under which you wrote these lyrics, and what is it you pine for when you remember being 21?
GL: I wrote all of these songs pre-pandemic. This song is a critique of capitalism. The line you mentioned, was my attempt at bringing poetry to a Marxist thought. It’s sort of hinting at Marx’s Labor Theory of Value. The vast majority of us, the working class, have no land or property. The only thing of value we have is our time. And because of that, we’re forced to sell that time to an employer. While we’re selling our time, we have very little control of our own lives.
It’s probably a bigger topic than what I have space for here, but I’d definitely recommend reading A People’s Guide to Capitalism by Hadas Thier. At that moment in time, I was stuck with a job that I was unhappy with and just daydreaming about better circumstances. The chorus of this song is about the brief fleeting moments when we’re actually free.
KA: The album will be coming out on local label Keeled Scales. How did this partnership come to be?
GL: I met Tony, the founder of Keeled Scales, out at Dan Duszynski’s place near Dripping Springs. Dan hosts a really incredible event called Chill Phases that happens every year on the final Sunday of SXSW. Then later on after we finished this record, we started having conversations with different local labels, and it all kinda came together very organically.
KA: Can you tell me a bit about the recording process and where y’all tracked these songs?
GL: Yeah, so we made this record with Dan at his studio Dandy Sounds. Dan has a great ear and is truly a master at what he does. He is such a huge part of why this record sounds incredible.
KA: How long did it take to record?
GL: All told, we probably spent around 60 hours or so recording and then another 40 during the mixing process.
KA: What is the ideal scenario for folks to listen to this record for the first time?
GL: I always say my favorite way to listen to music is a six cd changer in the trunk of your car. That way you get a little bit of variety, but also, you get very familiar with those 6 cds. But I guess those aren’t very common these days. I think this is a driving record. Listen to it in your car on road trip!
KA: What are you looking forward to the most with the album finally out?
GL: I’m just excited to see how the record is received and so thrilled to get back out on the road and tour behind it. I really missed that part of being a musician. There’s nothing better than being in a Rock N' Roll band with your friends and traveling around the country.
Bummer Year by Good Looks (Keeled Scales) is out April 8. Support the band by hitting up their album release show at Hotel Vegas, pre-ordering the record on special edition vinyl online at Keeled Scales, and streaming “Vision Boards” now on Spotify.