For his second Gap Dream album “Shine Your Light,” Gabe Fulvimar left his native Cleveland for Los Angeles, where he lived and recorded at the Burger Records headquarters. Known for his blissed-out psychedelic pop, Fulvimar turned more to synthesizers for his next album, which is set to release on Nov. 12.
In this Q&A, Fulvimar chats about the direction of his music and the many influences on his sound. Gap Dream will perform along with other Burger Records acts at the “Burgerama Caravan of Stars show at the Black Cat on Oct.6.
Sean Meehan: Why did you go to Los Angeles to record this album?
Gabe Fulvimar: I moved out here mostly to be out here and to start to live out here. I wasn’t anticipating that I would start recording the record then until I came out here and then I was like I guess I don’t have anything to do. Figured I’d start recording, did it right here in a storage space in Burger.
I did it a lot like I did the last one, this time Bobby Harlow helped out with the production and mixing. I recorded all the tracks here on my laptop and exported individual tracks to him.
We used some of my own production because we wanted to keep it consistent with the first album. We came up with it together over the Internet. It took about three or four months.
SM: What is the production like on this album? Are you still relying on synths and drum machines to fill out your sound?
GF: We did a lot of stuff with the drum sounds. I did it the same way as I did the first one.
The first one, I was honestly just doing my thing and I didn’t have intentions for this to be a full band ever, it was something I was doing just because I’ve always been recording songs on my own since I was like 14. I was thinking that I was recording something that was going to stay on my hard drive forever and never see the light of day. It was really just like lets get these songs written and then go back to work.
That turned into something else thankfully, so with that record it was one of those things where I used the drum machine mainly because the times I was recording or where I was recording wasn’t conducive to having someone come over and lay down the drum tracks.
That’s why the drum machine came into play on the first one, I was recording at like midnight to 4 a.m.
I thought ‘this is a rock n roll record I should make the drums sound a little more lifelike, so I used some tricks with compression and EQ and I messed around with the placement of the hits. I guess I did a good job because people still think that it’s a drummer, but I just kind of did it as a trick.
On this one, the original goal was to do the second gap dream record. Now it’s a band, we’re going to do it like how everybody does it – go to a studio and have people play real stuff.
SM: How did this album start to come together?
GF: When I got here I started recording demos, the first one I did was “Chill Spot” and [Harlow] was like ‘this isn’t a demo, this is ready. You do what you normally do and I’ll mix it and help produce,’ and that’s how the second record turned out.
SM: How was it making a record this way, with the back-and-forth online communication?
GF: It was probably the best recording experience I’ve ever had when it comes to working with somebody. I’ve been in bands where we’ve worked in studios, it’s always kind of an empty feeling at the end of the day. I’m really glad I got to avoid that empty feeling. I could do it at home; it was a good experience.
SM: Your first record was known for pulling in a lot of different inspirations, does this one use the same inspirations or are you pulling in other sounds as well?
GF: Some of the songs I wrote on this Gap Dream record are songs I wanted to hear, influenced by everything. The first record sounds really different from the second one in my opinion, but I think you can recognize if you listen to them back to back that it’s the same person. For me and how I’ve always been, it’s like at any given moment I want to do something entirely different than what I’ve done before.
SM: “Chill Spot” has a lot of synths on it, is that true for the whole album?
GF: I’ve been playing guitar since I was in fifth grade and since then, I love guitar and synthesizers, it’s like either one or the other that I’m really into, it seems like every few years I switch. I’m on a synth ripper right now. It was cool because Bobby was really encouraging of it. On the first record I put synths all over that but nobody knows it because I was using them in ways that people wouldn’t normally use them. I have a mini moog plugin and use it as an EQ.
SM: What other kinds of synth tricks to you use to get your unique sound?
GF: I’m not the best with EQing stuff. If you think about a regular EQ there [are] 8-10 frequencies you have to think about, but a synth filter there’s only one frequency so you just have one knob. I did that on the first record a lot. It’s an old trick, nothing I invented or anything. I was doing that a lot for ease, I could spend four hours getting a cable with EQ or I could use one knob. Synths are all over that record in that way. I used a lot of frequencies toward the farther out ends of the spectrum, I would treat the overall mix. I recorded that thing with the crappiest setup you could imagine. I had a lousy little USB mixer that I could hook up to my computer, one of the inputs didn’t work and buzzed if you plugged in.
This time I had some better equipment. Burger bought me a microphone and a better interface for my computer. It’s nice to use nice things.
I think one of the first songs I did was “Chill Spot” which has the obvious west coast whistle vibe. I moved out here, I’m listening to Dr. Dre thinking about being back in 7th grade thinking what it’s like out there.
It’s funny how you don’t think about how powerful music is until you have a visible reference of how it’s affecting your life. Coming out here and seeing the palm trees or the typical Cali scenery, I’m just thinking about seventh grade with L.A. riots, O.J., the shit I knew of when I was a kid.
SM: You’ve mentioned that this record has some Giorgio Moroder influence on it.
GF: Yeah it has that vibe on it. I did “Peter’s Brother” with more of a disco feel. I always have something in mind with every song, a feeling or mood or something I feel needs to be articulated. It affected my sound for sure and it affected it in ways that I feel were natural.
I feel like every song on the record has a different vibe. It’s something I’ve always liked when I listened to records. I don’t know if people hate that.
That’s the problem because I listen to a lot of music, there are a lot of things that I like and there’s not too much that I don’t like. The only time I don’t like something is when you can tell that the feeling behind it and the original intent is dishonest.
For me I feel like with this record and how varied it is reflects how much I listen to music and the fact that I’m living in the record store now. I’m living in the record shop; every time I walk through the door something’s playing, there’s a lot of people here with good ears. My creativity is being nurtured in that way, my love for music. That definitely shows in the record.
SM: How has living at Burger Records influenced this album?
GF: There are songs on there that I didn’t want to put on there because I felt like they were too weird. “Sell Your Mind” toward the end of the record, I didn’t want to put that on there because to me it’s an R&B song, if you can imagine Gap Dreams doing an R&B song, which is a ridiculous notion. I don’t know what was in my head at that time but it’s got a smooth feel to it. I didn’t want to put it on the record, it was one of those things where it was late at night and Kyle from King Tuff was like you have to put that song on and Bobby was like yeah that song’s going on the record.
We’re all listening to it, it was a four month long event. We’re all here at Burger, and I’d come over here for three days at a time, sometimes two weeks at a time. This is the first time where I’ve ever been able to wake up in the morning and start working on music and not do anything but. For me that’s foreign, so the sky was the limit.
SM: What was your equipment like for this record?
GF: There is some weird stuff, I did a lot of synthesizer EQ. I love Ableton and I love using it. I don’t know if I could stress that enough, I’m not endorsed by them or anything, yet. That would rock, then I wouldn’t have to use stolen software anymore and worry about it crashing all the time. I don’t know what their intention was when they created this program, but for me it’s the easiest way to organize your ideas and have like your flow there. You can go from arrange view to the other one and paste it all together.
I was talking to Bobby one night when we were getting started on this thing and he wanted to feel out my style to figure out a time frame. I told him it’s different for every song but I walked him through it. I come up with three or four parts that could be a chorus or a bridge or a verse, I record them and move them around until they sound right, I use that as like a skeleton frame. This one there was sonic trickery there, a lot of it on Bobby’s end and I can’t get it out of him how he did it – secret shit that he didn’t want me stealing because he knows that I will. He does such great work. I love everything he’s done. This one was great because Bobby really helped me start thinking a little bit better musically. He showed me things like how to augment certain notes by having bass notes do certain things, he taught me a lot.
SM: What kinds of things did he teach you?
GF: I never took music theory so he was teaching me a lot in that way. I feel like the pinnacle of it all, the really crazy period was when I was doing “Shiner Love,” that was the meat of the session and that song is a really funny song because there’s a lot of influence in that song. It’s funny because from what I’ve seen from what people have said so far, no one has nailed it, no one’s completely nailed it.
It’s so funny when you do music, they don’t teach you in school how to properly understand it, they just make you an idiot. You know what it sounds like in your head but you don’t know how to articulate it.