Tame Impala and Pond member Jay Watson, under his solo moniker GUM, is set to release new album The Underdog this Friday, April 6. With his tour already kicked off around the country (including a stop at the Bird last weekend), KIERRA POLLOCK had a chat to Watson about the album, his Ray Charles keyboard, and how his songwriting differs between projects.
I’ve been loving your single The Underdog, could you tell me a bit more about it?
I’ve had it for a year or two now I think. It was 2016 I think and it was the year that heaps of sporting teams came from nowhere to win their league, like the Bulldogs in the AFL and Leicester City in the Premier League, and also in politics, it was the year Trump won and it was just the year of the underdog and I thought that was a cool and also funny sentiment for a song.
Your music is quite an interesting blend of sounds, where do you get your inspiration from?
I listen to a lot of music on the internet all day. I just love trawling YouTube for stuff, modern stuff inspires me but also weird old records from all around the world. I guess I’m just a music nerd, I sit on YouTube a lot. I do that instead of watching Netflix or whatever.
The creative process for GUM and Pond must be a bit different, could you tell me a bit about how it works?
It’s just songs that I make at home or on tour on my laptop. At home, I have my own studio, and I have all my favourite equipment in there, a few tape machines and my laptop and I just chip away at it all year. I do a bunch of mixing and recording on tour. I like to come up with ideas on planes. I think I come up with a lot of good ideas on airplanes; like languid ballads, they are plane songs.
Speaking of equipment, what kind of gear do you use?
I have just lots of weird old synthesisers and guitars and pedals. I don’t have that much stuff, I’ve been selling stuff. I’ve never had expensive gear, I’ve always had lots of cheap little things, now I’m trying to sell the cheap things to get some nice bits of gear. I just sold a guitar and with that money I’ve just bought a Wurlitzer. It’s an old beautiful electric piano and I’ve always wanted one. It’s like Ray Charles’ keyboard. Hopefully there will be a bunch of that on the next album. Nothing that fancy, and just Ableton on the computer.
You don’t have the live band with you on this album tour?
This tour it’s just me, but I’m trying to do it a little bit less karaoke than what I’ve been doing. I’m going to try play more things live myself and trigger sounds more myself. Less of just having the backing track playing and me singing along.
You recently supported Angel Olsen on her Fremantle Arts Centre shows, what was that like?
It was very nice of her to have me, it was strange, because I didn’t know she was playing solo, and it was all sit down and quiet and then I came in and made a big bunch of noise. I hadn’t played in a while so it was a bit unrehearsed as well. It was good practice for the tour.
I’m really enjoying the track After All (From The Sun) from your new album, what’s the story behind it?
I worked on it for the second Tame Impala album, actually. Kevin (Parker) and I worked on it a bit but it didn’t quite make it, and then Pond worked on it a bit. It was going to be on Lonerism, but it didn’t make the cut, and then it was going to be on The Weather, but it didn’t make the cut, so I finally put it out on my solo album. That riff I’ve had since I was 22 or 23 or something like that. I think the chorus has been really good this whole time and its never worked. When we tried it for POND, my song writing and Nick’s (Allbrook) song writing just didn’t quite fit or something, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I kind of wish I’d milked the riff a bit more actually, because it doesn’t come in for that long. I really like it anyway.