Loose Canyon, the debut single from Midlands-based band The Gabriels, is one of our favourite songs of the year so far.
A gorgeous, melodic and jangly guitar pop tune that celebrates the legendary Laurel Canyon music scene of ’60s L.A, it’s a far-out and groovy trip (man), that brings a much-needed hit of California sunshine to these dark days we’re living in.
“Loose Canyon was recorded in 2020 against the obvious background of Covid,” says vocalist Gudg, aka Kate Gudgin. “The song is about escapism. This year more than any we’ve all probably felt the need to escape. As a band we love the 1960s Laurel Canyon scene and would have loved to be have been part of it. It was a time where it felt like anything could happen both socially and musically and as a band it’s a big influence on us.”
‘Loose Canyon was recorded in 2020 against the background of Covid. The song is about escapism. This year more than any we’ve all probably felt the need to escape’
All of the full-time members (Gudg /Kate – vocals; Fran Feely – bass, Leon Jones – guitar and Stuart Gray – keys) have been in other acts prior to forming The Gabriels. Gudg previously sang with Pallenberg, Fran was in Elefant Records group, The Silver Factory, Leon was in Blow Up Records’ cosmic country-rockers, Alfa 9, and Stuart played in Fence Collective band, Viva Stereo, and drone/psych act Children of Leir.
The Gabriels cite their influences as The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, C86, The Stone Roses and Teenage Fanclub, and they have a shared love of ’60s culture and soundtracks.
In an exclusive interview, Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Gudg (Kate), Fran and Leon about the new single, their penchant for all things ’60s and their plans for this year. Sadly, due to the current crisis, we couldn’t travel to Laurel Canyon for a chat, so we made do with email instead…
How’s 2021 going for you so far?
Fran: Great. The debut single officially comes out on January 31, but it’s pretty much available now. The response has been amazing so far. It certainly helps dealing with the lockdown situation when there’s positivity elsewhere.
Let’s talk about your debut single. It has a great jangly guitar sound and it celebrates the ‘60s Laurel Canyon scene. Why does that era appeal to you so much?
Fran: It’s a real common love of all the members of the band, so it seemed an obvious subject matter to write about. We also got Robyn Gibson from The Junipers in to sing backing vocals, which has worked a treat, as he nailed it.
Kate: Personally I love music from all decades. Although the ‘60s music undoubtedly influences us, there’s tons of great music that’s been released since 1969 that you can’t ignore. That could be something that came later that’s indebted to the ‘60s like the Paisley Underground scene, 1980s jangle pop or even stuff like The Stone Roses, Teenage Fanclub or The Coral. Or something completely different… Fran and I are massive ABBA fans for example, so we hope some of that pop sensibility comes across in The Gabriels’ music.
Leon: That mid-late ‘60s West Coast sound is pretty much ingrained in my psyche. There were a lot of those records in my house when I was growing up – The Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young – so it’s always been there for me, but I’ve never excluded bands who weren’t part of that ‘60s scene.
We decided from the start that we wanted the band to be about great songs and to concentrate on writing songs and recording, as opposed to writing and rehearsing a set of songs and going out and playing a million gigs before thinking about recording anything. That has turned out be a very serendipitous decision, as we’d recorded the bare bones of an album’s worth of songs just as Covid hit. From that we’ve been able to build the songs up, with sessions scattered over 2020, albeit slower than we’d have liked.
‘That mid-late ‘60s West Coast sound is pretty much ingrained in my psyche. There were a lot of those records in my house when I was growing up – The Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young – so it’s always been there for me’
Tell us about how the band came together. You all knew each other socially, but what led to you forming The Gabriels, and where are you all based?
Fran: Over the years we all knew each other from club nights and playing in bands. We were all good friends and Kate asked Leon if he would be interested in playing on some songs I had written. Stu came on at a later stage, as he liked the sound and wanted to join. Fran is originally from Leicester. Stu is Scottish but based in Leicester. Leon is from and based in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Kate is from where Noddy Holder is from.
Leon: We started discussing putting something together a couple of years ago, borne out of a mutual admiration of our other musical exploits and a lot of jangly guitars.
Where did the band name come from?
Gudg: Fran and myself are massive early Genesis fans – the Peter Gabriel period – so the name came from, well, Peter.
Fran: We went about things in a different way. We have written the album already and Leon has his own studio – he is in the process of mixing all the tracks. We feel that each song is strong enough to be a single. That is our goal – to have an album where there are no fillers on it.
Leon: Yep, as Fran says, we’ve approached the release in a different way, almost old-school indie – three great singles followed by an album. We’re just finishing up mixing as we speak and looking to release the album in the summer on the usual download/streaming services and, of course, on good old vinyl.
‘Each song on the album is strong enough to be a single. Our goal is to have an album where there are no fillers on it’
There’s a real sunshiny, positive vibe to the album – hopefully everything will feel a lot more positive by the time it’s released in the summer. We’re all chomping at the bit to get out and do some gigs, but that could be ages away, so we’re keeping an open mind. Again, we’ve been lucky in that we managed to film a few videos in 2020, so we’ve got plenty in the can to put out there over the next few months.
Are you worried about the current situation for live music? What are your hopes and fears for the future? As a new band, is it harder to get exposure at the moment?
Fran: The world is definitely changing, so we will see what happens. To be honest, we are just happy making music and seeing what happens. We don’t expect anything in return, but hopefully folk enjoy the sounds. We’re pretty much making it up as we go along and just hoping people jump on board.
Leon: I think live music is something people have always enjoyed and always will, so no matter what, it will recover. However, the vast majority venues are in a desperate situation, which is heartbreaking. I just hope they can hang on in there. I’m not sure it’s any harder to get exposure at the moment – it’s always been hard! All you can do is write the best songs you can, present them in the best way you can and hope people enjoy it.
Can you tell us some of your favourite music and films from the Laurel Canyon / ‘60s counterculture scene?
Fran: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Love. Those bands have always been personal faves.
Leon: The Byrds’ first six albums have been a cornerstone of my music taste for as long as I’ve been a musician. I seem to have been on a personal Gene Clark crusade for ever, as he never gets the plaudits I think he deserves both as a member of The Byrds and as a solo artist. I love the Flying Burrito Brothers’ self-titled album – the blue one – which is the first post-Gram Parsons album they did and is really underrated. I’m not the greatest film buff, but I love Beyond The Valley of The Dolls, which has a great soundtrack, and I still love Easy Rider, which I first saw in my early teens.
What music – new and old – have you been enjoying recently?
Fran: I really like a new band called Fur. I think they are great. I really love early Genesis and Caravan are real faves of mine. I listen to lots of music, so it changes. We have a collaborative playlist on the The Gabriels’ Spotify page of stuff we all love.
‘I seem to have been on a personal Gene Clark crusade for ever, as he never gets the plaudits I think he deserves’
Kate: I’ve been really enjoying Swampmeat Family Band’s new album, which is called Muck! It’s such a great album – I saw them a few times in the mid-2000s.
I am also on a nostalgia trip to my youth at the moment, which includes songs that I remember vividly from childhood, such as those by The Everly Brothers and ABBA. I do keep my eye out for new music – there is some great music coming out at the moment by some really talented people.
Leon: I’m really enjoying a lot of the output from Brent Rademaker’s label Curation Records, especially the recent Beachwood Sparks reissue. I really enjoyed the last Whyte Horses album and I’m enjoying La Luz at the moment as well. The latest El Goodo album is great, as you’d expect.
How have you been coping with lockdown?
Kate: I’m loving it! I’m on furlough, so every day is like Sunday for me! I read a lot. If you have a great book in hand, then you are sure to have a great adventure.
Leon: I feel really blessed that I’ve had The Gabriels to keep me occupied and that we managed to get enough material recorded in time to build on.
‘I’m on furlough, so every day is like Sunday! I read a lot. If you have a great book in hand, then you are sure to have a great adventure’
[To Leon]. Are Alfa 9 still going? Would you consider The Gabriels to be a side-project?
Leon: Alfa 9 are taking some time out. We’ve been together in one form or another for 20 years, so I think we’re due a break! We’re like family, so that will never go away. The Gabriels is definitely not a side-project and I’m really enjoying working as hard on it as I have for anything in the past. It’s really energising to work in a situation with different people, taking a new approach and with great songs.
Loose Canyon by The Gabriels is officially released on January 31. For more information, or to buy a digital version, visit: https://thegabriels.bandcamp.com.
The band have compiled a Spotify playlist of some of the music they love here.