Ezy Reading:
The Cud Interview- Tom Gallo
Evan Kanarakis

Boston-area musician Tom Gallo recently released his debut album, ‘Continuation Day’ (created with Sigur Rós collaborator Alex Somers). The non-lyrical, ambient-sound album is decidedly experimental, and recently Gallo sat down with The Cud’s Evan Kanarakis to share how the project came to be, and to discuss his goals for the somewhat unconventional release.


THE CUD: How did you first find yourself drawn to the type of music that led to 'Continutation Day'? Any significant influences?

TOM GALLO: So many influences. I began making music like this in my teens with a little four track machine. Actually, it was really my grandfather in a lot of ways... He played the accordion and the organ and even had a cool little drum machine. When I was small I used to sit at the organ and hold my hands down on all the keys while changing the sound settings. I could do it for hours. So, before liking songs and lyrics it was just sound that I fell in love with. I'd even wake up early in the morning and hear stuff outside my window that to me seemed just as compelling as anything I was hearing on the radio. I began walking around with a little tape machine building these songs out of different sounds. It was the first time I felt like I was able to really say anything meaningful, but it just wasn't ever using words. It was therapeutic.

It wasn't until years later that I began discovering and obsessing over artists that were making similar music. Truth is though, that I like listening to all kinds of stuff and I really love melodies, hooks and pop music. I love simple music that anyone can relate to. I just do it a different way.

THE CUD: Some might argue that the experimental / ambient genre isn't necessarily the most commercially viable. Is this even relevant to you? Viable or not, your musical expression has to at least be honest, no? If dollars (and 'genre designations') come afterward, so be it… Did you even hope to complete an album for release or did this begin as something more personal and just 'for yourself'?

GALLO: In a lot of ways I'm just recreating what I did as a teenager, which was strictly for enjoyment. For me, thinking about commercial viability misses the point. I just love doing it. After a long musical hiatus, I made a promise to myself last year that I would start doing music again simply because I love it. Several months later I was going to Iceland to make a record. Funny how that works out.

THE CUD: So tell us about the process of recording this album. Did you prepare demo tracks or samples? What instruments (or non-instruments) did you use?

GALLO: The album happened quickly. Again, I just went back to what I loved doing when I was a younger. As a kid I would sit down for a few hours, make a song from scratch and never touch it again. It's not about perfection, it's just about having a feeling and then channeling it into something. 'Continuation Day' is just 6 songs and 21 minutes of music. I spent about two to three hours writing, performing and recording each song. I recorded it all on my own at home using whatever I had around the house which includes an embarrassingly bad microphone. I really have no professional tools and I kind of like it that way. I always think back to old Motown records where they just put a band in a room and hit record. It's the spirit and the soul that matters, not the technology.

The Iceland trip was really for mixing the record since everything was already written and recorded. But working with Alex Somers is not working with a traditional musician. The mixing process was very out of the box and transformative. We ran the tracks through old analog machines to dirty up the sound, which brought more humanity to the music. This record was really a spontaneous 50/50 collaboration, but for some reason he let me put my name on it.

I guess if I broke it down, the primary instruments on the record are piano, acoustic guitar and soup bowls that I used like bells. Other than that I used my voice and some field recordings that I captured outside.

THE CUD: And how did you attract the attention of Alex Somers? Was this an unexpected collaboration or something that made perfect sense?

GALLO: Totally out of the blue, but ultimately felt somehow like synchronicity. I recorded some songs over a weekend for fun and was going to release them on my own. I was heading to Italy for a little while and the night before leaving I had this stupid and brilliant idea to Facebook stalk Alex and just send him the music. I didn't know him at all, but I wanted to reach out to him because he did this album with Jónsi called Riceboy Sleeps that I'm in love with. I mainly just wanted to say hello and share what I did. Later that week I'm in Tuscany sitting by a pool, my phone goes off and it's a message from Alex inviting me to Iceland.

THE CUD: Iceland must have made an interesting setting for recording the album. Did the landscape and experience of the place feed into the music, or had much of it been written and recorded before you even got there?

GALLO: Each night after the studio I'd go out alone in Reykjavík walking around in the dark listening to the songs in headphones. It's a very vibrant and welcoming culture, but those nights walking around I was sort of blanketed in solitude. So, those walks hugely informed the way I perceived the music we were making and ultimately added some extra flavor to the album for sure. And that's nice because I really never set out to make anything in particular. It's more fun if the creation process is alive and fluid.

THE CUD: What of Somers' contribution to the process- was it a seamless working relationship?

GALLO: Yeah, really seamless actually. We work pretty similarly which is to say quickly and without thinking too much. Also, It was really fun to let go of the reigns and throw it into the hands of someone I admire. Actually, musically speaking we were each shooting for something different. We joke that I wanted to make new age spa music and he wanted to make a death metal album. Somehow we got this and we both dig it. Plus, he's one of the sweetest people I know.

THE CUD: Tell us about the label you're currently signed to -Record Collection. You have some pretty talented stable mates, no? Why this label, and how do they approach their relationship with artists compared to other labels / management experience you may have had?

GALLO: Yeah, Record Collection... really love them. Their motto at one point was "a moderately sized label with aspirations to be smaller", which might not sound appealing, but for me was perfect. I was planning to stay as independent as possible, but they offered me a deal with total creative control. The two owners are great too. Dave is a Grammy winning producer and film composer and Jordan is a former pro surfer who just gets involved in all kinds of cool projects in music and film. They also work with Fiona Apple and ex Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, both of whom I've admired for a long time. They just make everything really simple and transparent.

THE CUD: So what are your plans for the album– and what can we expect next from you?

GALLO: I really just wanted to make a record and leave it at that, but some people have asked about live shows so I'm beginning to consider that. But I don't know how this music would come across live - it might be really boring. I think I'd need someone dancing on stage or something.

As for the future, I'm just about to sign a publishing deal that I'm excited about because I'm told my music might go over well in TV and Film. Otherwise, I'll release my first full length LP in 2014. I have no idea what it will sound like. Maybe I'll write songs and sing… I'm not sure. I'm never really sure.


For more informatin and to buy 'Continuation Day', visit http://tomgallo.org. Ezy Reading is out every month.