The first of December sees the release of Armed With Love the brilliant debut single by Gabi Garbutt. Harry Pye was delighted she was up for answering a few questions..
How’s your day been doing so far? Any magic moments?
"Hello! All good thank you. Been recording a home demo of a new song I've been working on today, had already got the bones of the track down so I've been having a lot of fun with coming up with arrangements on the Juno keyboard.. the weird space noises and synthetic brass sounds are magic!"
You’re playing London on the 23rd which musicians will be backing you?
"Yes, the Illuminations will be out in full force at the Monarch in Camden on the 23rd November. Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations are made of me, Jimi Scandal - the most unique and expressive guitar player you'll ever meet and loyal comrade, Sean Read - benevolent overlord, my right hand man since the start of this project and brains behind most of the arrangements, a real soulful keys and sax player, Alec Sala - musical magic man, creator of beautiful noises on trumpet and keys, he'll have just come back from touring with Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Callum McQuattie - badass bass player, master of rhythmic melody and one cool dude, our usual sticksman Stephen Gilchrist (genuinely the best drummer out there in my opinion) is away in Hong Kong so we've got my brother Leo Garbutt filling on drums - lively and solid beat keeper, full of energy and great ideas."
I’ve read that (like myself) you’re a big fan of Dexys. There’s a Kevin Rowland quote about wanting to make records that are “precious possessions”. Do you relate to this ambition of his
"Yes, massive fan of the Dexys. Great that you are too. Precious possessions.. definitely, to make a record really special you and everyone working on it has to put a lot of love into it, so you'll want the person listening to it to give it a lot of love back. The Dexys always had their image absolutely nailed as well as their sound and that was really encapsulated in the artwork of their records, which I think also added to their records being like precious possessions. Such a magical part of getting a new record is the album art work and lyric book and all that, so I'll be putting a whole load of love and attention into that side of things when we make the album. In the words of the Dexys, let's make this precious.. "
Which of your lyrics are you most pleased with or proud of?
"I'm pretty pleased with the lyrics to the most recent song I've written. Not sure which is my favourite bit so here's the whole thing:
I sunk fast into the red glow, the red glow from the stereo,
holding tight to this rising tune while my body hangs hollow,
a trembling ghost beneath these iron skies and ice cold effigies,
and drifting to my refuge of flesh and melody.
And here I am just wilting in the heat of the machine,
I don't care for my home and I've been left a wandering queen,
Dancing my downfall all across these wooden floors,
When I finished this old fashioned I'll be gone forever more,
Loving you always, dying for you always
but blue, so blue my love,
Trying to feel something real and romantic and strong,
but all that I found was a song,
And it's a weak signal stuck inside a forgotten station.
Took the wrong way home and now I'm tearing up the morning,
In amongst the birds while their tiny choir is forming
the same ecstatic song that woke my ancestors,
The journey side companion of all the lonely time travellers.
I'll drag this all night fever through the rush hour blues,
Caught up in the flight of my spirit and my shoes,
A damaged Love inside me as I run breathless through the streets,
My cowboy mouth spouting my cowboy dreams at everyone I meet."
What can you tell me about your forthcoming seaside tour?
"We joined The Libertines for one of the dates on their seaside tour, at Claremont Pier in Lowestoft. It was everything you'd hope for from a seaside show, the backstage area had a staircase down to the beach. It was a really fun gig and The Libertines and all their crew were a lovely bunch of people. The Libertines were great and I also really liked the other support band Lock."
“Armed with Love” is very impressive. Did you enjoy collaborating with Sean Read? What did he bring to the table as it were?
"Thank you, I'm glad you like it. Yes, it's brilliant collaborating with Sean. He seems to really get where I'm coming from creatively, there's never any tension with that. He knows how to execute my vision for the song. He's a great creative force, really soulful instinctive musician, and all his arrangement and production ideas are really inspired. Also, the fact that he's in my favourite band (Dexys) helps..
It's a really fun and exciting process working on the arrangements for all the songs; we'll use some of the ideas for arrangements that I'll have put on the home demos, but then we'll try a bunch of different things, with him playing sax, trumpet, piano, synth, you name it, other friends coming in playing all sorts.. no constraints, before we set on the final arrangements."
What was the last great book you read? Is there a book currently by your bedside?
"I just finished reading Nina Simone's autobiography, which I loved. She's a real hero of mine, so fearless and strong and she was an absolute master of her craft, but I also love the absolute heartbreaking emotional honesty in her songs. I think her version of 'For A While' is the saddest song in the world.
I'm currently reading a book about the poet William Blake called 'Visionary Anarchist' by Peter Marshall. Blake's my favourite poet and has had a real influence on my lyrics and my general outlook on life. I love his whole philosophy of imagination giving everyday life spiritual significance, 'seeing heaven in a wild flower,' his belief in human beings and I find his imagery really inspiring. I also really like the idea behind the Innocence and Experience poems; that innocence without experience just crumbles, but that once you've been through the horrors of experience and managed to maintain the freshness of vision that you had in innocence, it's a much more resilient state of being."
Do you have a favourite album? Are there any records that changed your life?
"Here's my top five albums in chronological order of when I first heard them. They also double up as records that changed my life:
The Clash - London Calling
I fell in love with The Clash when I was about 12 or 13. Weirdly it was ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ that caught my initial attention, and then the first full album I heard by them was Combat Rock. That album will always have a special place in my heart, and I love tracks like Ghetto Defendant and Straight to Hell, but London Calling is the one. My parents were always very left wing and political but weren't really into the Clash, and when I found the Clash it was like I was experiencing that political fire in a new way that really spoke to me as a teenager. It was a whole new world I could get lost in and would be a source of continuous inspiration. I'd also never heard anything so visceral and passionate as Joe Strummer's vocals, and he remains one of my favourite vocalists.
Love - Forever Changes
Soon after getting into punk I got into 60's psychedelia, because I liked that the music and lyrics were weird and not like anything I'd heard before. Love's Forever Changes is a complete master piece and definitely my favourite psychedelic record as the music and lyrics are some of the most imaginative I’ve ever heard, and it all has a real punk energy behind it. It gets me excited about the boundless possibilities of what a song can be. There's a vividness and sharpness to the lyrics as well that I think makes it a really unique record.
Patti Smith - Horses
My English teacher copied me Patti Smith's Horses when I was 16, and that completely changed my life. I always loved punk and poetry, and this record brought it all together; the expression and wild imagery of poetry but with the power of punk behind it. It was like I'd found the missing link and everything was electrified. And then I got lost in a whole new world of the CBGBs lot, Richard Hell, Television, Talking Heads, and French poetry, Rimbaud, Baudelaire. Around this time I read an article by Patti Smith on William Blake, on artists and a revolutionaries, and that ignited my love of Blake.
Dexys Midnight Runners - Don't Stand Me Down
This was the first album I heard by them, and I'd never heard music so passionate and euphoric. I love it at points Kevin Rowland's like fuck it, words aren't capable of expressing how much I mean what I'm saying so I'm just going to sing and bellow, make noises with my mouth, and with the brass behind it it's beautiful and there's nothing like it. I love that Northern Soul energy they channel too. It's the most expressive and unique album ever I think.
Ezra Furman - Perpetual Motion People
This record just has everything I love about music; that upbeat northern soul feel, high energy pop but with punk spirit, he's an original and imaginative lyricist, the brutal honesty and passion of the vocals and lyrics, lots of brass... He writes really beautifully about manic and fragile states of mind, which has encouraged me writing honestly about this too. Definitely my favourite modern artist. We cover one of his song's 'Teddy I'm Ready' from his album Big Fugitive Life."
Do you sing all day and everyday? What do you sing in the shower?
"Every day - yes, all day - no... I think that would get annoying for people.
My shower song.. it would probably be 'Heaven must have sent you' by The Elgins."
Where will you spend Christmas? Has 2017 been a good year for you?
"I'm going to be in Chile over Christmas and New Year. I'm half Chilean (mum's side), and we've got a lot of family in Chile, so every few years we spend Christmas with our Chilean grandparents, aunts and cousins, who all live in Santiago. It's a beautiful country, so while we're down there we'll do some exploring of the South; The Andes and Patagonia. Really looking forward to that.
2017 has been an excellent year. Sean and I had been working on the tracks from the end of last year to around May of this year, and I really enjoyed the whole process. Then around June/ July we got the band together to work out how we're going to do it live. I've loved all our gigs; In August we supported Frank Turner at a fundraiser I arranged for Age UK Camden, and their subsidiary charity Opening Doors London (an older person's Londonwide LGBT charity.) In September we had a brilliant gig at The Monarch with one of my favourite local bands Bless, and the Libertines support show was really good fun too. I've also collaborated with John Hassall from the Libertines on a song, and we've started recording that, as well as a few other new songs in Sean's studio. I'm really looking forward to our Armed With Love single release show on the 23rd at The Monarch too."
Do you have any dreams or big ambitions for 2018?
"I'd love to release an album, tour.. all the good stuff.
Sean does a lot of recording at Edwyn Collins up in Helmsdale up in the highlands, and I'd love for me and the band to record the album up there. I'd love to play a lot of shows with my band around the UK and beyond, continue the adventure, and do some more dates with The Libertines.
In my last band, me and the violin player Lianne Milward who's a great artist, put an illustrated lyric book together. I'd like to do one of those again."
Gabi Garbutt's debut single is released on Famous Times label on Dec 1 and Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations play London Camden Monarch on November 23.