New Album My Band Is A Computer Out Now Via Audio Antihero/Old Money.
For our money, Charles Gibson, aka CHUCK, is the greatest uncelebrated songwriters of the last ten years. Melding confessional lo-fi bedroom pop with shimmering electronica, the beauty of his songs lie in their simple construction and gloriously doomed lyrics. Goofy, intimate, and melancholic, CHUCK manages to chronicle that feeling you get in the your late twenties when you have lived long enough to actually have real regrets, and have had enough experiences to have happy memories that simply make you sad. His latest release is a compilation of his work called My Band Is A Computer, which could well end up being my favourite album of 2016. You should absolutely 100% listen to it right this second.
As he is a gent, CHUCK recently took some time to talk to Overblown about his desire to rap with Kanye West, the inspiration for his music, and his love of the documentary Dig!
Overblown: Your new album My Band Is A Computer is a compilation of songs from 2010-2015. How did you go about choosing the songs for the set?
Charles Gibson: Hey! Jamie from Audio AntiHero initially approached me with the idea, and he already had a track-list in mind. Pretty forward of him! Haha. I suggested a few tweaks and it really all came together very quickly. I’ve got a pretty big back catalogue – something like 70 songs – so it probably should have been harder, but for some reason it wasn’t. Maybe because I have more bad songs than good songs haha.
O: The set was released via Audio Antihero. How did the partnership arise? What is like to work with them?
CB: I’ve known of Audio AntiHero for a while, because I was on a label in BK called Monkfish Records with a band named Frog, who switched to AAH after Monkfish disbanded. AAH heard me through Frog, and since our music shares a lot of similar themes and styles, I guess the owner, Jamie, liked what he heard. We’ve been tweeting at each other for years.
Maybe six months ago he emailed me with this idea. I’ve never done a lot of gigging or PR for my music, so I think Jamie wanted to help expose me to a larger audience because he’s seen me release several albums to crickets from blogs, magazines, twitter etc. I think we had a weirdly familial bond right off the bat because he’s got an ‘internet record label’ and I am, more or less, an ‘internet musician.’ I like working with him because of that. We both have a dark sense of humor about the abyss of the internet.
O: You’ve said that you love the documentary Dig! What do you love about the documentary?
CB: Oh man, I just rewatched this the other day, and what a blast from the past it was. I was working at a video store in High School and I remember seeing Dig! on the shelf. I was intrigued. I took it home one night and it was just like, the most fun movie I had ever seen. You have these big personalities, cross country tours, amazing live performance footage, and the editing is so fun. I love the quality of the cameras and the audio for some reason as well.
I continued to watch it for years, and when I finally got a guitar, songs by the Brian Jonestown Massacre were perfect learning tools, because they are all full of very simple chords. So for the first few years of playing guitar, I was just living in that movie. Learning the songs. Playing them. Envisioning myself as a character in the film. I remember actively trying to talk like Anton.
Overall, the biggest thing I got from the film though, was a strong desire to record songs. This documentary was the first time I saw someone actually make a song. Seeing that process inspired me to do it myself. It looked magical. Luckily right around that time, Apple rolled out Garageband, and the rest is history. Also, around this era I was watching a lot of those VH1 Classic Albums episodes (Elton John, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac etc.). I love those for the same reason I love Dig!, they take you behind the curtain of music making.
O: At Overblown we’ve described your lyrics as a mixture of Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest and Bruce Springsteen. How do you feel about those comparisons? Do you agree to any extent?
CB: Well that’s very flattering! I’ll be honest, I’m not that familiar with Car Seat Headrest’s lyrics. I thought that first record he put out, to me, was pretty boring. Bruce on the other hand, is a legend. Obviously he’s an influence on anyone who grew up in the tri-state area. His overall themes (machines, highways, America, escape, decaying urban areas, wanting more with your life, etc.) will probably resonate forever. I, like many people, definitely relate to his music and the emotions behind his lyrics. Songs like ‘Sherry Darling’ or ‘Independence Day’ accurately spell out large parts of my American experience. Other influences I think about when writing are Destroyer, Girlpool, Sun Kil Moon, Daniel Johnston, PWR BTTM, Juan Wauters, Ariel Pink, Bob Dylan, The Magnetic Fields etc.
O: I particularly love the song ‘Wipe Out’. The lyrics are beautiful and headbreaking in their simple account of ordinary lives and universal experiences. What inspired that song?
CB: Thanks! That song is a very literal rundown of a dinner I had with my best friend from High School. He moved to Portland, OR when we were 20 and I didn’t actually see him again until 8 years later, when he was in Brooklyn for a weekend. We’ve led very different lives in those 8 years, but when we got back together, nothing had changed. We were still able to connect and have fun and we had a common understanding of life.
But also, the song is more generally about these dinner dates I have with my friends in NYC. As someone who works a lot and is getting a little older, I’m too tired to see friends who live in different neighborhoods as often as I used to. So now I end up having a lot of these after work dinner dates with friends, and they are simultaneously routine and unique. They end up being therapy sessions a lot of the time. We chat about our careers, lives, how NYC is changing, getting older, getting married, etc. Then we split the bill on two cards, hug, and walk away. These dinners are like little movies or something. That’s what ‘Wipe Out’ is really about.
O: Another one I love is ‘Happy New Years Babe’. The small details in the lyrics are particularly appealing. Is that song autobiographical?
CB: I wouldn’t say the particulars are autobiographical, but I wrote it when I was feeling spiteful at this girl I broke up with. She grew up in NYC, came from an interesting family and was more of an intellectual than most people. I don’t have the best memory of it, but I think the night before she broke up with me via text I was doing some fairly bizarre and annoying things around her. We went out drinking with a bunch of her friends and I got super lit and was trying to get her approval by performing like a drunken little clown. Very Eliott Smith type behavior.
Anyways, in a situation like that, in order to save face after the break up, in my experience most people go on to grow themselves immediately afterwards. They exercise more, learn new things, try stuff, go to cool events, make new friends etc. You really want to, or need to, believe that you are doing better than the person who rejected you. Even if, like in my case, you probably deserved it. So the song was written in a period of time when I was going through one of those cleanses. None of the particulars are true actually, but the feeling is.
O: There’s also a number of music videos for various tracks on the album such as ‘Oceans’, ‘Camel Lights’, ‘Go Into Town’ and a number of others. Did you create those videos yourself?
CB: Yes, I’ve done all my own videos, with the exception of two. ‘Go Into Town’ was directed by my friend Matt, which was really fun. He’s a prop master on films and he was able to get a serious camera and a DP and stuff. Also my friend Charlie Rubin made the video for ‘Cigarettes’ which you can find on YouTube. Outside of those, like my music, it’s just been me cranking these bad boys out.
O: What would consider success for your music project?
CB: I currently have two big goals in mind for my music. First, I wanna get my next album available on vinyl. Second, I wanna get my next album reviewed on Pitchfork. I know that seems stupid and narcissistic, but for some reason, I’m fixated on it. I think it’s because the site is woven into a lot of my musical memories. When I started reading Pitchfork about 10 years ago, I was a high school student who didn’t play any instruments, but I really loved listening to bands like Interpol, Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire. For a kid who lived in the suburbs and liked that kind of music, Pitchfork was an amazing resource. It still is. Now, not only do I play an instrument, but I’ve made a bunch of records DIY-style and just put out, more or less, a greatest hits compilation. It’s all very surreal to me. But the cherry on top, would to get ON Pitchfork. That would be a real digital, modern, circle of life type moment. The cub becomes the bear. My next record is called Frankenstein Songs for the Grocery Store and will be out in 2017.
O: Who would be your dream musician to collaborate with and why?
CB: I’d like to rap on a Kanye West or Action Bronson song. It’ll never happen, but I promise you, I would crush it.
Follow CHUCK on Twitter.