Gouge Away Interview: “We knew we wanted to do something different”

Gouge Away

New album, Burnt Sugar, is out now via Deathwish.

Nearly three years ago, the debut album from hardcore quartet Gouge Away, titled , Dies, knocked us for six. So we were pretty psyched when they announced Burnt Sugar, their debut release on Deathwish. We had pretty high expectations but we were not expecting a raucous roller coaster of visceral anger combined with razor-sharp melodies.

We wanted to find out more about the record. Vocalist Christina Michelle was gracious enough to have a chat with us about expanding their sound, working with Touche Amore vocalist Jeremy Bolm, and taking risks.

Overblown: It seems to me that your sound is a bit more expansive on this record with songs like ‘Ghost’ and ‘Raw Blood’ seeing you work in some alt-rock melody and experimental noise influences respectively. Was that a conscious decision or something more organic?

Christina Michelle: It was a little bit of both. We all like a large range of music and listen to stuff outside of hardcore. We naturally write outside of that realm, but it was a conscious decision to follow what comes naturally to us, instead of trying to be exactly like the last record or take the easy route which is doing what people might expect.

Overblown: In the song ‘Only Friend’ the lyrics suggest that paranoia is your only friend. I read somewhere that people find comfort in the familiar. Even if the familiar has a negative impact on one’s life. What do you think of that idea? Is there any link to the lyrics of the song?

Christina Michelle: For sure. The meaning of the song is that anxiety can be there in a beneficial way, such as protecting you from dangerous situations, but if you give it too much power it can prevent you from living a normal life. It’s about the relationship that comes from getting way too dependent on and comfortable with anxious feelings.

Overblown: How did writing this album compare to writing , Dies? Did you approach anything differently?

Christina Michelle: Pretty much as soon as , Dies was released, we knew we wanted to do something different. , Dies was such an important record for us to create and I think it did a good job of laying out our morals and beliefs. The intention of the band since it began was to lean more politically, and that was what I always wanted.

But then a string of personal issues started catching up to me, and I felt like it wasn’t okay to ignore that. There’s been loss, physical and mental illness, harassment, and injustice surrounding people that are closest to me, and it became really heavy to carry. I had a wider range of lyrics to choose from because I felt like I had been writing nonstop since the last record and I gave myself permission to use more personal content.

, Dies happened so fast that I had to write in a frenzy. We gave ourselves a much shorter amount of time to write and record, so having a lot more practice time together this time around helped too. We checked in with each other a lot to make sure we were still on the same page of putting out songs that we like, instead of just songs that would’ve fit on the last record. There was a larger sense of risk-taking, encouraging new ideas, and collaboration. I think everyone got a chance to really show who they are on Burnt Sugar.

The change in the general lyrical content, in addition to the style of music, made us think that maybe people on the outside weren’t going to be ready for it. But we couldn’t put out anything other than what was genuine to us.

Overblown: The album was produced by Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amore. How did you come to be working with him? And why did you want to work with him?

Christina Michelle: We became friends and he looked out for us a lot through the years. He has always been someone that we can turn to for advice. He never worked as a producer and we never used a producer before, so it just kind of made sense for us to work together. Jeremy is someone that we can trust, who we believe always has our best interest at heart. We knew that his experience being in bands for over 10 years and his understanding that we were very set on making the record that we wanted to make, would make him the perfect fit. He was extremely encouraging and was an excellent facilitator so everyone felt heard.

Overblown: The album has been complimented for its raw live sound. Was that a goal when you set out to record the album?

Christina Michelle: Yeah, definitely. There’s nothing like the energy you get from everyone playing together all at once.

Gouge Away

Overblown: The album artwork for Burnt Sugar is quite violent and visceral. Who created it? What is the concept behind it?

Christina Michelle: Kat Lyons did the illustration for the front and back covers. We sent her the songs and lyrics and let her run with it. She came up with a few concepts but this one was our favorite. The style of drawing represents a reductive theme she saw in the record, and the drawings were based off photos she loves. Then we had Richard Vergez design the layout. He’s from Miami and has made a name for himself by creating surreal collages and art installations which link music and visual art in unique ways.

Overblown: You have a pretty expansive tour on the horizon. Is there any place, in particular, you’re excited about playing? Perhaps somewhere you haven’t been before?

Christina Michelle: It’s all exciting! It’s going to be awesome to play with Culture Abuse and Drug Church. It’s always fun going to places we’re familiar with and catching up with people. And it’s going to be awesome to see the UK and Belgium for the first time.

Gouge Away tour dates:

October 4 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub (Record Release Show) *
October 6 Queens, NY @ Death Match *
October 7 Charleston, WV @ Bully Trap *
October 8 Richmond, VA @ Gallery 5 *
October 9 Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage Lounge *
October 10 Boston, MA @ Hardcore Stadium *
October 11 Baltimore, MD @ Wind Up Space *
October 12 Long Island, NY @ Amityville Music Hall *
October 13 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place *
October 17 Southampton, UK @ Joiners *
October 18 Birmingham, UK @ Actress & Bishop *
October 19 Nottingham, UK @ Bodega *
October 20 Leeds, UK @ Key Club *
October 21 Brighton, UK @ Hope & Ruin *
October 22 Bristol, UK @ Exchange *
October 23 Glasgow, UK @ King Tuts *
October 24 Manchester, UK @ Star & Garter *
October 25 London, UK @ Boston Music Room *
October 27 Hasselt, BE @ Groezrock *
November 9 Phoenix, AZ @ Pub Rock Live ^
November 10 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction ^
November 11 Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman ^
November 13 Seattle, WA @ Vera Project ^
November 14 Portland, OR @ Black Water ^
November 16 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive ^
November 18 Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge (Matinee) ^
November 19 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s ^
November 20 Pontiac, MI @ Pike Room ^
November 26 West Haven, CT @ The Cave %
November 27 Boston, MA @ Great Scott %
November 28 Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville %
November 29 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie %
November 30 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter %
December 1 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 %
December 2 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade %
December 3 Gainesville, FL @ Loosey’s %
December 4 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub %

* w/ Culture Abuse
^ w/ Drug Church, Heart Attack Man
% w/ Drug Church, Seattle’s New Gods

Follow Overblown on Facebook and Twitter.