Ganser combines post-punk workmanship with aesthetic noise rock tendencies, inspired by cinematic visuals and imagist language. Composed of keyboardist/vocalist Nadia Garofalo, bassist/vocalist Alicia Gaines, drummer Brian Cundiff, and guitarist Charlie Landsman, equal parts Space Odyssey and Ghost World, this Chicago-based band channels anxiety’s heightened state to absurd ends.
Their debut, Odd Talk, was released in 2018 on No Trend Records to favorable coverage from The New York Times, Billboard, Stereogum, and other publications. Building on their dissociative disorder namesake, their music is sometimes frenzied (“PSY OPS”), but sometimes contemplative (“Revel”), probing on questions of anxiety, intimacy, and avoidance.
(Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli)
I don’t think “Bad Form” would exist without the way we’ve recorded this year.
The seed for this song came from a time period between our two most recent recording sessions (February and June, respectively), working towards a new album. I was feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, while at the same time feeling stretched tenuously thin. Writing, recording, reaching out, balancing relationships outside and within the band, I found (and still find) myself under-rested and agitated to no particular end — and I had just quit smoking. More than not doing enough, I was not enough. We were finding new ways of working with each other at the time, as people years into a creative partnership should, and everything felt in flux. We were burning money in the studio while simultaneously pretending to be creative, free spirits undaunted by things like the physical, capitalist limitations of making art no one asked for. I stumbled into a kind of magical thinking because the truth is making an album makes no sense without it, or at least some self-trickery.
Thankfully, we keep file of our thoughts via Google Drive. It’s actually a lovely way to work. You pull it up and suddenly you get this oblique reference that maybe, at least within the band, you’re not the only one feeling this way. In any case, with four songwriters in the band, it has helped us become fans of each other’s work. I took some words written down by Charlie [Landsman] and combined it with thoughts of my own, filtering those through Nadia [Garofalo] over a night at my place. The words were always intended for her to sing with my backup. We kind of treat the morgue of words we keep as a collective subconscious and our vocals as two heads on one body; an unfortunate Cerberus with a sense of humor. What better way to not deal with your relationship to procrastination and perfectionism than to make a lyrical grotesque of it for your bandmate to stomp around in? I’m starting to view this project as the combined coping mechanism of four people living in really strange times.
Charlie and Brian [Cundiff]’s syncopation brought the song together. We’re fans of bands that heavily utilize this, paired with melody, and I think this is an evolution of things we’ve worked on from “Candor” to “PSY OPS.” The music started with the main bass riff, building off a false sense of measure to create a sort of danceable lurch. With a few adjectives, Charlie and Brian brought those parts to life. The end always landed at a deliberate sense of limbo. At the time, like now (and always), we didn’t know where we were going.
Nadia works in film, I in art direction & design, and with the cinematography and co-direction of our friend Kirsten Miccoli we pulled the video together through mood boards and a loose treatment around the ending mantra of “And now I just look at the sun.” What those words mean to me depends on the day. Sometimes it’s, frankly, about giving up; other times, it’s about finding your sense of purpose and deciding to follow it single-mindedly. It’s very strange for us to make these videos and also be in them. However it’s slightly becoming more familiar through necessity. We edited ourselves in 4K and that’s never going to feel natural. The artwork, also made by us, is kind of the BLAT of the song. I don’t know how else to explain that.
This is a snapshot of “the middle.” We’re frustrated with it and pessimistic and hopeful. Hopefully, when people hear our music they don’t identify with us, but experience alongside us.
— Alicia Gaines
You can catch Ganser at Riot Fest 2019 in Chicago, September 13-15.