Gemma is Felicia Douglass with producer Erik Gundel. After a whirlwind 2018 for Douglass — finishing an album with Ava Luna, joining Dirty Projectors as a touring member, collaborating on new projects — Gemma’s new record Feeling’s Not a Tempo is her most inspired performance yet as a frontperson, as a songwriter, and as a gripping vocalist. The album is out May 31 via Double Double Whammy.
(Photo Credit: Marcus Maddox)
“‘Til We Lose The Feeling” is my love song to New York: A celebration, a thank you for knocking me down and lifting me up day after day. I’m fascinated by how this city is romanticized on television and the big screen, and I wanted this song to reflect that magical instance of being whisked away in it. New Yorkers take so much pride in the hustle and people latch onto the idea of this intangible pulsating energy in the air. I grew up in Manhattan and one of my favorite things is to walk miles and miles without a destination. It’s nice to take it all in and feel the city breathe.
There’s an urgency in this song to find ways around what’s draining us, with a heroic tone of someone reaching out and helping you get over that hurdle. I like the idea of saving someone no matter how big or small the situation. It could be a friend convincing you to go out when you’re feeling sad, or sharing an incredible few minutes or even hours on a dance floor. Dance is an important form of expression for me and as a result I’ve come to appreciate getting fully wrapped up in a song. Movement is self healing.
Erik does an incredible job making such a dreamy, lush, fantastical musical bed and it inspired the songwriting. The narrative compels you to do whatever you can to find a way to happiness, as if someone’s pulling you up from the side of a building in an action movie. Gemma has always been a more expressive, emotional, bold version of self from the start. It’s instinctual and less practical, which is the opposite of my tendencies in real life. I always have to remind myself to live in the moment and not overthink most situations. I’ll get there.
— Felicia Douglass
It’s understandable that the music of “Til We Lose the Feeling” would evoke thoughts of New York: It’s easily the most sonically overstuffed track on the album. Nauseous, siren-like samples, herky-jerky synth bass, a boatload of percussion, pedal steel — it’s all a bit overwhelming. Which is the point. I was working on this song and album while in graduate school to become a music therapist, an amazing and challenging time in my life. I was running all around the city to go to class, do field work in various settings, and work part time as a barista. Working on music for Gemma was ostensibly a release, and a time to relax, though, as anyone living in a cosmopolitan area can relate, it’s hard to tune out the pervasive atmosphere of hustle. This song functioned as a lightning rod for that energy, and as one of the earlier tracks demoed for this album to flourish into a full song, provided some semblance of direction for the rest of the album to follow.
“Till We Lose the Feeling” has become an important part of the live Gemma show, functioning as the closing song of our set. After the standard six to seven songs of a typical New York show, it’s our last bid for some catharsis with the audience, or as Felicia puts it so well, to “find a way around what’s draining us.” And it almost always works, for me at least. Though Felicia writes the lyrics, I feel invited to participate in the expressive identity she conveys in them, as I hope everyone does. “Hey, my timing was all wrong!” Who doesn’t want a chance to forget that kind of thing for a little while?
— Erik Gundel
Gemma’s Feeling’s Not A Tempo will be about May 31 via Double Double Whammy. You can catch them live at Union Pool in Brooklyn, NY on July 11.
(Photo Credit: Marcus Maddox)