An Interview With The Dream-Pop Quartet, SATCHMODE!
Posted On 13 Feb 2017
Last week on February 7th, the LA dream-pop band Satchmode released their debut album “Love Hz ” on the heels of two EPs that charted on Hype Machine and racked up 4 million-plus cumulative streams. The EPs also earned acclaim from outlets such as Dancing Astronaut, Indie Shuffle, The Wild Honey Pie and more.
Over the past two years, lead singer/songwriter/producer Gabe Donnay pieced together the songs that would become Love Hz as sonic skeletons in his home studio to expand them with the band in tow.
On Friday, February 10, Satchmode performed at the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles at the venue, Hi-Hat. Their lively and dream-pop sound filled the space and immediately got the crowd swinging their hips.
All four of them smiled throughout their almost hour-long set and dazzled with their incredible musicianship. They played a number of songs off their recently released collection, including “Hall & Oates,” “Never Gonna Take You Back” and “Happiness.” A big highlight of the show was when Satchmode covered Tears For Fears’ hit song “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.”
Learn more about Satchmode in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So, now that 2016 is over, what are some words you would use to describe the year for you? What have been some of the highlights for the band? What are you most excited about for 2017? Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?
2016 was intense. Holding down a 9 to 5 job and playing in a touring band doesn’t leave you with much down time. But it was a great year for Satchmode. We finished our first full-length album, released several well-received singles and a music video, and went on tour for the first time. Looking forward to 2017, I’m very excited for the album to finally come out, and I’m also excited to get back in the studio and start working on the next one. I’ve got too many ideas building up that I haven’t had time to work on!
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall some of your earliest musical memories?
It was definitely my dream as a kid, and I knew very early on that music would always be a big part of my life. But I don’t think I really started believing I could make a career out of it until much later, after I was out of school. When some of the early Satchmode songs started getting traction, it really started to seem possible.
One of my earliest musical memories was at my fifth birthday party. It was before I had started learning an instrument, but I had been to the symphony and I wanted to try “conducting”. So my mom gave all the other kids little toy instruments and I tried to conduct them like an orchestra. I must have thought something amazing was going to come out, and I got really upset when it just sounded like, you know, a bunch of preschoolers banging on toys. I threw a tantrum about it and my parents had to put me in timeout. Hopefully I’m easier to work with these days.
How did Satchmode first come to be? How did you come up with your name? Was it hard to choose one name?
Satchmode started as a mostly electronic project when I was still living in Baltimore. I moved to Philadelphia and then Los Angeles shortly thereafter, where I met the rest of the guys who would become the regular live band. The name is a nod to Louis Armstrong’s nickname “Satchmo”. Choosing a name for a band is usually really hard, but I think that one came pretty easily.
How do you think your sound is influence by living in Los Angeles? Do you find it is important for this group to separate yourselves from all the other bands in LA?
Living in LA has had a big impact on me. Playing in bands in Baltimore and Philly was a pretty different experience. When the music scene in a city is smaller, the community sort of coalesces around a few specific genres. If you fit into one of those scenes then it can be great and super supportive, but otherwise it can feel like swimming upstream. In LA, there’s such a diverse landscape of musicians. For me it’s just reinforced the idea that there are no rules in pop music and you can do whatever you want. I have faith that if the music is good, it will find an audience here.
As far as separating ourselves from all the other bands in LA, I’m not so worried about that. It’s inevitable to draw a lot from the scene around you, but I think my set of influences is unusual enough that whatever I do will end up sounding like me.
Next month you will release your debut album, “Love Hz.” Can you talk about the process of putting it together? What was the inspiration behind this collection of songs? How is this music different or similar to your two previous EPs?
The album is about the grieving process that you experience when a relationship is falling apart while you’re still in it. Even when you know on some level that it’s beyond saving, you’re still in love and your mind goes through crazy contortions trying to escape the inevitable. Each of the songs on the album is tied in some way to the classical stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. They came together over a period of about three years.
With our most recent EP, I think we were pretty far along in developing the palette that underpins this album. But the music is very different from our first EP, which had no live drums on it and was much less band-oriented. The tone of that EP was also a little more monochromatic, whereas this album explores a wider range of textures, tempos and influences.
You are about to go out on tour with the band, Mating Ritual. Where are you excited to play at? What do you think is the best part and the most challenging part about being out on the road?
It’s always exciting to play in a new city, and it will be our first time in a bunch of these towns (Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix).
The best part of touring is getting super locked in as an ensemble to the point where you can really explore every nuance of the songs and develop an even deeper level of musicality. The hardest part is getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself properly.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire the band’s music? Who would you all love to work with in the future?
Some of the influences you can hear most prominently on the album are Phil Collins, Phoenix, Hall & Oates, Cocteau Twins, Todd Terje, The Field, Darkside.
I’d love to collaborate with a female singer. I love classic coed country duets, and it would be fun to put a modern spin on that.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
I like going to see live music and art galleries, biking around Venice and Santa Monica, reading novels, going to the movies.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I hope they can share in the catharsis that I got from writing these songs. It’s a powerful experience to tap into my darkest emotions and turn them into music that can make a room full of people dance and let go.