Ninkasi Studios and the Gazelle(s) Band Takes Joshua TreeJan 24, 2017 Comments (0)
The historic Rancho De La Luna property in Joshua Tree, California is nothing short of breathtaking. Located in the Mojave Desert, this property serves as a private oasis for bands to create music in an organic and inspiring way. Ninkasi Studios Experiential Marketing Director, James Book, took Eugene’s own, the Gazelle(s) on a weeklong trip to the legendary property to eat good food and make better music. The band spent 6 days recording 10 songs, which they will finish at Ninkasi Studios in Eugene with a record release date expected to be Spring 2017. Below are their stories.
James Book – Ninkasi Studios Experimental Marketing Director
The band and I set out in the Ninkasi RV for a two day drive to the Southern California Mojave desert.
A friend (David Catching from Eagles of Death Metal) owns an amazing property/studio called Rancho De La Luna (aka “the Rancho”) in Joshua Tree. He lives there and it isn’t open to the public so we were grateful to be allowed in for the week to begin the new album which will be completed at Ninkasi Studios in Eugene, Oregon.
Our time at The Rancho was as creatively immersive and as “full volume” as you might imagine; the vibe and energy of the place couldn’t be denied. The park itself deserves credit for its history inspiring a long list of artists, including The Doors and The Eagles.
The town of Joshua Tree itself is an artist enclave attracting all manner of culture-hungry tourists, high desert burning man types, and people who just want to get away from it all. Couple that with Rancho’s long views, ambience and arsenal of rare and vintage musical equipment: wonderful instruments, amplifiers and candy-like sound-altering effects are stacked floor to ceiling in every inch of the place. The Gazelle(s) were immediately swept up in the reverie. Because of The Rancho’s undeniable catalyzing creative aura and allure, the place has been featured on many TV and cable shows including Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways (HBO) and Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” travel and food show (Dave is also an amazing cook for his guests).
Neal Williams – Band Member of the Gazelle(s) and Ninkasi Artist in Residence
Tell us about your recent trip to Joshua Tree.
Our experience at Joshua Tree was amazing. The studio is legendary and has hosted tons of influential bands, including Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss and Twilight Singers. Tim, whose guitar playing was largely informed by the "desert rock" scene that emerged from the Palm desert in the nineties, was like a kid in a candy store among all the guitars, effects pedals and amps in the studio. He played a host of different guitars on the album and meticulously photographed and catalogued each instrument he used.
James manned the mixing board and, along with assistant engineer Hayden Scott, helped us capture our sound in a relaxed and attentive way. We really let the vibe of the studio and environment settle into our sound and we didn't fight the ways that it impacted our playing. We slowed down tempos a bit and I feel like it gave us a more organic, seventies kind of feel. It took a little of the sheen off our sound and added a bit more dust and warmth. We also got to pal around with some legendary musicians and producers, including David Catching of Eagles of Death Metal (who owns the studio) and producer Chris Goss, who cooked us an amazing mushroom risotto one night.
Can you tell us about the history of Gazelle(s)?
Tim Smith, our guitar player and Terrance Lee, our drummer met through a mutual friend a little over two years ago. I in turn met Terrance through a craigslist post he put up looking for people to play with. I remember going to Terrance's garage to jam with them for the first time and getting nervous because Tim's amp was pretty small. But I also found his lack of guitar pedals sort of refreshing since I was used to playing in bands with guitar players that had suitcases of effects pedals (a common attribute of post-rock guitarists). We spent about a year trying out different styles and ideas before settling into our sound. Once things were feeling good and we were starting to play shows we decided to try out Michelle Whitlock; our violin player. Terrance knew Michelle and wanted to audition her but I was personally a bit skeptical about adding violin to our sound. After just a few minutes of playing with her though, I knew something special was happening.
How would you describe Gazelle(s) artistic style?
We play a style of instrumental music many people refer to as "post-rock." The genre name can be a little misleading as most bands considered "post-rock" aren't as experimental as the term "post" would suggest. A unifying factor of these bands tends to be long, cinematic crescendos and aggressive, pummeling sections juxtaposed against more delicate and moody parts. We all come from slightly different musical backgrounds and we all listen to a wide spectrum of music that informs our sound. When we're going to shows or touring we're just as likely to be listening to weird R&B or hip-hop as we are any kind of rock music.
Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?
Inspiration is hard to pin down, especially since we're writing instrumental music which is largely based on mood and feeling more-so than specific events or things we can describe in words. I believe living in such a beautiful part of the country serves as a source of inspiration. The mystery and majesty of the forest and the damp and cloudy winters here probably make their way into our sound. I also feel like the current political climate and social issues make their way into our more aggressive and sadder moments. There tends to be an optimism that shows up from time to time as well though. I don't think any of us are too defeatist to acknowledge a bit of hope in our sound.
How did you get connected with Ninkasi Studios, and how has that connection helped facilitate the band’s overall success?
We got connected with Ninkasi Studios through my being Ninkasi's current artist-in-residence. After being commissioned to do the artwork for 2015's Ground Control, Ninkasi hired me on in a special position as a part-time in-house illustrator. I've helped with numerous advertising assets and worked with our art-director Nick Yarger and lead designer Wade Long on many labels, including the 2016 re-brand of our flagship beers. Through this relationship I met James Book, Ninkasi's Experiential Marketing Director and head of Ninkasi Studios. James has been a huge help and, along with co-owners Nikos Ridge and Jamie Floyd, has provided us with some fantastic opportunities; including a spring tour of Northern California and a week of recording at the legendary Rancho de la Luna recording Studio in Joshua Tree, CA.
Anything you would like share, from new merch to upcoming shows/tours or songs/albums?
Currently we're playing around Eugene a bit as we work on finishing the album. We still need to get back into the studio to add some of our more ambient textures and segues between songs. After that we'll mix and master the music and get the artwork together. The plan is to press a limited run of vinyl records if we can secure the funds and hopefully release it in the Spring. We'll most likely do a bit of touring on the album as well as playing around the Pacific Northwest a good bit in 2017. Be sure to follow us on facebook (facebook.com/gazellesss) for updates and new music to come.