Die Alone, the first full-length from Seattle’s Gazebos, is an eminently unpredictable album. Quirky punk numbers co-exist with covers of songs from Grease, and transitions within the songs themselves represent bold stylistic shifts. It’s an album that rewards multiple listens, and one that rarely dwells on a particular style or sound. I talked with singer Shannon Perry and guitarist TV Coahran about the making of Die Alone, how they arrived at their particular approach, and more.
The two of you have been playing in different bands for the better part of two decades. How did Gazebos end up happening?
Shannon Perry: The answer is sort of in the question; we have been playing in bands within the same music community for almost two decades. It was probably only a matter of time.
TV Coahran: I had a handful of instrumental demos I’d been messing with for a while and thought that somebody else could write and arrange some meaningful/powerful lyrics and vocals with ’em. I’m not great at words or connection in that way but Shannon really is.
Throughout Die Alone, there are rapid-fire stylistic changes, with aspects of everything from prog to hardcore. How does a Gazebos song generally come together?
Coahran: Heh, what parts are hardcore? But yeah, I arrange instrumental demos and a few kinda catch-phrase hook phrasings and send em to Shannon. She puts meat on the bones.
Perry: Generally, TV will write an instrumental arrangement, and send it to me for lyrics, vocal melodies and harmonies on my own and send it back to him. We’re both fairly particular about our creativity, so there isn’t a lot of direction given to either of us as far as what we choose to do with our parts. Gazebos songs end up being a combination of our contributions. This means that we do very little composing in person. I wish I were better at live collaboration, but making up vocals is a very vulnerable process, and I’ve never been able to just wing it while someone was watching.
Several of the songs on Die Alone are guitar-centric; others put a keyboard front and center. Do you generally have the instrument from which the melody will emerge figured out from the beginning?
Coahran: Die Alone is mostly guitar, but I think some upcoming stuff will be more synthy.
How did you end up including a song from Grease on the album?
Perry: “Worse Things” is a song that I’ve sung at karaoke for years, and since TV is a karaoke host, he has seen me perform it more than any person I know, probably. He also loves to do covers in our band, so when I joined Gazebos, he suggested we cover it, and I agreed of course. It’s still fun to me every time.
The title phrase comes from a lyric in “Boys I Like,” which closes the album. Do you view it, in that context, as a statement of frustration, or as something to embrace?
Perry: The “Boys I Like” lyric was switched from “Girls I like”, which TV wrote the chorus for. I wrote the lyrics for the verses and the “DIE ALONE” part. For me, “die alone” is both real and funny and frustrating and something to embrace. I’ve got a tattoo of it on my leg. It’s just a true statement; we will all die alone. But it’s also meant to help the listener get a little perspective on the anxieties we all feel struggling in and out of relationships, and the fear of aloneness. I think if we can accept being alone as standard, and choose not to base our happiness on the validation that comes from the love of other people, we can shake off the fetters of the constant struggle to seek that love, and probably have more satisfied lives. I don’t mean that to sound anti-love, though. I love love! I just see a lot of people (myself included) so preoccupied with romantic companionship that it gets in the way of us fully realizing our individual potential. Love is the best feeling that exists, but if you can find love within yourself, as Whitney Houston said, that’s the greatest love of all.
What’s next for the group?
Perry: I’m currently working on a bunch of new demos, and trying to better keep up with TV’s prolific pile of demos. I’ve been trying to balance my tattoo/artistic life with band life, and it’s always an uphill battle, but I’ve got some momentum going. Other than that, we are doing a little bit of lineup shuffling going on, and are looking forward to getting a solid crew together so we can do some more touring ASAP.
Coahran: New songs, new album, more touring.
Photo: Kelly O