ahead of their never-ending festival tour, dream big with gengahr
Get to know one of our favourite London bands and their weird dreams…
Gengahr have made one of the greatest albums we've heard this year. The incredibly well received A Dream Outside, which just so happens to be their debut, takes listeners on an addictive journey through eleven ethereal tracks with supernatural romantic undertones. Felix' falsetto sits above walls of dreamy guitar from both himself and John, while Hugh handles the bass and Danny keeps everything in order like a champ. Put simply, the quartet are hugely talented and the loveliest boys we've come across in a while. Their career highlights have so far been plentiful and surely include playing the 02 arena, touring with Alt.J, racking up their own headline shows, completely owning SXSW and releasing the afore-mentioned five star record. Temporarily home in their native North London, we grab the boys for a chat. In between laughing at the ugly little dog at the table next to us and planning their one and only week off, we discuss their album, the mentality behind getting a nine year old to direct their music videos, and the never-ending summer of festivals before them.
So you guys all went to school together didn't you?
Felix: Yeah, all apart from John. We were in group G… G Unit!
Hugh: We were the naughtiest class so we had the school therapist.
Danny: She taught us about empathy and compassion!
Felix: Each year they'd pick one form group that needed a councillor, and somehow we got her every year. We were quite proud of it.
Danny: We were the skateboarder group of the class and Felix got into quite a few high profile scraps I believe…
Hugh: Yeah, Me and Danny were the cheerleaders! Felix was the biggest in the year so he got picked on by the older years.
Felix: I haven't had a fight with anyone in a very long time thankfully.
And John, were you a skater too?
John: I'm gonna say yes even though it's a lie.
Hugh: You were in the rollerblading crew!
John: Rollerblades and micro scooters...
Too cool. What about now? What fictional crew do you reckon you're most like?
Danny: Maybe Rumble Fish. They're a badass crew.
Felix: definitely. I'm the motorcycle guy, Mick O'Rouke… and you would be Nicky Cage.
Danny: Oh yeah, I'd definitely be Nicky Cage.
Felix: He turns out to be a bit of a dick though, doesn't he? But he's probably the coolest. I think we should re-enact Rumble Fish for our next video.
100% should. Talking of your music videos, who's this Nico kid who's directed some of them?
Felix: I met Nico years ago when I was working at summer camps. He was very smart and I remember him reciting like a whole episode of Blackadder and acting out all the character parts. We were gonna have to make a really crap, lo-budget video that was essentially going to end up looking like a child had made it. So we thought, if we actually get a 9 year old to make it, nobody would say that it's bad, because who's that mean? His parents are both pretty sick people so they were well up for it. I don't think they were quite sure why we wanted Nico to make it but I think it worked out pretty well.
And his he your biggest fan?
Felix: Not really, no.
Danny: It's not his thing really.
Hugh: I think maybe he's grown to love it.
I saw the album review he did…
Hugh: Yeah, he gave it a good review. Maybe we're improving?
Felix: I feel like he said that because he thought that's what we wanted to hear.
Danny: What was it he said though? It's "quite diminished?"
You should definitely continue to work with him.
Felix: Yeah, but I feel like maybe he'll outgrow us.
Nah, just carry on and when he's old enough he can join the band.
Felix: He can be the Bez maybe? Or the Andy Warhol?
Danny: Yeah, that's a good idea!
Felix: That's definitely a better role. Bez is a bit harsh actually. I hope he doesn't become the Bez.
So you told me before that you guys produced the album yourselves. Was that important to you?
Felix: We co-produced it with an engineer who had much better skills than us in achieving the sound that we wanted. And yeah, it was important.
Hugh: Yeah, at this stage definitely.
Felix: You hope that things are going to go well, but when they do, things get taken out of your hands a little bit more. So at this stage where we're free to do whatever we want to do in terms of making an album, we took the opportunity to do as much of it ourselves as we could. So it was a naively confident move but we learnt so much doing it and I feel that now we have a much greater understanding of how to make a record.
What film do you think it would be most at home soundtracking?
Danny: Maybe The Dark Crystal?
Felix: Yeah? I'm down for anything with puppets in.
Hugh: Which is the one with David Bowie and all the crazy creatures?
Felix: I don't know about Labyrinth… it's a bit glam. Let's go with Dark Crystal.
What's the title, A Dream Outside, about?
Felix: It just sounded like the most relevant to both the songs and the art that we put out. It made sense to us. To me now though, it has become more about the sense of aspirations that maybe get lost along the way as well? I was thinking about it the other day actually, like when we got to play Glastonbury last year - I think I had stopped dreaming that it might be a possibility years before we got to do it. I quite like the idea now of kind of dreaming above your own expectations and I think maybe the older you get, the more dull and realistic those dreams and expectations are, so I'd encourage other people to dream above that.
Talking of which, anybody had any mental dreams recently?
Hugh: I keep having a reoccurring one about my dead cat. Basically I find it nearly dead under my bed or somewhere like that, hidden away, and I have a tremendous sense of guilt like I've abandoned it.
Did you cause its death?
Hugh: No… I don't think so. It's awful!
Danny: I just have these spirit animal dreams where we all have little animal companions.
Like The Northern Lights?
Danny: Yeah! But I had a really shit one like an owl or something.
Felix: That's a symbol of wisdom, man!
And if it ever got far enough away from you, you could send messages. That's such a good dream.
Felix: I keep having dreams where I start getting tattoos and I really like it and I end up getting so many that they end up reaching up all over my face. I become like Mystique from X-Men and then I wake up feeling terrible. Maybe that's an anxiety dream? I'm terrified of needles too.
Felix, you have a very distinctive voice. How did you find your sound?
Felix: It was something we tried out a few years back and personally, it wasn't my choice.
Danny: We kind of pushed you into it…
Did it start with tickles or something?
Felix: I think we tried some of our old stuff an octave up and they all thought it sounded really good but I thought it was horrendous. I tried quite hard to persuade everyone that it was a bad idea but they weren't having any of it. Thankfully I think I've got a lot better at doing it. But when we initially tried it, it was just bad.
Hugh: But I liked it in a Neil Young bad way.
Danny: But now it's a lot stronger.
Because you're been practicing?
Danny: Aww, that sounds so sweet.
Felix: Yeah… I've been practising at home a lot.
And you're about to embark on what seems like a never-ending tour? That's pretty exciting.
Felix: Neverending Story! That's another one we could soundtrack. Literally anything with puppets.
Amazing. So are there any shows you're particularly looking forward to playing?
Danny: We've heard a lot of good things about Melt.
Felix: In July we're doing Splendour In The Grass down in Australia.
Hugh: Glastonbury again, and Latitude - that's a favourite of ours from last year.
Felix: Yeah, and Longitude too this year!
Hugh, you do do all of the artwork… when you're on tour do you ever sit in the van and sketch the others like they're one of your French girls?
Hugh: I don't actually, but I have been making tour videos. I figured it would be better to make them ourselves than have somebody else doing it.
True. So I saw on the your instagram that you guys are friends with Slaves?
Felix: Yeah, we've known them for a while now and met them at Latitude last year actually.
I love it when they bring out the mantarey at shows. It's so good. I was crying when that happened.
You should probably get Nico to dress up and crowd surf at your shows.
Felix: That's definitely something we should do! We should get a shark, a witch, and a ghost.
He can run backstage and change between songs. Plus, he's young so he won't cost much.
Felix: We can pay him in Haribo - make it really creepy.
Hugh: We were giving him sweets in the forest actually, when we were filming Fill My Gums With Blood. People walked by looking at us a bit funny. The things you do, ay!
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Hollie Fernando