still woozy makes intimate, psychedelic pop songs
The Oakland-based artist's debut EP 'Lately' is out today.
Photo by Shawheen Keyani.
Sven Gamsky only started making music under the Still Woozy moniker in 2017, but he’s managed to woo listeners with a steady release of psychedelic singles — each moving further from his math rock roots to create the emotional depth he craves. Without an album under his belt, he landed a spot on this year’s coveted Coachella lineup, where even his most intimate songs got the crowd dancing.
Now, just a few weeks after taking the stage, Still Woozy releases his debut EP Lately. Recorded entirely in his garage in Oakland, the 26-year-old musician combines electronic and acoustic elements for an album that is honest, instinctual, and intimate. “Trusting your gut is the most important thing to Still Woozy as a project,” Gamsky says. “Just relying on that and feeling that.” He hopes that the level of emotional vulnerability he instills in his songs, will foster the kind of human connection he finds so meaningful.
One rainy April afternoon in NYC, i-D called up Still Woozy to chat about his sunny, psychedelic pop songs.
It was really exciting to see your Coachella debut. You have some dance moves!
Hell yeah. We all do. It makes it more fun for us if we can kind of let go and not be scripted. Whatever happens happens.
So, I was hoping you could take me back to the beginning. Tell me how Still Woozy started.
Basically, I was in a math rock band. It’s very heavy music. Every little note has to be perfect to fit in with all the other things that are happening and I became disillusioned with this approach. I just had a moment where I realized that all the music that I loved was not like that at all and was more feeling based. The big move was to move away from the intellectual side and move towards the instinctual side. Trusting your gut is the most important thing to Still Woozy as a project. Just relying on that and feeling that. The most experimental music I ever made was right after that. I feel like you can kind of see that I was leaving a math rock band. It was a transitional phase and you can kind of tell. But I like experimenting. I need to experiment in order to feel like something is exciting and new to me.
How has the way you write songs and the way you approach your music changed since then?
It hasn’t changed dramatically, but I think the kind of music that I’m making is shifting. What I’m inspired by is always shifting and that can have a subconscious impact on the music that I write. I’m about to go into a more intense writing phase and I’ve been listening to a lot of different things like Brockhampton and Lil Baby, but also Neil Young and some other kind of lush, stripped down music. I think I’m just channeling whatever comes out. If anything, the production has gotten better. That’s the biggest thing that’s changed. I’m able to more easily achieve what I want to hear. I started this and I didn’t really know how to mix. I was in this band before and I left because I wanted more control. I started doing everything myself and I didn’t really know how to do it that well. You can kind of hear that the earlier stuff sounds a little shittier, you know? Not totally, but I just didn’t know what I was doing.
Are you still making all of your music in your garage?
Yeah. All of it. One thing I’ll say is that it’s hard for me to feel super satisfied because I’m always trying to grow. I’m not the type of person to stay complacent.
Why is creating a feeling of intimacy so important in your music?
It kind of goes back to why I started. Connecting with music emotionally has been my relationship with it. Growing up as a kid, struggling to fit in or whatever, you gravitate towards the music that helps you. If you need something, you gravitate towards the type of music that’ll help you find your voice a little bit. If you’re vulnerable, people will let down their guard. People that are listening to my music can be vulnerable together and we’ll be able to understand each other better. There are so many mechanisms that we build up and there are so many toxic ways to interact with each other that being vulnerable more is never a bad thing.
And you have a new EP coming out?
Yeah. A lot of the past year has just been experimenting with different things and these are five songs that I feel represent different areas that I want to flesh out more. They all represent different parts of me and my musical identity. There are a lot of different sides, different emotions, I didn’t want to just ride one thing too hard. I definitely get depressed, but also feel good and feel confident.
When I made the first song, “Habit,” with that loop of the guitar and the organ sound, I would play it on repeat in my garage and it just felt so sad. I played that for someone and they were like, ‘Oh, your music is so happy.’ And that blew my mind, just hearing that and feeling this somber kind of sadness, but it also feels kind of beautiful. It felt good. It didn’t feel like overwhelming depression, it just felt like reflection. And then “LAVA” to me, feels more uplifting. Even though the concept is — ‘you never leave my mind/ why would you have to go’ — it still has this sense of optimism. Those represent different avenues that I want to explore. I don’t want to be put in a box.
Over the last two years, you’ve released a bunch of singles. How come you decided that now was the time to do an EP and that these were the songs you wanted to be on it?
In the other band, we’d always work on making all these albums and putting them out and I’d see that the first couple songs would have the most interest. When you don’t really have a fan base, it’s hard to sell a whole album to someone. And it’s a lot of work on the artists side. For this new project I was going to do it differently and take my time to figure out what I wanted to make. And just do it song by song.
The studio is where I’m most comfortable. I just can’t wait to get back in there. It’ the most exciting part for me: creating a song and writing. There’s just so much good music out there and I feel like I’m inspired by the whole world of music that’s taking shape right now. There’s never been more niches.
Have you ever read a Kurt Vonnegut book?
I’ve read Cat’s Cradle.
I’ve never read that one. The Sirens of Titans is my favorite. I just remember bawling at the end because it was sad and beautiful and hopeful, but also pessimistic. There are not a lot of moments in life where you sit back and reflect on how crazy the world is outside of your little bubble, and I think the things that can get you to do that are so valuable.
Reading Kurt Vonnegut, I’ve always taken away this sort of existentialist feeling, but to me it’s more optimistic. Life has no inherent meaning, you just have to prescribe your own meaning. And that’s as meaningful as anything else. You decide on how you want to live and what’s important to you. And it can be anything. Intimacy, human connection, loving, and being there for people — that’s the most important thing in my life and I want the music to reflect that.