Get won over by “Won Over Frequency”
By: Sandra Bedynek: Sound Check in the Frederick News Post
Originally published September 27, 2010
Occasionally, an artist comes along that isn’t afraid to step outside the standards and rules set up by the music industry. Gavin Castleton is just that kind of artist, and his tenth studio album entitled, “Won Over Frequency” is just that kind of album.
Each song benefits from the fact that Gavin Castleton is not only a gifted lyricist, but also layers his songs with music and instruments that continue to keep you interested. Previous albums from Gavin Castleton have had a strong underlying narrative or central theme, and while this album allows its songs to stand alone, his effectiveness for getting an idea across has not changed. The songs all feel substantial in what he is trying to say, and have an open and honest quality to them that make them very relatable.
One of my favorite elements of this album, though, is in the details. When Gavin Castleton builds on his own music and intensity, waiting until the end of the song to reach a musical peak without ever receding. It builds a sense of urgency and passion that almost makes you lean forward as you listen and wait for the next song. Track number 3 “The Crier” is probably the best example of this rise in musical tension.
Anyone would be hard pressed to put this album into one particular style or genre, and I think that is one of the highest compliments I can pay it. It is unapologetically creative in a way that I wish more artists were willing to be, the music industry could certainly benefit from it.
Recently, Gavin Castleton was nice enough to give me his time and answer a few questions regarding his new album and upcoming tour. For more information please be sure to visit www.gavincastleton.com.
FNP: This album seems to differ from some of your previous albums in that it doesn’t have a strong central narrative or plot underlying it. Which style of writing and recording do you find comes more naturally to you, and did you have to approach the writing and recording process differently?
GC: When I finished Home, I said to myself and those involved, "My next album will be the opposite of Home." I didn't know it was sense, I just knew that Home felt like I'd worked something out as far as I wanted to take it, at least for the time being, and I wanted to stretch in an opposite direction. I'm not sure which approach feels more natural to me... but I think that if an approach starts to feel very natural to me, then it's time to try something else.
The writing was very different than Home, but the recording process was very similar, albeit less grandiose. In the writing process, those songs just came when they came, and they were about whatever they wanted to be about. I wrote Killer's Blood because I was playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto 4, suddenly. It didn't matter to me how it would relate to its sonic siblings, I just wanted to celebrate the joy of mass murder. Whereas in Home, everything had to fit into the big puzzle just so, down to the key of the song, the tempos, and the character development.
In regards to the recording process, I once again had musicians track the parts for multiple songs in one session, used similar tones and instrumentation on different songs to aid in continuity throughout the record, and worked both in and out of professional studios, taking on as much of the workload as I could to keep the budget low and the quality high. I'm a little obsessed with efficiency when it comes to recording. I don't really experiment in the studio.
FNP: This album has a lot of musical layers and collaborations on it. Is that going to make it a challenge to play live, now that you’re getting ready to tour in support of it?
GC: Actually, of all my records, this album should be the easiest to perform live. This is the first album in which I recorded many songs that had already been played live for a year or more. Every other album was entirely new material at the time of its publishing. And aside from that fact, I arranged them with live performance in mind, trying to stay close to the golden rule of good songwriting "a good song can be well represented with just one instrument and voice."
FNP: You can always hear varying influences in your music and albums, what trends (or lack of) do you find inspiring in the music being made today?
GC: I'm not interested in most of the music being made right now. It feels fashion-driven, reactionary, and recycled to me. I'm finding more inspiration from movies, the Internet, family, and relationships at the moment. If I did have to point at musical influences for Won Over Frequency, I would just say that I wanted the compositions to be more akin to those of big 70s and 80s pop writers like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, and Steely Dan, than anything you'll hear coming out this decade.
FNP: How long of a process was this album, from writing it to final mixes and the artwork?
GC: Some of the songs date back to 2007, but most of them were written within the last year. The actual recording/mixing/production of the album took about a month. It is the fastest album I've made, I think. A lot of that has to do with no label involvement, and the manic pressure I tend to put on myself.
FNP: You had a lot of support from fans in finishing this album. Does that allow you a sense of freedom creatively, or do you feel extra pressure to put out an album that will make them happy?
GC: Good question! I think that people are drawn to an artist who is strong enough to make herself happy, and conversely, people are a little turned off by someone who panders to them. Subconsciously, I'd guess that I picked this career path because it means I DON'T have to work for anyone else. My blood is adverse to subordination.
The support of my listeners on this record was huge for me - it made me value myself and my work more at a time when I felt a bit hopeless, and it made me feel better understood, by perfect strangers no less. I have the exact kind of listeners that most artists dream about - people who truly want me to follow my own instincts and diversify as much as possible - and I would prefer a small group of those kind of listeners over a large group of drones any day.