Catch up with atmospheric folk collective Gabriel Wolfchild & The Northern Light and watch the video for their latest single "Runaways" off the group's debut EP, Mornings Like These, out soon.
What brought you all together?
Gabriel Wolfchild: I worked as a solo act for a long time and I was doing the wandering, traveling guitar player thing. And then I basically moved to Seattle and, pretty much, right after moving to the city I got picked up by The Voice and The Voice was a good experience then, once I got kicked off and I was done with The Voice, I landed back here and I was like, 'crap, what do I do? I need to do something great!' [laughs]. I ran into my friend Dave who I was living with at the time and he came to one of my shows and he was like, 'we should make a band,' and that led to me gathering just the musicians that I had around me that I played with casually and making it into something more official. Like, Jen was somebody that was actually probably my first friend here who I met at a coffee shop and we just had an instant connection and we decided we wanted to start playing music together and so we played open mics. So, I had individual connections with all the musicians, I would say. My brother's the drummer, but I played with him a lot for a long time, too... It was this larger movement of us all coming together and creating music together which was definitely different because I'd done a lot of the duo thing.
David James: It kind of happened during the recording of the EP, actually.
Gabriel: I guess that's when it began more.
David: Yeah, 'cause it was just myself, Gabe, and his brother, Elon, going in to the studio and we recruited Isaac Castillo to play bass and upright bass and any number of other things that he ended up doing in the studio, but he basically joined the band his first day that the band was in the studio and then he just never left, fortunately. And then, by the end of the recording, we had picked up Jen and she was tracking and the last member to join was Mr. Robert Lee, who's our french horn and trumpet player. It happened that, as we made the album, we made the band.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
Gabriel: I'm always listening to new things. I don't know if I'm directly pulling things from other people, but we're all kind of like frogs and we're always soaking in things that we're listening to and hearing moments. As far as bands I've been listening to recently, I really love Gregory Alan Isakov. The Paper Kites, that was real instant with them. I also do have deep folk roots like Bob Dylan and that Woody Guthrie feel. It's somewhere in-between this indie rock atmosphere and these folk storytelling roots is, I think, what comes out of us.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
Gabriel: Yeah, something kind of like that. We've been saying cinematic indie folk is our genre because it has lots of dynamic and it moves and it goes places, it travels, but it does come back to a story, like a singer-songwriter song would. The lyrics are really important and that's a big piece of it, but it does expand.
David: Like power ballad Bob Dylan.
Gabriel: Yeah, right.
What were your inspirations behind your single and the video for "Runaways"?
Gabriel: The single was actually interesting. I was reconnecting with a past partner of mine, like we were in this friend state and I was really seeing how we had connected and how she had affected me and how I wasn't really only affected by her, but by so many people in my life - literally everyone that I had been in touch with. We are this moving collage of a human being, we pick and choose all these little moments and it does shape us, the experiences we share with people, and that was something that she was also discovering, so we had that conversation and it, eventually, turned into a song.
With the video, we wanted to talk about that in a way and so it was this idea of meeting, connecting, and then taking something with you and then passing it on to the next person; meeting, connecting, and passing it on to the next person... It really just gives that initial love a life of its own that's moving.
Jen Monete: Yeah, I feel like the heart and soul of that song is in one of the verses that says, 'everyone you've loved, everyone who's broke your heart, soulmates from the start, soulmates even after we depart'; and it's just how you might have a connection with someone that's really momentary or really long lasting and it might not work out with that person or you might be friends and you get separated by distance or something that happens in your relationship, but it's an acknowledgement that you're going to meet so many people in your life and keep them with you in so many different beautiful ways.
David: Thinking back to this Summer when we were talking about which song to make a video for - it was our first video debut - so we wanted it to embody specific things, not just about the song, but about what we want the band to be, how we want to portray the band as a whole, and that song is actually really good for that. Because, we believe that, as musicians and as a band, that's our job, is to connect people and to remind people how we're all connected. I remember everybody talking about that and that seemed that it was a lot of the inspiration behind it, too.
Could you tell us more about your debut EP, Mornings Like These?
Gabriel: Yeah... It's so hard to talk about music with words, it's something I struggle with.
Jen: Let's sing a song!
Gabriel: I would say, it's definitely got a core of vulnerability and truth-telling and really taking off the mask, for me at least, on it, definitely. Singing about things and talking about things that I needed to. A lot of it is this storm of a relationship that I was in, but the beauty and the darkness in that and the acceptance when it comes to a close. Learning to be present, I think, is a big moment in that EP. The textures we're using are pretty diverse, too; technically we have some really interesting sounds we're playing with: we use audio samples of tree leaves and we got wine glasses and just doing all kinds of weird, atmospheric stuff. That's something I really wanted to incorporate, something that would take this singer-songwriter song and just place it in a world of atmosphere and emotion.
Jen: Yeah, and Eric Lilavois at London Bridge Studios was really an amazing person to work with this on and he would do really amazing things. Like, he secretly recorded us just talking in the booth and then he played it backwards over one track and we all freaked out because it was so amazing. I think he added a lot of elements to that, too.
Gabriel: Yeah, he was amazing. Super awesome navigator of the seven seas.
David: As far as what you'll hear on the album, besides what we did, you're going to hear a lot of Eric's genius, you're going to hear magic from London Bridge - 'cause it's such a freaking magical place. Yeah, I'm really excited about it.
Is there a track off that EP you're most excited to share with listeners?
Gabriel: We're probably all going to have different songs... I'm really excited to see how people respond to the title tracks "Morning Like These", which are definitely different. They're probably the most outlandish style music that are on this first EP and they actually do point to where I think we want to go. It's definitely less folk-y and more, I don't even know what genre you'd call it, it's definitely something different, it's an immersion in sound and more experimental - and I personally do want to start trekking down that road more - but, there's other songs on the EP that are more accessible, though. I'm curious to see how those songs do.
In one sentence, how would you sum up Mornings Like These?
Gabriel: Can we create one?
Jen: Yeah, let's create one.
Jen: It's the journey
Gabriel: through many transparent layers
David: so wear a hat
Jen: because sometimes it'll rain
Gabriel: sometimes it will shine
David: and everything is going to be just fine.
Jen: Was that good? It rhymed.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Gabriel: I really see music as a medicine and it's definitely been medicine for me in the past, and so I think this is the beginning of my paying it forward, in that right. I can't tell you how important it was for musicians to be vulnerable and speak about the things that I thought I couldn't talk about with anybody and have that voice in my ear growing up. I'm hoping that these songs are able to touch people and heal people and help them feel understood when they feel alone. That, I think, is definitely a core mission of what we're doing together, we definitely want to create music that's medicine.
Jen: Yeah, the thing that I look for in writers and songwriters is if they're able to say something or explain something that I've felt or experienced, but never been able to put into words. I feel like something we're really trying to do with this music is be able to put those emotions into words and into music, as well.
Is there anything you want to add?
Gabriel: We love you a lot.
David: Thanks to all the readers for reading and the listeners for listening, because we - just as you - all of us need them very badly.
Gabriel: It's definitely a symbiotic relationship, because we're all inspiring each other and I think that's a beautiful thing.