Q&A with Daughn Gibson

Heya Daughn!  It’s really cool to get the chance to ask you a few Qs about your debut album, All Hell, and your distinctive vocals and sound.  Your voice literally stopped me in my tracks when I heard you over the loudspeakers in a record store.  I had to find out more about you ASAP.  You released your debut on White Denim in April of this year, with a limited pressing of 400 copies. Since then, your profile has grown, with glowing reviews at major indie music sites, prime gigs, and a jump to Sub Pop.  How did the Sub Pop deal come about and what does it mean in relation to All Hell?

Sub Pop got passed All Hell by Matthew K at White Denim and that was it.

Will you be reworking the songs on your album for the Sub Pop release, or maybe adding new tracks?

The Sub Pop release will be completely new songs. I’m not into redoing songs because it’s not much fun to redo something you already did a great job with.

Ah, I didn’t realize it’s going to be all new tunes!  Okay, I must gush about your vocals now.  It’s easy to get lost in your richly smooth and deeply calm delivery that is tinged with a bleak despondency at times, and at others, a mellow brightness.  69 Love Songs-era Stephin Merritt, Ian Curtis (on “Tiffany Lou”), Johnny Cash, and Elvis (on “Rain On a Highway”) come to my mind.  Do you count any of those artists as inspirations?

Not really, I mean, I’ve definitely listened to all that stuff over the years, but not enough to have the urge to mimic those artists. Every song I do might call for a slightly different vocal delivery, but I’m never thinking “Ok now here comes the part where I am going to try and sound like Stephen Merritt.”

You grew up in Nazareth, PA and your musical background includes playing in various regional punk and metal bands.  You were also a founding member of and drummer for Pearls and Brass.  You’ve done a total 180 with your solo work, where you juxtapose your contemplative balladeering and traditional instruments of guitar and piano with loops of samples and bright keyboard and other notes.  Did you have a warped, but wonderful dream one night where you were visited by both the ghost of Johnny Cash and Pac-Man on painkillers?

Nah, I didn’t have any kind of special moment with this. I just applied my hands to my vision and with the help of loads of mistakes and accidents it turned out the way it did.

When did you realize that you had the talent for singing?  Did you ever sing or, well, maybe shout, in any of the previous bands you were in?

I always liked to record harmonies on other recordings I’ve done, but this is the first time I’ve ever really sung a lead in anything that was released. Most times I still associate as being a drummer, just as a reflex, and if anybody asks, I just tell them I write songs and let them assume that I sing.

Are you playing all the instrumentation on your album?

Yes.  I just used a chintzy Yamaha keyboard to get about half the keyboard sounds on All Hell. The rest were samples.

Have you considered surrounding yourself with a full band, like Liam McKahey had with Cousteau?

Yeah, for sure.  Next year I plan on having a backing band. This will bring an assortment of new sounds, good times, and behavioral problems into my life.

Your lyrics are mainly centered on the relationship between parent and child, where you touch upon the disappointment and hope of this bond.  You also focus on romantic love and memories, like on “Rain On a Highway” and “Lookin’ Back on ‘99”, where you intone “Don’t we love the love we knew.”  You even blur the romantic and the familial on “Dandelion” with the line “I’ll take care of you / like you were my child.” If I may ask, are you a parent?  If not, are you expressing what you sense between you and your parents?

No, I’m not a parent and I have no idea where half this shit comes from when I write lyrics.

You’ve played a boatload of gigs this year, so much so that you bought a van to cruise around in (although that probably didn’t help for you shows in Poland), a photo of which is posted at your FaceBook profile.  Did you purchase the van with stripes already on or did you add them yourself? 

The stripes came with the van, but the flatscreen, minibar, and truck nuts I slapped on myself.

You grew up close to the Philadelphia area.  Do you have any ties to the city?  I think your first show in Philly was in May.  How was it?

As many first shows go, it was weird and the only saving grace of it was that I had good Philly people there to break my fall.

You recently finished up a tour which included the Sub Pop CMJ Showcase at The Knitting Factory and the Fun Fun Fun Festival in Austin.  What were those events like?

These industry events and fests are not my favorite things to play or even be at. Also, watching hordes of over-eager music fans loping around from thing to thing is crazy to me.

Lastly, can you please list your official site where we can find out more about you and your music?