Gallant and Stint on the genesis of ‘Ology’ [Interview]
Within the past twelve months, NYU graduate and soul vocalist Gallant has emerged from indie and electronic blog favorite to mainstream prodigy on the fast track to superstardom. His debut album Ology has just been released, and, riding a crush of universal acclaim for lead single “Weight In Gold,” Gallant’s album succeeds in giving depth and scope to his ascendant career.
In our conversation with both Gallant and Stint, the LA-based producer and sonic architect behind the album, we examine the importance of isolation and open-minded creativity to both artists. Furthermore, the pair offer their thoughts on the electronic music scene as a whole, the massive number of remixes of “Weight In Gold,” and even their parents’ reviews of Ology.
DA: When did you guys meet? What made you want to work with each other, and why do you feel your partnership — especially on this album — has been successful so far?
Gallant: We met during an experimental-type phase before [starting Ology]. I knew that I wanted to dig a lot deeper and build from the creative process that I had started on two years ago. I was experimenting with a bunch of different things and making a lot of music in isolation. I heard something of [Stint’s] and it was obviously full of artistry and so specifically sound designed. We met up and the chemistry was instantaneous. We were both kind of just fucking around, and “Open Up” ended up being the first track released that we made together.
Stint: I think that we hit it off as friends as much as we did musically. I think he helped me grow a lot, exposing me to a lot of stuff that I knew about growing up, but I never really got into. I come from a drumming background in hardcore bands and the heavier side of stuff, so I kind of knew about the early ‘90s and 2000s R & B that influenced [Gallant’s] sound but I never really fully appreciated it until [Gallant] started showing me chord structures from it and how that stuff [musically] worked. Our partnership grew at an organic rate. He brought gospel and R & B chord structures and stuff to “Open Up,” and then I brought stuff in that nobody else was bringing [Gallant] on a sound design level. That combination created something magic, plus we just hit it off as people.
DA: The electronic community has easily been the group of people that’s embraced your sound the most. Thoughts about having your music gain acceptance in this community?
Gallant: All of the subgenres in the music world have evolved. Everything has opened and a wider net has been cast. I can’t speak exactly as to why the electronic music community has embraced my music in such a big way, but I’m honored. I’m an outsider [to that community]. I don’t have a lot of knowledge of the discography of the electronic world, but it felt great to be embraced.
Stint: I personally enjoy so many different styles of music that I don’t even think I’m aware of genres when I’m making music. It sounds cliche, but we just make what we want to hear. I mean, I’m aware of [the electronic music community]! (laughs) I took a year of sound design school and that’s how I learned how to produce. Right out of that, how I paid rent for the first little while was by ghosting for some EDM DJs and I learned a lot of techniques just by doing that, kind of a trial by fire. I guess that possibly, some of those techniques stuck around in the back of my mind somewhere.
DA: It’s funny that you mention drums, because there’s a definite percussive movement happening in electronic music, namely with future bass. I hear drum and bass and other stuff on Ology album too, so I wanted to ask about the importance of drums not just to you but to the sound of Ology overall?
Stint: Well, I always like to bring a little bit more of a vibrant, “full of life” element. I never want my drums to feel like they’re looped or that they’re way too robotic. I want to bring life to my music and it always has to feel human. I think that it’s a blessing and a curse that we can do everything on our laptops these days. It’s like, you can do it all by yourself but, it’s so easy to get dehumanized using presets, loops and grids and everything gets lifeless. I’m just trying to bring some life to this.
DA: So “Weight In Gold” was the breakout single that I feel really put you, Gallant, as well as what later became this project and the essence of your sound on the map. What went into the creation of the song that you feel has allowed it to be such a standout?
Gallant: That song was an odd one! It came from this specific way of expressing myself, which involved whispering, which allows you to get away with people not hearing things. This is opposed to the screaming, which creates a jarring experience. The process was organic and everything felt like it was coming from a very honest place and [“Weight In Gold”] contributed massively to my personal growth. It’s an important and very special song that completely fits into the rest of the project.
DA: As for you Stint, “Weight In Gold” seems to have been remixed umpteen million times. Thoughts about having so many people interested in reinterpreting your work, and which remixes in particular have stood out to you?
Stint: Yeah, it was a really big honor to have so many people willing to put their own spin on it. It’s a testament to how it resonated with people, and hearing so many remixes is the best compliment I could get. I’ve never had a track get THAT many remixes. The more organic ones like the Brass Tracks remix, I like that one better than my original. They tracked live drums! Sweater Beats’ remix was mind blowing, I mean, there were so many different takes.
DA: One final question on “Weight In Gold.” Gallant, you recorded a live version of it with none other than Seal. What was that like?
Gallant: It was completely surreal. He’s a champion of saying “fuck you” to genres and American musical stereotypes, those boxes the stifle creativity and prevent personal growth. Standing next to him was an honor. It’s hard to believe that it happened and that I had that opportunity.
DA: As far as creativity when it comes to putting together an album like Ology that has so many expressive moods, what inspires you?
Gallant: External forces inspire me. My wild imagination late at night, hearing voices when you shouldn’t be hearing voices, taking walks and being in isolation, that has such a profound effect on my creative process. It’s not just about organizing a bunch of sounds. It’s more about discovering a way you should be feeling when you’ve lost the ability to feel.
DA: I’m intrigued that you two talk so much about isolation when you make these songs that affect so many people from so many walks of life. How does the fact that there’s so many people now responding to your work figure into how you’re creating these days, by comparison to before?
Gallant: It’s pretty easy! I mean, I’m alone right now.
DA: Well, to continue, you’re certain to be touring and doing meet and greets and interacting with more people than before now, right…
Gallant: That’s a good point, but with the tours and everything, there’s a lot of control you have that comes along with that. Like, at South by Southwest, I had the opportunity to not drink and party, and stay way on the outskirts of [Austin, TX] of town near the suburbs. I went into town to get onstage and do the gig, and then I went right back home. It’s a very circular process that you have to balance. I like being alone, but not just to be alone. It’s my default. It gives me the ability to bring myself closer to the pure state that makes you remember ideally why I express yourself through music. Anything that moves you closer to the state of mind that makes you not fathom how you could express yourself without music is absolutely necessary.
DA: Stint, you have a ton of stuff out and circulating on some pretty excellent albums right now. Does Ology stand out, and if so, why?
All said and done, [Ology] was a relatively quick process due to our touring schedules and the other sessions I had, but the album evolved over time. The album shaped me as a person. I grew with the album. A lot of the stuff you’re going to hear from me coming out this year already has echoes of it. I think that as a body of work, the album helped define me in certain ways. I’m so proud of it. It’s one of the things I’m most honored and proud to have represent me for a lot of people hearing my work for the first time. Speaking cynically, there could’ve been a million things that blew up in certain ways that could’ve had people say “oh, who’s Stint?” I’ve worked on a lot of music that I’m not as proud of that doesn’t reach the artistic and social ideal of how I want music to be done that this does.
DA: So, I have to ask. Have your parents heard this album and what do they think? What are their favorite songs on the album?
Stint: Ha! My parents don’t understand what I do! My mother’s on Facebook and she said, “I don’t know who ‘Stint’ is, but I listened to the links you post and I don’t like them. Just being honest.”
Gallant: My parents have always been super supportive and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t given them the album beforehand! I mean, it’s like one of those things where I want to make it perfect, and nothing’s perfect enough for your parents. I’m sure they’re going to hear it and have questions about the lyrics. So far, their favorite songs have been “Weight In Gold” and “Skipping Stones.”
DA: Looking ahead, where do you two see your careers in say a year or even ten years from now?
Gallant: Right now I’m in a room with some beer cans and CNN is on and I’m thinking about playing Wind Waker because I’m only a little bit into it and I made it a point to finish that game. I want to be in this exact same place a year from now, no matter what else is happening outside of this room that I’m in.
Stint: In ten years, you could find me in a cabin, in isolation from society, still making music. I want to only be surrounded by artists I respect and consider friends. I’ve seen too many songwriters in their late forties and early fifties who are also producers chasing around 20 year-olds who are assholes that they think, or say, Universal tells them, will be the next big thing. A life of just chasing hits and making music you don’t understand. I want to build relationships with people and influence people in the same way that I was influenced by some of my favorite artists. I want to give back to the “ether of music.”
Words by Marcus Dowling. Find Marcus on Twitter.