Despite being a film festival, live music has always been an integral part of the Rooftop Films experience. We take great pride in bringing innovative new music produced in and around New York City to the rooftops. Some highlights from Music at Rooftop Films include Toro Y Moi, The Antlers, The Drums, Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, Mr. Twin Sister, TV On the Radio, Mutual Benefit, Chairlift, Deer Tick, Bachelorette and Lydia Ainsworth.
Up next at Rooftop we have Brooklyn-based GABI the project of singer/composer Gabrielle Herbst, which renders “past influences and new collaborations into a personal statement on the desire for human connectivity and emotional catharsis.”
We took the opportunity to speak with with Gabrielle Herbst before her performance at Dark Toons on June 20th about the influences behind her music.
ROOFTOP FILMS: Your songs often have a very composed and peaceful sound to them; seeing that you are based in New York City which is anything but peaceful, how do these two aspects of who you are go together?
GABI: My music is a way to transcend the space that I’m in–it’s a kind of escape. I build the spaces that I wish to live inside of with my music, often that space is very different from my actual material surroundings. I’ve composed lots of this music in a tiny Brooklyn bedroom, and because of that I’ve tried to make the sounds as spacious and vast as possible. So I guess I wouldn’t say my music is influenced by NYC but rather a response to living in NYC, seeking comfort, tranquility and spaciousness in sound when I can’t find it in my real life.
How do you transfer the atmosphere of your music to your live performances and videos?
Creating the live set has been a really interesting process. The music has changed quite a bit, and is an ever changing process. Studio recordings have their own magic, and live music has a different kind- I think it’s important to give each their due credit and let them be different from each other. It’s very important for me to keep a fresh and spontaneous approach to my live performances so that it never feels old or tired. You can never retain that exact magic from the studio so creating new magic is really whats necessary. With the videos I’ve been working with my dear friend Allie Avital Tsypin and her company BANGS. She knows me and my music inside/out so it’s been a pretty seamless, inspired process. I love working with people I know well and have a profound connection with.
You’ve said in the past that you’re inspired by pop music even though your songs are very different than most we would hear on the radio. How do you stray away from pop music enough that you can create your own sound while still trying to keep the accessibility and genuine nature of it?
For me it isn’t really a calculating thing. I have a deep classical music training which really influences what I make–I also listen to a lot of pop. I work from an intuitive place where both of these influences intermingle in a kind of unconscious way. I do however think a lot about being true to oneself, and ones sound and how to not give that up for following particular trends or accessibility. Reaching people is really important to me, but so is staying true to what I believe in. I’m trying to find a place where both can exist.
What is your process in writing? Do the lyrics, compositions or ideas come first?
It really depends on the song. Generally each song comes from a feeling, a state that I can’t put into words or anything else really except sound. Once the core, the emotional kernel of the song is there everything else follows.
Because your music has so many aspects to it, it seems as if it’s inspired by art forms beyond only music? Are there films/visual artists/dance pieces that have inspired you as much as other music has?
Definitely. I’ve always loved Pina Bausch’s choreography, and Robert Wilson’s theater pieces. I’m also very much inspired by the natural word–light, reflections, water and architecture.
***Come see GABI live Dark Toons Saturday June 20th at Industry City***