On The Radar: Gengahr
Londoners discover their wild side at second attempt for sophomore album. Written by Gary Walker.
Sometimes you have to destroy to rebuild. So it was for Hackney natives Gengahr, who spent two years conceiving and recording the follow-up to outstanding debut A Dream Outside, before scrapping the tapes and starting again from scratch. It was a bold move, with momentum fading and their label, Transgressive, eagerly awaiting a second album. The key to the urgent shimmering vibrancy of Where Wildness Grows proved to be in drawing upon their incendiary live sound.
“We came at it from a fresher and more live approach, and, if anything, tried to be less clever,” says singer Felix Bushe of an album that flits between sunny indie-pop hooks and widescreen guitar soundscapes. “We took away a lot of the synths and programmed bits and replaced them with more live, honest playing. We’d spent two years playing live, and it felt crazy not to use that touring experience. It’s been a bit of a journey of self-discovery, and opened the door into seeing what we’re capable of. The last thing we want to be is just another indie-guitar band – that doesn’t sound like a particularly exciting prospect.
“The calling happened when we’d been in there three months. Realistically, things have to happen relatively quickly to be right, as a sort of gut feeling. We were trying to fix things in the mix and you realise by that point, you’re unravelling so much, it’s easier just to start again entirely.”
That new start saw the introduction of producer Neil Comber, who added fresh impetus. “We’d been working with various people and it wasn’t quite happening,” says Felix. “Neil had just finished working on the Songhoy Blues album, and the guys at Transgressive said we should meet him. He’s a real character, with a huge amount of energy. He’d be there dancing in the control booth and making us feel super-positive. He breathes a certain energy into the project, which is invaluable.”
A band who’ve played together since they were 11 years old, Gengahr’s thirst for innovation extended to the vinyl version of Where Wildness Grows, a limited number of which came with a free pack of seeds adhered to the cover.
“We were joking about it, and I didn’t think we were going to do it. I wanted the artwork to be a series of shots linked with nature, so it felt like a body of work. It seemed a funny idea, and we can also offset some of the un-eco-friendly aspect of making records. That was the idea behind it – growing things and making the world a bit greener…
“I listened to the test pressing. It was very satisfying – everything always sounds better on vinyl. We’ve always kept things DIY, the vast majority of the output is done by us. We’re responsible not just for the creative output, but a lot of the graft that goes on around it; that’s all part of the fun and the creativity.”