Cole Furlow, or Dead Gaze for that matter, may not be names instantly recognisable to those on this side of the Atlantic, but this Jackson native has been steadily jamming his way through the Mississipi lo-fi scene since back in 2009. When an opportunity of some free studio time arose earlier this year, Furlow and the now expanded 5-piece Dead Gaze, jumped at the chance to sharpen and hone their sound. What came about, as a result, is the assured and highly addictive Brain Holiday. Bowlegs caught up with Furlow recently to discuss the new record and the experience of taking things into the hi-fi realm.
Bowlegs: Hi Cole. First of all, can I just say congratulations on Brain Holiday, it truly is a great record. I have to admit that it’s my first time really listening to your work and I’m happy that it was brought to my attention. Having gone back through your previous output, notably Dead Gaze, which I think is fair to say, was a kind of best of collection of tracks from prior E.P.’s, how have you found the work process this time round? Did you find that there was any pressure going into the studio to make what essentially is your debut album?
Cole: There was really no pressure. The only pressure I felt was to make sure we didn’t seem like fools in this super nice studio. I wanted to make sure we were using our time in the best way possible. It was actually the most fun I have ever had. If anything it has now fuelled the flame for me to work harder and get back in the studio.
Bowlegs: How do you think Brain Holiday compares to those previous releases? Is there a more cohesive sound this time round?
Cole: Every release has its own feeling. This one is no exception. If you work really hard on something for a period of time things start to have a cohesiveness to them without even trying to do so. I wanted to make a pop record while still using the foundations of Dead Gaze. That’s really all I was thinking about with this record, so in that sense, the record was much different than the past ones.
Bowlegs: Do you think that writing with an album in mind informs the work, or do you just write the songs and pick from the best without really worrying about a theme or common thread?
Cole: I just grind out as many songs as possible and then try to go through them the best way I know how at the end of the session. I’m not really thinking about how everything goes together, I’m just trying to get as many songs that I have written done. I’m a bit of an obsessive compulsive about how hard I work in the studio. Sleep when you’re dead kind of mentality.
Bowlegs: Our first introduction to the record was the anthemic Rowdy Jungle, a hook-laden, ear-candy track with more than a nod in the direction of 90s indie/alt-rock. Is it fair to say that this is the music that inspires you first and foremost, or is it just a bi-product of your age and cultural enviroment?
Cole: I’m just a bi-product. I grew up with Oasis, the Pumpkins, Soundgarden, bands like that. But at no point am I thinking about those bands when I’m making the music. I’m literally just doing what feels natural. It’s important to feel natural in the studio so I tend to not think about influences. I obsess over creating a new sound, something that people have never heard before yet still feels very familiar. It’s a difficult line to tow.
Bowlegs: Having said that, the following song on the album Stay, Don’t Say is probably more in keeping with what I was expecting from a band called “Dead Gaze”! It’s got a more tuned-in, turned-off kind of vibe going on. The soft vocal style, acoustic guitars and chilled out beats definitely add something to the vacation connotations of the title. Was that a purposeful intention?
Cole: Yeah that song is about love and the tenderness that involves loving someone. I selfishly made sure that song was epic yet soft. That song is very important to me. It had to be a certain way. There are certain songs that I hear that I love and use to fight off sadness. I wanted that song to be that way for someone. Something they can use to fight off the blues.
Bowlegs: I love the expansive sound on Runnin’ On The Moon, it certainly grabs you by the neck, it’s a huge vision with the inclusion of the horn section especially. It sounds like that track was fun to make, in fact the whole record has a good time feeling going on sonically. It certainly seems like you enjoyed your time in Sweet Tea Studios. Was this the case, and did having such an iconic space to work in up the ante?
Cole: Like I said earlier, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I pine to get back to that atmosphere. I felt like I thrived in that situation with the time limit. Sweet Tea is a beautiful place that makes sure you feel comfortable the whole time. It’s very easy to make a record in that state of mind. I feel as though now Dead Gaze will only make studio records from here out. It ruined me in some ways and in other ways it awoke my sense of what the studio can do for you.
Bowlegs: With all this new studio equipment and technology at your disposal, did many of the tracks change direction from their original beginnings? What I mean is, do you think you’d have been as happy with the record if it had been laid down in a studio of humbler setting? In the age of hi-tech, overly polished music is it important to keep a vein of the real and organic running through?
Cole: This record had to be made in the studio. That’s really the only way the drums and bass would have been as effective as they were. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to go in Sweet Tea so we knew that the songs we had would change a bit. But never for the worse. We kinda knew the whole time that what ever we get out of this would be positive.
Bowlegs: Do you have a favourite track from this album? Which one, for you, sums up and encapsulates the “Brain Holiday” experience?
Cole: I would probably say Yuppies Are Flowers is my favorite jam. For better or worse that song definitely captures everything we were going for.
Bowlegs: As I said before, I get a definite sense of 90s indie/alt-rock (thinking Pixies, early Flaming Lips, Pavement) particularly with the thick fuzz guitar sounds on You’ll Carry On Real Nice and A Different Way, but are there any of your contemporaries doing it for you right now?
Cole: My good buddy John Barrett from bass drum of death is making some pretty wicked fuzz gems these days. He just released a new record. It’s pretty fantastic.
Bowlegs: I know you’ve been touring with Dent May of late, how has that been going? Now that you are a five-piece band on the road, has the title of the record become evermore resonant? Lol.
Cole: It’s good. We are about to tour Europe for the first time with Dead Gaze which has got me really excited. I’ve enjoyed playing with the musicians that are willing to help out. The band I have now is probably the best one we have ever put together.
Bowlegs: And finally Cole, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you, have you any parting hopes on what you wish people will walk away from this album with?
Cole: Hopefully everyone enjoys the record and buys it! I want people to release themselves when listening. Truly find a different place to go to in your head and make sure you naturally feel better when hearing the jams.
-Interview by Sharon Watters-