Interview: Liam Gale

“I suppose it’s just open to interpretation. It’s just the way it comes out. I try not to censor it.” – Liam Gale

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Through the bends of time, the human race has  had the pleasure of musical icons to poetically and powerfully voice their opinions.

Fortunately, in most cases than not, these opinions stood the test of time and still stand steadfast and relevant today, gathering fan bases whose demographic suggests that they were barely a sperm in their father’s nut-sack back when the music was initially released.

However, more recent times appear to lack as much significance in their endeavours to replicate their own version of these historic movements. It seems that there are fewer bands making prolonged impacts on the ears of our world. With this thought in mind we can’t help, but wonder why this seems to be? Is it really as it seems? If so, what is the reasoning behind it, and how have industry changes and ‘developments’ attributed?

On our journey to instrumental insight we feed off the experiences and opinions of Liam Gale’s own experiences, as himself and his band ‘Liam Gale and the Ponytails’ continue to create melodies that would delight the deaf.

Please introduce the Ponytails, who plays what?

Max Hunjak-Smith is on Drums, Rob Hudson is on Bass, Gas Taylor plays the Djembe Drum (and other things sometimes), Drew Farrant-Jayet plays the Mandolin, Chloe Harrison sings and plays the Sitar and hand percussion and Tin Whistle, Anj Ford sings and plays hand percussion and sometimes claps and stuff and occasionally tells jokes that no one laughs at (sometimes I laugh) and I play the guitar and sing.

How long have the Pony Tails been playing together? 

We’ve been playing together as a lineup since  January 2011. We started out in September 2010 with just six of us; everyone except drew.

With so many band members, how do you decide what music to write?

I’ll write a song, and then I’ll say, “Listen, here is the song.” I will then write up the structure of the song, but the others will arrange it so that they write their own parts. They decide where they’ll come in, so then I won’t play during that period for the sake of dynamics.

This is because there are a lot of people in our band, and if we all play all of the time then it’s not very interesting. So one person plays here, but not there and then another person comes in half way through here and then the beat drops out there; so there’s constant movement.

Moving on to your music itself, you’ve recently released your new EP, Towers of Time. Please tell us a bit about that?

I used to be in a rock and roll band. After a while, I went back to my acoustic guitar, and then I got a Stratocaster and I was like, yeah Blues rocks! Then I went back to my acoustic guitar and started messing around and tuning it differently.

After that, I wrote a couple of songs and that was pretty much the EP. We recorded four of the songs, the ones that we thought would go together in terms of a cohesive flow of music adding a track that Chloe and I wrote together in the middle. It’s a bit rougher, but we want that. It’s an interlude, but still relevant.

Is it just me, or is your music really cryptic and mystical?

I suppose so. People have said that sometimes asking, “Dude what are you talking about?” Ha. I know what I’m talking about, and I suppose it’s just open to interpretation. It’s just the way it comes out. I try not to censor it. That’s the way it comes out so that’s the way I leave it. It’s more image based I guess, rather than literal.

What do you think it takes to have your music labelled as timeless?

It’s hard to say. There’s music from Mozart, the renaissance, and 30’s that people still listen to. I suppose it has to mean something not only to the time it was made in, but it also has to always be relevant. Music, especially in the 60’s and 70’s, seems to relate to the social change.

You’ve got writers like Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young who are talking about social change, which is always going to happen. I suppose you can take away the specifics. For example, social rights can now be replaced by the Occupy Movement. It’s still people dealing with people and the problems and ideas we’re all facing.

Why do you think there seems to be less and less timeless music in the industry nowadays? Or is this just a bull shit opinion, shared amongst short-minded people with tomorrows that could never live up to yesterday?

I think a big part of it was that really good music, or music that had a lot of meaning, was in the charts. Bands like the Beatles or the Doors would be number one, whereas the equivalent of them now are writers like Laura Marly, Johnny Flin, all those writers who aren’t in the public eye and aren’t seen as relevant because music has become more of a consumer product.

For example number one is Katy Perry, something that I don’t think that will last very long. Give it five years and you’ll remember it, but you probably won’t listen to it. It’s not going to be a classic hit. I think maybe the music industry has turned into a business run by businessmen and not by artists.

I heard that back in the day you would be given a record deal and you would be given a year or two to write an album because you had to let an artist develop. Whereas now you get signed, you make a number one record and you’re probably gone within a year or two because you made the business money and they don’t really need you anymore.

They can get someone new who’s good looking and can’t really sing, but they just chuck a bit of autotune on there and away they go, teenagers go crazy. The top forty in the industry chooses what people listen to rather than people choosing what they listen to.

What do you aim for when writing and creating your music? What do you try to achieve?

I know what I like and, musically, I think it’s important to have dynamics. If a song stays the same throughout then you’re not going anywhere. All of our songs have a bit of an intro, then it drops down, and then the last chorus is really loud, but I suppose that’s what I dig.

You’ve got to be going somewhere that’s exciting, even if the point of the song is to cruise along I think everything has to be functional and operative. Everything has to be done for a reason. A song is a journey, that takes three, five, ten minutes.

That’s what I like to do musically, but lyrically I just write about stuff that I think is important to me because I think that if you don’t find what you’re talking about important then I suppose nobody will. I don’t think anybody will believe you if you’re just saying something for the sake of it.

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Photography by David Hewitson.

Listen to Liam Gale and the Ponytails by following this link to their Triple J Unearthed page.

Browse the Trunk Junk collection; maybe even pick one out for yourself.

© Jonathan Boonzaaier 2016

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