words by trevor elkin
photograph by eric walker
It feels a bit odd starting the new year by reviewing the same artist you did almost a year ago to the day, but then there’s also something rather cheering and familiar about hearing a new Sidney Gish album just as the calendar flips over – hell, why don’t we just make a tradition of it?
Entitled ‘No Dogs Allowed’, this definitely feels more like a step forward into the unknown than a carousel coming around again, marking a subtle shift in style for Gish who is now studying at Northeastern, Boston. For all its presenting adolescent angst and oddball high school satire, her last album ‘Ed Buys Houses’ had some insanely clever songwriting at its heart. Gish develops that further here, more openly experimenting with language and puns to puncture that invisible sterile film that usually separates song from listener. What you see is certainly what you get. The awkward humour of songs like ‘I’m Filled With Steak, And Cannot Dance, ‘Perspehone’ or ‘Imposter Syndrome’ isn’t masking what’s ‘really going on underneath’, it’s Gish’s way of hitting us directly with it all.
The neat connecting tissue between the songs, whether they swell with an upbeat, funky vibe or drag their toes through the dust of the sidewalk, is Gish’s storytelling. Like Sophie Allison’s Soccer Mommy, Gish finds a way to articulate the personal doubts, fears and betrayals of turning twenty-something, without leaning too much on negativity. As a result, ‘No Dogs Allowed’ is bursting with memorable lines and hooks which go far beyond the New Jersey suburban rabbit-hole wonderland of her last album.
Read on to find out more about ‘No Dogs Allowed’ in a quick Q&A with Sidney Gish below; stream the new album in full right here:
Happy New Year! Apparently, they say the first song you hear in the new year predicts what kind of year you’ll have – what was yours?
Happy new year! Well, they played Auld Lang Syne on TV, immediately cut off by “New York, New York.”
You’ve released your last two albums on or around New Year’s Eve – is there something about this time of year?
I work fastest when there’s some sort of deadline or panic involved, so the threat of the clock makes me finish things pretty effectively. Also, it’s become a sort of tradition for me to record a lot of music over winter break, since otherwise I’m just sitting in my house being a slug. My first year of college I made Merry Crisis, then last year I finished up Ed Buys Houses, and this year I finished this one.
Do you also have a pre-album release ritual?
I wish I did, but I don’t – I love thinking of albums I want to make, but the only ones I actually make are when I stay up all night cringing and leaving stuff in that I didn’t originally plan for. Although this time, I drove around my town listening to it on car speakers to listen to the mix, since I had only used earbuds up to that point (which is bad, I want to commit to nice headphones soon.)
What was the last song you wrote for the album?
Apart from some lyrical edits, the last song that I thought of was “Not But For You, Bunny.” I had started to get bored of recording all the stuff so I decided to make an upbeat one, basically trying to make something like “Genius of Love” by the Tom Tom Club since that’s been my favorite song for the past month or so. The lyrics are really just syllables but they’re directed vaguely at my rabbit, who hops around our basement.
So rabbits are OK, but why ‘No Dogs Allowed?’
The album artwork originally made the title more clear – like, it was the two guys on the cover, but the left one was pointing at a sign that said “No Dogs Allowed” and he was stoked because he didn’t have a dog – instead, he had a glitchy copy of himself on a leash. I thought it was funny (and the right guy was going to be creepier) but I liked the Microsoft Paint thing I did last minute and decided to roll with that instead. Like, I thought it was good to have the two guys just walking around a Paint project, drawing on it. Also “Impostor Syndrome” is about being your own dog, so there’s a dog theme there already. (I actually like dogs a lot, the title is just a common phrase, so why not?)
The songs on this album feel a bit more deep and introspective than on ‘Ed Buys Houses’, but the humour is still dry and sharp – how has your writing changed this year?
This year I wrote a huge amount, but it was all in the form of journaling, lists, and aimless essays that I never posted anywhere. I was good at writing a lot in terms of volume, but I essentially shared none of it and retreated a bit too much. I wrote a lot of sad songs and didn’t really record any of them except for “Rat of the City,” like, recording and writing for real is way more helpful than just writing for the sake of making noise.
How would you sum up 2017?
For world events, at least, it was pretty bad. What with the outpouring of abuse stories from everyone, the first year of Trump’s presidency, and everything. On the bright side I got to see a lot of shows and hear some good music; I like seeing all the art that got made this year.
What were the best bits for you personally?
For me it was probably anything that had to do with “Ed Buys Houses,” since I really lucked out on people being nice about it, and reaching out to book shows. Being nominated for a BMA and getting to perform at the concert was really cool. I’m happy that people are supportive.
What are you most looking forward to in 2018? Any resolutions?
I’m resolving to prioritize being more proactive in my life, and only writing with the intention to share it or further edit it. I’m also moving to NYC this week, for six months, to work an internship full-time. I’m looking forward to starting over, in that way. That’s also why I really wanted to put this out before New Year’s, since there is no way I wanted to think about all of this dog bullshit while I’m trying to be a decent intern.
And we really want to know… is Ed still buying houses?
Of course, the original Ed is likely still out there, but my Ed will always be a friendly ghost realtor that floats around New Jersey. He’s still buying houses, buying real estate, and putting up pretty signs all along the Garden State.
‘No Dogs Allowed’ is out now, via Bandcamp