Sometimes you find a band that you connect with, musically speaking, immediately. You listen to a track, and you just… get it. Gates, from New Jersey, are one of those bands for me. From the start, their particular brand of Emo infused Post-Rock has been enthralling. Big, ambitious, swelling tracks comprised of just as many quiet, introspective moments as sweeping, deliberately elegant pieces, Gates is a band that, in my humble opinion, is really just getting started.
Coming off a recent weekend trip to Ohio, in Columbus and Cleveland, Gates are set to hit the road this September with friends and fellow New Jerseyans, The Gaslight Anthem (whom you may have heard of), before heading out on an East Coast run to The Fest in Florida. I, for one, am thrilled to have them in Cincinnati for the first time, and can’t wait to share them with hundreds of new fans in the area. Below, you can read some fantastic, insightful responses from vocalist/guitarist Kevin Dye, and guitarists Ethan Koozer and Dan King. Be sure to get to the show early to catch them playing tracks from their latest release, You Are All You Have Left To Fear, which is set for re-release through Pure Noise Records (with a vinyl release through Devildance Records) this October. Thanks so much to all 3 for taking the time to answer these questions.
This will be your first time in Cincinnati proper, so most of our readers might not be familiar with the band. Can you talk a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, and what Gates is all about?
(Ethan) - Gates was formed three years ago. The first time the five of us were in a room together, I'd say that it was fairly clear that we all believed in what we were doing. We're five guys from five different upbringings with different musical backgrounds but with the same desires and outlooks on the music industry. Everything seemed to click from day one. As a band, we're all about making great music and providing our listeners/followers with great artistic content. Whether it be album artwork, promotional photos, songs or videos, we try our hardest to create the best content possible.
While your sound continues to develop, it does lend itself to a wide variety of listeners, as well as the opportunity to play with bands of all sounds and genres. How do you think that has shaped your experience, or your direction?
(Kevin) – From what I’ve experienced, I think the only thing that’s ever shaped our sound or direction as a band has been what happens when the five of us are in a room writing songs. I might have had an idea for the direction a song should take only to have it come out entirely different once the other guys hear it. And I think just by the nature of writing like that, having all of us throw in our styles and ideas and not having a single songwriter, the end results are songs that a variety of listeners have been able to connect with. In one way, it’s been kind of difficult because it’s been hard to pin down exactly what kinds of crowds respond well to our show, but at the same time I’d rather have that issue than be pigeonholed.
As a follow-up - As a band, from sound, to production, to package design, and presentation to the world at large, everything seems quite deliberate. The band consists of members with experience in a lot of the fields required to create such a unified package. How do you think that has shaped your experience, or your direction?
(King) When the band first started, we wanted to have full control over our creative process. This began by establishing a cohesive visual identity that would represent our music across all platforms. Mike and I basically function as the creative directors for any type of visual content including T-shirt designs, show posters, packaging, video, web design, album artwork, and anything in between. I think our main objective this whole time has been to create meaningful images that compliment the music we create, and evoke some sort of emotion for the viewer/listener.
(Kevin) – As far as the recording and production aspect of it, being able to record our first two EPs ourselves was a huge learning experience for me. It also gave us the opportunity to take our time getting the takes and the songs right during recording, specifically for me during vocals. At the end of the day I just saw it as another opportunity to work on something I loved doing.
You’ve recently signed to Pure Noise Records (which, to me, was a long time coming). You’ve self-released two EPs, pressed your first EP to vinyl through DevilDance Records, and booked, set-up, and embarked on tours all on your own. You’ve very much moved at your own pace. What prompted the decision to finally sign to a label, and what made Pure Noise Records the best choice for you all?
(Kevin) – I think for a lot of bands out there, even ones who have been around for 3 years like us, there’s some confusion as to how to navigate the current “industry” or get your music heard. There’s a lot of industry articles about how we as artists should all bypass the traditional label system and put our records on iTunes and just do it all ourselves and how that’s the future of music. But unless your video went viral or you were in the right place at the right time, I've come to realize that it’s your band and a million other bands who have done basically the same thing as you vying for people’s attention. Every day it's increasingly harder to get people to click on a link and listen. I know even for myself, as a listener, labels have kind of become curators. A lot of listeners see it as a reason to check out a band, because there must be something special about them if they were able to “get signed.” At the same time, there are many labels, Pure Noise included, that don’t operate like the traditional labels of yesteryear and instead of gobbling up your soul and spitting out a product, they supplement the art you’ve created by helping it reach more people. I think our growing understanding of this is ultimately why we decided to let other people into our project and allow them to help us reach our goals.
(Ethan) - Signing to Pure Noise definitely wasn't easiest decision we've made. But it turned out to be a great one. We had been talking to Jake since shortly after we released "The Sun Will Rise...". He's always been around and made it clear that not only was he a fan of our music but was interested in working with us when the time was right. As a band, we realized what we could be missing out on if we continued to do everything ourselves. We knew that Pure Noise was the right outlet for us to reach a broader audience.
You have strong ties to the independent music scene in New Jersey, and over the course of your individual music careers have created strong bonds and friendships with a lot of local and national acts. Can you talk a little about your local scene? What works, what’s missing? Are you excited to finally step in to the music scene at large? Is there any apprehension? How do you think things have changed since you each first started playing music?
(Kevin) Our experience as a band has been spent playing shows with not only our best friends, but my favorite bands; Vasudeva, Owel, Prawn, Let Me Run…the list goes on. These bands are all putting on amazing shows and cranking out incredible records. I honestly feel like I’m part of something amazing every time I get to work on one of these bands records or lend my vocals or just see these bands play live. I just hear a band like Vasudeva doing something wholly original and wish there were a thousand other people there to listen with me. As great as the scene is, the only thing it’s really missing is more widespread attention. As far as playing with The Gaslight Anthem is concerned, it’s an absolutely incredible opportunity for us, but if you look behind the scenes it’s ultimately friends from the NJ scene who have gone on to be successful, still being part of the scene and helping us out and continuing to be a part of it. I think that pretty much spells out why it feels so special to be part of this circle of friends. I could only hope to be able to do something similar in the future and show more people all of the amazing music NJ has to offer right now.
Since the signing was announced, there’s been a lot of activity as far as show announcements, each one sort of bigger than the next, all culminating recently with your addition to The Gaslight Anthem’s upcoming tour. How does it feel to be moving at what must seem like a comparatively fast pace? Is it still sort of setting in how much things have changed in such a short amount of time, as well as how much they’re likely to change from here on out?
(Kevin) - I don’t think any of us know or have any expectation for what is going to happen after this tour, or after our EP gets re-released, or after we get our first record out. I just want to have those things happen and enjoy the experience. Nate our manager, and Jake from Pure Noise, and Phil our booking agent, are really responsible for making all of these new things happen for us and I can’t thank them enough, because the more the pace ramps up, the more people hear what we worked so hard to create, and the more chances we get to live our a dream of ours.
(Ethan) - The last few months have been amazing. It's truly humbling to have such an amazing group of people backing your band and striving for your success. I wouldn't say that "settling in" is the right word to use. It seems like something new is popping up everyday. I don't think I'll ever be any less excited when news/announcements come around. I swear, nearly everyday I look back on the last few years and never would I have expected to see us where we are today. I'm excited for the future but I'm holding no expectations. We're going to work harder than ever and hope for the best.
Before the tour with The Gaslight Anthem was announced, you were announced to play The Fest in Florida this October (for our readers, think of it as a sort of Punk Rock Wonderland). How does it feel to be a part of something so sacred to so many people? And, also, what does it feel like to head down there with the support of a label behind you? Do you think that will alter your experience any?
(Kevin) – It feels awesome, and I can’t wait to be in Florida in November. Just last year I was trying to figure out if it was ever going to be possible for us to play Fest; I had no idea how to go about trying to get on it. It just seemed like it would be a cool experience. It was one of the first things Phil nailed down after he starting working for us. As far as having Pure Noise back us, we’re heading down right after the “Fear” re-release so it’s the first time we’ll legitimately be playing shows supporting a release, which is exciting. I’m more or less just pumped to see so many of our friends and get to check out a lot of bands I love.
As there’s time between this tour and The Fest, what’s next for Gates? Any significant plans for the rest of the year?
(Kevin) - The EP is getting re-released with a bonus track on October 22nd, and it will be available on vinyl via Devildance Records. We’re doing a week long tour down to Fest including some shows with The Menzingers/The World Is… along the way. We might be headed back out on the road again in November as well. But mainly we’re just trying to focus on writing our first full-length record and getting into the studio early next year to record it. As awesome as playing shows and touring is, my favorite moments in this band have been sitting in the basement and writing these new songs. I’m really excited about what we’re coming up with.
Is there anything else you would like to add or mention?(Kevin) - I’d like to add that Jared Bowers is the man and everyone should know it.
(Ethan) - seconded.