"..eternally endearing and honest.."
Eskimeaux was originally a project started by Gabrielle Smith. It was a compulsive audio diary, used as a way to document physical stasis and emotional transience that one experiences while living in New Jersey. Through various six-degrees-of-separation connections, Gabrielle and Benjamin Schurr met in 2007 and after being heavily influenced by his project Br’er, they began working on music together. After the completion of their first collaborative record, the lo-fi I Am a Spiral, the follow-up record was shelved indefinitely as a result of a serious rift between the two, causing them to not speak to one another for several years. Over time, they set aside their differences and Benjamin and Gabrielle co-produced the record Two Mountains from across the several state borders between New York and North Carolina. Once Benjamin moved back to Philadelphia they decided to make Eskimeaux a collaborative effort once again and forever.
Hello, how are you?
We are great! We are currently in Greensboro, NC hanging out at Sessions Coffee shop with our dog. It's our first day off from tour in three weeks!
What are you currently listening to?
Ben: I would say that I have spent the few months leading up to the record being finished listening to 'The Infamous' by Mobb Deep, 'WIXIW' by Liars, Cabaret Voltaire, 'The Seer' by Swans, and '2nd Annual Report' by Throbbing Gristle. I pretty much only listen to music on vinyl these days, so I've been kind of obsessively delving deep into this specific rotation of LPs. I did, however, just get 'Return Of The 36 Chambers' when we were in Kalamazoo, so that will be taking up 100% of my time when we get home.
Gabby: I spend most of my time in transit, so I pretty much only listen to music on my ipod. There are only two artists on it right now, so I only listen to a cycle of Xiu Xiu albums. My favorite, right now, is 'The Airforce', but that changes weekly. In the car, we have been listening heavily to our holy trinity of albums, 'When You Think Of Us, Pray For Us' by Hollow Boys, 'Erasure' by Erasure, and 'Ex-Military' by Death Grips. Hollow Boys are this amazing band we got to surprise-tour with from Minneapolis, whose album we have playing most of the time. Erasure is pretty self-explanatory, it's extremely feel-good, a little bit scary gay bar synth pop. Death Grips is our I'm-feeling-stressed-out-by-this-highway-situation-and-need-to-be-comforted music.
Whats with the band name?
Gabby: I was adopted and the only part of my heritage that I actually know is that I am part Tlingit-Eskimo. The -eaux comes from Gabrielle being a French name, so it's a way of coming to terms with having gaps in my background and forming an identity around a lot of uncertainty.
When did this project come about?
Gabby: Eskimeaux originated as a soundscapey collage project with tidbits of songwriting. It was based on creating arrhythmic loops on Garageband and trying to make someone nauseous and uncomfortable, but be beautiful at the same time. It was kind of a "fuck you" to an ex-boyfriend who claimed that I wasn't doing anything with my time, so I told him I was working on an album, which wasn't true. I made the first album in one night in secret in our house. After I met Ben, however, I learned a lot about form and started writing actual songs.
Ben: We met at a Br'er show at Cake Shop in the Lower East Side of NYC in late 2007. Shortly thereafter Gabby moved to Philly, joined Br'er, dropped out of college, and started touring with us. During this process, Gabby was working on some songs and we organically just started working together on it. There were a few years after that when we were living in different states and not really talking to one another, but Gabby would still obstinately send me songs she was working on and we would collaborate long-distance. I ended up back in Philly in 2011 and we decided to actually start collaborating like a real-people band.
Gabby: It became really clear to us that we have the same aesthetic desires, which are to make pop melodies disguised in beautiful complex arrangements, with an undertone of feeling poisoned and nervous. We want to use our recordings to give people a sense of sonic spatial reasoning and texture.
Care to tell us a little bit about your latest album, theme, likes/dis-likes, etc.?
Gabby: The new album is actually a reformed collection of songs that were released in 2010 under the title Ixsixàn, which means "I love you" in the Tlingit language. They were songs that Ben and I were supposed to work on together, but we weren't talking for a lot of the time that I was working on them, so they kind of got the shaft as a result. We decided to re-record them (and add a new song or two to the mix), fully realized and nurtured and make this our self-titled album, since it's finally a jump from our original lo-fi sound into high fidelity and true collaboration. The theme of the record is emotional transience. Mostly all of the songs were written on the Bolt Bus when I was traveling back and forth a lot between New York and Philadelphia (which hasn't really changed, come to think of it). Actually, most of the beats for this album were made by Ben when he was riding the Bolt Bus to and from my apartment.
Ben: It's really interesting how many things simply fell into place with this band/record. In a weird way, I've seen this record as only having been able to exist at this specific period of time because Gabby's songs came from such a simultaneously musically raw, but emotionally guarded place. We synced up in a lot of ways because of this shared state. Interestingly, we actually had to record the album three or so times, because we started by recording the really quiet, "subtle" versions of the songs, and quickly realized that wasn't the kind of music either of us wanted to be making anymore. This album felt, in a lot of ways, like a powerful uprising against feeling inadequate when we were presenting ourselves as an acoustic band. There's something very powerful and visceral about the experience of seeing live, loud music and translating it to a recording. Since we're both electronic sound designers first and foremost, we wanted to present ourselves and our songs that way.
What is you favorite track from said album?
Gabby: My immediate reaction was "Littoral Lullaby", which is the banger of the record. My favorite, however, is definitely the last track "Curses".
Ben: "Your Fire Arms" emotionally wrecked me the first time I heard Gabby perform it and I was really anxious to work on it for this record. I think it's the most successful delivery of a very specific emotion, both lyrically and musically.
In a dream world whom would you pick to remix your songs?
Gabby: Jamie Stewart or Vince Clark, definitely. It would also be really cool if Balam Acab did a remix, he does really beautiful, crazy versions of songs.
Ben: Chris and Cosey, Havoc, Boards of Canada, or Vince Clark, always.
What movie would work best on mute while listening to your music?
Ben: 'The Piano Teacher', by Michael Haneke
Gabby: http://youtu.be/iRNqhi2ka9k on a loop
You can only keep/listen to ONE album for the rest of your life ..which album would it be?
Ben: "Always", the CD maxi-single by Erasure
Are you living your dream?
Thanx Gabrielle & Ben!
Eskimeaux just got back from a pretty massive tour, while they catch their breaths, check them out...