Introducing Interview: Gabi Garbutt

Having received acclaim from the likes of Steve LaMacq at BBC 6Music and shared stages with legends such as The Libertines, London-based ‘punk-poet’ Gabi Garbutt has now announced the release of their second album via lovely label Trapped Animal Records.

Taken from the album, latest single ‘Never Never‘ showcases Garbutt’s knack for creating instantly catchy indie-pop anthems. With a soulful, impassioned energy propelling the jangling, uplifting musicality, it’s an emotionally-raw, fiercely gritty earworm, leaving you longing to hear more.

We caught up with Gabi to find out all about the new single, upcoming album, their thoughts on the industry, and what inspires them most… Have a read!

Hi Gabi Garbutt! Welcome to Get In her Ears? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Mari! I’m a half-Chilean singer songwriter from London, then Gloucester, then London, writing mainly lyrical soul punk songs.

Are you able to tell us a bit about how you initially started creating music?
The first band I was totally obsessed with were Green Day. I remember for my twelfth birthday being taken by my mum and dad to see Green Day at a festival in Nottingham. Iggy Pop was the support act and I was right up there in the mosh pit being thrown around, the crowd howling around me… My baptism by fire. That’s when I discovered rock and roll. From there, there was no going back. Bowling around school with Clash City Rockers tipexxed to the back of my school jacket. Next birthday my mum and dad bought me a Squire Strat and soon after I started learning songs. When I was in my mid-teens I used to borrow my sister’s acoustic and busk in town at the weekends, then spend that money on buying records. Another watershed moment was when I was sixteen – my English teacher lent me his copy of Patti Smith’s Horses, and hearing how she merged poetic lyrics with punk, I realised that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I started writing songs and when I moved back to London when I was 18 I started my first band.

I love your uplifting, colourful sounds, but who would you say are you main musical influences?
Thanks! Ezra Furman and Patti Smith are two of my main influences – that lyrical urgency fuelled by euphoric punk energy is something I really aspire to. I love a lot of Motown and Stax soul artists and they inspire a lot of the upbeat brassy sounds. Julian Casablancas’ band The Voidz are really exciting, totally original wild pop verging on chaos, and they’ve inspired the more electronic songs on the record. Nina Simone is a big inspiration; I really admire her fearlessness and conviction, and how she turned her vast musical vocabulary into really raw and emotionally charged songs. I’m a huge fan of Valerie June, particularly her latest album Prescription for Dreamers, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before, totally stratospheric soul. I’ve got it on repeat in the tour van and often put it on before we go on stage. It’s a totally energising, mind expanding record that at the same time gets me in a calm and collected state. Lyrical masters like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Lou Reed are big inspirations too.

You’ve recently released your single ‘Never Never’, taken from your upcoming album Cockerel, which is out in May. Are you able to tell us a bit about the album? Are there any particular themes running throughout it?
This record is musically exploratory. It’s got a restless energy and considered sincerity too. There are lone cries and there is sorrow shared. There’s also a celebration of the beauty of existence and the power of human connection. The music takes twists and turns that echo the shifting emotional landscape of the lyrics, but not quite in step. There’s euphoria where there’s raging sadness, otherworldly sounds when the lyrics run closest to the beating heart, but I feel it’s more interesting that way.

How have you found recording and promoting an album during these strange times?
In 2020 we had a bunch of tours and festivals planned that were cancelled. It meant that I had more time to work on writing this album and as soon as rehearsal studios opened up, we started playing these songs as a band. We recorded the album in Spring 2021 but because of the vinyl backlog, it didn’t make sense to release it in a rush. The timing has worked out quite well as we’re doing a fair bit of touring at the moment in the build up to the album release in May. I really thought that all we’d been building would disintegrate during the lockdown, so I’m really happy that the adventure’s continuing.

Do you feel much has changed over the last few years in the music industry’s treatment of female and non-binary artists? 
I do think things have changed. There are still assumptions about females not writing their own songs, crafting the arrangements or being involved in production, which is incredibly frustrating, but luckily I work with a progressive bunch of guys. The label we’re signed to – Trapped Animal Records – are really excellent at nurturing female and non-binary artists, I highly recommend people check out their roster. I was a total tomboy when I was a kid, I remember a girl at school throwing her shoes at me when I was five, and when the teacher asked her why she did it, the girl said it’s because I had said I wanted to be a boy. I’ve always been androgynous and remember hearing the word gender-fluid a few years ago and realising how much that resonated with me. The freedom of expression that music encourages means that the process of creation itself reveals things about ourselves. It also means musicians are perfectly placed to lead the way in starting new conversations, changing perceptions. Artists like Ezra Furman, who recently came out as a trans mum, and consistently promotes trans joy – that’s really powerful, I admire her so much. It just shows the role our musical heroes have in pulling us all into the future.

You’ve previously supported infamous indie acts such as The Libertines – how was this experience for you? And has there been a particular gig you’ve played that stands out as a highlight? 
I’ve been a huge fan of The Libertines since my early teens, so it’s been a brilliant experience. We joined them on a couple of dates of their recent tour – Kentish Town Forum was a highlight, but back in 2019 playing Paris L’Olympia then racing across Germany playing Cologne, Munch and Berlin with them was some of the best fun I think I might ever have had.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
Label mates Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something are ferocious, one of the best bands around. I’d also recommend Catherine Rudie who’s Glasgow based, a total one of a kind making otherworldly folk. Veronica Bianqui, who creates garage soul stateside, Sasha & The Shades make raw bluesy rock n’ roll, and Magda Goncalves is a brilliant London based r’n’b/ soul singer writer. A lot of the acts that come out of the Lantern Society, a singer-songwriter night in Clerkenwell are really ace too… Sam Nicholson (who also plays with Jemma Freeman), Jeremy Tuplin, The Violet Hum, Dead Writers, Peter Doolan, Chris Brambley, Gabriel Moreno to name a few. My cousin Paula Arismendi and my brother Leo Garbutt are really talented musicians and songwriters. Also shout out to Real(s), our bass player’s band and Hackles, our drummer’s other band who are both well worth checking out. 

In addition to the album release, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?
We’ve got a few more U.K tour dates coming up with Big Country and I’m going to be playing a couple of acoustic dates in New York, including Rockwood Music Hall on 29th April. In the summer we’ve got a few German dates booked and will be looking to tie this in with a few other dates on the continent and some more U.K tour dates. I’ve also started writing and demoing the third record so I’ll be working hard at that, hopefully recording it by the end of the year!

Massive thanks to Gabi for answering our questions!

Cockerel, the upcoming album from Gabi Garbutt, is set for release on 20th May via Trapped Animal Records.

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