Drifting through the dream-like world of Greg Gonzalez...

“When I’m alone I hear you and feel you,” sings night-time wanderer Greg Gonzalez. The sweet nothings twist the wrist of memory – playing with the devotional fantasies we hold within one another, and speak to the way we let these fantasies loom long beyond romance has kissed off into the air.

Taken from his band Cigarettes After Sex’s hypnogogic debut E.P. ‘I.’ – recorded in a four-story stairwell at Gonzalez’s alma mater, University of Texas at El Paso and released to little fan-fare, ‘Starry Eyes’ embodies the lovelorn romancer's nocturnal landscape – all spell-bound and slow-motion. Between sheets of reverb, “starry eyes forever shall be mine” is hushed with deep-diving ache, and within the simplicity, the rose-tinted vision at the heart of Gonzalez’s songs of love and loss is revealed.

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Following the release of ‘I.’ and a New York transplant by-way-of El Paso, the low-profile outfit’s world of ‘her’ continued to burn with patience, with Gonzalez and co playing “dead shows” and quietly releasing intimate ballads from the comfort of their new-found home in Brooklyn. Slow-life suited Gonzalez, as he bided his time managing a cinema and continuing to write to his forever deepening relationship with romance. “We started in 2008, and the sound was nothing like it is now. Over the years it got darker – I guess as I lived my life, and my life got darker. The music eventually found its identity.”

And with the music’s unearthed identity, a dramatic turn of events followed that would instil envy in any creative. “Something happened when we put ‘Affection’ out, and everything completely changed. It was probably one of the most emotional things to ever happen to me. Previous releases went heavily unnoticed, but I remember lying in bed – just hanging around, and a surge of interest struck. Suddenly, there were more and more people buying a record or sharing a song of ours with every second that passed.”

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A career was suddenly invented...

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“Before there’d been these little things that would happen for us here and there, but this was a very real 'big break'. It moved me to tears, and my life basically flashed before my eyes. It was a surreal and intense experience that opened every door in the world for us - everything good that could have come of it happened over the course of a week, and a career was suddenly invented.”

When demystifying the hand that guides Cigarettes After Sex - the red-thread that runs through Gonzalez’s palm-flanked vista - the self-described control freak reveals as much as he elementally abstracts. “If I’m attracted to a girl, I’ll just see her and know it. There’s this indefinable quality to the experience you can’t quite speak to – this magic, and I want to hold onto that when it comes to the music. It has to be instinctual. That’s why I like working quick; I think it adds that spark.”

Within three days, what Gonzalez describes as the “feature-length version of Cigarettes” – a fulfilment of the feelings explored in the band’s short works - was complete.

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The suspending self-titled record offers a 46-minute journey of modern love and endless contradictions, with the silences found between shimmering electricity offering as many answers to what it is to fall in and out of love as Gonzalez’s lamenting lyricism. Everything was recorded at a Bushwick rehearsal space called the Sweatshop with the exception of 'Each Time You Fall in Love’: the black sheep of the album that saw Gonzalez rekindle his relationship with stairwell recording and sees the die-hard romantic trade narrative for self-reflection as he swallows the chaser and asks “What is this all for?”

“When you’re in the studio working on the same song for six-months, you kind of lose perspective,” continues Gonzalez. “For me, the music has to be auto-biographical. There’s no invention in the songs. No fiction. I’m just channelling memories and things that have happened to me, but the process of recording this music was heavily inspired by the thinking behind Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’. What I’d do before was write everything, but I’ve found a way to make my obsessiveness work for me instead of against me.”

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I’m just channelling memories and things that have happened to me...

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“Before, I had this belief that I could do everything myself, but at the end of the day it just started to feel flat. It was lacking something, and I just started to hate all of it. Most of the records I like are the product of an ensemble playing with everyone adding their own unique feeling to the music. It gives it this natural depth. At first, it wasn’t like four guys who made a pact. I kind of looked at it like I was Dylan working with different session musicians who came and went as their lives permitted them to, but now it feels more like The Doors. Luckily, I found the right players.”

That sense of fulfilment is richly felt on ‘Cigarettes After Sex’: an immersive experience – stitched together with remembrance and harsh recollection, but where this debut feels like a rich and conclusive exploration of unshakeable mood, there’s still so much yet to be uncovered.

“Whatever’s next isn’t going to be some fuzzy, wigged-out trip. I want to continue to refine. I want to go deeper.”

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'Cigarettes After Sex' is out now.

Words: James Musker

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