Summer Loving: Still Woozy Interviewed

"Art has been a necessity... it’s always been a safe space to process the big and small emotions that words alone can’t quite satisfy."

Summers just don’t quite hit the same without gelato, unconditional love, and Still Woozy. Since his 2017 single Goodie Bag, Sven Eric Gamsky has reinterpreted the dimensions of indie pop – alternating between joyfully expressive melodies and cellular rushes of love that can envelop the heart on any given weekday. The Portland-via-Moraga songwriter-producer has tapped into math rock textures with Feed Me Jack, covered MGMT and Tame Impala, turned Glossier adverts into ‘boy brow escapism’, and reminisced about love’s complexities for a Sydney Sweeney rom-com. His writing explores the dynamics of relationships in the key of Stevie Wonder and The Beatles, and his sophomore effort, Loveseat, underpins his attempts to find beauty in the ‘little things’.

“The title was inspired by the artwork,” Gamsky reveals while getting ready for live rehearsals for his new record. “The characters in the art are supporting each other and I guess this relationship is like a ‘seat of love’. For me, the album is mostly about personal relationships so it felt apt.”

In many ways, ‘Loveseat’ is Woozy’s attempt at deciphering the waves that are within our hearts. It’s organic, brutally honest, and more often than not, an emotionally potent metaphor for how a relationship can elevate our own imperfections with a sense of symmetry. It uses soundscapes and Margo Guryan levels of psych-pop to underline denial’s attachment to heartbreak (‘Again’), the comforts of magical realism (‘Frida Kahlo’, ‘Shit Don’t Change’), father and son dynamics (‘Big Fish’), and the anxieties that come with ‘missing two’ and not one (‘Forwards’, ‘Rid Of Me’). Like love itself, it’s far from perfect but it’s pretty damn close as Gamsky’s melodies transcend labels and chord structures – paralysing you with the irregular flutters that are tied to affection.

With a North American tour that includes stops at Red Rocks, Austin City Limits, and Montreal’s Osheaga Music And Arts Festival, we linked with Woozy for a quick chat about ‘Loveseat’, being a new dad, his love for anime, SZA, surrealism, and why vulnerability makes life worth living.

In Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross’ recent book Your Brain On Art, they underline why art is a necessity and how it can re-contextualise mental health, self-knowledge, and our own internal receptors. Would you agree that everyone is habitually “wired for art” and that it’s a medium that can lead to inner healing?

This question is tapping into the age-old Nature vs Nurture debate. At a certain point, it matters less how we’re wired and it’s about meeting you where you’re at. Some people have definitely been raised to be less introspective and appreciative of art to the point where it can have a negative or neutral impact to engage with art. So it seems the wiring isn’t as important as the reality of where people are. But that being said, for me personally, and for most of the people I engage with, art has been a necessity along with food and housing etc. It’s always been a safe space to process the big and small emotions that words alone can’t quite satisfy. So if you are, like me, a willing and open recipient – music for me has been life changing.

How has music and art affected your personal growth since high school?

Music has introduced me to so many different realities, whether it be the musicians I’m listening to or just making new friends and growing my community. I grew up in a small-ish town so going to college and making new friendships through music opened my eyes.

In terms of writing, do you still approach songs with a groove-first mentality?

Not necessarily anymore. I’ll get carried away with making country music or psychedelic music and I’ll forget about that approach [laughs]. I always find myself going back to that though.

Congrats to you and Amiya on welcoming your first child, Shaia Blue. What’s it been like starting a family this year? And how has his intro to the world influenced your music?

Thank you! It’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me. The first couple months were the hardest of my life, but since then things have evened out and we have been in heaven. I wrote a song about him that I really love that I can’t wait to get out there.

What’s one thing you have discovered about yourself since becoming a new parent?

You are kind of laid bare when you’re sleep-deprived and stressed and what not. So it’s given me an opportunity to figure out how best to handle the world when you have no capacity.

How would you compare ‘Loveseat’ to ‘If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is’?

‘Loveseat’ is more psychedelic and has more storytelling, I think. I’ve always loved ‘story songs’ and I definitely made an effort to try to do more of that for this album.

As someone who has used production to push your creative boundaries, what was it like working with Ian Fitchuk and Lars Stalfors during the recording process for ‘Loveseat’?

It was great! To clarify, Ian played instruments on a few songs and Lars was the mixer. Ian is an insane musician! He played everything pretty much on the first try. It made the creative process [for ‘Loveseat’] so smooth and quick.

Photo Credit: Alex Kennedy

What was it like to finally work with SZA on her 2022 effort ‘SOS’? And how did writing Too Late compare to some of your previous and more recent collaborations?

So I wasn’t actually in the room with SZA, which is something I would absolutely love. I’d still love to collaborate with her, Clairo, Kate Bollinger, and so many more. SZA please hit me up if you see this [laughs].

As one of the catchiest songs on ‘Loveseat’, was ‘Run It Back’ actually written two weeks ago? And what influenced you to include it on the record as a very last-minute addition?

Yeah, it was [laughs]. It’s mostly because I’m always writing and it happened to be good enough to warrant making the album but it’s also, in small part, because we had a song that was going to be on the album that had a sample that couldn’t get cleared. This song is kind of filling that space. It was pretty upbeat and I was pretty beat up about it. It’s just sitting in purgatory.

What’s the inspiration behind ‘Frida Kahlo’? And have you always been captivated by surrealism, magical realism, and a desire to create a link between dreams and reality?

Ever since I saw Spirited Away, my life has changed. I kid you not, I actually remember the night I saw it and it opened my brain up to things that I’d never imagined. This is kind of fiction based on my relationship, I guess. If I had to think about it, my partner [Amiya] is also an artist as she does all the single art, so she’s like Frida Kahlo to me.

As you mentioned Spirited Away and referenced director Hayao Miyazaki on the new record with ‘Shit Don’t Change’, what’s your favorite anime of all-time?

Spirited Away is probably my all-time favorite but I also love Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and I actually loved [Miyazaki’s] new one, ‘The Boy And The Heron’. I wouldn’t say there’s a specific film that fits the record. It’s all a vibe.

What’s the song ‘Rid Of Me’ about? And with it being one of most intimate melodies you’ve recorded, what influenced you to end the record with a piano-based composition?

I’ve always loved ballads and I wanted to do one so this is my first real attempt [laughs]. It’s about how hard it is to leave my family at home when I’m on the road. It just feels like a nice, peaceful way to end the album.

What’s one life lesson that you hope fans and listeners can take away from ‘Loveseat’? 

I hope, as always, that it allows people to be more vulnerable with each other, because that truly makes life worth living.

‘Loveseat’ is out now.

Words: Joshua Khan

Photo Credit: Alex Kennedy

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine