Not-so-strange bedfellows

Brooklyn-based ambient-pop band Cigarettes After Sex bring their intimate sound to Tel Aviv

By ARIEL DOMINIQUE HENDELMAN
November 9, 2016 21:41
Greg Gonzalez

‘MY IDENTITY comes across in the music now. It finally hit on that after years and years of just searching around. I’ve landed on it after trying to get to the heart of it forever,’ says Cigarettes After Sex frontman Greg Gonzalez.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Greg Gonzalez’s voice sounds sultry and spooky all at once. Gonzalez is the songwriter, vocalist, and mastermind behind Cigarettes After Sex, who put out their four-song EP in 2012 and followed up last year with two singles: “Affection” and a cover of “Keep On Loving You.” The Cigarettes are playing tonight at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club. Gonzalez sat down with The Jerusalem Post to talk about locking down his sound, musical influences, and perfect songs.

Can you talk about how you first got into music? I was pretty young when I first started playing music; I was in elementary school.
I got an acoustic guitar and immediately started writing. From there, I started bands and have been writing ever since. I’ve started hundreds of bands.

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What was music to you?
When I was really young, I thought I would be an artist. Once I picked up a guitar, that was it for me, I was addicted to it and it never really stopped. It only got more intense as time went on. I love film too, but for me, it’s locked and set in stone.

Who are your musical influences?
Thriller was the first record that I had. I had it on tape. That was the first album that really blew me away. Then I got into Queen and Motown. Francoise Hardy is my favorite singer; she’s got the voice. Eric Satie’s piano music and the vibe that he puts out in his work is what I aspire to. His music sounds really ancient but modern at the same time.

Lyrically, I would say Dylan. His music was there during some rough times for me, so I’m a huge fan of him. Miles Davis is also one of my biggest influences; his morphing, spontaneous approach to music is something I identified with over the years. The way Cigarettes records is very spontaneous – I kind of just show up. Quite often, the band hasn’t even heard any of the songs and we’ll do one or two takes and it’s done. It’s kind of a jazz mentality at heart. Those are the four who I think of that I aspire to be.

How did Cigarettes After Sex form?
It started in 2008. I had another band at the time that was fizzling out and I had a new batch of songs. I thought I would started a new project. At that point, it was just me, a keyboard player and a drummer. We were more electro sounding then, like New Order, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys. I was very casual about things then because I didn’t really want to rehearse, honestly. I was more into writing, playing shows and recording. The sound of the band kept changing as time went on. I got out of electro and more into Joy Division and The Smiths, so the sound got a lot darker. Finally, I revisited Cowboy Junkies and the Cocteau Twins and the group turned into what it is now. That was where our music became its own thing; it had an identity. Before, I was just trying things out and there wasn’t a focus really. Now we have a sound that really gets my personality across, or what I would want my personality to be. It just feels right. My identity comes across in the music now. It finally hit on that after years and years of just searching around. I’ve landed on it after trying to get to the heart of it forever.

When you released the first album, Cigarettes was really still a solo project?

Yeah exactly, I had collaborators who were more involved like the guitarist and the keyboard player. That exact line-up that did the first album was probably only together for four months. Then the band changed, I moved to New York and got different some players. I live in Brooklyn now, which is how I met the current drummer and bass player.

Now it’s become more of a real band and it seems like it will stay that way. I’m really happy with this line-up of the band. That’s another thing that finally came together after years.



What made you choose “Keep On Loving You” to cover?
I had grown up with that song. It was in my brain and my subconscious, but I was kind of indifferent to it. This happens to me a lot, where a song just clicks and I become obsessed with it. I heard that song again right when I moved to New York and I started listening to it all the time. I would warm up with it for fun and I realized that the song is really sad if you slow it down a little bit. Especially the line, “I don’t wanna sleep, I just wanna keep on loving you.” That’s a brutal line. So I had that idea, but it took two years for us to actually cover it. It wasn’t until we did the session to record “Affection” that we decided to try it. When I cover a song, I need to feel a really deep attachment to it. It has to be personal. We’ve done two covers – “Starry Eyes” is a cover as well. I don’t think cover is a bad word. People kind of look down on it, but a lot of my favorite songs are covers. “Blue Moon” by Elvis is my favorite version. It makes the song really melancholy, whereas the original is super doo-wop. With covers, I view it as you have to bring yourself into it, versus making it a neat parlor trick. Usually, I wouldn’t want to cover a song that I already think is perfect.

Can you give an example of a perfect song?

“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star I wouldn’t want to cover. That song is perfect the way it is and is a huge influence on Cigarettes. I also wouldn’t want to cover “Caribbean Blue” by Enya or “Under Pressure” by Queen.

Is there a full-length LP in the works?

We’re working on it right now. It’s comprised of three different sessions that we did over the past year. We did one in the stairway of a movie theater on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the last one was in a church in Germany. I like the location recording thing. The record should be out in early 2017.

When you come to Tel Aviv, will you be playing new songs?
Yeah, we’ll play a lot of new stuff because we have only put out six songs so far. We have a lot of songs; I’m just really picky about what sees the light of day and what doesn’t.

To learn more about Cigarrettes After Sex: www.facebook.com/CigarettesAfterSex. To purchase tickets to the concert: www.barby.co.il.

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