“Everything still feels like a fever dream”: GAYLE on her meteoric rise, picking up bass in quarantine and not choosing a favourite track from her new EP

The abcdefu star will release a study of the human experience volume two on 7 October.


Image: Acacia Evans

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Few artists exemplify the raw power of the new streaming landscape as much as GAYLE. Her breakthrough single abcdefu has garnered her over a billion streams, and tens of millions of monthly listeners. It’s the kind of audience that stands as massively impressive in its own right, but starts to boggle the mind when you remember GAYLE’s only 18.

The fact that GAYLE’s music had no trouble finding an audience is great news for guitar-enthusiasts everywhere: clearly, the appetite for no-fucks-given pop-punk about teenaged romance and partying isn’t going anywhere. She’s not the only artist around right now heavily influenced by the sounds and fashion of the 1990s and 2000s, but it’s definitely refreshing to hear her authentically youthful and chaotic take on the genre.

We spoke to GAYLE ahead of the release of her second EP, a study of the human experience volume two.

Tell us about the writing of this EP. Did the songs come from the same sessions as a study… volume one?

I wrote volume one and two over the span of four years, trying to write for one EP. I found that over time the songs separated into two EPs.

Where did the idea for a pair of connected EPs come from?

I felt like all of the songs told a consistent story but sonically were separate from each other. All the songs could live in the same world just not in the same place. Separating them into two EPs was a happy medium for me.

What was it like collaborating with blackbear? How did you mix your two styles together?

In the process of making fmk with blackbear, I enjoyed how quickly he turns around lyric ideas and he added a lot to the song. It was very inspiring to see his talent first-hand.

Do you have a favourite track on this release?

Do you have a favourite child?

What was it like seeing the huge response to abcdefu, going from a viral TikTok hit to charting worldwide?

Everything still feels like a fever dream. I’m very grateful for everybody who got me here. TikTok is obviously the best way to get your music heard at the moment.

What’s your favourite thing about the platform?

The access to people and the ability to show my music to anyone who’s willing to watch it anywhere in the world at any time. 24/7 access to an audience that could possibly love or hate my music and all they have to do is care enough to watch (or their algorithm does the work for them).

Is there anything you feel could be better about it?

I think social media is a double edged sword, especially when it gives you the ability to have a platform in some way because there’s always going to be an opinion on the internet. A lot of amazing and positive things can happen on the internet which means a lot of negative and hurtful things can happen too.

You’re one of the artists helping rock find a place on the charts again. Why do you think guitar-driven music is having a moment right now?

I think guitar songs have always had a moment and always will. I’m glad to be considered a part of rock being on the charts.

Image: David Wolff-Patrick / Redferns

In particular, a 90s alt-rock sound and aesthetic – with varying levels of irony – is definitely part of that, which you reference in indieedgycool. Is there anything in particular about that era that resonates with you?

Obviously Alanis Morrisette and the show Friends. Also, I admit, thanks to my best friend, I watched Clueless over the pandemic and that is an inspiration.

indieedgycool also hits back at the people who were gatekeeping that sound and look after the release of abcdefu. On that note, there are a lot of legacy rock artists who keep on insisting that guitar-driven music is “dead” – what would you say in response?

I don’t think genres of music can die!

You pick up a bass for some of these new tracks – what’s your history of going between bass and guitar?

I picked up bass during quarantine. Learning the bass was a way for me to connect more to music since there was no live performance happening and it made me excited to play bass on stage one day.

Who first inspired you to pick up the guitar?

I wanted to play a writers’ round and I had to know how to play guitar in order to do that.

For recording a study of the human experience volume two, what gear did you use? Tell us about the guitars, basses, amps and pedals we can hear on the EP.

One of my good friends Reed Berin is one of the producers on the project and when working with him on the song called ALEX, for example – for the electric guitar in the verses, Reed actually went direct in CLA guitars and just picked a preset and tweaked it until it felt good for him. For the guitars in the choruses I found a tone we both liked on the Strymon Iridium. When we didn’t feel like it was cool enough, he pitched them an octave down. That’s pretty much what makes the whole vibe in the chorus of ALEX. He also used my Aguilar Octamizer on the bass of the chorus to get good sub.

Image: Erika Goldring / WireImage

Were these the same pedals and amps you’d use at home and/or in your live rig?

I normally collaborate and use the equipment in the producers studio that I am working in at the time.

Which other artists are you currently listening to?

I am currently listening to Still Woozy, UPSAHL, Labrinth, Steve Lacy and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

You’ve already done a few collaborations – who would you love to work with next?

Avril Lavigne, Machine Gun Kelly, and Travis Barker in one song – I would die.

What can your fans look forward to after this EP?

Hopefully more music and more touring.

a study of the human experience volume two is out 7 October.

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