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Interview: Gong Wah- A Second (2022, Tonzonen Records)

There is no indie scene in Cologne, or that’s what we pick up from Gong Wah, when I talked to them recently. Still their second album sounds bustling, urban, ready for a night on the town. This is a band that is informed of what’s cooking in indie town in 2022, ready to make some grown up choices since their debut. One of those choices is a less hazy and fuzzy appearance, and more emphasis on song structure and catchiness.

A Second is still lovely and dreamy, something you can wrap yourself in and be comfortable with. At the same time Gong Wah does not forget to dance, albeit slowly and more sexy this time (Paint My Soul, or The Violet Room for instance). You can imagine yourself getting lost in a big dark venue and somehow reaching the basement stage and encountering Gong Wah, smokescreens up high, the music pushing the bodies to move and swirl even against their will. It’s an environment bands like Savages, Desperate Journalist, and in the quieter parts Mazzy Star would thrive in. Ready to go and rock some stages, yet with corona and no scene…where to go but inside your head? There is a subsided part on this record that reflects on that issue as well. It definitely makes for a well of depth and melancholy that is deeper and richer than previously…

Time to talk to them and let them explain more about themselves:

Gong Wah -2022

How has Gong Wah been? How have you managed between the release of your first album and the new one?

Due to the pandemic we couldn´t promote the debut live with a tour, so we decided to make the best out of this situation and recorded the new album.

The new album sounds pretty different from the last, what was the difference in approach when writing and recording it? 

There was no masterplan. If there was an idea, it would have been not to make the same record again, but definitely sound like Gong Wah. We have many songs in the vault, and they cover many different styles of music. Before we started recording, we listened through the demo-versions and then decided which ones would fit best together on an LP. This list has changed a few times, because during the production we wrote new material that would change the face of the whole album for better. In the end it’s a bit poppier than the first record, but at the same time it’s much darker. 

Can you tell me about your studio and the way you record your records? You’re doing a lot of it yourselves, aren’t you?

Our studio is located in the north of cologne and it’s the Gong Wah headquarter where we do almost everything. There’s a big chestnut tree right in front of the entrance, so we called it „Chestnut Tree Studio“. We recorded the whole album there. Usually we arrange a song and create a guide-track, then we arrange and record the instruments and last the vocals. But it’s never really the same. Sometimes songs change during the recording process, they start life as a ballad and end up as doom metal or EDM, whatever. Sometimes we realize that a song needs another interlude, another drum part or a different guitar sounds and redo everything. Sometimes we take the vocals or synth tracks from the demo because they sounded perfect. Like on the debut, we did everything ourselves: production, recording, artwork. Only mix and mastering was done by Eroc, who did a great job. We are very lucky to be on Tonzonen Records, because they give us complete artistically freedom.

How do you guys combine life and being in band(s)? Was that easier/harder the past corona period?

The combination is always a bit of a balancing act. In an ideal world we would only be making music 24/7. But the way it is, we all have different jobs to pay the bills. So we meet after work several times a week, sometimes with varying members, depending on whos available, and work on new stuff, playing each other new ideas, recording, listening or simply planing the bright glorious future ahead of us… as is reflected in our lyrics… 

Despite the few lockdown weeks nothing has changed too much for us in that regard. But the prospect of being able to present our songs in a live setting has been pretty much taken away. But so far we managed to keep ourselves busy as mentioned above and not be too disillusioned. At least no more than usually…

Can you describe the difference in writing the lyrics this time around? Did you have different perspectives when it comes to influences?

Since we have different lyricists approaches, perspectives and influences vary. We try not to write the same stuff in the same way again and again. But everyone writes about what concerns them personally.

Can you sketch a picture of the alternative music “scene” in Cologne? Is there one? Who’s in it? What does it look like?

To be honest there’s not really a scene in cologne. Or maybe its hiding from us. Of course we know a few people here and there, like the DEAD MAN’S EYES for example, but there isn’t a spot where all the bands meet or play together or rehearse or something. Sometimes even we are surprised by media reports about bands from cologne we never heard of before.

What are your immediate and longer term future plans? Any exciting things coming up apart from releasing your new album?

As the pandemic seems to be winding down the plan is to play live again. As much as possible. As of now we got a festival in the summer and a gig in cologne in may but we sure hope to and are working on getting to tour this year. We want people to hear our stuff live ’cause its a different animal to the records and we would love to present that side of us. Apart from that we are working with different filmmakers on upcoming videoclips. A lot of love has been put into that lately. And even though that may sound as if we were doing porn, it’s not…

And we are working on our third record already, ’cause why not. As long as we are trapped in Cologne…

What are you doing after this interview, and what should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this?

After this interview we will start filming the next video, which should be released in connection with the album release in march. As you are reading this the first video for the first single ‘This Life’ should be out already. So we encourage every Weirdo Shrine worshipper to watch that lovely little ditty, done by Saba Moghadami & his team.

Thank you so much. Keep on keeping on.

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