Ahead of his Great Escape set, we caught up with Gabriel Levine, aka Gabriel and the Hounds, whose excellent debut album “Kiss Full of Teeth” was recently released on Communion records, and featured a cast of players drawn from projects as variously successful and critically well regarded as the National, St Vincent and Beirut.
How did the Gabriel and the Hounds project come about and how does it tie in with/differ from Takka Takka?
I wrote a batch of dark love/break up songs that didn’t fit into what we were doing in Takka. I wanted another avenue to explore a different palette of sounds and wanted to see what would happen if I could take these songs out, dress them up with orchestra players and spin them about. I’m very happy with the result.
How much do you know about the Great Escape Festival and are you looking forward to playing?
I’m very excited to be playing Great Escape. Many of my friends will be there for it. Seems like the place to be.
Last time you played Brighton you played with a stripped down band set up, will you have a full band for Great Escape?
I’m rolling completely solo on this tour, a chance to try out some new material I’m working on and a chance to re-explore the songs on the album.
During that set you alluded to the very personal nature of the songs on “Kiss Full of Teeth”. What are the driving themes behind the album?
Loss, destructive and selfish actions, and anger. I like to talk about dark things in hopeful ways.
Love the album artwork – who is responsible for the cover?
The cover is an old photochromic travel postcard from the late 1880’s.
There is a huge amount of varied orchestral instrumentation on the album and there is something quietly surprising around every corner. As a songwriter what are the considerations in terms of building upon the bare bones of the songs and fleshing them out?
The main thing it to not kill the original intention and to maintain intimacy among grandeur.
The album was released on the increasingly influential Communion label over here. How did the link up with Communion come about?
Like all good thing, a pool side chat. I love Communion and what they’re doing. I have a real respect for those folks and am honored to be in such good company.
Given the critical success of the album, can we expect G&TH to be an ongoing project for you?
Yes yes yes. Demoing a new album now.
Bryan Devendorf, one of our favourite drummers, plays on the album, how did that come about and what do you think it is that makes him such an interesting drummer?
I call Bryan a narrative percussionist – he tells stories with his drums. We played a show with the National and we became friends. He is the patron saint for this project, donating time and studio space. There would be no hounds without him.
The album is one of great depth and beauty. What is the unique alchemy that goes into writing songs which reveal their beauty slowly and over repeated listens?
Well first off, thank you. I feel like I don’t write the songs, they slowly reveal themselves to me and my job is to translate that and record it and present it and not get in the way of the songs.
Gabriel & the Hounds play at 9.15pm at Komedia Studio Bar on 12th May.
Gabriel and the Hounds sounds…