Gabe Fulvimar doesn’t really know what he’s doing, or so he says. When I talked to him last week, he had just gotten out of his once-a-week shower at a friend’s house. See, the Burger Records storage space, where Fulvimar currently lives, isn’t really conducive to daily loofah-ing. But he must be doing something right. Because in the past two years, under the moniker Gap Dream, he’s managed to release two impressive LPs: last year’s self-titled, and this month’s Shine Your Light.
I’m sure a lot of his success has to do with the impressively mind-melding, genre-blending tunes he’s been churning out, but some of it also probably has to do with his sage-like storytelling abilities. In the 45 minutes that we talked, Gabe barreled through topics such as the sonic landmark status of Compton, CA, projecting emotions onto others, and his particularities when it comes to production. Oh yeah, and that one time he met Michael Stipe while on acid.
So you recently finished up the Burgerama Caravan Of Stars Tour. Any crazy stories?
I’ll tell you this story cause it’s pretty good. And it’s something I want to share with the world. So, we played in NYC at the Bowery Ballroom, you know? We got to play in front of tons of people. White Fang went on before us, and they were having a temper tantrum because their set was limited just because they were so many bands, and they just got the short straw, I guess. Well, they decided they were just gonna like rage it and go until someone stopped them. It was awesome, it was the best I’ve ever seen, they’re so good. And no one would tell them to stop, because if you were going to tell them to stop at that point you’d be crazy. So I was walking around and I’m in the heat socializing and talking to people and stuff, and there’s this guy and he’s like, “I got a dose, you want a dose?” and I was like “Yeah, I guess.” But immediately realizing like, “No, I shouldn’t do this.” But he had flowers on him and shit. I was good, I kept it mellow. But I ended up meeting Michael Stipe from R.E.M.
So here’s the story. I was kind of drunk and on this acid, right? And it was a good night and everything was chill. So I was talking to this girl, and everything was going really well, she was really cute, pretty hot, and I’m like, “This is a cool night,” because not every night’s like that. The rest of the nights are like hustling gear and freakin’ working hard.
Not talking to hot girls.
Seriously, not flying on acid and talking to hot chicks. That’s like once a trip; that happens once a tour. So tonight, that was my night. So I’m hanging out and she’s talking about how she wants to watch the Growlers. And she’s like, “I’m gonna watch them over here.” She wanted to go by the stage. Well, I’m super snobby about where I watch the bands because I like to hear the house sound. So I’m like, “I’m gonna go upstairs.” So I get upstairs and I’m looking around. And facing the stage from behind the mixing desk, which is a really great place to watch a band. Well, I start walking over there and someone got up and there’s a spot, so I’m like, “Oh, if I can get over there that spot will be mine.” So I start making my way through the crowd of people that are guarding their spot. And right off I get this vibe, and I’m like, “What is going on here?” ‘Cause they’re not really allowing me to pass through, and it’s a weird situation and I’m realizing that there’s a lot of facial scanning going on. They wouldn’t let me through, but once they looked at me they kind of recognized me, ’cause we played that night, and sometimes when you’re at a bar and you played you’re unknowingly allowed access to certain areas that you didn’t have before. So I’m like, “Oh, ok I’m in some weird thing,” and I knew that Liv Tyler and Michael Stipe were there, ’cause they came to see the Growlers or something, but I thought that they’d be in some super chill spot, you know? Like they shouldn’t be letting anyone like me remotely even close to anyone like that.
So I start walking and I’m getting through this group of people and I’m looking at the end of the balcony, I can see there’s a table and there’s a chair there but there’s someone sitting in the other chair, and I’m like, “What is this?” It’s a zone. I wanna go there. I see the table and I see the woman sitting there and it’s Liv Tyler, she’s sitting there and there’s an empty chair, and I’m like, “I’m gonna sit in that chair, I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna do it!” You know what I mean? Like I’m the biggest brat, I wanna sit next to Liv Tyler, I’m too terrified to talk to her, but I wanna sit next to her. And I start making my little snakey ass up there and then out of nowhere Michael Stipe comes over, he’s eye-balling me and he’s like “No, hell no.”
Were you sitting in his chair?
I had my hand on the back of the chair and he’s eyeballing the shit out of me, and I’m like, “Hey Michael Stipe!” So I start laughing cause this is surreal at this point, at this point it’s a dream. You know what I mean? Like it’s not a real thing. I was really questioning what reality was and the cipher of whatever separates dream from reality. I thought that I had busted right through it. So I start freaking out and I got excited, ’cause it was Michael Stipe, you know? I don’t really like R.E.M. that much, but you know what I mean, it’s cool to meet someone famous or whatever. I mean I don’t like them, but I know lots of people who like them and I don’t look down on that or anything, I respect that. But he was not feeling me at all, so I was trying to talk to him. And I freaked him out ’cause I was flying on acid and I look scary anyway. And I mean well, but he wasn’t having it. So he kept looking at me like, “Get the fuck away from me, get the fuck away from me, you’re crazy.” And I was like, “Ohhh shiiit.” I don’t know, he probably didn’t realize how harmless I was.
Then what—you just walked away?
Yeah, he got weird, so I was like, “Ok, I gotta go.” So whatever I was sent there to do, I did it and I got the hell out of there.
That’s a good story.
This is probably gonna start a shit-storm.
I hope so. Or maybe now that you guys are friends you can pull a Lulu. Like that Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration.
No, he’s all super, super human level. He can challenge me to a pistol duel or something.
Would you accept?
A pistol duel with Michael Stipe? Are you kidding?! He’d put a hole through my heart.
He would. That’s cool. I wouldn’t do that. I’d be like, “No way, Michael Stipe.”
I’ve never even fired a gun, I don’t even know how I decided on a duel. I’d just tell him to do it. I’d tell him to end it.
That’s not a duel!
I’d put my heart right out and I’d look at him right in the eye and say, “Pull the fucking trigger!”
That’s totally not a duel. That’s a homocide request.
Annihilate me. Annihilate me. I’m ready.
Ok, cool. So let’s talk about Shine Your Light. You started writing right after you moved from Ohio to California, right?
Yeah I did, I came here December 1, and then I was just kind of kicking around the idea of recording a new record because it takes me a long time to do anything, or that’s what I thought. I used to think that it took me a long time to do anything. But I actually realized the past year that if I’m given the time and I have the space where I can feel comfortable to do it, that I can actually come up with a lot of stuff. I was kind of nervous to start working on it The first one had done well, way more so than I had really expected. So I was kind of hesitant, I almost did the thing where I was like, “Ok that’s it.” I almost cashed in. There’s no way that anyone can ever prepare you to do this kind of thing. You can think about doing this kind of thing all the time, like when you’re at your other job. But then it’s funny ’cause when you’re actually giving up opportunities for this to become your job—which is a rare and beautiful thing—I just go with the motion. You know, I just do this. I’ll have an idea and I’ll figure it out as I’m doing it.
How did that differ from your process during the first Gap Dream album?
When I was making the first Gap Dream record I was really just kind of sitting around, and no idea like, “This is going to be on Burger, and people are going to associate with this.” I was never thinking about it. I’ve always done electronic music, but then I would dabble in pop songs with lyrics. And it always came out weird to me because my influences are so scattered and there’s so much that I listen to. For me it was hard to nail it down to one thing, and by making the first Gap Dream record I nailed it down to one thing, but I tried to keep it as open ended as I possibly could. Obviously, songs like 58th St. Fingers are very garage-y and people use that term now. I consider it a pop song, they’re pop songs. Then I use different instrumentation to give it a different voice, so that way it can move in between genres. And that’s the intention. I don’t know if it’s being executed, because that’s just a vision, but I can never really hear it or see it realized. People say to me that it has been done, but to me, I won’t allow myself to see it ’cause if I do, then I’ll stop. I think with this one, when I wanted to make a second record I wanted to make something that was different from the first record sonically. There’s synths on the first Gap Dream record but they’re buried, and I only use them for processing, ’cause it was a home studio and they’re perfect for that.
But on Shine Your Light, what determined why it sounded the way it did was, when I came out here obviously there’s lots of charm, moving to California from Ohio. There’re things that I associated with California, like hip-hop and stuff, that time period when I was in seventh grade and Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre and stuff like that. So I was listening to a lot of that stuff because I was around it. So I was seeing Compton for the first time, and to me that’s like going to Memphis, or Liverpool or Detroit—it’s a place where good music came from. So I’m excited to experience that. The first song I did here was Chill Spot, and it had that feeling of, you know, that west coast synth, kind of whiny, like high pitched, west coast thing. And it really came out of nothing because I was just working on a normal Gap Dream song, with guitars and the drums kind of buried. It was really smooth ’cause the chords were more smooth and minor progression, jazzier, I guess. And I was like, I wanna hear how this fucking like dramatic-ass synthesizer is gonna sound on it! ‘Cause it adds such an element of drama.
So Bobby Harlow mixed the record, and you’ve spoken before about how that changed your sound.
Yeah he would hear stuff that I was doing and then he’d be like, “You should have that louder because you can really hear what you’re doing there and that’s what people are gonna connect with.” It was cool to have him to bounce ideas off of like that, and to push me. But yeah, I didn’t start right away when I got here, just kinda hung out for a while and soaked it up and then when I saw that I could start, I did. And then I didn’t stop until three months later.
And you didn’t have to waste time showering.
No, not at all. Actually, it got to a point where I wasn’t even leaving [the Burger studio]. I was in here and Patty from Burger was bringing me like sandwiches and coffee. ‘Cause she knew that I don’t have my driver’s license, so to get something to eat it’s like a half-hour walk. The thing is, I have this burden of I can’t just write something, I have to write it and record it. And it’s neurotic shit. You get so particular about one thing, it’s really hard to change it. That’s the thing, that’s why it takes me so long to do anything, because if I’m gonna be stressing out about the arrangement, the chorus, and the way the melody is going, I’m also gonna be stressing about how the frequencies are and how to mix it. But it was cool to have Bobby, because Bobby is a genius and everything he does sounds great. He’s probably one of the few people on the planet I would ever let touch a mix of mine. I’m very particular because I’m not coming from a mindset of, “Oh I can’t wait ’til this is released, I can’t wait ’til this is released.” I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about “I’m so nervous just to have this in my iTunes.” And I have tons of shit on my computer that I’ve recorded and will never see the light of day because I don’t think it needs to, you know what I mean?
I saw in an interview with MTV Hive where you said that Shine Your Light was an album of light and dark, and you were in the middle.
Well, what I mean by that is, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m bipolar, and I’ve never been diagnosed, but I’ve never had enough money to go do something like that. But just from self-diagnosis, and combination of Wikipedia or WebMD, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I can be filed under that category. I think that in the past few years, I’ve been able to get my shit together mentally. I’m not as depressed as I used to be because I’m actually getting to do what I want. I don’t know, I feel like if you have a little bit of emotional imbalance like that, it’s an obstacle, but once you get past it, it can open new doors creatively.
Yeah, that makes sense.
But you know, emotions are tricky and they’re a pain in the ass. A lot of the times I feel like I’ll say, “I’m emotional,” but that’s not really the thing. Basically that means that they’re sad all the time, that’s their way of saying depressed. I realized over the course of time how ridiculous I am on an emotional level. Like either way that I’m pulled in the emotional spectrum, it will be such an extreme. Like when I’m happy, I’m really, really, really happy, and when I’m mad I’m really, really, really mad. When I’m sad, I’m really, really, really sad; when I’m afraid, I’m really, really, really afraid. When I’m in love it’s the same thing. So it took me a while to realize like, “Ok, you have to be careful.” Because as a human being everyone operates on an emotional level, that’s how we communicate, and a lot of times people kinda forget how much they can broadcast their emotions, how much it affects other people. You can get in the car, if your friend’s coming to pick you up, and you’re having a stressful day, and you can see them feeding off of you, they’ll respond stressfully. Cause there’s a vibration that goes on between people that we don’t see, and we operate off that. It’s gotta be something that remais from when we were less evolved or whatever. I don’t know. Did I go south on that one?
I don’t think so. Would you say that there’s an overall emotion on Shine Your Light?
It’s all of them. You know, it’s everything. The thing is I leave all the songs really open ended, like a song like Immediate Life Sentence, that song is about no one in particular, but it’s about everyone in general. It’s written from the standpoint of a man and a woman, but it could be anyone. People aren’t considerate anymore. I think the phone is ruining everybody. There’s more anxiety that there used to be.
You think the phone is ruining everybody?
Yeah, like the iPhone. They’re just texting all the time. I mean I think that any of the songs that I wrote for that record, it’s pretty obvious. Like Shine Your Light, the first song, it’s a song mostly on a major scale, it’s kinda happy, upbeat, but then there’s an underlying element, there’s a sinister element that comes out on a little bridge before the chorus, and even just the melody is kind of sinister and it’s a feeling of entrapment also, but not really quite realizing it. It’s like going into a witch’s house and she’s fattening you up with cookies so you don’t realize that she’s gonna cook you. It’s like “Come on in, this is great,” and the more that you’re in there, the more that you realize that you shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
So do you feel like you usually write about general people and events rather than someone specific?
Yeah for the most part. There are a few songs that are about people in particular. Not on this record though. I didn’t really use a lot of my own experience on this record, like I did the first record. But the first record was…that’s a story from my life, and in Shine Your Light is a story just about life. Or just about how we all are, how I perceive all of you and how you perceive me. That’s what a lot of it’s about. And pop songs are fun because you can have a three-minute pop song and you can have weird shit. It may seem completely innocent and not really anything you should be paying attention to, but you know that’s the tricky element of songwriting is the fact that you can hide a message in plain sight. Whatever you get out of it that was there for you, that’s intended for you. When you make a record you have to make a record for people, not just yourself. The first record, I was making the record for myself.
So do you think that Shine Your Light is more relatable than your first album?
I think so, there’s a lot of stuff on the first record that people always say to me like, “Oh yeah man, I feel that way.” Heart is a big one for that. But this one, I think there are a lot of feelings and a lot of things that everyone’s experienced and that’s kind of like what I’m trying to show there. That’s partly the only way that I can relate to people on that level.