Name: The Gravity Drive
Members: Elijah and Ava Wolf, Ryan Halsey (drums and percussion), Rob Male (Bass)
Interviewee: Elijah Wolf
Occupation: Songwriters, Instrumentalists
Current Release: The Wildlight Single
Recommendations: I'd recommend ‘Storm in Heaven’ by Verve to listen to and I’d recommend ‘The Teachings Of Don Juan - a Yaqui Way of Knowledge’ by Carlos Casteneda to read.
If you enjoyed this interview with The Gravity Drive, visit their personal website or facebook page to listen to their music and find out more about the band.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Music was everywhere when I was growing up. My earliest memories are of playing a key on the piano and pressing the sustain pedal and hearing the note last and then fade out. I’d play all the strings on my Father’s guitar then put my hear to the sound hole of his dreadnought acoustic and listen as the open notes together resonate and bled into each other. I knew at this tender age that for some reason there was something that spoke to me when I did this. I remember as a 6 year old having music play through my head and I’d just listen to my imagination play music and arrange itself. I was aware that music was playing through my head all the time.
The first time I purposefully wrote a song would have been when I was 12 years old after I’d made the decision to become a singer and a guitarist and a songwriter. Music seemed to be the closest thing to magic and something which seemed to be available to me. I could lose myself and find myself within it. I was fortunate to go to a school where music was everywhere we’d sing as a school together twice a day in assembly not only hymns but popular classics. The words, moods and feelings of those songs and of the school singing together captured me and despite having no qualifications or grades I knew that I had a feeling for it.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Instead of doing homework I would sit in my bedroom with my Dad’s guitar and try and learn chords and chord shapes from a Beatles song book and a Bowie song book. The thrill of learning a new chord and learning how they’d put chords together informed my sense of composition and arrangement. Learning about melody phrasing and lyrics and performance through listening to the greats helped me to understand songwriting. As I would learn all this I’d always write my own songs. I’m sure many were derivative but I do remember knowing that copying or lifting ideas was a very bad creative practice. A nod in the direction of your influences is one thing but to copy an idea is theft.
Those masters of the art became my best friends, it is from them I learnt about myself, the world and songwriting. Their ideas and influences became mine. They would open doors to different world views and practices outside of my own. I always say to anyone who goes into any creative lane that you have to study the greats but equally as an art college student it was heavily driven into me that you must develop and find your own voice.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
When I started writing songs and started bands nobody had a computer. You had to go to a studio to record. In a sense this was a great thing because all you could do was practice, rehearse and gig and wait until you had saved enough money to go and record a demo so you’d spent ages getting good and developing your songs and act.
Nowadays you can record and release a song instantly This is a great situation as an artist to find yourself in but as always something is gained and something is lost. We believe that working with engineers and producers who have spent their lives mastering the art of production offers us a way in which to realise our musical dreams in a way which we couldn’t do ourselves. That said being able to develop our songs and arrangements in our home studio using technology which is freely available has been a monumental asset in helping us to set the sonic landscape for each track and is something we are going to explore further.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your setup evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio set up was a fostex cassette 4 track which was like receiving the holy grail. Suddenly it was possible to document my songs onto tape which was an immensely important step in my journey. Now we use logic and have our own home studio. It’s a fairly basic set up but as individuals in the band we all have top end equipment in the form of drum kits, amps and instruments so when we demo or capture a new song in development we can capture it and use those recordings to further develop our songs and direction. My personal fave pieces of gear are my Vox AC30 Amp and my Echoplex delay pedal. We were fortunate enough to have access to a vintage Echoplex tape delay unit whilst recording our second album which we had great fun using and in a way became the backbone of the electric guitar sound for the new album.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Machines give us the possibility of creativity, it’s easier now then ever to see an idea through to the end through accessible software. It still takes an idea though and a human to have that idea. I know many people who have all the gear but no idea. The idea should stand without the gear if it’s good enough but gear helps an idea become reality and become something else. Can a machine feel? Maybe in time they will, maybe they do.
If you can believe that everything is conscious then machines might be or might become conscious. That’s the most fascinating thing to happen next what with A.I upon us. Where do we meet with technology. How far can it enhance humanity. Is there going to be a trans-humanism age? Should there be? I’ve often thought everything would be easier if I could just download what I’m hearing onto tape rather than the traditional method of working a song with other people. If I could just download what I’m hearing from my head to record would that work? As always something is gained and something is lost. It’s in the balance.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
When I go to a guitar or piano I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t go to the instrument with a plan. Something happens when we touch and connect. Somedays the instrument will give to me and sometimes it won’t. There is a union between me, the instrument and some mysterious force and when they align something arrives. I think that’s true of any technology we may use to start an idea. For me the purest and the ‘best’ ideas come from this union.
My wife Ava who creates most of the sonic landscapes uses technology to come up with sounds and parts but yet again it’s her instinct, her union with creativity, her idea and voice. We can tinker all day long with whatever instrument but unless the stars align and something is ready to be born you’re just tinkering. Which has merit but the birth of a great idea has to have the holy trinity in place, that is you, the instrument and the universe.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
We are a 4 piece band. I write the songs or at least 90% of the song. Then I tend to go and play it in bars and test the song to see if it works in that environment. If I feel good about it I play it to Ava my wife who is my creative and life partner. She creates the sonic world and tone in which the song sits. She has a superb instinct for music and is a superb vocalist and writer. She can hear what I and we as a band don’t hear so we tend to follow her feelings. She takes the songs where we wouldn’t necessarily go as musicians.
The band also have complete creative freedom and every idea is listened to and thought through but we have a rule that the best idea wins where’ve it comes from. Our drummer Ryan has stamped his mark all over the new album as a drummer and his parts and sound has become a huge part of the record. After the process Ava and I and the band go through we give all our ideas to our wonderful producer Paul Knight-Malciak who is almost like our 5th member. He re-interprets our ideas and adds his own sonic vision. We trust his ideas and so our music is very much a collaboration between us.