Blankets Up To Your Chin | An Interview with Smileswithteeth

– by Camille Banzon, Music Editor –

Electronic musicians are cerebral beings by default. Just by paying attention to the music they make, it’s easy to tell that they process day-to-day living through kaleidoscopic lenses and acoustics.

While we adore quite a number of electro acts, we are currently enamored with Smileswithteeth, the musical brainchild of Gabriel Gutierrez from Montreal. Originally from Los Angeles, Gutierrez uses Ableton Live to orchestrate a wide array of atmospheres, beats, tempos, melodies, and vocal samples into harmonious pieces of sound art packed with emotions. His latest EP, “Suddenly Constantly,” was created and inspired by a “terrible trip” to Iceland with his ex-girlfriend, where they ended up parting ways. While most people would mope around given the circumstances, Gutierrez used all his energy to produce 4 beautiful tracks that channel his frustrations.

We got the chance to talk to Gutierrez, and it’s easy to say that it’s one of the most interesting interviews we’ve ever had. The prolific musician talks about his process on creating his EP, the and most importantly, how his ex-girlfriend reacted upon hearing his songs.

 

TVW: First things first, you were pretty upfront about the inspiration behind your EP. Was it hard channeling those emotions, especially that you mentioned it was a “terrible trip?”

Smileswithteeth: I think if I didn’t sit down and try to make something out of it, I would have gone crazy reconciling with how shitty of a partner I had been on that trip. Having a creative outlet was a way of channeling disappointment and sadness into something positive. I’m not sad very often, and so I think it was both a way of coping and of making the most of an unfamiliar situation. That being said, it wasn’t “hard”–what was hard was trying to mend the relationship and working through the cognitive dissonance between “I’m not a bad person” and “I did a bad thing.”

 

Do you think sadness played an important part in making the EP? How so?

I remember chopping up vocals for the opener “Almosts” and really wanting to lean into how bad I felt. But, at the end of the day, I think there’s an emotional disconnect that happens with trying to conceptualize a project–as soon as you start pulling back and going “Ok I’m going to make an EP about fucking up” you’re removing yourself from doing the work of identifying and fixing problems, and from the potential for emotional growth really. In a sense, it’s an escape from responsibility and a way of restoring agency–you’re giving yourself a situation to control in response to a situation that you can’t (someone else’s feelings, that impact of your actions).

 

How long did it take you to make the entire EP?

A little over a year, but in fits and starts. The idea for the EP was formulated after Iceland (last June), but most of the tracks already existed in various forms. A lot of the work was adding bits and pieces and making minor tweaks in the months that followed.

 

While we dig every song in the EP, “We Fight In The Prettiest Places” is our favorite. A lot of Brighton style drum and bass there and it’s great. Could you tell us more about it? What were the emotions or particular situations that inspired it?

Glad you enjoy it! Yes, drum and bass (or rather, my memory of what drum and bass sounds like) was a big touchstone for this one. I can’t say I remember what the emotional impetus was for it, but my goal usually is to create rhythms that interlock in weird ways, constructed out of textures that are almost soothing. It’s my puzzle brain at work. My old roommate and my ex really liked an early version of the track (before it had vocals), so I added a couple of things and finished it. It felt expansive and cinematic, so I sort of naturally tied it into the experience of driving through Iceland.

 

Is making electronic music always your outlet? Were you a part of other groups/ projects before?

I used to make pop music in high school, but it was always with a computer. I was briefly playing keys and sampling in a band in Montreal called Dub Housing, but that’s it.

 

What made you so interested in making electronic music?

Uh, I can’t explain what it does to my brain but it’s similar to caffeine or waking up on a weekend with the blankets up to your chin.

 

Would you be able to describe the electro/ bedroom beats scene in Montreal?

Not enough of it! (27 exclamation points edited out)

Seriously. I’m from LA originally which is basically the birthplace of a lot of this stuff, so I’m bound to be disappointed. I like to joke that there are three genres in Montreal: ambient, rock, and techno, and I find that there’s not a lot of people mixing those (this is about the DIY scene mostly). That being said, I do think the city has a very supportive scene. On the whole though, I don’t think the bedroom beats thing really exists here. I wish it did! Please prove me wrong though, I’m always happy to get local music suggestions.

 

How is this EP different from the past ones that you released? How would you describe the evolution of your sound?

I think this one is a little bit more direct. I had fun playing with a lot of dance music tropes (the idea of drum and bass, chopped up vocals, four to the floor kick drums). I’d like to think this is more confident and emotionally charged.

 

Is a full-length album in the horizon?

Yes, I’m working on something right now that’ll be really different from this EP, more of an RnB/jazz vibe.

 

Favorite collaborations? And who are the artists that you would want to work with?

Lillian (who sings on Wednesday and plays in the live band) is a great friend and an amazing singer (check out her stuff). I’d really like to work with more rappers–Milo and Open Mike Eagle in particular. I also think it’d be fun to work with some beat music folks, Baths and Shigeto would be fun ones.

 

Why “Smileswithteeth”?

I used to smile a lot less and someone noticed me smiling and called me out on it.

 

Finally, how does your ex feel about an EP dedicated to your break-up? What happened when she listened to it (you can choose not to answer this, but we just had to ask)?

The EP was done and then we broke up. As a result, something that was essentially a message about overcoming difficulty became the exact opposite. She always liked the EP and I think still does (I think she’s flattered). But, it still brings up a lot of the trauma and hardship associated with that trip last summer and with the relationship more broadly speaking. I think it’s a frustrating reminder for her of the work she put in that wasn’t reciprocated or matched in the way she wanted. I bear a lot of the responsibility for making shit go haywire, but there’s also something profoundly sad about problems becoming insurmountable between two well-intentioned people.

 

Listen to his stunning EP, Suddenly Constantly, below.

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Camille Banzon is the music editor of The Violet Wave. After years of covering music festivals, concerts and reviewing albums, she decided to move to a tropical surf island, where she runs a hostel and lives off of coconuts, bikinis, and streaming. Her work on music writing can be seen in FHM Philippines, Pacifiqa, Coconuts Manila, 8list, and Amplify.ph. She likes groovy basslines, clean waves, and stinky cheese.

Got a song you want us to feature? E-mail Camille at camille@thevioletwave.com.

Twitter: @thevioletwave

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