Gala Drop

Skype interview by Javi Gómez Martínez

The members of Lisbon psychedelic combo Gala Drop are not exactly the type to avoid a fight. It’s been six years since they released their previous record and, in the quest to record their perfect sound, they have recruited new members and tirelessly jammed. We called up Nelson Gomes to talk about change, the struggles of the creative process, Lisbon and, yup, Panda Bear.

Gala Drop

Six years is a long time between records, most band’s lifetimes, what were the most important changes Gala Drop underwent over the course of this period?

There’s been so much going on for the last six years! We did a special project with Ben Chasny from Six Organs of Admittance and Tiago, one of our founding members, left the band. We therefore had to find new ways to stick to the core of our band and not betray our own principles. Having new members in a band always changes the dynamic: new ideas, new ways of seeing music, etc. It’s been an especially exciting time for us, but also a slow one. It took us a year and a half to record II and get it to the point where it stood up to our expectations.

How does Gala Drop’s creative process work?

We jam a lot! After a while, Afonso (our drummer) and I start shaping and structuring the songs. Afterwards, everyone starts putting more of their own styles into the mix.

Something very distinctive in your music is that the borders of different various genres disappear and everything sort of melts together as a whole. Is the erasing of those borders a conscious effort? 

It’s an interesting question, even though everybody seems to ask this question in a different way! But yours is probably the best way to put it. When we started the band, our main objective was to erase those borders. That’s the essence of Gala Drop, but now we don’t think about it anymore as we had a lot of new influences coming in through people and our own life experiences. While it may have been more of a conscious effort at the beginning, it has now become our modus operandi. We are a bit schizophrenic as a band, and fitting everything together on a record in a cohesive way has become a challenge.

Without lumping the whole city into one mold, what I do hear in your music is the sound of your city, Lisbon.

Lisbon is a sunny, bright town. And that makes our music more colourful. The old Portuguese colonies and their relationship with Portugal also create the perfect frame for a city, you listen to all kinds of music from everywhere. We grew up listening to music from Brazil, Angola, Cabo Verde, and it was a natural process; you can even call it a naïve learning process.

What about the notion of ‘high-class’ vs. ‘low-class’ genres?

That’s what makes Portugal such a special, unique country within Europe. The economy is not doing well, but that makes us all closer to each other, and allows musicians and people from different social groups to have access to a broader scope of cultural and social influence.

How would you describe the Lisbon scene?

The scene is huge and covers a lot of different styles. Musicians support each other but they have different approaches, it’s all a big family. The scene is producing really interesting electronics, avant-garde jazz, indie, kuduro.

And then you are part of Principe Discos too, which, seen from the outside, essentially constitutes its very own genre

The Principe Discos’ idea started back in 2007 when I first met Marfox. After listening to his music, we decided to start working on the dance label. Afterwards, we met more people playing the same style of music, considered ‘ghetto’ music back in the day, we thought it had to be put out in a proper way for the whole world to enjoy.

And they are all really young artists.

Most of them are underaged! There’s a lot of energy going on there, I guess that’s the way you save a whole scene from aging!

I guess I cannot finish this conversation without mentioning Panda Bear…

He’s such a great ambassador! He promotes local music, sets up special events with Portuguese bands, etc. And so far he is the sole survivor of all of the foreign musicians who have at one point or another come to live in Lisbon!

Gala Drop play on 11 March at  OT301 in Amsterdam. The show is free for Subbacultcha members.