November 28, 2016

Featuring: gobbinjr

Dissecting the emotions behind gobbinjr's vom night.

A month after naming her sophomore EP, vom night, Emma Witmer vommed – a night which marked the end of an era Witmer coined “The Pursuit of the Vom.” A time of desperation, it became Witmer’s attempt at catharsis – trying to purge not only literally, but emotionally – in order to clear her stress and strip away anxiety. Yet, this need for depuration didn’t end with that one night. Carrying onto her new album, released under her solo project gobbinjr, Witmer opens up for her record, exposing her emotions and fearlessly weaving them into every track and line. Wrapping its intensity into sharp and infectious pop melodies, Witmer digs deep on this record, balancing herself on sarcasm, and ultimately finding the common ground on which her music thrives.

However, this ability to reflect upon herself was not something that came naturally. “A lot of how I was raised was based on bottling up emotions, holding it in, not showing any emotional weakness,” says Whitmer. Although gobbinjr is based in Brooklyn, Witmer’s roots lie out in the Midwest, growing up in a small suburb outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Without much of a scene holding her to the area, Witmer enrolled at NYU’s Clive Davis program and made a move to New York to branch out. As she disapproved of NYU’s money-minded attitude, Brooklyn’s DIY scene took Witmer in, allowing her to develop and cultivate her sound. This also became a time for the songwriter to work on her material and open herself up, making for her first full-length record manalang last year. This expansion into her work gave Witmer an outlet in her writing. “Songwriting is a really cool process for me because feelings that I don't know how to put into words magically come out in melodies,” she explains. By finding solace in her writing, Witmer was able to find her release once again in vom night.

This new EP not only became a way to unleash emotions but a way for Witmer to learn about herself and her vulnerability. “While I knew there were these things lurking inside of me, I could never really identify them until these songs—I learned a lot about myself, my perfectionism, my social anxiety, and my fears,” Witmer shares. Through each track on the EP, Witmer delves into a part of herself and her fears tearing at them from their core. From “undies” in which Witmer admits her blind faith with others, or in “perfect,” Witmer’s favorite track on the album which stabs at the songwriter’s perfectionist qualities endlessly repeating the lines, “I just wanna be perfect / Anything less is shameful” until drifting off into robotic, distortion at the end of the song. Every track on vom night digs at Witmer’s emotions, forcing them into the light and forcing her attention.

As deep as these feelings resonate with Witmer, she never hides them. Although her brand of infectious and bubbly pop can tend to mask their intensity, it never entirely obscures their presence. Each track digs below the surface and usually does so with sharp and blunt honesty. Witmer truly becomes her harshest critic on vom night, never failing to hit her anxieties dead-on. In the last track of the record, “firefly,” Witmer takes aim at her social anxiety. “I feel creepy all the time / ‘cause I like everybody more than they like me,” she opens the track with its clean-cut synths. As she moves through the song, her performance begins to drone, sleepily but forcefully moving in the chorus, “I just wanna be a firefly / I just want the human race to die / Already.” Striking the listener each time, Witmer’s words on the chorus resonate throughout the song, laying on top of the track’s syrupy background vocals. Struggling with the song for months, “firefly” became the hardest on the EP for Witmer to write. “I knew I could have produced it into some big epic track and I was struggling whether I should,” she explains. “It ended up sort of hollow, but I think it had to be distanced and removed from reality anyway.” In “firefly’s” sparseness, Witmer exposes herself fully yet as she uncovers her deepest feelings she releases them, undermining their power and dispelling their meaning.

Yet, as sad and intense as vom night is, it never wallows. From first glance, the emotional dimensions of this record could be dismissed as another angsty pop release; however, this would discredit the strength hidden throughout this album. vom night is not some sort of dirge, nor does it ever revel in its anguish – it’s about learning from one’s fears and anxieties. As Witmer discloses her emotions in this record, it’s as an outlet in which to heal, not indulge. This became Witmer’s concern for listeners as they work through the record for themselves. “I want listeners to be kind to themselves and others, really. I don’t want to promote self-deprecation; I want to promote mental health,” she says. “A lot of these songs have to deal with me admitting my flaws to myself so I can work on them. I want people to know they can look at themselves critically in the name of self-improvement as long as they are not hurtful.” Through all of this, Witmer doesn’t want to condone her feelings as cool or desirable, but simply normal. For her, “[vom night] was all about purging out my darkest emotions in a way that's beautiful and hopefully even helpful to some.” As listeners find peace in the commonality of Witmer’s word and emotions, she hopes not to become an ideal but foster self-improvement.

Even though Witmer plunges deep into her anxieties, there’s a sense of confidence or optimism lingering underneath manalang and, now, vom night. Putting aside all of the somber moments on the record, Witmer’s sincerity is universally captivating. “I think my music is probably appealing because I’m not trying to be anything but myself,” Witmer shares. The songwriter never hides or shies away from herself. She exposes her emotions, her hopes, and ultimately herself, which shines through each track, starkly unafraid. Even with the record’s emotional intensity, there’s a certain feeling of determination always bubbling right below Witmer’s words. In regards to her future, Witmer sounds hopeful: “I don't really know where I'm going, to be honest. I'm basically just gonna keep doing what I do and see where I end up.” As terrifying as the unknown may seem, Witmer shows trust in her direction. For no matter where she may end up or however far gobbinjr may take her, Witmer finds a tenacity within herself that transcends her fears. Even with the threat of failure, Witmer discredits her critics on one of the album’s more compelling moments, “may we all have space.” As her anxieties trickle through each track, Witmer uses the final measures of the track to assert herself. As “angsty” as her music may seem, and as isolated at Witmer might feel, deep down, Witmer knows whatever happens with gobbinjr, she’s sure “[she’ll] take you by surprise” – and, honestly, I’m sure she will too.

Listen to gobbinjr on bandcamp.

Amy Garlesky is a philosophy/political science student and freelance writer based in Cleveland, OH and Burlington, VT. Follow her ramblings on twitter @ayygarl.