January 25, 2017

Interview: Bulldog Eyes

An interview with Bulldog Eyes' Georgie Gould.

Georgie Gould and I first met through the Internet at a time of mutual crises. Suffering from newly developing confusion and spending days in a dysphoric haze, I reached out to a stranger that seemed to understand. Even years after our short-lived communications through the infamous Tumblr ask box, Gould’s music as Bulldog Eyes has remained a source of security and comfort in my life. Gould is a brilliant songwriter in a way few others can claim. In the world of “bedroom pop” where short and emotionally blunt songs run the game, Gould's sheer songwriting skill makes their work pop in all the best senses, mirroring one of their biggest inspirations: Robert Pollard. Their 2015 album Asleep boasts a Bandcamp review that starts: “I am not kidding when I say that this is my favorite album of all time,” and it’s easy to see why by just the very first soft-spoken, pop-perfect refrain.

After releasing their most recent album, the brilliant 2016-ending Seeya that is described as the last to hear from the Bulldog Eyes project, I decided to reconnect with Gould. Emailing back and forth from my home in Chicago to theirs in Queens, we chatted about their history of inspiration, the end of Bulldog Eyes, and what’s coming next.

The Le Sigh: How did you first get into making music? 

Georgie Gould: I got into making music with my sister. We played in a Best Coast/Tennis ripoff band together in late high school. We wrote and recorded acoustic and piano/organ pop songs together in 2012. Once we both started working jobs and having busier, conflicting schedules we started recording under different projects to accommodate.

TLS: From what do you find most of your inspiration for songwriting? 

GG: Most of my inspiration when I’m writing a song comes from other musicians. Trying to imagine their thought processes emotionally and artistically... analyzing how they build songs or seeing if I can feel where their influences are coming from using what I know of music's history and evolution. 

Kim Deal of The Breeders and Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices are two of my favorite songwriters as far as like... "rock" music is concerned. When I started writing songs at 19, bass was my main instrument. I couldn’t really play guitar at all and had basic keyboard knowledge from taking piano lessons as a kid. I only kinda understood theory naturally and from taking band and music theory classes in high school. I was listening to The Breeders and Daniel Johnston trying to figure out not just how to write a song but also how to play guitar and keyboard at the same time. A lot of my older songs are really just experiments in learning how to record instruments and place them in a DAW in time if I could manage it. I had no idea what I was doing I was just doing for the sake of doing. Thematically though, I like to write about friendship and the complexities of caring about others in the context of strong or close friendships.

TLS: Were there any big changes for you that marked the time between the release of Asleep and your newest album, Seeya

GG: I had a lot change from the time Asleep was finished to when Seeya was finished. Had a rough year but I’m cooling now. Biggest change musically is that I try to take my time now.

TLS: Where do you actually do most of your recordings? 

GG: I usually do most of my recordings in my... room? Asleep was done in my room in Richmond. Alec and Griffin recorded the drums in New Jersey and I did the rest at home. The instruments for Seeya I recorded at Griffin's house in Jersey. The vocals and percussion in the kitchen here in Queens where I’m staying.

TLS: What equipment do you use to record?  

GG: I use a little USB interface to record bass and keyboard. I use Griffin’s 57 mic for guitar and vocals. I used to record vocals and guitar to my phone though. Truly not so bad. Kinda bad but not horrible.

TLS: Did you play all the instruments on Seeya (such as the horns)? If not, who else was involved? 

GG: I played everything on Seeya. It was originally some stuff I planned to finish while I was home in California but I was so unhappy with it that I came back to the East coast to start over. I ended up finishing the songs while I took a break from recording for my new project and was happy enough with the finished songs to put it out for other people to hear. I used a Microkorg for all the synth sounds and the trombone is mine from high school band. I’m happy I can still play it after so long.

TLS: Where does the decision to end the Bulldog Eyes project come from, and what comes next? 

GG: I really just don’t like the name and I’m tired of the songs? To me they represent a different part of me or my life and a different tier of expectation I have for myself as someone making art. With Seeya I wanted to revisit the songs and see how much I could change the style they’re done in. It’s not too dramatic. I just don’t like the name really. Next I plan to expand, record and release more, work with friends more, push myself as far as being unconventional or interesting. 

TLS: Do you think 2016 was really as bad as everyone seems to think? 

GG: 2016 was really bad. Anyone who says it wasn’t is probably…bad or just lying. If you personally had a good year, good for you, but things out here were rough.

Listen to Bulldog Eyes on bandcamp

Elijah Fosl is a freelance music and culture writer who's really bad at describing themselves. They hail from Louisville but live in Chicago where they work, ferociously devouring cassette tapes and local produce. Find them on Twitter at @elifosl or online at elifosl.com.