Talk Thursday to Me – Zeb Gould

Today we catch up with our old friend Zeb Gould to talk about his new album / book Destroyer Deliver and the mysterious tractor factor.

Postcard Editor: Hey Zeb! Long time no chat. Outside of the obvious, how’s everything been?

Zeb Gould: Things have been pretty good. Just settling into this strange new normal, and trying to navigate an album release during a time when live performance is a tricky thing.

PE: I feel like I’ve been asking everyone this question, so I’m sure you’ve gotten it a bunch as well, but did you have the album written and recorded before the pandemic hit? Or did it also affect those aspects?

ZG: This record has actually been a long time in the making. It was recorded nearly five years ago, and some of the songs go back even further, so the pandemic didn’t effect the production side of things.

PE: I could see how it would be a long process as it’s an ambitious project. What made you want to produce a companion book piece for the album?

ZG: The book aspect didn’t really come about until I was in discussions with Aqualamb Records (the label that is releasing Destroyer Deliver.) Their idea is to provide something tangible in this age where music is mostly consumed purely in the digital realm, so they ask their bands to develop a book of some kind to go along with the music.

PE: Was that a challenge? How did you approach it?

ZG: It definitely was a challenge. An enjoyable one, to be sure, but writing prose fiction wasn’t something I had spent much time doing, so I really struggled. At first, I tried to tie the songs into the stories in some literal way, either by inserting lyrics or ideas, but I found that to be too constraining. After nearly giving up on the book entirely, I sat down one day and wrote this little short story about someone from a family in the midwest, and then I had a way in that made sense to me. As I went along, I found that these stories about this family meshed with the music in interesting and unexpected ways.

PE: That’s awesome. Do you think you may do more fiction writing now because of this project?

ZG: Yes, I’d love to, but I haven’t had the discipline (or the deadline) to sit down and do any writing since I finished the book. It’s still outside of my comfort zone, unlike songwriting, which I have much more experience with, and subsequently, enjoy doing more.

PE: Fair enough, let’s jump back to the album itself. The press blurb calls it gloom folk (which I love btw) and a meditation on melancholic wasteland love. Is it a concept album in a way, or is that just the dominant theme?

ZG: Glad to hear you like the gloom folk label! I, honestly, had never heard the term and was a bit unsure of it myself, as I was worried it would make everyone think these songs were just huge downers. So far it seems like people are picking up on an uplifting undercurrent that runs through these songs (at least I think and hope it does) despite the down-temponess of some of the material. As for a concept, no, I didn’t approach this album with a specific concept in mind, but I do approach all of my records as whole pieces, even though music isn’t really listened to that way so much anymore. I still think of all the songs working together to fill some overall feeling that I’m after, even though I probably couldn’t articulate exactly what that feeling is. After fitting all of the pieces together for this record, I think there’s a current of displacement and transition running through it.

PE: Sonically the album has all these really lovely, subtle shifting tones. Part 16 Horsepower southern gothic, part Jason Molina-esque longing, part Neil Young world weary optimism. Were there definite musical influences on the writing and recording of the album?

ZG: Thank you for saying that. I didn’t really approach the writing of this album with any definitive intention as far as influences go. That being said, writers like Jason Molina and Neil Young have definitely been big creative influences for me in general. I think I was listening to a lot of Bert Jansch records when I wrote some of these songs and maybe I can hear a bit of that, particularly with the guitar parts on a few songs.

PE: From the last few posts of yours on social media, it seems like you have moved out from the city to somewhere pretty rural. Is that accurate? If so when and where did you move to?

ZG: Yes, we moved to the foothills of the Catskill Mountains about eight or nine years ago. Near the town of Kingston, NY.

PE: What prompted that move? Just had enough of NYC and the never ending quest for the best pizza?

ZG: Ha! I’ll always be searching for the best pizza. I think our move was a whole host of things. Megan (my spouse and the person responsible for all of the string arrangements on Destroyer Deliver) and I both absolutely love the city and work there frequently, but we both grew up in more rural settings and I think the pull of being in and around nature was the driving factor.

PE: I believe that’s called the tractor factor, but don’t quote me on that.

ZG: I’m stealing that.

PE: Do you feel like being in a more rural setting has influenced your writing or playing? You’ve often worked in the roots and Americana genres, but just curious if the slower pace has had a noticeable effect.

ZG: I’m sure it has. It’s a cliche, but there really is an undeniable energy that pulses through NYC, and I think it had a big impact on my creative output when I was living there. That being said, I do find a lot of benefits to my current situation, creatively speaking. Time and space being two that come to mind.

PE: Nice. Well I don’t want to keep you too long, appreciate you taking the time. Anything else you want the people to know before we go?

ZG: Yes, before we go I’d like to mention Sam Crawford (co-producer, bass), Christian Rutledge (drums), Elizabeth de Lise (Vocals), Jeff Hudgins (Vocals/Wind instruments), Jerome Begin (Keys), and Megan Gould (Strings) – all very close friends and incredible musicians who were all so important in the making of the Destroyer Deliver album. It was a true collaboration with all of those fine people during the weekend we spent at Dreamland Recording Studios making the record.

And William Schaff for contributing the amazingly beautiful cover art for the Destroyer Deliver Book. It has also been a dream of mine to work with him, and it was truly an honor and a pleasure to have him be a part of this project. I will forever be in debt to them.

That should do it. Thank you for asking me to do this!

Destroyer Deliver is releasing on February 26th on Aqualamb Records and is available for pre-order here. Keep up with all things Zeb at his website.

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