Some bands are exceptionally talented and some bands are just lucky; Brooklyn’s avant-garde art punk icons Gustaf are both. What began as a series of ‘fortunate’ events on the way to SXSW has blossomed into something quite magical for this group of five rock ‘n roll misfits. Not many artists can say that one of their first major touring experiences result in nightly sold-out shows with a legendary British punk rock band like IDLES.
However, as fate would have it, that’s exactly what happened.
According to singer Lydia Gammill, it was like an evolutionary sequence of events: “BBC 6 was playing Design a lot and Joe from IDLES heard it and thought, ‘Who are these guys?’ And then, their booker was mutual friends with some people from our label. A lot of things organically grew from smaller elements, like how humans came from bacteria, a lot of little things happened to us for the fish to develop some legs.”
The rest was history and a symbiotic tour relationship has developed into an amazing friendship between the two bands. Each show ends with both bands taking the stage and chaotically performing “Rottweiler”, as instruments get smashed, hats get exchanged and drums get pounded upon. “The guys from IDLES are so nice! They let us use their smoothie supplies and let us do our laundry with theirs; we hang out as much as possible with them. They are all extremely nice to us,” remarked drummer Mellissa Lucciola.
Gustaf’s full-length LP Audio Drag for Ego Slobs is slice of old-school NYC punk that is slathered with thick rhythmic bass lines and hypnotic drum beats. Lyrically, it’s wildly entertaining and carries a humorous tone throughout the album. According to Lydia, she spent some of her early 20’s as a prop comic and likes to improvise much of her performances, so the humor makes sense. You never quite know what’s going to happen at a Gustaf concert; you might not even hear the same lyrics from show to show. “I change [the lyrics] every night. There’s always room to make things a little different, because it’s hard for me to do the same thing twice. I base it on who is there and how it’s feeling. Sometimes, it goes well and sometimes I get in trouble,” says Lydia. They approach each live show with an almost an ‘anything goes’ type of mentality. According to guitarist Vram Kherlopian, “We are informed by each other’s free forming. We bounce ideas off each other as a way to introduce the chaos to the audience.”
It feels like they don’t take themselves too seriously and I think they intended to keep it that way. It’s the type of music you want to listen to on full volume while driving down a long stretch of highway or something you find yourself dancing around the streets of a bustling city to. Gustaf is good… they’re really, really good!
Gustaf – “Cruel”
Cover photo by Adam Lempel; thumbnail photo by Felipe Torres