Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Chris Garneau

Chris GarneauEver since I heard Castle Time years back, I have been in love with the sound that is Chris Garneau.  Whimsical and warm, Garneau’s voice combined with his music is dreamlike, and perfect to drift off to.  AMBY caught up with this poetical and talented musician to learn about his love for the countryside, his time spent with animals, the power of memory and of course, winter.  With his new LP Winter Games set to be released this November, we got the scoop on how the album came to be, what it might taste like, and what we can expect in the future.  Thank you Chris for giving us your answers!

AMBY: Your voice has been described as ‘tender, warm and haunting’, your music and dreamlike. How would you classify your sound to all your listeners?

Chris Garneau: Gaylore.

AMBY: Music for Tourists is to date one of my favourite albums. If you had to pick 1 track off that album that best summarizes what you were hoping to achieve, what track would you pick and why?

Chris Garneau: It’s hard to answer because I wasn’t trying to achieve one specific thing at that time except to create lo-fi, live-esque recordings of literally the first songs I ever really wrote.  In that sense, it was really a collection.  I mean, it took a couple years to decide and agree on 12 songs I felt confident enough about to release as a debut.  I think “Black & Blue”, “We Don’t Try”, and maybe “Sad News” were probably the most telling as far as what my life was like at that time.  “Castle-Time”  was exciting to me in a sense because it was less personal and more about creating a sort of mystic world.  But there was not one goal….each song had a different path for me I guess.

AMBY: Your New LP Winter Games comes out November 12, 2013 and we’re very excited! You’ve been working on this album for a few years now; do you have a go-to place for writing and brainstorming? Have you found any hidden gems throughout your travels that have especially inspired you to create?

Chris Garneau: I moved out of Brooklyn in fall of 2011 to a farm Upstate.  I began recording the new album as soon as I left.  It was really difficult for me to create in the city.  I moved to a farm and I lived pretty much alone there with over 40 forty animals that I took care of.  My boyfriend came up on weekends but most of the time I was alone for about eighteen months.  Being around animals and forest and mountains keeps me very centered and peaceful.  It really allowed me to be very comfortable recording too.  I could make any amount of noise at any time of day or night and no one would ever hear me.  It was the best possible scenario I can imagine for making a record.  I still live upstate but no longer on the same property.  We moved to a bit smaller property and had to downsize on animals but we are still pretty much in middle of nowhere with goats and chickens and many cats and dogs.  I am completely unable to feel comfortable in the city at this point in my life.  Making this record has totally changed me for the better, or it revealed truths that I was unaware of before about how I like and want to live.

AMBY: What would you say is the biggest difference between Winter Games and your previous work?

Chris Garneau: On Winter Games I feel like I really play music.  There is much more freedom and experimentation with sound.  There is much looser form and much more time and patience is given to explore instrumental and other ambient sound.

AMBY: You moved away from music that was ‘clean and tight’ in favour of something ‘big, loose and free’. How did this transformation feel as a musician? Did it come naturally?

Chris Garneau: It did come naturally, very much so.  As I was saying before about my leaving the city for the country….I think this move very directly reflects the change in my work.  Living in the city is a lot about things being clean and tight, put together.  There is much less freedom to explore and I felt especially disengaged in my last year or two living in the city.  As soon as my surroundings transformed, my work did as well.  I had more time to myself than ever in my life.  I started getting really into the recording process and realized that I really enjoyed it — something I didn’t very much before.  I took liberty in experimenting with sound.  I recorded noise and played instruments in new ways.  I started to engineer things very differently and learned a lot about how to create work on a more technical side also.

AMBY: If Winter Games were a food, which food would it be and why?

Chris Garneau: I can’t really imagine it being food !  But it would be more along the lines of something herbal.  Like Russian sage.  This whole album could be a medicinal herbal garden surrounded by dilapidated brick walls covered in snow.

AMBY: If you could invite any 3 people to record an album with, who would you pick?

Chris Garneau: Juliana Barwick / Will Oldham / Trevor Powers / Kanye West oops that is four

AMBY: Music stimulates a variety of senses; do any senses stand out as triggers to inspire your music?

Chris Garneau: This record started as an exercise in memory.  I asked several close friends and family to write me any kind of memory they had of winter, as far back as they could go.  I was specifically interested in what things felt like to them during winter seasons, and especially as children.  I was interested in learning about people’s relationships to other humans who surrounded them at younger ages, and how those relationships were possibly affected by winter, cold, darkness, etc. The memories I received served as inspiration for some of the first songs I wrote on this record.

AMBY: If you had to read 1 book on repeat, what would it be?

Chris Garneau: Maybe it would be Close to the Knives.

AMBY: What would the fortune teller predict about Chris Garneau down the road?

Chris Garneau: I hope to keep making records as I want to, when I want to.  I like the idea of a long and sustainable career in music.  I don’t like the idea so much of peaking because then I feel like I’d have to descend from that.  I would like to continue composing music for dance and film.  I hope the fortune teller could predict how many goats I will have five years from now.  I might move really up into the mountains soon. Switzerland or the Himalayas.

AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about Chris Garneau that nobody knows yet?

Chris Garneau: I work at an animal sanctuary in the Catskills one day a week for fun even if it means I just clean out a hay room and fill up water troughs…..

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Thank you Chris Garneau, for giving us your answers!

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Nadia Kaakati

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