Q&A with Gabrille Wortman

After breaking through with their Signals EP, Smoke Season started to hit it big. This should be exciting news for those who follow the duo. Comprised of Gabrielle Wortman, previously of Temp3st, and Jason Rosen, previously of Honor Society, the group pulls from influences such as Americana and Radiohead. Gabrielle was kind enough to sit down and talk with us on the day that Hot Coals, Cold Souls was released, and we talked Terence Malick, Smoke Season's exciting residency at The Echoplex in Los Angeles, singing Tori Amos into hairbrushes, and much more!

GGM: First off, congratulations on the release of Hot Coals Cold Souls! This is your second EP. How would you describe the difference between the Signals EP and this one?

GW: With the Signals EP, we were really experimenting. We had just formed the band and were trying to figure out what our voice sounded like. For the past year and a half, we’ve really honed in on what that voice sounds like, so I would say that this is the first release where we’ve really captured it.

GGM: Each song on the EP has its own distinct vibe. What were the influences on Hot Coals Cold Souls?

GW: “Badlands,” the first single, we were inspired by—it’s actually a funny story. I went to go pick up take-out food from a restaurant around the corner from my house. I was waiting for it, and they were playing the Terence Malick film Badlands. It was silent with subtitles, and I was so fascinated by the story and how magnetic it was that I ended up sitting there watching the whole film. When I got back, I was like “Let’s try and bottle that up in a song, that sense of adventure and reckless abandon.” That was what started “Badlands.” For “Simmer Down,” that is kind of like our anthem to the entertainment industry as a whole. It has one of my favorite lines, “I’ve learned I’m bound to repeat mistakes until I lie down.” That’s our interpretation of the entertainment industry. “Opaque” is about the light and the dark. It starts off really bright and by the end gets really dark and resolved.

GGM: The “Badlands” video also came out recently and it’s got a really gritty, western sort of vibe. Was the video inspired by the Badlands film?

GW: Yes, absolutely! A lot of critics have been calling our music very cinematic. “Cinematic Americana,” “Cinematic Indie-rock.” As a tribute to that, we decided to make our music video as cinematic as possible. What better way to do that than to pay homage to Terence Malick, one of the best directors who ever lived? There’s a couple iconic shots in that video that are inspired by Badlands. One shot where Jason has a shotgun on his shoulder and that’s the cover of the Badlands trailer. We wanted to capture that Bonnie and Clyde feel.

GGM: You have a residency at The Echoplex this August. How did this come about and what can fans expect from these gigs?

GW: We wanted to do something special to mark the release of the EP. Our motto for this residency has been “How can we make it as original as possible?” The first thing we decided to do is take that cinematic flair a bit further. We teamed up with the directors who worked on the “Badlands” video to create a series of short films. Each gig of this residency opens with a short film that we’re scoring live. Similarly, we wanted to expand upon that multimedia experience and pull in some different genres of art, not just music. The good thing about the Echoplex is that it’s so large that we could dedicate a section of the venue to a pop-up gallery. In addition to our merch booth and those of the other bands, we have a pop-up gallery where local photographers and artists we love will be showing and selling their work. It’ll be like a festival of arts rather than simply “This is the Smoke Season Residency.” This is more like everything we love in three nights in August. It’ll be the 4th, 18th, and 25th!

GGM: I saw an interview you did where you said your singing career started with Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes and a hairbrush. What were some other albums growing up that you think really influenced you?

GW: Radiohead’s Amnesiac really inspired the way that I love to produce our tracks. We have a very cut-up way of sampling things and choosing sounds that are not conventional that have to be created by a number of pedals. There’s also a couple artists on Sad Possum records, Delta Blues and Southern slide guitar artists, that influenced the way I sing. One artist in particular is Johnny Farmer. You probably haven’t heard of Johnny Farmer, but it’s good if you love the blues. Anything Fleetwood Mac as well.

GGM: What are you jamming nowadays?

GW: We really fell in love this summer with The War on Drugs album Lost in the Dream. It’s really inspired us to get back to that Americana root, and really get more epic. I was really inspired by Son Lux’s new tracks, how creative he can be.

GGM: What are you reading?

GW: Right now I’m reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s about his process of trying to understand how he should mold his son’s diet. It’s a very unbiased look at both sides of the story, what’s healthy and what’s not. I’m almost finished with it!

GGM: What are some of your favorite TV shows?

GW: I don’t even have cable! We’re not huge TV watchers, but I will say “Game of Thrones” is my favorite.

GGM: How about movies? You’d talked about Badlands, but what are some others?

GW: What got me so in love with Badlands was that I’d heard a number of times that Wes Anderson was a big fan of Terence Malick. I love everything Wes Anderson does, from the way he directs, to the characters, to the actors he chooses, and the screenplays! I have a little girl’s love for Moonrise Kingdom, but I just saw Grand Budapest Hotel and that might be my unbiased favorite. Moonrise Kingdom was the most inspired by Badlands!

GGM: Favorite place to hit up when you’re on the road?

GW: Seeing the Cracker Barrel signs on the side of the road is everybody’s jackpot! We live in LA now, so we don’t have a lot of Cracker Barrels. I’m vegetarian, so I have limited options when we get out to the Midwest, just long stretches of highway and only fast-food joints. Check out Hot Coals Cold Souls here!

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