Laura Callier’s alter ego isn’t quite what you would think of when you meet her in person. Talkative and warm, Laura is smart and studied and has no problem rattling off titles to long forgotten 90’s radio pop jams in conversation. As Gel Set, however, Laura dons an air of chilly dissonance, even as gloopy synthesizer drops drip from the stage as she performs. After recording an episode of the Notes and Bolts Podcast with her, Laura answered some questions posed by Chicago Mixtape about influences, solo performance and how the Gel Set moniker came to be…
Chicago Mixtape: You’ve discussed with me to some length that you are decidedly non-musician in yr approach to how you create, how does that inform the overall sound of Gel Set?
GS: Well, I’m not decidedly non-musician in my approach on purpose, per se…I guess because I’m new to music but have been a painter for many years, I just tend to think about song creation like making an audio painting…layering beats and keyboards and vocals like layering paints…I’m sure this informs the sound in some way, but maybe someone else could tell you how, haha. I guess I can’t really see the forest for the trees on that one.
CM: Artwise, are you a fan of any particular movements? Are there certain times throughout the history of art that have stood out as inspirational? Do you lean more towards the classics or the modern?
GS: Among other things, I’m obsessed with folk/naive/outsider art and kitsch. I feel like all this crap we make and view on the internet, like the “I can has cheezburger” cats, and so many video or gif memes are our modern kitsch/folk art. It sucks that because everything’s digital, after we humans destroy ourselves, the aliens that take over probably won’t get to enjoy our internet kitsch. They’ll mistakenly think we were a classy species as they gaze upon Impressionist paintings while they sip their nuclear waste tea. Hopefully, the Lizard People conspiracy theories are true, just so the L.P. can check out LOLcats and internet fart jokes before the Earth implodes and they have to repopulate on another planet. Wait, what was the question again?
CM: The sound of yr music – and in particular, the Cell Jets tape, as well as the split 12” with Wind Breaker – have a very cold and frigid feel to them, recalling to mind a lot of the more obscure European minimal and cold wave records that have been getting mined over the last several years, how do these play into the Gel Set aesthetic, if at all?
GS: I suppose what informed my vision of the Gel Set aesthetic was more my desire to create a band with dark undertones, like a band that wrote songs about freezing to death in the arctic or murdering someone for their pocket change or hating your job more so than a band that wrote love songs, because when I started Gel Set I was singing back up vocals in a power pop band where all the songs were super happy and cute. I have become a huge fan of the minimal and cold wave bands you refer to, and appreciate the comparison, but it was never something I did intentionally.
CM: What is it like to perform these songs on stage? Being a solo act with a stack of synthesizers and projections must surely help curb the nerves, yes?
GS: Oh man. I’ve sort of always hated performing live. It brings out the fear of making a mistake while everyone stares at you, the fear of everyone thinking I suck, etc. After a year of performing though, I have managed to have more of a “fuck it” attitude and just try to have fun on stage and accept mistakes as just part of the live experience. I love having projections because it’s so boring to just stare at a solo performer. Hiding behind a couple synths is nice, for sure, too.
CM: You’ve also done some music video making as well, correct? Can that be found yet or is it still in the editing room? What all went into the making?
GS: I haven’t made many yet…but it’s in the works! The artist, Glen Jennings, is currently making a Predator themed music video for the North’s remix of my song “Perfect Place to Dump a Body”, which I’m super excited about.
CM: You covered a Creed track to pretty great success on Cell Jets, are there other awful jams you would like to set right and give new life?
GS: I have so many ideas for bad covers! Definitely I’m going to have to throw in a Celine Dion cover and a Hootie and the Blowfish cover…
CM: I’m still pushing for a Limp Bizkit number. Just the things that could be done…
GS: My friends in Atlanta made fun of me because when I lived there, I briefly dated a guy who was super into Limp Bizkit. I should make one and dedicate it to him.
CM: With such a rich scene in Chicago, what are some other acts that you’ve really been tuned into as of late?
GS: My favorite Chicago bands of the last couple of years have probably been Valis and Xina Xurner. A few other Chicago bands I find inspiring are Mr 666, Windbreaker, Pure Magical Love, Forced into Femininity, Sarah Weis, Ono, Andy Ortmann’s various incarnations, Clique Talk, the North, Lightpolite, Ariisk, Alex Barnett, Magas…I’m probably forgetting tons of others…
CM: What are some upcoming projects for Gel Set in the next six months? You mentioned Europe when we spoke, correct?
GS: Yes, I’m in the process of booking a Euro tour for the winter and have a tape coming out at some point on Lillerne Tapes as well as a 7″ split with Stacian next spring on Notes and Bolts…hopefully lots more touring is in my future!
Gel Set play The Reversible Eye on September 14th, with Buoyant Sea, Persuasion, and The Fagettes before playing a dance party at The Hideout with Chandeliers on October 13th. Her tape, Cell Jets, can be found via Modern Tapes (Here) and her split 12” EP with Windbreaker can be found via Seehrs Records (http://seehrs.com/)
Gel Set: Paradise For The Wicked
Solid Space: Contemplation
Michael Perkins: Murder By Phone
Cosmetics: Black Leather Gloves
Absolute Body Control: Shake
Gel Set: Perfect Place To Dump A Body (The North Remix)
Xina Xurner: Poppers