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Interview: gates

Written by Matt DeBenedetti


New Jersey’s gates is on the rise. The New Brunswick rock outfit has quickly become a recognizable name among music fans of all ages. The live energy brought by their performance and their two studio releases The Sun Will Rise And Lead You Home, and You Are All You Have Left To Fear incited support slots on tours with The Gaslight Anthem, Pentimento, and Have Mercy, and more. In addition, the band has joined the California based label, Pure Noise, which will release their newest record, Bloom & Breathe on October 21st.

For about two years, so many people have told me to see these guys live. I finally had the chance to do so at Asbury Lanes back in July. After their set I immediately jumped on the chance to talk to them about their music, recent tours, and  upcoming record. Here is my conversation with Ethan Koozer, guitartist of gates.

You guys recently went on a two-week tour with Pentimento and Have Mercy. How did that go?

Ethan Koozer: It was awesome. It’s always cool when a band asks you to go out with them. Pentimento asked us while we were in the studio and it was a no brainer for us. They’re one of our greatest group of friends that we’ve met along the way. They’re legitimately the same band as us in what we believe a band should be and how one should operate.  We have a lot of respect for those dudes.  We had actually played with Have Mercy a couple times before this tour. It was a bummer they were only on half the dates by the end of the run between van troubles, border issues, and their gear being stolen.


That’s been happening way too much lately…

EK: Right? It’s insane.

So you guys are from all around. I recently read that some of you are from New York, some of you are from Jersey, when I met you at Asbury Lanes you told me you’re actually from Nebraska.

EK: And Kevin is from Michigan, too.

How did you all end up calling New Brunswick your “home” for the band?

EK: It’s where we practice and that’s where all of our gear is. Mike’s parents live in North Brunswick, so everything is housed there. That’s where it all took shape for us and from an outsiders perspective people can associate a great deal with New Brunswick. Three of us live in Bloomfield but we wouldn’t say we’re from Bloomfield, you know? So New Brunswick to us is home. We take pride in being able to call New Brunswick our home base. It’s a cool scene with a lot of history, and a ton of cool bands have come out of there.

That brings me to my next question, there’s sort of a “typical” New Brunswick sound that carries among a lot of the bands that come out of there, and you guys don’t really fit that norm of New Brunswick bands. It’s hard to really pinpoint influences but I hear a lot of bands that I love in your band’s sound-Thrice, the Dear Hunter, American Football…

EK: Put it this way, if Kevin had a top four, The Dear Hunter and Thrice would both be in it. I grew up in Nebraska, dude, watching Youtube videos of old Brand New and Saves the Day New Brunswick basement shows and just being like , “damn, man.” I wanted to be out here so bad when I was in junior high and high school. The fact that I ended up here is so strange. I definitely feel like there’s a sound that does come from here, and it’s funny that we don’t really fit into that at all.

What would you say your personal influences are as a musician? What do you listen to, if you could take a guess, what would be in the CD player in your car right now?

EK: I can guarantee, 100% that the CD in my car right now is John Mayer’s Heavier Things. I will not lie.

I’m so sorry to hear that.

EK: It’s funny, I get so much crap for the music I listen to sometimes. I don’t necessarily listen to “cool music” at all. In terms of bands, my favorite band is probably The Gin Blossoms, or something from that era. But my guitar playing… I was thinking about it the other day on tour. Have you ever heard of the band Placebo?


EK: They were the first band that opened my eyes to an alternate tuning of the guitar. I was in elementary school, or junior high and my brother was listening to them. This is right around when I first started taking guitar seriously. I got tabs off the internet and Placebo was one of them. So I started messing around with that, and then when I heard, you know, American Football, and the first Owen record, I just started experimenting with it. I taught myself chord shapes and progressions from other tunings and that kind of changes the way you play guitar, between root notes and what your leads are doing. So I guess I learned the way that I play guitar just by playing guitar. You just find different things to do with it that you couldn’t do otherwise. You cover more ground.

That’s funny, I actually know a lot of musicians like that, that listen to a certain kind of music and they play what works best with the band they’re in, rather than what they are listening to.

EK: Yeah. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s kind of cool because it’s reassuring that what we’re playing is what’s natural to us. Not trying to sound like “X Band” that’s doing “X Thing.”


Yeah, I actually was reading your Aquarian Weekly interview not too long ago, and I remember you saying pretty much the same thing, that you guys take pride in striving to not compare yourselves to other bands and just doing your own thing. I think a lot of people can agree with me that something like that should really be respected.

EK: I mean, we just know that we can’t pigeonhole ourselves into anything because we’re not in any one genre or “appealing to one certain crowd,” or whatever. We’re just doing what we wanna do. It’s cool. And we all listen to different music, so we don’t even label ourselves to anything.

So does your guitar playing alone influence the structures of songs, or the sound of the band in any way?

EK: It took nearly four years to learn how to play guitars together. With three guitar players you really need to sit back when writing and realize what’s going on. It’s something we’ve learned how to do well for the full-length record. In terms of my guitar changing the songwriting, or parts and structures, in some cases yeah it does because I’m hitting so many notes that someone could step on the toes of what I’m playing, you know what I mean? If the other guitar players feel like my part should be a prominent part in a song  we’ll base stuff around it to make sure that the song, as a song, is not too cluttered. That goes for anyone’s parts, as well.

I was going to ask you about the writing process of your music. So you’re saying you guys start with guitar work and sort of base the rest of the song around that?

EK: For The Sun Will Rise, it was all written with just us in a basement, just jamming. And for Fear, a lot of it was sectioned. I would write a guitar part. Or Dan King would write a guitar part. And we’d get together and build off that one part, and send emails back and forth, and people would build off that, etc. But, as of lately it’s been more structured. Kevin might have a temporary structure for a song, you know, “Here’s a verse, here’s a chorus, here’s what we could use as a bridge,” and we just play on all of it and see what we can figure out. There is rarely one sole songwriter.

So, it’s more laid out that way and probably easier right?

EK:: It’s way easier. When you start with one part, it’s easier to go part for part. We’ll have an intro, verse, chorus, and bridge, and realize, “Wow… None of these parts repeat ever in the song.” And whereas it’s cool to us, it could be more difficult for listeners to latch on to when they have a full record of parts that never repeat.

But that’s what makes you guys gates.

EK: Yeah, it is awesome that we’ve learned to repeat the chorus in way that, yeah it’s another chorus but it’s completely different than the first except for the lyrics and vocal melodies. It’s goofy, and we write some weird stuff. But it’s always good to sneak a second chorus in there if you can. Our writing has definitely bitten us in the buns a few times.

So finally, you guys are all done recording your new album!

EK: 100%. It is finished!

And now you’re just teasing people and not releasing it?

EK: It’ll be out October 21st. There’s a lot that goes into releasing a record. Between lining up the whole roll out, vinyl pressing, CD duplications, PR stuff, lining up tours for fall, we wanted to wait a little bit. We wanted to give ourselves enough breathing room, because we’ve always stressed releases in the past. We wanted the finished product in hand before moving forward with a lot of it, as well.

The first time I met you at Asbury Lanes I asked what the new record was going to be like, you just kind of smiled. How do you feel about it?

EK: I love the record. I’m super proud of it, and feel like it’s a huge step for the band, in terms of our songwriting. We’ve never had recording or production to this degree. We went in with Mike Watts, and working with him as a producer was crazy. He became the 6th member of gates for well over a month.  I sent it to my parents a few days ago, and to hear your parents say that they’re proud of you and talk about the growth of the band, and the sound, and why they like certain songs, you know, I’m more proud of this than anything we’ve ever done before. There’s a lot on the record. Diversity. It’s well rounded.

To pre-order Bloom & Breathe by Gates on Vinyl, CD or digitally, click here.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.


  1. They are SO good. Their albums have progressed from day one, and this one is no exception. The sound of the songs released so far are masterful and beautiful. Can’t wait to get the CD 🙂
    Great interview by the way!

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