The ‘Round The Campfire Interview Series is Pop Break’s preview series, curated by Lead Music Writer Andrew Howie, for Summer Camp 2023.
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With just about a month left until the annual pilgrimage to Chillicothe, IL for Summer Camp Music Festival, the hype is real. The buzz of planning the trip, forgetting what you need to pack in all the hubbub, and finally being on-site and making the most of a (hopefully) sun-soaked Memorial Day Weekend is a perennial ritual for music lovers near and far.
Coming all the way from Israel is G-Nome Project: psychedelic trance jamtronica guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a beat in your seat! Bassist Zechariah Reich, keyboardist Eyal Salomon, and guitarist Yakir Hyman gave me a few choice words back in February about their upcoming studio debut, the exact definition of “grilled cheese funk,” and the importance of laughter and transformative memories. Get to know them and don’t miss their set at Summer Camp Music Festival this Memorial Day Weekend!
Andrew Howie: So unless I’m much mistaken, you’re in the process of putting together your first studio record. What can you tell me about that experience vs. performing live?
Zechariah Reich: It’s a really interesting learning experience, I’ll start with that. It’s the first time we’re actually approaching our music from the angle of a studio album. We’ve always been very much a live band; our energy is very live, always has been. Instead of going the route of just the four of us going into the studio and recording live, we have a lot of soundboards. No reason for that. As far as the production angle, we track drums and bass live and in studio, guitar in our rehearsal room, and then I’m kind of adding all the other elements, synths and pads and different key elements throughout all the tracks, and really trying to bridge what we do live with something a little more produced and has a few more layers than we’re used to. It’s been a lot! It’s been really awesome. We’ve been really enjoying it, and we’re really excited to show the world what we can do, not just live.
Yakir Hyman: I think Zech what was saying is we previously have done some recordings in the shed, but it’s all been done with live tracking. It’s been really fun because a lot of our music is psychedelic trance influenced, which we always bring to the live show, specifically Eyal (Salomon, keys) and his dark, ripping synth leads that are really crazy, overruns that are pulsating, four-on-the-floor trance beats. The idea of translating all that into the studio takes time, and Eyal’s been producing, so he’s been doing the heavy lifting with actually transforming the energy that we bring live, which is a crazy experience. We thought it would be more challenging, but Eyal has really done a great job. He’s a music director so he’s streamlined it and had great ideas on how to approach the tunes and the production behind them so we can capture that energy in a studio setting, both through the energy of the performance itself and the tonal and sonic palettes that he puts on top of everything we’ve been doing.
AH: While prepping for this interview I came across the term ‘Grilled Cheese Funk’ and I’m hoping you can elaborate a bit on that.
YH: We use it internally, and when we hear it out there, it’s like wow, it’s actually a thing! It really comes down to this: the quick history of where it came from was back when the band first started, when we were first making that sound, the four-on-the-floor trance sound with these funk elements on top, it had this sound that was akin to the grilled cheese hitting the griddle. You know, that sizzle? Something about the funk layered on top of the livetronica reminded us of that sizzle sound and feeling, and maybe the Pavlov salivation of it had an effect, so we just coined it Grilled Cheese Funk.
It specifically relates to the jams where there is heavy trance going, 140-bpm trance jams, with lead synths by Eyal, and the wah guitar behind it with Zech doing upbeats on the bass. So those segments of the jams are actually what we coined grilled cheese funk. Even when we’re in the studio and we go over sections, we have all these different terms, and then all those elements are happening at the same time, we say ‘oh yeah the Grilled Cheese Funk section.’ It helps us in terms of communication, to have a vernacular where we can have these common terms.
AH: And you’re bringing this tasty jamwich to Summer Camp this Memorial Day Weekend – have you played there before?
Eyal Salomon: We played there once before. Summer Camp is cool, it’s a really big festival with a lot of artists, and I just remember really enjoying playing there, but it was also really fun attending. Going from the different stages and seeing all the music. It’s such a vast lineup that covers the entire jam scene, and it always has! It’s never shifted, it’s always been everything jam, so I feel like the artists are all walking around, you get to mingle and hang out with everybody, see so many of our friends’ bands over the years. When you travel you tour and meet so many bands and Summer Camp feels like a family reunion of sorts where we see all these people we know.
ZR: A couple things I really liked about SCamp, I discovered all this music that I had never heard before, and now I’m listening nonstop. I didn’t really come from the jam scene, didn’t have much exposure, so that was also my first time seeing STS9 live, which was cool. We actually jammed with a DJ, Wyllys, in the VIP tent, and that was also a very cool experience, doing that late night set in there.
AH: Being an international act, what can you tell me about your experience touring in the last couple of years, and your travels in general?
ES: We had a tour in November that we traveled for and we played a few festivals last year, and a little three-night run in May. I feel like we all felt a difference over the last couple of years, right after covid and things started opening up. I got caught in Guatemala on my honeymoon! As things were opening, we had to come to the stage for a few different trips, not even music. At first it was a nightmare. Lines were ridiculous, almost to the point of do we even want to travel anymore? It was that difficult. Traveling twelve hours in its own right is not easy, but it’s gotten better. Lines are streamlined, things are faster, it’s just much more pleasant. The last few flights were anyway, except in November, Yakir’s suitcase was lost with his pedalboard. We landed to see that we had to scramble for the first few days to get what we could and Yakir handled that like a boss and actually was able to play with whatever he could find, until Delta got his back bag five days later in Chicago. Otherwise it’s getting better and feeling better, so we’re less hesitant.
AH: That sounds harrowing; I can’t imagine being in a different state and having that happen, let alone on the other side of the world.
YH: When stuff like that happens, since we travel internationally, we’ve learned to roll with the punches. Gear, suitcases lost, the show must go on anyway. That’s one we thing we do really well, improvising logistically as well as musically. Simply because we are international and it comes with a lot of logistical planning. So stuff like that is inevitable and we have a really good team. That’s how we make it happen.
AH: What should fans expect from their first G-Nome Project experience?
ES: I’ll say first that we’re really big on taking people on an emotional journey during our sets. That’s always been our motivation for how we write our setlists and what covers we choose. We always wanted to bring people to their childhood and make them feel things that are familiar but different. So we go into it, it starts out kind of eerie and dark, and then builds up and suddenly the melody comes out. You see that at a show or festival, and people that don’t know, they aren’t familiar, the second the melody hits, you see that instant where people say they know this, it’s their childhood. We always try to tap into that. We do a Sesame Street remix, Pink Panther, ‘Thunderstruck.’ Things that are familiar, but put our own spin on it, so it’s kind of our original, but it’s not. It takes them on a journey. They can connect in their own way.
ZR: With these covers, we also (back in the day) did Back to the Future and Saved By the Bell, all these fun songs. They’re never straight covers; they’re G-mixes, which I like a lot. You can see on peoples’ faces as they recognize what’s happening, they get this big smile and it’s so much fun to watch that happen live. You’re on stage, the melody’s there, the chords are there, but not exactly there, and then boom people start to realize what it is, and the whole audience gets a big smile, they can’t believe we’re playing this song from 20 years ago, whatever the case may be. I love seeing the smiles.
YH: One of our core values in terms of being a band and musicians and doing what we do live is giving people an experience. It’s so cliché, because everyone says that, but it’s really a word that we put at the forefront of our values. Before we get on stage at rehearsal, we’re not just sitting there figuring out how to make this sound like 7/8 when it’s really 4/4. We do cool musical stuff as well, but that is never the focus of what we’re going for. We’re always into giving people an experience, something memorable.
We pick and arrange things and we want people to come in that door and leave changed. Their experience is their experience, but we want to know that we did everything in our power to provide a transformational time. Even if it’s just that they were having a bad day and we made them laugh, or they get a childhood memory, just that smile on their face. It’s really deep-seated in our values, which is why it works so well. It all comes down to the G-mixes, not covers, we are very clear on that. The ones we pick are very much rooted in that core value of what will give people the best experience here.
AH: That sounds like quite the performance. It’s an interesting approach and it seems like it would really require time and connection.
ZR: That’s one of the biggest challenges, our whole approach has always been this experience of our set, all this improv, an hour and a half, two hours, and now a completely different approach, now you don’t have that much time for an album. That said, even when it’s just a single, it’s this concentrated version of our live sound but with completely new elements to a different experience than live. Sometimes it’s different, and you take it and clean it up, it’s a brand new challenge. We are lucky to have Eyal able to handle all that.
ES: I think for me, something that influenced me a lot 20 years ago was Man On the Moon. Andy Kaufman’s dream was to play Radio City Music Hall, bring Santa out, and then take everybody in buses for milk and cookies at Central Park. His whole concept was wanting to see the audience turn into children in front of his eyes. That’s always sat with me and I want that experience to somehow be conveyed to the audience and for us to go on this journey together.