Chris Fogal discusses Parts, the new Gamits album, the band's first release in six years
The Gamits were one of the classic, melodic punk bands of the late '90s. Unlike many of their peers, they survived well into the new decade before calling it quits, shortly after releasing the best album of their career, Antidote, in the summer of 2004. After touring extensively across the country and across the globe, including trips to Europe and Japan, the band went out on a high note that December with a sold-out farewell show at the Bluebird Theater.
The breakup, however, turned out to be more of an extended hiatus, as the Gamits have returned with a brand-new album, the more lyrically introspective but still feisty Parts. In support of the new album, the Gamits will play the former Soviet Union for the first time, with dates slated in the Ukraine and Russia, along with a swing through Japan.
We had a chance to speak with the band's sole original member, Chris Fogal, about his background, his experience as a touring member of a popular underground band and the songwriting on Parts.
Westword (Tom Murphy): Did you grow up in Denver?
Chris Fogal: Broomfield, actually. I was born in Meridian, Mississippi. I only lived there for a year, and then I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and lived there until I was nine or ten, and then we moved to Colorado.
My dad was in the military. Omaha wasn't considered cool at all back then, and maybe it isn't now. Coming to Colorado, we originally moved to Niwot, and I still remember coming over, having never seen the mountains, Highway 36 over the big hill as you come into Boulder, and being like, "Oh, my God! What is this place?"
It's a vivid memory. We only lived there for a couple of years, and then we moved to Broomfield, where I went to BHS. Some of those people still come out to shows.
Ww: A lot of people may not really know that the Gamits toured extensively. Where did you go in total?
CF: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff. I feel like we took such a long break. Now we're going to play to a lot of people who have never heard us before. I'm good friends with people now who never heard the Gamits or only saw our last show. We used to tour all the time. We did Japan three times; we went all over Europe a couple of times for months at a time. We toured the U.S. tons of times, as well as Canada. We got a lot of help from a lot of people.
In Japan, I can't name all the random little cities. The first three times were much longer tours than the upcoming tour. We were allowed to go all over the place. A lot of the shows were in Tokyo because Tokyo is so huge. But we did make it down to Osaka and Kyoto.
In Europe, we did a lot of Eastern Europe, and Switzerland, Holland. Our European label was in Italy, so that was our hub. We spent a month and a half in Italy alone, playing in every single town, all the way down to Sicily and all the way up north to wine country.
Ww: You have said that Antidote had something of a theme to the album. Would you say that you had any kind of theme to this album? There certainly seem to be some common themes running through the songs. And what is the significance of the album title?
CF: I didn't. But those recurring themes are more because it was written in such a short time, so that was stuff that was on my mind. So it came out sort of cohesive, I hope. It's not too all-over-the-place. Which used to be a problem for me in the past. But I think that was because I wrote it quickly.
But the name Parts didn't come until we were pretty much done with the album. We were going to shoot some photos for the artwork, and we saw a sign on this building across the street from Lost Lake. It's an old, abandoned building, and it just says "Parts." What kind of parts? I don't know. Then the light went on, and we thought we should get photos in front of that sign, and it could be the title of the album and the cover art.
The title is so minimal, and we're so minimal. You can put some meaning on it if you try to, but it really is just a bunch of parts that come together, and all of a sudden, there's an album. We had a really wordy, ridiculous name in mind for the album before, but decided it was too much, and Parts was way better. One word!
Ww: Maybe "introspective" isn't the right word to characterize some of the lyrics on the new album, but it seems like there's some serious self-examination going on there -- though it's not necessarily autobiographical. Maybe looking more into life and how it's lived in a more reflective way than a lot of people are used to hearing in punk rock. You've mentioned before that you maybe took a little more time writing this album than you have in the past.
"Dotted Lines" from Antidote
CF: Lyrically, definitely. I've tried to concentrate more and more on the lyrics. Antidote, lyrically, was pretty well received, and I kind of wanted to take that to the next level. I think somebody once said that you write what you know about.
I've never been that good at BS-ing too much about stuff I don't know about. So I either imagine images about my own life or my own memories or try to imagine images of what might be going on in someone else's head or in someone else's life.
I guess that's kind of embellishing, but it's from an inward perspective. When you write about someone else, you tend to put a lot of yourself into the characters, so that's probably why it sometimes come across autobiographical.
Ww: One song that is particularly interesting, taking that into consideration, is "Love Suicidal." Is that song about a lesbian and her inner turmoil? Why did you write a song about that?
CF: It's a lesbian song. I couldn't think of anything to write about myself, so I thought I'd crawl inside of someone going through something like that and see if anything came out. That was fun! That's Scott Weigel's favorite song on the album.
Ww: Another excellent song on the album is "The Still and the Lost." Musically it's reminiscent of the Dismemberment Plan and the Beatles. It has solid melodies, but it's slightly off in a way that makes it more interesting. Was that purely coincidental?
CF: I think that's a good comparison. Obviously, I wasn't trying to copy either of those artists. It's no secret that I've been influenced by the Beatles since I started playing music. That chorus in there is very Beatles-esque. I tried to put in some dissonant guitar stuff so it doesn't sound too bubblegum, and I think that's where the kind of Dismemberment Plan sound comes in. To make a happy melody, unless you want it to be all pennywhistles and moon pies, you have to make it a little evil somehow and darken it up a little bit.
Ww: In the song "No One Cares Why Should I," it has that intriguingly suggestive lyrics, "I have become what I was all along." But the rest of the song doesn't really spell out what that was.
CF: What did you think the song was about? I'm just curious. I like to think the listener can project his or her own junk on to lyrics. Because I was thinking that if I didn't know what it was about, I would think it was about the writer ditching his ideals and maybe his left-wing politics and becoming a selfish Republican.
Ww: Or like someone who wanted to be one thing and then became what he or she was, like: I had an idea what I wanted to be, but I kind of denied to myself what I really was the whole time, and now I'm forced to face the truth.
CF: I got old, and I gave up. Literally, what it was about is that a few weeks before that, I started eating meat again after not eating it for thirteen years. I had to write about it.
Ww: You and Forrest were in Pinhead Circus at one point. Did you tour with them?
CF: Yeah! It was great. That was my first exposure to touring, and they had just signed with BYO, and they had these awesome tours lined up with Youth Brigade and Seven Seconds. We toured the whole U.S. and Canada on that one. I remember writing in my journal, "I'm having so much fun, I could do this every day for the rest of my life." I looked at that eight years later in a van in the middle of BFE and thought, "Oh, I was that young once."
Ww: What was the difference in the two tour experiences for you?
CF: The newness makes everything so exciting, and it doesn't matter where you're going. You could be going to Casper, Wyoming, and you're like, "Wow, this is great!" Then you start to get over it a little and you concentrate more on trying to make the tour a success, trying to have good shows and make it be rewarding and worth it, and sometimes it's not.
Eventually, you might rethink what you're doing. We struggled for a while, but we would usually break even. You do it because you love it, but people don't often understand that when you're out there beating the pavement, it can be kind of rough. There's a lot of waiting.
"Last of the Mullets" from Endorsed By You
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