Marc Gaffney, the main man behind Boston’s Gozu, recalls the five years between the band’s 2018 album, Equilibrium, and its next, Remedy — out May 19 on Metal Blade’s Black Light Media — with equal parts regret and enthusiasm.
The pandemic, which pushed the Remedy timeline back, had a lot to do with the lull between records and recent frustrations — but the music never stopped during that time. If anything, Gaffney thinks the unexpected pause resulted in one of the most free-flowing, creative outpourings of his musical career. As a result, Remedy is a perfect mix of what Gozu does best: spacey psychedelia, fuzzy stoner rock and galloping rock and roll.
“Before COVID, we had a great European tour and tour of the States, then it was literally just like, ‘You’re done,’” he says of the nearly three years away from touring and live shows. The new songs that Gozu had played during the European run before the shutdown “went over amazing,” he recalls. "But it was brutal. It was absolutely brutal. You go from playing live to you can’t even walk outside, like, ‘Holy shit.’”
So when it came time to record Remedy at Wild Arctic studios in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with producer, engineer and honorary fifth member Dean Baltulonis, the Gozu musicians were more than prepared.
“We figured, let’s crush it while we can. We’re excited to play these live now. We were like, ‘Jesus Christ, let’s go,’” says Gaffney, the band’s guitarist and main lyricist. He and longtime bandmate and Gozu lead guitarist Doug Sherman were constantly sending each other song ideas and riffs before heading to New Hampshire, he adds.
“A few weeks before we were about to go into the studio, something came over me. I wrote five of the songs in maybe five or ten minutes, and then the next week I rewrote the other five. I was just really, really happy with what came out of it. This was probably the easiest album we ever recorded,” he continues.
New drummer Seth Botos threw down all of his tracks in under 48 hours, setting the tone for the recording process. “The dude literally did ten tunes in a day and a half. It just went from great to even better and even better. We did vocals in three days,” Gaffney says. “He really put his own stamp on it and definitely came in and reinvigorated the whole band. He had a lot to do with the sound of Remedy, just the fresh vibe that he brought in. He gave the three of us a kick in the ass, and it was well needed.”
And the world needed some new Gozu. Fifty-year-old Gaffney has been playing in bands since he was eighteen, and officially formed Gozu in 2009. For Remedy, he took Sleep guitar licks and mixed them with melodies more reminiscent of Roxy Music or Sly and the Family Stone.
“I think it was the easiest album I ever played on because the groove was so concise. We were trying different stuff, too, like a lot more intros and different riffs,” he explains. “I was more in that Sleep realm, guitar-wise. Vocally, I wanted it to be very, very melodic. I wanted things from Roxy Music to Sly and the Family Stone to The Band. I just wanted stuff that people could sing along to, and just tried different things.”
The band, which also includes bassist Joseph Grotto, is now back on the road. Gozu will be in Denver at The Crypt on Sunday, May 28, with Belltower, Burn Unit and Seed of the Sorcerer, Womb of the Witch. And as the musicians talk about the tour, it's apparent they're still buzzing from the magic created during those Remedy sessions, which resulted in bangers like “Tom Cruise Control” and “CLDZ.”
“I think there’s definitely stuff on this album that we haven’t done before. There was such a positive vibe,” Gaffney says of laying down the new tracks. “We just had nowhere to go but up and up and up. When I think about it, it’s kind of joyous. I didn’t want to throw myself down an elevator shaft because it was a nightmare.”
He credits the partnership with Sherman, as well as some recent music lessons with guitar wizard Chris Broderick, for pushing the band further forward, even after five records.
“There’s a comfort level. [Sherman’s] playing style is night and day from my playing style. His tones are night and day. When we bring stuff to each other, it’s enjoyable,” he says, adding that the four bandmates were “really trying to push each other” on the new record.
“It was a fun album to write," Gaffney adds. "A lot of the times you become sedentary and put out the same album. I think one thing about us is on each album, there’s definitely a similar foundation, but each album gets heavier and more soulful and melodic. We like to take chances while we’re in the studio. It’s one of those things: If I can’t continuously try to push, I should do something else and maybe be a tailor or something. You have to be able to say, ‘Hey, man, I don’t know about that, let’s try this.’”
Just don’t try to fight the feeling to move whenever Gozu takes the stage.
“It’s going to be heavy, you can groove to it. I think we’re incredibly kinetic. If you’re standing still, there’s something wrong with you, not us,” Gaffney says. “You should be there and be smiling and really enjoy yourself.”
Gozu, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 28, The Crypt, East 17th Avenue; tickets are $15 at the door.