Ahmed Gallab: From Sikane to Yeasayer (and Back)
You might know Ahmed Gallab as the multi-instrumentalist in Yeasayer, or the touring drummer in Of Montreal, or the touring drummer in Caribou. But all the while, Gallab has been releasing music on his own as Sinkane : three LPs between 2007 and 2009, and an EP in 2010. And now he’s gearing up to release his next LP, Mars, sometime this year. While the music does recall the same international psych-pop of the aforementioned bands, Gallab now has the freedom to create whatever he wants which is, as he puts it, “complete self-gratification.”
Though his tour dates aren’t yet too heavy, Gallab performed a couple weeks ago in Brooklyn, and will next appear at Glasslands on June 7. He will also be performing at the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival in May.
How did you wind up in Brooklyn?
I moved to Brooklyn about three years ago. I was playing with Of Montreal and our tour was winding down and, after a bit, I was relived of the band. Before Of Montreal I was going to school at Ohio State University and I cut my teeth in Columbus. I was playing in a lot of hardcore bands, a lot of punk bands. When the band I was playing in during college broke up, I kind of found myself here with nothing to do. I went on tour with Caribou and met Of Montreal there… I’ve been on the road on and off for the past three years, [touring] pretty heavily. I’ve hardly had any time off.
Before I lived in Ohio I moved around a lot. My father is a political journalist, a liturgy from Sudan. We moved to the United States in 1989 in political exile. We lived in Boston at the time and my parents pretty much had to start all over. We spent a lot of time moving from one place to another while my dad was chasing jobs. I just moved around a lot. I was born in England, lived in Sudan on and off growing up, and various different parts of the eastern states.
How does working solo differ from working with a band like Yeasayer?
With Of Montreal and Yeasayer and Caribou – all the bands I’ve played in – I was a live member. I don’t write music for any of those bands. My contribution was heavily based on the live show. In Yeasayer I do a lot of computer programming, a lot of back-end work. I play pretty many miscellaneous parts of songs. I guess with my stuff it’s ultimately complete self-gratification. I can do whatever I want, I can play whatever I want until I’m happy. I can make any decision I want to make. I’m not listening to many voices. My friend Greg Lotharo helped me produce the album, and it was an intense collaboration. My creative energy was with all the other bands and I was told what to do.
Your music is pretty jammy and psychedelic – how do you incorporate that into the live setting? What is your outlook on playing live versus in the studio?
Whenever I start doing in the live show, the people who I play with, we all kind of learn the songs as they are on the record as a foundation of understanding what the music is about and from there we see where the song takes us. The difference between the record and the live show is definitely energy. The songs are much livelier in the live setting than on the record. I tend to go for ear candy when I’m recording so it ends up sounding really subtle. But when I play live I really want the show to be energetic and exciting and fulfilling for everybody. I guess we start there and we play off the crowd. There are a lot of parts we can stretch out and a lot of parts that don’t matter to be played live. We kind of figure it out as we go.