Sit down for a natter with any horror film aficionado and they’ll surely tell you that ‘they don’t make them like they used to’. It’s widely acknowledged that the blood-and-guts gore of modern horror is no match for the classic creepiness of the genre, and it’s these more timeless influences that Gengahr draw upon in spades.
On the surface, the hazy indie that this North London four-piece command seems a million miles from anything that might prompt sleepless nights, but it’s the slowly creeping scares that leave the deepest impression. Through their smog and psych, frontman Felix Bushe’s lyricism draws upon the darkest corners of both the supernatural and the more grounded. Breakthrough track ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’, for example, is a tale of “a little boy vampire who falls for a girl” whilst ‘Powder’’s instrumentation melts around a wistful pondering on death.
“The fantastical side of the world is more exciting to me than the mundane,” he explains. He cites early exposure to Lou Reed and David Bowie and their respective constructions of alternate worlds within their lyrics as a huge turning point - “that was the point that I realised there was more than just writing about smoking cigarettes and drinking beers,” he smiles. David Lynch and Terry Gilliam are also confessed as influences on their cinematic take on indie pop.
Those musical backdrops are building a legacy of their own too, with guitarist John Victor already being framed alongside greats of the instrument like Jonny Greenwood and Graham Coxon. Indeed, it was John who solidified these school-friends’ ambition with his effortless, virtuoso guitar-work, though it was perhaps more accidental a pairing than it might seem. John studied jazz bass at university, and only met the rest of the band when playing bass in function bands – his guitar technique is entirely self-taught. With NME declaring his on-stage physique “octopus-like”, there’s clearly something of that aforementioned otherworldliness seeping into the members themselves, as well as their effortless talents.
Backed by drummer Danny Ward and bassist Hugh Schulte’s alternation be-tween a rhythmic, almost Can-esque krautrock vibe and a more funk and Mo-town infused groove - most evident on tracks like ‘She’s A Witch’ - Gengahr’s sound seems to wilt through every genre imaginable. “All of our friends were in bands, there was so much creativity going on in our groups” explains Hugh when it comes to their fusion of sounds, citing everything from amateur covers bands to local grime talent as alumni of the school’s practice rooms. “Our school was really good; we got to rehearse at lunchtime, so to avoid being beaten up we’d often just go and sit in a rehearsal room.”
It’s paid dividends, as a cursory glance away from the fantastical worlds they inhabit and back into our own reveals that they’re already reaching impressive heights - the group’s signing to Transgressive Records is far from their peak. Their initial three-track demo brought them praise from Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and 6Music’s Lauren Laverne, and landed them on bills alongside fellow raucous upstarts Wolf Alice and Superfood as well as more established countrymen alt-J, Dry The River and The Maccabees. Their debut full-length A Dream Outside (recorded at Middle Farm Studios with James Bragg) saw them fulfil their astronomic potential and gained acclaim from the likes of Q, The Guardian, DIY and NME, with singles ‘Heroine’ & ‘She’s A Witch’ achieving playlist additions at both BBC 6 Music and Radio 1.
“Touring is what makes it feel really legit for bands,” they explain. Felix elaborates on the impact that holds on their writing style: “We don’t play new stuff on the road. We find it gives us a lot of energy, so when we get back home, it’s strange, we have this build up of new ideas come from that starvation of not be-ing able to write properly. You don’t get to rehearse, you don’t get to play new things for weeks on end and then when you get back it’s really exciting again to try something else, to try something new.”
Being back home is also a huge influence on the group, with their London-based upbringing cited as pivotal when it comes to their work ethic and productivity. “Everyone here is so fucking busy, you feel like you should always be doing something,” explains Felix, “for productivity it can’t be a bad thing, for your mental state of mind, I’m not sure how great it is…” Perhaps that explains that warped obsession with the macabre.
Click here to listen to Genghar via Deezer.