It’s a year to the day that ‘Bloom & Breathe’, Gates’ debut full-length, was released, and the New Brunswick, New Jersey band are playing to a packed crowd at New York’s Irving Plaza, on the last day of their six (or so) week tour supporting progressive post-hardcore outfit The Dear Hunter.
While the crowd might not be there for them, the reaction to the band’s post-hardcore/post-rock hybrid is more than effusive, and a large portion of the thousand capacity room are singing along and getting carried away by the band’s ethereal yet intense, lilting yet bone-crushingly heavy songs. As anniversaries go, it’s a pretty good way to celebrate.
“That was amazing,” says frontman Kevin Dye from inside the band’s splitter van at the end of their set. “It’s not what I expected to be doing a year after putting that record out and it was a great way to end a year of Bloom & Breathe. It was just surreal. It’s a really cool thing to put out something in a world where there’s a million bands doing stuff and anyone could listen to anything at any time, and still be able to do things like this and play for a crowd like that. I just try to drink it in every day and appreciate every moment of it.”
That’s something Gates have been doing since 2011, when the five-piece – completed by guitarists Dan King and Ethan Koozer, bassist Mike Maroney and drummer Daniel Crapanzano – first came together. They started off by putting out two EPs and doing absolutely everything themselves.
“We self-booked our first two tours,” says Dye, “and self-produced our first two EPs. I recorded them in Mike’s parents’ house. We were self-sustaining for a very long time, until 2013. Everything we did was just us, and we were actually kind of opposed to not doing it that way until we realised you can’t get on a tour like this doing your own shit. You have to let other people in to help you out. And luckily that we’ve come to work with have really helped us out. I really give them a lot of credit for taking what we do – the aesthetic and the art and the music that we make - and helping us build it up to this point.”
Emotionally heavy, both in terms of the sonics and the lyrics, the music that Gates make nevertheless has an air of hope in its cadences – as the words try to push it down, those soaring yet crushing guitars pull it back up, creating a sense of friction and defiance, a constant conflict that surges through the music.
“I really, really tried writing to the ebb and flow of the songs,” says Dye. “There’ll be darker moments and more hopeful sounding moments and I try to make the lyrics match that. But it was one of those things where I was in a very particular mindframe and it just kind of happened to be a lot of super negative, depressing stuff. Luckily, the music has that hopeful, uplifting feeling to it that counteracts that. And I think the album wraps up with that feeling of ‘everything is going to be okay’, despite the mood that I was in, and I’m glad about that. Because when I was done with the album and I read all the lyrics, I was like ‘Wow. That’s a bummer.’ But that’s how I was feeling. It’s pessimistic but it’s like a commentary on what’s going on. It’s not necessarily saying it can’t change, but sometimes things suck. And I really think the escapist vibe of what pop culture and music is right now…it depresses me that everyone’s like ‘Party! Party! Party!’ all the time. There’s so much shit going on that we need to talk about here. Bring these things up and let’s really discuss them, and not on Twitter. Let’s put them in art again.”
While that’s exactly what Gates do with their songs and their music, tonight is cause for unfettered celebration, a chance to raise a glass both to the past year and what’s to follow in the future.
“I can only hope that this keeps going,” he chuckles, “but I would be more than happy to play this show forever. It’s just a dream to be able to do anything that anyone cares about.”
For more information on Gates, visit their official website.