ARTIST NAME: EI Gato Roboto
SONG TITLE: Don’t Seem Right
ALBUM TITLE: Heavy Petting
RELEASE DATE: 2/25/2019
El Gato Roboto is a Power Pop/Space Rock band from Chicago. Bowie meets Nico with songs about nostalgia, space, and cats.
Discuss your recording experience with your producer.
We produced our own album along with Andrew Arbetter. Andrew is very easy to work with and the process was fun and mostly painless.
Discuss what comes first and last while creating a song.
What comes first and last when writing a song is different for everyone and there are no rules or one right way. I tend to write my songs a capella and then work with a guitarist to flesh them out. I get a melody idea in my head and build the rest of the song around it.
Tell us the piece of advice you will give to a new artist.
Writing music is channeling. If you’re struggling too hard to come up with a song, it’s not writer’s block, it’s an energetic block.
Also, take chances. Be bold. You simply must get over worrying what anyone will think of a song or a musical idea or you. This means you must be willing to make yourself vulnerable, but you will be rewarded for your vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is strength, it’s showing your true self in all its glory.
Discuss your worse experience in the music business.
I once played a show where the sound guy got drunk and passed out on the mixing board during our set. This was with my former band, Pilgrim Beware. I was really angry and turned my back to the audience – something I would never do now. Oddly, the audience loved us though!
Another show that I thought was going to be great, turned out to be disastrous and the audience completely ignored us. I’ve learned to not take anything too seriously. If you mess up, laugh, and usually, the audience will laugh along with you. If you’re having fun on stage, it will show and the audience will have fun too.
Tell us how you deal with rejection.
You’re not always going to be everyone’s cup of tea and why would you want to be? At this stage in my life, I have unshakable confidence in what I do, am genuinely appreciative of our fans, and those that don’t dig it, God bless.
Tell us what you are doing to impact the people around you.
I impact the people around me by acknowledging their inherent perfection. Certainly, there are times when I forget who I truly am, and forget who everyone else is, but I always choose to turn away from the illusion and return to truth. Everyone is an absolutely essential part of the tapestry.
Tell us the music that makes you happy.
There is so much music that makes me happy. Big Star, Bowie, Brian Wilson, The Pretenders, Patti Smith, The Zombies, The Turtles, The Beatles, Love, Brian Eno, Martin Newell, ELO, The Raspberries, The Carpenters, The Jam, Jeff Buckley, Sloan, Velvet Crush, Cesaria Evora, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ariel Pink. I could go on and on.
Tell us how you make instrumentation to your song.
Sometimes I have a specific idea of what I want; a vague idea of what I want, and other times I leave it entirely up to the guitarist I’m co-writing with and the other band members. How they all do what they do is a mystery to me and I’m in awe of it.
Tell us how you feel when you sing and your fans sing along to your song.
The first time that happened I was so shocked I almost forgot the lyrics I was singing! Of course, it’s wonderful to have others sing along. I want friends/fans to take ownership of the songs and make the music theirs. And I love having shared experiences like that.
Tell us the goals you aim to achieve when creating a song.
To create a mood, a feeling, empathy, a revelation, shared nostalgia, or to make someone laugh at a lyric or wink at a reference – And if someone is moved to dance, what more could you ask for?
Discuss your approach to writing.
I write my songs a capella. I get a melody idea that often seems to want to be expressed by certain vowels, certain consonants, certain phrases. Initially, it writes itself, and then I build the rest of the song around that first inspired part and the story that it seems to want to tell. It’s channeling, essentially. People do it all the time and don’t even realize it.
I used to write my songs on guitar when I first started out in my late teens, but eventually, I discovered that my songwriting was being limited by my skill (or lack of) as a guitarist. It was a surprise and a revelation when I realized I really didn’t need the guitar to write with. It was liberating because I discovered I could come up with any melody, no matter how exotic and my very talented collaborators would know what to do with it, what chords to play, and what tunings to use. Together, we’d create something greater than the sum of its parts, greater than what either of us would be able to come up with on our own. It’s also a great lesson in needing others and being able to share something personal with others.
There have been times I have bemoaned not being able to do it all myself, not having total control. Now I realize that needing to work with someone else with a different skill set has been a huge blessing.
Tell us how you plan to develop a unique music style.
I find inspiration everywhere and am willing to take chances, willing to sound silly, sound weird, sound unconventional.
Tell us how to record a song.
Find a good engineer that knows what they’re doing, digs what they’re doing, and remember not to try to make anything too perfect. Perfection is the enemy of creativity. Go with your first instincts and don’t overthink things.
Tell us if you are collaborating with other songwriters or you write alone.
I collaborate with various guitarists. On our first album, it was Brian Stout, an amazing guitar player with great instincts. I just finished recording two original rock Christmas songs, one which I co-wrote with the amazing John San Juan of The Hushdrops and one with our drummer/multi-instrumentalist, Brian Demski. Both are incredibly talented musicians. I may soon be heading back into the studio with other friends/collaborators.
Discuss your experience with fans.
One of our songs, Icicle, was recently played on a podcast which sparked a little following among some of the podcast’s listeners. For the first time in my life, we are getting fan mail! People have been sending us messages through Instagram saying that they are digging the music. This is definitely one of the nicest, most wonderful things.
Music is meant to be heard, and sometimes you feel like you’ve created this music which just goes out into a void. It’s so nice to know that there are people out there listening to and appreciating the music. I’m deeply grateful to these folks for listening, for giving feedback, and for sharing the love.
Discuss your experience with booking gigs and shows.
I love making music, not trying to book gigs and do promotions, but it goes with the territory. Most of us musicians out there have day jobs and it’s challenging to find time to book shows and everything else, and sadly, musicians barely even make gas money from most shows.
Also, it’s just no fun playing at midnight on a Tuesday night with two people in the audience, so I found that I have become a lot more selective in what gigs I accept. I’d much rather play fewer live shows each year and funnel more people into a great Friday or Saturday night show every couple of months than play every week to just a few people. That being said, it’s great fun to play a live show with a great audience.
Tell us if you consider a song placement in TV or Film.
I would definitely consider a song placement in TV or film, under the right circumstances.
Elaborate on the song.
I didn’t write “Don’t Seem Right” to sound like a REM song, but for some reason, as it was unfolding, I kept hearing it in my head, not in my own voice, but how it would sound with Michael Stipe and Mike Mills singing it.
I could hear them alternating with the lines “don’t seem right; uptight; in the clouds.” Of course, I didn’t have them in the studio, just my own voice, so it turned out totally different from my inner audio!
The song is about the struggles of life and coming to terms with the truth that we are creating our own reality. It’s about trying to remain in the moment and failing: “You just gave birth to the past.” It’s also about surrender: “Any choice you make’s okay. It will turn out anyway.” Even when we make the “wrong” choice, it is the “right” choice because that’s how we learn. It’s about “having the courage to be wrong in pursuit of what is right” as Lazaris, channeled by Jach Pursel says.
Elaborate on your artist name and the title of the album.
The bass player, Patrick Thornbury, who also happens to be my husband, and I were sitting in a Mexican joint eating taco and joking about what we should call the band.
We own three paintings by a wonderful artist who goes by the name El Gato Gomez. Inspired by our Mexican lunch, one of our fave artists, our love of cats, and some kind of a jokey play on words with the Styx song Mr. Roboto, I blurted out “What about El Gato Roboto?!” and it stuck.
For a while, our friend Mike Conroy, an out-of-this-world guitar player, was playing Moog in the band, which gave us a Space Rock feel, so the name seemed to fit. When Mike dropped out, it kind of took the “Space” out of the “Rock”, but drummer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Demski has added some synth to the record, plus we have a space/sci-fi themed song called Lost In Space, so I guess we could still be considered a bit “Space Rock.”
The title of the album, Heavy Petting, makes me think of teenagers, young love, and nostalgia, and I originally had it in mind to do a humorous cover with a picture of someone trying to pet an angry cat. I didn’t think the play on words needed to be that obvious though and went with the retro, stripey cover. You’re going to find a lot of cat references with this band!
Share your press release with us.
El Gato Roboto, a power-pop/new wave/space rock band, was formed in 2014 in Chicago by songwriter and frontwoman Jenn of Furr (Jennifer Thornbury), formerly of Pilgrim Beware. Brian Stout (The Verve Pipe) is on guitar, Brian Demski (Mammals) on drums, and Patrick Thornbury (The Wes Hollywood Show) on bass. Bowie meets Nico with songs about nostalgia, space, and cats…