Rising and falling in heavy waves of lush overdrive & hypnotizing vocals, Gregory Uhlmann’s “Spice Girls” introduces his forthcoming second album ‘Neighborhood Watch’ with a raw, impassioned outpouring.
Stream: “Spice Girls” – Gregory Uhlmann
Gregory Uhlmann’s 2020 return is one filled with grit and tense emotional release: Rising and falling in heavy waves of lush overdrive and hypnotizing vocals, “Spice Girls” is a raw outpouring ready for sweet release.
The sun has barely shown it’s face
We’re already knee deep
into some pointless debate
Sometimes I say things
without thinking through
I hope that you know that I love you
I think you do
Whatcha want whatcha want
whatcha want to say?
Whatcha want whatcha want
whatcha want to say to me?
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Spice Girls,” the lead single off Gregory Uhlmann’s forthcoming sophomore Neighborhood Watch (out July 24, 2020 via Topshelf Records). A member of Perfume Genius, Fell Runner, and genre-bending Typical Sisters, Uhlmann’s solo work shines as much through his lyrical and melodic craft, as it does through the sheer feeling he injects into every performance. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter came into his own on 2016’s debut album Odd Job, a largely folk-leaning album that brought tremendous light and warmth into dark spaces, inviting us to dwell in our own depths while guaranteeing we would be safe there – that the weight of emotion, if it tore us down, would only build us back up again.
That process continues on the effervescent Neighborhood Watch, whose stunning mix of organic acoustic and electronic instrumentation gives Uhlmann the chance to explore more timbres, and essentially offers an even deeper glimpse into who Uhlmann is as an artist and creator.
You are a piece of shit
I know you’re thinking it
I’ll try to be a better man
This claustrophobic spell
Has touched me can’t you tell
I’m crawling in this skin
It doesn’t feel that way
What is it that you want to say to me
I thought we were two books
What chapter is that turn to give me that dirty look?
“Neighborhood Watch is a cozy portrait of grains of sand, cats, ants, getting colds, letting loose, feeling shy, watching movies, and being in love,” he says. Revealing a particularly edgy part of this snapshot of human experience, “Spice Girls” flirts with darkness: Uhlmann’s heavy guitar work balances out against brighter keyboard tones, whilst his evocative vocals usher in a deep sense of spirituality and connection.
Like the Spice Girls song “Wannabe,” Uhlmann’s track repeatedly asks the question, “What do you want?” – and thus, a symbiotic relationship of sorts was born between a 24-year-old burst of intense pop, and Uhlmann’s tender emotional confrontation. “I think the title stuck because it was funny to think about these two songs as an unlikely pair.”
However one opts to hear these lines, there is no doubt that Gregory Uhlmann’s return is welcome, distinct, and worth a bit of celebration.
His full-length sophomore album is a breathtakingly expansive journey we can’t wait to have felt in its entirety. Stream “Spice Girls” exclusively on Atwood Magazine and dive deeper into Uhlmann’s new album and present mindset in our interview below!
Neighborhood Watch is out July 24, 2020 via Topshelf Records.
Stream: “Spice Girls” – Gregory Uhlmann
A CONVERSATION WITH GREGORY UHLMANN
Atwood Magazine: First off, how does Neighborhood Watch differ from Odd Job, for you?
Gregory Uhlmann: Neighborhood Watch feels more grown-up to me. Odd Job is an album steeped in nostalgia. It was more about longing for the past. I wrote most of the songs from Odd Job shortly after graduating from college which is an emotional time for most people. There were a lot of growing pains at that time. Neighborhood Watch coincided with a different kind of growth period which included (and still includes) being in a committed relationship, living with someone, making a home, adopting a cat, touring less, and recording more, getting a bunch of beautiful plants, and cooking a lot. This is in contrast to my early 20s of sleeping on a mattress on the floor, eating burritos for most meals, and dating the wrong people. I’m feeling especially grateful for these changes with our current quarantine situation as you might imagine!
Are there specific areas or ways in which you can tell you've grown, that you're particularly proud of?
Gregory Uhlmann: I’d like to think it’s a progression of some sort. I think what changed is that I felt that I was able to take more ownership in the process of recording the album. It’s the most time I’ve ever spent working on something. Odd Job was the beginning of a process of learning about production. Since then I’ve worked on a lot of other people’s albums and collaborative efforts. I think I brought this new enthusiasm for production and the recording process into Neighborhood Watch. In the end, it became a highly collaborative album with everyone involved. I didn’t prescribe many parts for anyone. Instead, I tried to let each musician bring their voice to the music. Which is really what makes it special to me. It wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions from Tim Carr, Anna Butterss, Josh Johnson, Meg Duffy, Elizabeth Baba, April Guthrie, Matt Carroll, Gabe Wax, Josh Bonati, and Scott Fraser.
Why have you chosen “Spice Girls” as the album's lead single? What is it about this song that makes it a good introduction, for you?
Gregory Uhlmann: Picking singles is a hard process for me to be honest. I have a deep love of albums and don’t think in terms of singles too much. The album has a fair amount of variety in types of songs, but I think this song does a good job of introducing listeners to the sound world of the album.
What inspired this song, and how did it come to be?
Gregory Uhlmann: There wasn’t a particular event that inspired the song, but it was a reflection on the joys and challenges of being in a relationship. I ended up writing the instrumental chorus before any of the lyrics. So, I framed the lyrics and vocal melody around the feeling and contour of the instrumental parts.
“The sun has barely shown its face. We’re already knee-deep into some pointless debate,” you sing at the start of the song. What is ''Spice Girls'' about, for you?
Gregory Uhlmann: This song is essentially about the growing pains of a relationship. It’s about how it’s easy to get wrapped up in our emotions and forget the big picture. I think we all find ourselves saying things we regret. Sometimes even knowing at the moment that we’re saying a really stupid thing and saying it anyway.
What, if any, relation is there between this song and the platinum-selling '00s music group?
Gregory Uhlmann: In the era of Spice Girls, NSYNC, and Backstreet Boys, I have to admit I fell into the Backstreet Boys camp. Bassist extraordinaire, bandmate, and dearest friend, Anna Butters, however, has a more personal childhood relationship with Spice Girls. Upon learning the lyrics to what is now “Spice Girls” Anna pointed out the lyrical kinship of the song with the perfectly annoying and amazing song that is the Spice Girls’ (the group), “Wannabe”. In a nutshell, their relationship is that both songs pose the question, “What do you want?” in some form. I think the title stuck because it was funny to think about these two songs as an unlikely pair.
I really love the way in which you build and break down energy throughout this song's four and a half minutes. How conscious a process was all of this for you?
Gregory Uhlmann: Thank you! It’s similar to how we play it live energetically. My friends, Elizabeth Baba and April Guthrie, came in and did a heroic amount of strings (in a short amount of time) on the album including on this song. The strings paired with other additional guitar parts, keyboards, and the expert mixing of Gabe Wax helped emphasize and shape the song. This was the first song that Gabe mixed on the album and it got me really excited about doing the whole thing with him. He has a special way of using his experience as a producer when he’s mixing to bring out dynamics and subtleties in a song. Also, while I’m at it I want to recognize the contribution of the mastering engineer, Josh Bonati. His mastering brought so much to the album. I usually do several revisions of masters and I couldn’t find anything to improve on the first round. He’s just amazing.
Such a long song is hard to make and very hard to find in music nowadays. Do you think this song had to be 4.5 minutes long, in order for you to get your point across and express what you wanted to express?
Gregory Uhlmann: It’s funny. It hadn’t occurred to me that this could be considered a long song, but you’re right. It’s definitely longer than usual. It’s one of the few songs I’ve ever written that uses repetition in this way. Repeating the same thing over and over (something not unfamiliar to the Spice Girls!). I think this kind of repetition of lyrics, melodies, and harmonic material makes the song longer. Some songs feel like they want to breathe and others feel like they want to hurry up and go. This one wanted to breathe.
The track really is like a little mini odyssey in how it introduces new sounds, whilst maintaining the overdriven backdrop throughout. Do think this style captures, in broad strokes, who you are and the kind of music you're making at this juncture?
Gregory Uhlmann: I hope that I’m always evolving, so I think this song encapsulates a moment, but hopefully, my music is fluid. I’ve always been inspired by people like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Bill Frisell, and bands like Deerhoof in their ability to make each album it’s own world and different from the last.
Lastly, what do you hope audiences come away from this song feeling?
Gregory Uhlmann: I think what’s beautiful about music is that everyone experiences it differently, so I would just hope that listeners get something from it. Hopefully, it can be a companion to their quarantine life in some positive way as so much music is for me.
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📸 © Sam Kaufman art © Sam Kaufman
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