Staff writer Chris Nunley talks with Gabi Manning who records music under the name GABI about her dreamy lo-fi debut…
Chris Nunley: Hello. Kindly introduce yourself to our readers.
Gabi Manning: Hello friends. My name is Gabi Manning. I write and record my own music. I love juice, Kristen Wiig, and Xanadu.
CN: How long have you been making music and what appeals to you about “lo-fi” as a genre?
GM: I’ve been making my own music for about three years. I really love the lo-fi genre because I feel like it’s so honest and very do-it-yourself. When I first started recording, I recorded on a four track with just one really crappy mic. All of the songs were fuzzy and unedited. I just kind of grew to love making music like that. Not perfect or over produced.
CN: Who are some of your biggest musical influences and why?
GM: The Mamas and The Papas are one of my favorite bands of all time, and I think listening to their love songs and compositions really have an influence on my music. I find anyone that has a definite sound inspiring. I also am a big fan of jazz. Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, and Billy Holiday are also some big influences for me. I also draw a lot from my friend’s bands too, like Diners, IAN, Hand Habits. It always gets me stoked seeing what my friends are creating.
CN: Listening to your back catalog of singles and demos, I noticed that there’s an “in the moment” feel to your recordings. Is that how you prefer to work on music?
GM: Yeah, definitely. Most of my songs are open letters to people or experiences I care about. I will have a lot of feelings or memories about someone or a certain time, and once I feel like I’ve covered it all or honestly expressed myself, then I’ll just sit down and record it all. I have enough songs for 3+ albums, I just want things to have a cohesive sound before I release them. So I tend to sit on material til I feel like it is where it belongs as a song.
CN: I think you’re the first artist I’ve seen use the tag “lame” on their bandcamp page. Care to elaborate?
GM: Haha yeah. I just thought the whole idea of putting hashtags on your site to try and get more traffic was funny, so I was just like “eh, I’ll put lame.” I just don’t care much for that stuff.
CN: Tell us a bit about the recording process and instrumentation used on your EP, Sensitive Baby.
GM: Sensitive Baby was recorded over the course of two days. I had already had the track “Sensitive Baby” written, and I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted “Sporting Adidas” to sound, but the other songs I just wrote while recording. I play all of the instruments, so I usually like starting out with a plain guitar track and slowly layer it with keyboard, bass, vocals, and whatever else I decide to slip in there.
CN: Are the songs on Sensitive Baby all about the same person, or just a series of ill-fated crushes? And who exactly was sporting Adidas?
GM: Sensitive Baby is all about one person (haha). It is meant to be a sweet but honest little EP for them. And “Sporting Adidas” was about this funny, dreamy experience I had at work. Sensitive baby came to visit me and, in the strange fluorescent lighting of my office, was the most charming, sweet little angel wearing a dark blue Adidas jacket. In that moment I just wanted to spend all my extra time with this person. But we were both just super busy with our lives and just never had time to see each other. I’ve been asked a couple times what I mean when I sing “jealousy for cloth” in the second verse, and it’s a condensed version of me saying “I’m jealous that that jacket gets to hold you all day, and I don’t.” Haha.
CN: One of the best characteristics of lo-fi are the noticeable imperfections that add texture. Is the fuzz sound on the track “FFFr U” intentional or a happy accident?
GM: It’s a little bit of both, I suppose. I didn’t try and force the fuzz on there, but once I started recording and heard it on the tape, I liked it and just left it. Even though I probably could have rerecorded it and got a cleaner sound.
CN: “3NH” is a curious track to close out the EP. Talk about that for a blip… is this possibly a glimpse into future GABI material?
GM: Yeah! I make sound collages here and there, and that was one I made while recording SB and I really liked it so it stayed. I am definitely interested in making more music with that type of dreamy tone. There is more of that on the way, for sure.
CN: If you were to do a complete 180 from folk, what kind of music would you make?
GM: Oh I’d really, really love to make like groovy, dreamy rock mixed with classic love songs/ slow jams. I ultimately want to make music for people to groove to. There is this band picking up speed right now named Good Morning, and I would totally love to make music like them.
CN: What’s your opinion on the local folk scene in Phoenix? Any favorite artists you wanna plug?
GM: I think it’s great. I honestly love the music scene in Phoenix so much. There are sooo many buds and great bands I could name, but I really love the recent work of R. Ariel, Diners, Bear State, Secret Attraction, and Lonna Kelley. I have really enjoyed their new releases.
CN: Do you have any other creative outlets that you may enjoy besides making music?
GM: Yeah! I love skateboarding a whole lot. I was doing it pretty seriously and was sponsored and stuff, but got hurt and that’s how I ended up getting into making my own music. So it was like a bitter sweet kind of deal. I am also really into collage art, ink drawings, stencils and film photography. If I’m not making music, I’m probably doing one of those other activities.
CN: What would be the ideal setting for a GABI performance and are there any plans for touring Arizona?
GM: The ideal setting… hmm. I really like being close to the crowd when I play. And I think warm, multicolored lights slowly moving around the room fits my music pretty well. The bad thing, but also a good thing I guess, about my music live is that I usually make people tear up or cry during every performance. It’s good because that means I’ve been able to really connect with them, but it’s a bummer because I also want to make music to groove to. I’m trying to find a good balance right now (haha). And yes! I’m looking into touring from Utah down to Arizona, and then up the west coast to Washington and back. Hopefully sometime in the summer.
CN: A stranger gives you $500 to spend at Guitar Center. What do you buy?
GM: Oh easy. A drum set. I want to learn how to play the drums sooooo bad.
CN: And finally, any advice for budding musicians who are just starting out?
GM: Be honest in your music. If you are, it’ll mean more to you and to your listeners. And have fun.
Check out Senstive Baby by GABI here.
To follow GABI on Facebook here.