Grace Sanders' debut EP, GUMS, is out now! We chat to the singer about the release, her upcoming tour and more.
Image: Michael Tartaglia.
Australian singer-songwriter Grace Sanders recently unveiled her debut EP, GUMS. The six-track release fuses together influences of psych and electro, to soul, R&B and trip-hop. Hazy psychedelic guitars and synths are laced throughout, above electro-pop soundscapes where Sanders' vocals take centre stage.
Co-produced with Ezekial Padmanabham, opens with MISSED CALLS, a track that complies voice messages left for the singer, creating an over stimulating listening experience through the layering of the audio clips. Across the remainder of the EP, Sanders covers a variety of themes ranging from love, loss, grief and mental health.
Sanders will be hitting the road next month, embarking on a tour of Western Australia in support of the release. Across five dates, the singer will be be visiting the Margaret River, supporting Brightsider, Dunsborough, Albany and Esperance, supporting Michael Dunstan, before wrapping up the tour with a hometown headline show at the Rosemount Hotel in Perth.
GUMS is out now! Read our interview with Grace Sanders below.
Tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey…
I’ve always written music, a lot of my earliest memories revolve around writing songs and making art just because it seemed very instinctual that that was something I wanted to do. I do feel like that journey began anew in some ways when Ezekiel and I met however; that relationship has allowed me to access a creative freedom I hadn’t experienced before and take those ideas to a new level which has felt really exciting.
Congratulations on the release of GUMS! The collection of songs covers a variety of themes, from grieving a lost friend, reminiscing a past relationship to providing a safe space for a dear friend to share their feelings. What prompted you to explore these themes?
GUMS is a collection of my favourite songs written throughout the span of roughly one year. For your first EP, it can be overwhelming because there is so much content that has come before that, such a huge variety of music to choose from it can be a difficult task to make it sound cohesive. So basically I just decided to scrap years worth of material and start again. 2019 was this insane year for me in terms of events in my personal life, and that gave me some really potent life experiences to channel into my music that just naturally lead to the exploration of themes like grief, mental health and mindfulness. I wanted the EP to map the progression of those occurrences and the things I had been forced to reckon with in my personal life. I wanted it to feel really HUMAN which was why I elected to have both a baby and a grandfather on the album cover to reflect the way that these themes span and impact us throughout our lifetimes.
What was the hardest part about creating a body of work that is so personal and tackles these themes?
I mean, literally I think the hardest part is just actually making good songs and the technical aspects of the production process (which Ezekiel did an incredible job with the mixing in making our bedroom project sound so professional and expansive sonically). I actually don’t find it hard to be vulnerable, it is confronting but also absolutely thrilling and empowering to own your rawness and just be honest about the experiences you’ve had. So that part comes easily in the writing. It’s actually just more technically difficult bringing everything together like the images and the timing with shows, touring, managing a band and things like that for me.
The release traverses different palettes of sounds, fusing together influences of electro with layers of hazy psychedelic guitars and synths, to gritty, blood-bubbling electro-pop, soul, R&B and trip-hop. How did you arrive at the genre-bending soundscapes present on GUMS?
Ezekiel and I approach each song as it’s own story that requires different tools to be told properly. We don’t think too much about genre or trying to recreate a sound- we approach it more as a ‘what is this song trying to say, and why?’ and then go from there to whatever feels intuitive and natural. We have found those influences spanning different artists who we love and reference in our tracks come through of their own accord without us needing to try and push the sound any particular way. I feel when you approach songwriting from this perspective it helps to keep things fresh and allows you to craft your art without getting stuck in a box.
If you had to pick one song off the EP to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which song would they be and why?
Dissipate! Because it’s the one that probably best reflects two sides of a coin for Zeke and I- our acoustic, organic instrumentation mixed with harder hitting electronic and hip hop influences. I also just think the ending of that song wins me over every time. The day we had the idea to split the track in half like that we were hysterical with how happy we were.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from the release?
We’re all going through life at our own pace, be gentle and patient with yourself.
If GUMS was a piece of visual art, which artwork would it be and why?
The cover of course! Baby Millie with her mouth being pulled open like that is iconic; I want a poster of that image on my own wall.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
Definitely the latter. At first I was freaked out and kept crying all the time because I felt so anxious about what would happen in the world. And then I set up a studio in my house and spent most days with Zeke making the record. It ended up being an amazing and creative time for us and I loved having the excuse to just be hyper focused on making music.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording songs?
So what happens is I will write a song- melody, lyrics, structure, chords- usually on the guitar or more recently bass guitar. Ideas tend to come to me completely formed and whole- like I can hear everything in my head but I lack the technical facility or patience to make it a reality. So I will make a demo and then send that really basic demo to Zeke along with the lyrics (I love lyrics). We are always sharing playlists and music with each other every day so we have been quite in sync with what we are vibing to and usually without any explanation needed he will start building exactly what I was hearing. Then we will hang out and usually just joke around for hours and hours just talking and eating snacks. At some point someone will usually say ‘alright alright we need to get something down now’ and then suddenly we will have intensely focused bursts of creative output where we bounce ideas off each other and BOOM, a song is born.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts?
Grievous Bodily Calm, Mildlife, Clea, Gazey, Didion’s Bible, Tkay Maidza, Genesis Owusu, Tanaya Harper, Adrian Dzvuke, Stella Donnelly, Dolly Zoom…. There is a lot of great stuff out there.
You’ll soon be embarking on a tour of WA! What can audiences expect from one of your live shows?
Woohoo! Yes! They can expect a lot of dancing, a lot of crazy faces, a lot of love and gratitude for them being there, and a lot of loud outfits.
Frank Ocean! Amy Winehouse! SZA! Grimes! Tyler! Porches! Kanye! Caroline Polachek! Blood Orange!
Todd Terje, Soulwax or Mildlife.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Sorry, have to list a few this is too hard, for RECENT listening I’ve been obsessed with -Alex G : House of Sugar -Kelsey Lu : Blood -Utakata No Hibi : Mariah
-Machinedrum : A View Of U
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Earnest, Free, Expressive
A release you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
I think we are all waiting for SZA to DROP THE NEXT ALBUM!
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
All the films I’m thinking of already have perfect soundtracks…
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Miley Cyrus of course. Bangerz goes hard.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack or Queen’s Greatest Hits.
Best concert you have been to?
I don’t know if this counts but I saw a show called Tao of Glass at Perth Fest last year and it blew my mind.
Last concert you went to?
When we played Perth Festival two days ago!
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Guilty music pleasure?
Avril Lavigne! Not even guilty!
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
I would die if we supported SZA. Parcels or Tame Impala would also be mind blowing. Tkay Maidza would be sick… Spacey Jane would be sick. Sky’s the limit.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
The Beatles probably- it’s too hard to say though too many layers.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Girl, you better be getting enough sleep and staying away from the dairy.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
The moment I heard music.