Original Interview Date: 2/26/16
Shaine Schroeder: GORDO JI’BANG!!! Ok, first off- who the fuck do you people think you are? You changed venues on me for this interview three times within the course of five minutes. First, it was the delicatessen-
Elsa Rae: What was the second one?!?
SS: Home, here. And then the delicatessen again.
David Houck: I had no part in the third change of plan.
SS: Ok, and now we’re at your home.
ER: You… are a crazy fool.
SS: Well that’s true.
ER: The third one never existed, it was only the first and the second.
SS: No, but you said, in the message- and here’s another thing, I didn’t know who I was talking to because it’s a direct message from the band, so it could’ve been either one of you. And so I didn’t want to get too cocky with one member in particular- which one, I won’t say… You know what I mean?
ER: As soon as we joined a band, we became one person. We became one entity, so- you’re not talking to either of us, you’re always talking to both.
SS: Ok. I’m talking to the Gordo.
SS: Ok, so first thing’s first. You guys are REALLY fucking good at what you do. I don’t know if you know that or not.
SS: I’m being absolutely serious, too, and I’ve only heard two songs.
DH: Right back at you.
SS: Thanks, man. This isn’t about me though. And here’s the thing- I debated telling you that early on because I don’t want to give you a big head, but sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.
ER: I actually, um, could use a little bit of that because my head is a little bit smaller than it should be for my body. (Laughs.)
SS: Really? You think so?
ER: Yes! So if you wanted to make me a more proportionate human, I think it’s a good thing. (Laughs.)
DH: And me, I’m just kind of in my sad winter state still, so I need a little boost, y’know? (Laughs.)
SS: So this interview will be riddled with seasonal affective disorder? Goddamn, that shit IS real. But yeah, I’m not kissing your ass either just because we’re sitting here. If you weren’t talented, you wouldn’t have such a buzz about you guys. I mean, I don’t really- I’m that old curmudgeon who doesn’t go to shows anymore. But it’s not because I don’t like the music, it’s just I’ve been out of the local music scene so long that I have no idea what’s going on. I’m such a fucking homebody now. But- I can tell you from the circle of friends we have that I’ve heard nothing but good things about you guys. My girlfriend saw the music video you just released, and told me I needed to watch it. And I was fucking blown away. That something that original sounding could also be local, is astonishing to me. And again, I’m not washing your balls, here…
DH: Would you if I asked? (Laughs.)
SS: So what do you both think about that?
DH: I think that’s awesome. That was our first song that we wrote together.
ER: Mm hmm.
DH: And that’s kind of how I felt, I mean when we wrote that song I felt, there’s definitely something here between the two of us. And our creative minds together came up with that song when we were strangers- we didn’t even know each other.
ER: Yeah, we had only existed to one another for two hours at that point.
ER: Yeah, and then we sat down on the floor and it just happened, it just came out of nowhere. Within ten minutes it was written. At least the foundation was.
DH: And now we’re going on tour together. The day that we’re leaving to go on tour to twenty plus cities we will have not even known each other for a year.
ER: No, I won’t even have lived in Sioux Falls for a year.
SS: That’s fucking insane. In the best way possible.
ER: I think that we speak the same musical language. I think that’s why it works so well.
DH: Mm hmm.
ER: It’s like I feel like I communicate with you, better than I’ve ever communicated musically with anybody.
DH: I agree. And she’s not afraid to tell me it sounds like shit.
SS: That’s what you need.
DH: Which is good, because sometimes I have to take a step back and listen with a different set of ears.
ER: But I also love how far you take things, because you’re so creative and you will just take things as far as they can possibly go. And then sometimes I just say- yeah, you took it too far! (Laughs.)
SS: It’s good to have those checks and balances, though. Because if you don’t then eventually you’re just going to be putting out shitty product and you’ll be surrounded by “yes men” who always tell you what you want to hear. As opposed to giving you the constructive criticism you yearn for, and need. A lot of people can’t take that, but those of us who can, you crave it, and live off of it. Otherwise it’s kind of a pointless existence if you’re going through the motions, not trying anything new, not experimenting. So I dig that about you guys, I think that’s fucking great.
ER: And kind of in relation to the question that you asked us, when we started having a few words floating around about us in the city, I thought that maybe it was for that reason. I thought our friends just wanted to be like, oh you guys are doing well- good job, keep going. I thought it was just-
DH: To be nice?
ER: Yeah, I thought it was the nature of the smaller community in Sioux Falls. I thought it was just friends supporting friends, but potentially lying. (Laughs) And so I feel like I’ve slowly, slowly come to realize that we actually are, we are pretty good. I don’t think our friends are lying to us.
SS: (Laughs) That’s great. Isn’t that a good feeling though? I mean when you realize that it’s not bullshit.
ER: It’s motivating, for sure.
SS: Absolutely. Because you want to keep on doing it then.
DH: Exactly, and getting better too. That’s what I’m excited about is the fact that Elsa isn’t close-minded as far as learning and continuing to get better on guitar, or bass, or vocals or whatever. And that’s what we need, because there’s no point where we’re like, ok we’re as good as we want to be, let’s just keep it at that.
ER: No plateau!
DH: I want our second album to sound five times better than our first album.
ER: Ok, next question! (Laughs)
SS: Alright! I like that you’ve turned the tables and you’re controlling the interview now. I have a healthy amount of respect for that. (Laughs.) Well, it’s a rare thing when you can transcend genre by what you pull out of the ether. To be honest, all I listen to is classic hip hop and podcasts, and I think that you have serious potential. So what do you think it is that gives you such an appeal that you can create your own audience from people who love rock, people who love hip hop, people who love folk? What is that?
DH: Elsa’s hot body.
ER: (Laughs) Dammit, David! (Laughs.) No!
DH: It’s the truth!
ER: No, I think it’s pure goddamn honest truth. You might have to cut the goddamn out of this, my mom’s probably gonna read this.
SS: Oh, fuck no.
ER: Whatever. I think it’s purity and I think it’s truth. I think that David and I both write music from a very honest part of ourselves, I don’t think that we’re trying to write music so it fits the rock genre, or it fits the pop rock indie genre. We don’t care what the fuck kind of genre it fits into. We write music from how we are feeling at that time or whatever’s in our heads. Who cares about genre? That doesn’t matter. And I think maybe that’s the appeal is that I hope that people sense that we’re not trying to put anything on, and that we’re really honest. And I hope that’s what draws people in- that they can sense that.
SS: I think that’s exactly the case. After I heard your music for the first time I thought, who does that sound like? Who does that look like? What does that feel like? And for the life of me I couldn’t think of anybody.
DH: That’s awesome.
SS: It’s a good thing. Because that means you’re original. And even though you guys are still in your infancy, you should feel really fucking good about that because, like you said it’s honest. And the second it’s not, people will be able to tell immediately.
DH: Exactly. Listen to Coldplay.
SS: Oh I watched the Super Bowl. Goddamn. Ok, so- you don’t have to answer this but I’m sure a lot of people are curious… What’s the name mean? The name of the band?
DH: Elsa should tell the story.
ER: Yes. It literally means “fat, fat.” I used to work in a Korean barbecue restaurant in Virginia and I was hired because they needed one white American employee to make the other white Americans feel comfortable. They gave me a name of endearment, or so I thought. It was something, Ji’Bang. And I can’t for the life of me remember the first part. And I asked the owner what it meant one day because everyone was calling me that and he said, “Ohhhh, that means ‘fat snowball!’” (Laughs) And so when we were coming up with a band name I said Ji’Bang, and David said Gordo, and we combined the two and thought, why not?
SS: It’s definitely something you don’t hear every day. Although it sounds like your co-workers were pricks. Fat Fat!? So how long has it been since you started playing together?
Elsa gets up to examine the event flyer pasted to the wall.
ER: October 25th.
DH: We only had that one song written when we told Dan we would play a show.
ER: Yes! First show booked with one song!
DH: That’s when we just started putting the hours in. And we haven’t stopped since. I mean, we’re releasing our first full length album, sending it off, probably the end of March to be pressed to vinyl. Probably ten or eleven songs. Depends on what’s gonna fit on the vinyl.
We had to kind of choose between fifteen or sixteen songs, just to figure out which would fit the album better. We’ve been putting in the hours non stop since we met.
SS: You said you’re going on a twenty-two city tour? How did that come about?
DH: We’re doing it all ourselves. Booking and everything. Elsa’s got a lot of Midwest connections, I’ve got mine in the East and the South.
ER: And then when we get to the west coast, we’re just gonna wing it! We don’t know anybody! (Laughs.)
SS: Honestly, you can get away with that on the west coast. There’s so many venues. You might have to play one or two sports bars, but I think you guys can handle that.
DH: That’d be fine. I’m sure there’ll be a few dive bars on the tour.
SS: Back to the name of the band- there’s a rumor going around that the original name of your band was going to be “Manfred Man Bun.” Any truth to this?
DH & ER: (Uncontrollable laughter.)
DH: Did you start this rumor?
SS: I can’t reveal my source, that would be unethical.
ER: Yes, it was in the running.
DH: Right up there with “Fancy Ham and Hot Meat.”
SS: Your NPR contest entry song “Quarter Life Crisis,” is absolutely amazing. I love that song. So is that something they do on a yearly basis?
DH: I think this is their second one.
ER: Might be the third. I’ve always wanted to be on NPR “Tiny Desk,” and then the contest came into my world and I mentioned it to David and we just made it happen. Because we’d either be drinking a beer at the bar, or we’d be recording a video for a contest at a high school. Ummm… we’ll drink a beer tomorrow. (Laughs.)
SS: That’s a hard decision to make for a lot of people.
ER: It is. (Laughs) It really is. Most people seem to choose the beer over the project.
SS: This hasn’t been confirmed, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my girlfriend has a crush on Elsa. Now- that being said, do not make eye contact with her the next time you see her, or I’ll have to put my foot down.
ER: I think that you think that you have the power in this situation, but as soon as I make eye contact, she’ll have forgotten about you.
SS: Oh, fuck I should’ve never brought that up.
ER: You shouldn’t have.
SS: I realize I know you both, but- I really don’t KNOW you both. I mean we see each other around and we’ve had a drink together and this and that, but I really don’t know anything about you. Never mind musically, but personally. Where did you both come from? Can you give us and origin story without being too perverse or strange?
ER & DH: (Laughter)
ER: I grew up in Sioux Falls, graduated in 2009. Went to college in Minnesota for a year because I was told that’s what you had to do. I realized there were a lot of other things you could do with your life, so I withdrew and started travelling, and that’s when I started writing music. The past five years I’ve dedicated my life to it, and traveling. I came back here to learn sound engineering.
DH: My story’s really long. I was born and raised in South Africa. Lived there until I was eighteen, then moved to Tennessee, well the northern most part of Georgia, but I was always in Chattanooga. Music started for me when I was in South Africa in a boy’s choir. I studied music theory and took that knowledge with me when I left. Started making electronica music, continued that on the side. Played bass or guitar in bands, backup vocals, but I always had my side project. But I always wanted something that was my baby. Write all the songs. And then when I met Elsa…
ER: I ALSO wanted a new baby… (Laughter)
DH: We had a very fat, fat baby together. (Laughs). Lived in Texas, then back to Tennessee, then Missouri, and back to Texas, then taught English in Mexico, then back to Tennessee. Then I was hanging around there going through my second divorce. My dad suggested a visit to Sioux Falls where they were and I was like, seriously? I don’t even know where that is. I think maybe California, or Portland sounds better. But something came over me and I said, y’know, why not? See my parents.
ER: Will you tell the story of when you were headed here in the airplane?
DH: Well we passed over all these cities and I was like, oh nice, this is it. And we kept passing them. Then I see this tiny little patch of light in the middle of nowhere and we’re headed straight for it. Do they even have an airport? Are we landing in a field?
ER & DH: (Laughter).
SS: It is weird, flying into a major metropolitan area and looking down to a total beehive of activity. Then flying here it’s like- Oh, couple hundred houses? It looks like someone laid the Charlie Brown Christmas tree on it’s side. Welp, let’s go grab a beer.
ER & DH: (Laughs.)
SS: It’s obvious to me, even having heard only two songs that you’re passionate about what you do. So- what’s the motivation behind creating for you both? Like you said before, you want to be brutally honest with your art, but is there anything that kicks you in the ass when you’re not feeling like it?
ER: Yes. Strong YES. For me, it is being in control of my own time. I have never been enticed by a nine to five lifestyle and then coming home and passing time watching television. That just seems kind of futile. And I’ve never really understood it, and I think that there’s so much more to be said and expressed, and created. And so that always motivates me, controlling my own time. I want to make my life into art.
SS: That’s a perfect answer.
DH: I feel pretty much the same way. Elsa and I have talked about this too, we’ll be working these jobs doing the best we can do, but we both come to this point sooner or later where we realize, I’m not a server, I’m a musician at heart. That’s what I want to do. I want to create music, write music, play with other people, experience their music. But for now we have to make a living and put bread on the table.
SS: It’s hard when, after a point you know, not think, but know you’re going to get there, but it’s hard for creatives to have the patience that life requires when you want something so badly you can fucking taste it. So when you know that you’re talented, and you know what you want to be, and- I can tell you with absolute certainty that you guys are going to get there- what do you have to tell yourself in the meantime to not throw your hands up and give in to the nine to five as a lifestyle?
DH: This is only temporary.
ER: Yeah, we both say that to each other if we get stressed out, or caught up. I feel like that helps me get past moments of begrudgingly having to make it from check to check. But at the same time it also makes me live in the moment and appreciate everyone and everything here. That always puts me in a good headspace. I’d better take advantage of the time I have with people.
SS: I wanted to know how you feel about the local music scene’s evolution. Does it have a ways to go or is it a comfortable environment for those who are starting and want to throw their hat in the ring?
DH: I personally don’t have a really good idea of how far it’s come because I’ve only been here about a year. The more that I inject myself into the scene, the more I like what I see and there’s so much creativity here for sure. And a lot of young creativity, too.
ER: Yes! That’s what amazes me. The young creativity.
DH: And that’s exciting, I just hope that those people have some kind of way to use their talents and don’t let go because they didn’t have enough venues to play or nobody promoting them. But I think it’s going the right direction, I think it’s kind of like a swell before it turns into the wave. And that’s exciting to be a part of.
ER: I feel like with how insular the downtown community is, and really that’s where most of the art scene happens in Sioux Falls, it means if you did want the music scene to grow you do have to sort of keep it downtown, because people aren’t really willing to traverse this small little city to get to the west side. And really what’s the point? It’s all just chains out there anyway. So you have to find people that are willing to grow in downtown, and I feel like now is the time where if we want to see more growth, people need to take really big chances, because you’re able to create something from nothing because there’s so much that still needs to be created. And all you need is audacity and courage to take those first steps and get the ball rolling. I really hope that continues. It has with Liz and Dan starting (Total Drag), which has- Oh, my gosh- exploded the music scene. Our current scene wouldn’t be anything without them.
DH: Yeah. That is a REALLY cool part of the music scene here. You know, Dan was the first guy who asked us to play here in Sioux Falls. Which is awesome. I will ALWAYS be thankful for that. If we hadn’t locked that date in and said we’d play a show, who knows if we’d still be writing? But, Dan and Liz are a key part of it all.
ER: But it can’t just be them. We need more people like you, who start podcasts, who do interviews to get more information out. We need people like Marc Wagner who are gonna start zines, or something like that. We just need more of everything in that vein. So… DO IT!!! (Laughter).
SS: That’s a really good point because, I just started this thing on a whim. And it was one of those things where- admittedly I’ve been out of the loop for so long, that, for selfish reasons I wanted to throw myself into this and interview people I’d always been curious about. And I always remember something Larry King said, in addressing why people thought he was good at interviewing and why he had such longevity was- he didn’t know anything. He didn’t research, and if he did it wasn’t much. He simply admitted that he didn’t know, and that opened everything up. Because he wasn’t a smarmy know-it-all who told the guests how to answer his own questions. He would just lead in and let them take the reigns. And my point is not that I’m fucking Larry King, but rather that I genuinely don’t know a lot of these people on my hit list here, and that may appeal to a wider audience who isn’t ready to admit that they may not know of your body of work. You guys deserve exposure. Sarah Langenfeld deserves exposure. People we see on a daily basis that we know are up to other things, but they haven’t exactly found the right outlet, I want to be that outlet. What I’m doing costs absolutely nothing, it’s just something I’m incredibly interested in. It’s a blog. Not even a fucking website. But it’s fun. And it’s truthful. And I think those may be the only two ingredients anyone will ever need for success. Because I haven’t been this excited about a project in years.
DH: I think that’s awesome.
SS: I think it speaks volumes that every person I talk to shouts out Total Drag like crazy, musicians or not. And I think it makes them feel good, being validated. Not to say they need that, but nobody scoffs at it. You want to know from time to time that all your hard work isn’t for nothing. And this town has been thirsty for a venue like that for years. So I’m glad they came along and quenched it. Is there anything else we need to cover? Upcoming shows, etc.?...
DH: We do have an upcoming show March 12th at Icon. It’s our first time playing Icon in the main hall. That’ll be with P.O.S. and Later Babes, so it’ll be a great show. We’ll definitely put you on the list because you haven’t seen us play yet. (Laughs.)
SS: I’d love to see it.
ER: Also, unrelated to music, for anyone who’s curious, because many have asked- David and I are not dating.
ER: We are both single “AF” (Laughs.) We’re not Ji’Bangin’ on the side.
SS: You did say you had a baby together the first day you met, I don’t know why anyone would get that impression…
ER: But it was a MUSIC baby, not a HUMAN baby!
DH: It’s entertaining to see people assume that we’re an item. She’s a hot chick. If people assume that, I’m like- Yeahhh… (Laughs.)
SS: Well then there’s another possibility for an alternate band name- “Hot and Hairy.”
SS: Where can people find out more about Gordo Ji’Bang?
DH: Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gordojibang), we’re on Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/elsaplaystinyinstruments/tunnel-vision) and Band Camp (https://gordojibang.bandcamp.com/releases). Instagram, it’s all “Gordo Ji’Bang.”
ER: And we will be releasing the full length album by the beginning of April.
DH: It’ll be available digitally at least for sure.
SS: I was just gonna ask that, because, unlike these goddamn weird beards walking around, I’m not into vinyl.
ER & DH: (Uncontrolable laughter).
SS: I seem to be the only one in my circle of friends that realizes technology always wins. Not that I have anything against people that buy shitloads of vinyl, do your thing.
DH: We made an agreement with some local individuals that we’re excited about but we can’t really talk about it yet. They’re going to be helping us in our endeavors.
SS: You fucking tease.
DH: One last thing. I just want to genuinely thank all of our friends, and people who have supported us so far. It’s really been a driving force behind our project that we definitely wouldn’t have without them. People we see everyday, customers at work, people at the shows, people interested in what we’re doing, those who ask us to play…
ER: Even people that just ask us questions about how things are going, like the process. It’s so good to be supported.
DH: Thanks friends! And enemies!
SS: Yes! The fuel!
SS: I want to thank you both for taking the time out of your day to talk with me, I really appreciate it. This was fun.
DH: Same here, man. I’m really interested in what you’re doing. I think it’s pretty neat.
SS: I don’t. But I’m glad you do.
ER & DH (Laughter).
SS: Thanks again guys.