gglum on her debut album 'The Garden Dream' and playing The Great Escape

Festivals gglum: “World building in music is incredibly interesting and important to me”

Ahead of her upcoming live shows, we dive into the dreamy world of the London songwriter’s new album ‘The Garden Dream’.

It might only be a handful of years since gglum - aka London-based songwriter Ella Smoker - first emerged, but thanks to her brand of lo-fi, garage-flecked rock, she’s already signed to Secretly Canadian, released two EPs and, most recently, shared her startling debut album, ‘The Garden Dream’.

An instinctive, reflective record that has her flit between woozy soundscapes and more scuzzy moments, ‘The Garden Dream’ sees the singer tap into some of the intense dreams she’d been having around the writing process, while continuing to build out her own musical world. Now, following the release of the record and ahead of her forthcoming live shows - including a stint on our stage at The Great Escape - we caught up with Ella to get a little better acquainted.

You’ve just released your debut album ‘The Garden Dream’ - how does it feel to have it out in the world? How's the reaction been so far?
It's such a relief to have it out. I've been holding on to it for ages so it feels like I can finally move forward onto what comes next. The response has been great - I mean, I haven't heard anyone say anything bad about it yet, which must be a good sign?

What sort of headspace were you in as you approached making the record?
I was very much trying to move away from the previous EPs. Everything I was writing up until the album was me just figuring out how to write music and the album was a conscious moment of feeling like I knew what I wanted. I feel like it was a very purposeful flow state.

Did you have a set idea of what you wanted to explore with the full-length, or a particular aim that you wanted to achieve, sonically or lyrically?
The main thing I wanted was to create a project I'm proud of, which I think I achieved. Sonically, I definitely wanted it to sit in its own magical little dream world because world-building in music is incredibly interesting and important to me. Lyrically, I just write whatever comes out of my head at that point. It's more instinctive than purposeful.

You’ve described the album as “a kind of fever dream”; how were you initially drawn to this subject, and what was it like to try and tap into something that can feel so visceral but also so abstract?
When I first started writing it, I didn't have any big ideas about topics I wanted to discuss in the album. When I write it tends to be like a diary - I just talk about whatever I'm thinking about at the time. After we'd been writing for a few weeks, Karma Kid said it seemed like I kept on writing and talking about the dreams I'd been having. I sort of accidentally started it without even realising, so all I had to do was consciously tie it all together.

How was it working alongside Karma Kid on the record? What did you take away from that collaboration process?
I couldn't have done it with anyone else. He knows when to trust me and when to push me. Being comfortable was something that was really important to me and Karma Kid knows how to create that environment. I think the main thing I learned is to just do what I want and not worry what other people are going to think about it.

What would you hope people would take away from listening to the album?
I'm not sure if there really is anything specific to take away from it. I guess [the answer is] whatever the listener decides that they want it to be about. For me, writing music is about working through feelings and being honest, so if people can glean something from that, then that would be lovely.

You’ve got a handful of shows and festivals coming up over the next few weeks; how’re you feeling ahead of those?
I'm super looking forward to it! I've been getting loads of fun new gear to use to transform the set a little. I've been waiting ages to be able to play these [songs] live so it'll be great to let them see some sun.

'The Garden Dream' is out now via Secretly Canadian.

You can catch gglum playing the DIY stage at The Great Escape at Horatio's on Friday 17th May.

Tags: gglum, The Great Escape, Festivals, Features, Interviews

As featured in the May 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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