Exclusive Interview with Galaa’s Aley Waterman
Almost 6 years ago, in 2013, solo artist Aley Waterman joined forces with Hey Rosetta’s Adam Hogan, Josh Ward and Ashley Chalmers to make an EP after she received a small grant from Music NL. Calling the group Galaa, that initial EP went over really well and they eventually won a full-length album grant. Over the course of a couple years, they spent time recording their forthcoming album, The Speech, which is out now. I got the chance to talk to Aley about why she named the project Galaa, why she says this album sounds very “purple”, what it means to her to finally have this album out after so many years of working on it and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!
For those who might not have ever heard of y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?
Sure! Galaa started in Newfoundland a few years ago – I (Aley) got a small grant from Music NL to make an EP and was lucky to have some really talented musicians hop on the project, including Romesh, Adam, and Josh from the band Hey Rosetta, as well as Ashley Chalmers, who is a wonderful drummer. The EP went over really well and so for our live release we got a longer set together, and eventually won a full-length album grant, which we used to record this album in Newfoundland over the course of a couple of years. During this time, we were also super lucky to support some visiting acts, such as Owen Pallett, DIANA, and Tegan and Sarah. We’re not playing shows as a band right now, and focusing primarily on what to do with the album.
Where did the name Galaa come from?
I originally named the project GALA which I really liked because a) that’s my favourite kind of apple, and b) it kind of means “fancy party” or “fancy event” which I feel like our music captured, something celebratory and cinematic but also serious and kind of etherial. We added an A for copyright reasons – Salvador Dali’s daughter is named Gala and she’s a pop star apparently! We didn’t want to lose the name entirely, and I like how odd off-kilter a 5 letter word with three a’s in it looks – I think it suits the band’s sound, which is kind of jarring and strange sometimes.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. So if you had to describe your sound without using genre names, how would you describe it?
I feel like the album sounds very “purple” – it has a thin depth to it, like a bunch of really small delicate roots in planted in the ground. I think it carries a melancholic levity to it as well – like having a really elaborate dinner with an ex and smearing cake all over their face, or like going to the park alone as an adult, or like accidentally staying at a party until the sun rises, and then the long walk home.
Let’s talk about your new album, The Speech, which I know is the name of one of the tracks on the album. Why did you want to name the album this?
There kernel of this song came from dating someone who was a touring musician who went on the same spiel every night onstage, and they always as a result struggled with how sincerity is changed by repetition (like, you can still mean something even if you say it a million times). I thought about having to perform something like a speech or a song, and the anxiety of having people there who really know you, and wanting them to see what you “mean” behind the medium of how you convey that message. I guess it’s about intimacy and how to navigate intimacy through public and private realms, which is a theme that threads the album quite a bit. I’m very interested in how repetition affects sincerity, and how to be sincere and realistic while still maintaining the “wonder” of imagination and creativity.
What was the recording process like for this album? How long did it take for this to come together from start to finish?
[laughs] It took forever. We started in a beautiful art gallery in Newfoundland that looked out over the ocean and was full of giant paintings etc, and ended up in basements near airports – I moved to Toronto when we were like 90 percent finished, so we had to make moves to finish the rest of the project from here when the rest of the band was in Newfoundland, which was challenging. I think the whole thing took like 3 years to make!!!
The current single from the album is “Open Eyes”. What inspired that song?
I’d say “Open Eyes” and “Ender” are both singles from the album. “Open Eyes” was inspired by the idea of being drawn to someone because they’re sort of standoffish, and then trying not to make too many assumptions about who they are in their silence. It’s also about, within that, finding people you really connect with and trying to maintain that connection despite difficulties, because you know it’s worth it.
What was the songwriting process like for this song specifically?
This song was fun to record – the original track was very pop-oriented and we played it live in a very direct way (simple chord progressions on keyboard and drumbeat, etc). Recording this song was like rewriting it basically – we kept the lyrics but tore down the structure, and built it back up delicately on a bed of sound. This bed of sound was pretty experimental, lots of random noises and reverse delay vocals, we experimented a lot with the opening section and repeated parts of lines that I sung to see if we could get some rhythm through that repetition. The sweep on the chorus was also fun to make.
In general, do you guys tend to write by yourselves or do you like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
I like to write lyrics by myself but love to collaborate with others on everything else – making this album was an amazing learning experience because all the guys had so much experience already, and I got to learn so much about their processes. I would say that creating soundscapes and working in studio on this type of album is nearly the opposite of jamming or writing lyrics, it requires such attention to detail paired with the ability to know when to take a step back and look at a bunch of moving parts as a whole.
Was there any major changes to “Open Eyes” that happened once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
We added a verse, and all the stuff I said in the last question. The last section was especially different, because there are so many more layers of sound than in the live version, just lots of floaty ambling little parts that we built up slowly and delicately.
The Speech is your debut full length album. What does it mean to you guys for this project to finally be out?
It feels like giving birth to a giant baby that’s been in the womb for way too long! It’s really nice to hear feedback and reestablish that Newfoundland-Toronto connection, because the project has felt a bit isolated for me between living in both cities. It’s so nice to get messages from people here and back home in NL saying that they’re enjoying the album!
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
Post structuralist poetics! I’m finish an MA at U of T in lit theory/creative writing right now and I’m loving going deep into theory. Paul de Man, Derrida, all those guys. Also I’m learning like 30 Kate Bush songs on keyboard for a gig.
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