Interview with GILLIAN CARTER: Florida’s heartwrenching mix of screamo, post-rock and ambient

Discussing the creation, newfound love for touring and influence of dark periods with GILLIAN CARTER's frontman Logan Rivera.
GILLIAN CARTER is a gem of Palm Bay, Florida, that formed in 2005. Their material is cathartic in soothing atmosphere, coexisting with heartwrenching, thematically differing sound on each album. Having noteworthy 10 releases, the latest being a split with COMA REGALIA by Middle-Man Records (in June, 2016), and recently finished Totem Tour in Mexico, frontman Logan Rivera took time to discuss their creation, influences and touring.

Photo by Skeletal Lightning

Firstly, who are you?

I’m Logan, I do vocals, play the guitar and the harmonica in Gillian Carter. Over the past 11 years we’ve had 14 drummers, 8 bassists & 4 secondary guitarists. Currently, Tony Oriza plays the drums & Bob Caruso plays the bass. Both have been with the band since 2014.

You have just finished touring Mexico, how was it and who were your companions?

It was amazing, every show was a lot of fun. The crowd responses were great. Everyone was super welcoming. The tour was with TINY MOVING PARTS, JOLIETTE, ÜBERYOU & CARDIEL.

According to Spotify, your biggest fanbase is in Mexico City and the following four cities are as well in Mexico. Is this surprising for you?

Yeah that comes as a pretty big surprise to us because we’ve never played in Mexico before & a lot of people didn’t know who we were before we played the shows.

Regarding this tour, what are the brightest memories to look back on? Any favourite shows?

Basically, the whole tour has been filled with amazing memories, beautiful, powerful & strong new friendships that I will hold near & dear to me. But we’ve all been razzing on our merch guy, Alberto. We all have cell phone backgrounds with his face. Oh, and any time Fernando from Joliette yells for Gaston in the van. That always cracks us up.To be honest, every show was special, but one that really stood out to me was when we played in Morelia at a bar called Cactux. The show was last minute but the bar filled out a bunch of people really appreciated us being there & really enjoyed our set.

Totem Tour 2017

Totem tour 2017

Personally, “Dreams of Suffocation” is my favourite album released in 2016. How’s the reception been in general?

So far I believe it’s been pretty well-received. Out of the 500 records pressed we only have maybe 60 copies left in the U.S. & the UK.

How do you perceive each following album’s progress in sound?

Well, when I started the band I was heavily influenced by a local band named Beneath Low Flying Planes they were probably the first band that truly blew my mind. With the first release “The Flood That Came After the Storm“, we recorded it in my house & were so stoked that we recorded a “full length”. We had no idea what mastering a record meant so our first two full lengths aren’t mastered still to this day. Sound wise it was a bit amateur. With our second release “Having Lost…” it took three years to complete due to frustrations that arose from computer failures & a giant feeling that nobody would really care since we were playing one show a year at this point. Our third release “Lost Ships Sinking With the Sunset” was recorded in three days with our friend Paul, who at the time was moving away. It was the first time we actually recorded, mixed& mastered with someone who knew what they were doing. It was our first vinyl release. Our 4th full length “Dreams of Suffocation” we recorded in Greensboro, NC at Legitimate Business with Kris Hilbert. I really wanted to go to an actual studio with amazing sound quality & awesome gear. It was the right decision & we had a great experience working with Kris. Sonically, that’s how each release has evolved. Style wise, every album has changed with each subject matter & personal situations.

There was a gap in activity between 2007-2011, what was the hiatus about? Do you think the sound has significantly changed after this?

Well, after the first tour we did in 2007 (let’s just say it wasn’t the greatest tour, but then again whose first DIY tour is, right?), I needed a break because I felt like if something like touring can ruin music for me then we shouldn’t play. In the gap I kept writing music that was reflecting my surroundings – the death of cousin Ian, haunting dreams, the loss of other friends to suicide, drugs, personal falling-outs, a very toxic relationship ending with a past lover, finding out certain demons within my family & influential loved ones, realizing I gave up on an old friend. Up until this point in my life I hadn’t really experienced these emotions & they all came out in a terrible fashion, but I always had the music there to allow myself an outlet. If it wasn’t for the writing & recording of “Having Lost…” with the help of Nick from THE CAUTION CHILDREN telling me he wouldn’t allow me to stop writing, I honestly don’t know how I would have survived that gap in time. I one hundred percent feel our sound changed significantly after this gap due to new members & a new-found love for playing shows & touring.

I feel like the bands that are influenced by the pioneers of the genre, such as NEIL PERRY and ORCHID, it’s increasingly difficult to create material transcending single-genre’s boundaries these days. Would you say your versatile sound has in a way been deliberately crafted to differ?

To be honest, I never put boundaries on any of the music that I write. If I’m trying to stick to a certain sound then I’m not evolving as an individual creating an outlet for my art.

A generic, but always an interesting one – how does the songwriting process look like for you? Do you have a pattern?

Usually in the past I would have whole albums layed out and then show the other guys the songs. After “Dreams of Suffocation” I’ve been showing everyone new riffs & we go from there.

Is there a certain person behind the lyrics?

I mostly write all the lyrics. I like to keep them abstract.

Would you say the albums are in general revolving around the same subject or does each one of them have a specific theme?

Every album has a specific theme. “The Flood That Came After the Storm” is about growing up & realizing all of life expectations & pressure aren’t worth it. “Having Lost…” deals with the subject of loss. “Lost Ships Sinking With the Sunset” is about being afraid that one day I will never be over wanting to tour all the time & feeling like you won’t “grow up”. “Dreams of Suffocation” unfortunately came from a my most dark period which lasted 3 years, where in that time I had unfortunately started comparing Gillian to other bands I was friends with & their successes. It really made me grow into a distant & cold person who would immediately become disheartened by any news of others “success”. At this point I didn’t want to play any shows or even care. I had become numb to others. In the end I realized that it was me who was being the unfair one. When your friends are doing well, be happy for them. I had lost sight of what truly made me happy & that was playing my own music. Originally “Dreams of Suffocation” was going to be called “Remembering Her the Way She Was” & was going to be a tribute to Candy Darling. This drastically changed due to my surroundings as well as each song title was a different album title that went with different pieces of artwork that ended up being turned down, but in the end the album title & artwork worked out way better due to the circumstances.

GC band

What about the name – Gillian Carter?

Oh haha, the name came from a lyric I thought I heard in a song by the old local band ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE. When we played with them the singer/guitarist came up to me & asked me where I got the name from & I told him that from his song in which he responded with “I never say that in any of our songs”, so it just stuck.

How would you describe the scene in Florida nowadays? To my limited knowledge, South Florida has remained to be the area in bloom, is it so? Also, would you include Palm Bay as an active region?

The scene in Florida nowadays is pretty bleak. Orlando really has the most turn-out from my experience. In 2012 South Florida was the most amazing place to play on earth. We used to play there so much that people thought we were local to South Florida, which is like 3 hours south from us. Palm Bay has never had a scene. Melbourne, which is like 5 minutes away from Palm Bay I use daily, has a huge scene, but since we’ve lost most of our venues, there’s really only one place to play now. there’s that only does shows once and month it they’re good & we’re thankful for what we’re have.

Europe this year?

I mean we’ve been trying to play Europe for the past 5 years now & haven’t had any luck yet, so it would be nice, but don’t know how to go about it since nothing has stuck.

Logan, honoured you’ve taken time for this interview, thank you. Very much looking forward to the future releases.

Keep it up!

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