RIP EXCLUSIVE: GARDENIA TALKS DEBUT ALBUM 'KNOWING YOU KNOW NOTHING'
Sabrina Yanez ⋅ Jun 26, 2023
If you're in search for your new favorite rock band with screamable, anger-driven lyrics and bone-crushing leading bass in every song, look no further. Gardenia is here, and they're here to tell you that they're "pissed, and you should be too." With the release of their debut album Knowing You Know Nothing, members Ry Zakin (vocals & bass) and Tamir Malik (drums) deliver 8 punchy songs, each with it's own unique (and completely true) backstory. One month following the release of the record, I sat down with the Brooklyn-based rock duo to talk about the stories behind the tracks, and their inspiration for the project overall. You can stream Knowing You Know Nothing on Spotify here.
Tell me about how the band came together – I heard that you met working together at a studio and things took off from there?
Ry: We used to work together at a music studio in Midtown and it was really great. In our time between working, we started jamming and it just really clicked between the two of us, and you know, the beauty of being in the studio is that you're already there. So it was a very easy transition from "we like working with each other," to "let's just start making things."
Tamir: Yeah, that's the story.
Let's dive right into your debut album Knowing You Know Nothing which just released in May – Ry you mentioned that all of the songs on the album are written about stories you've heard from your friends, what are some examples of stories you've been told that inspired you to write songs about?
Ry: Oh my god there are so many stories, where do we start? That's a great question, thank you. There were a lot of stories of, you know when you get together with your friends and they go "oh my god, tea," or "you won't believe what just happened to me." There were a lot of stories like that, where it would be like "you wouldn't believe I went on this date and this guy was saying stuff like this," or "I was hanging out with my friend and she was saying this about me behind my back," and "my boss isn't talking nice to me at work." There were lots of little stories like that, that kinda added up over time. Songs like "Believe Me (Or Don't)" on the record, it's a song about cheating essentially. There was a lot of us hearing stories from our friends, even the ones who worked at the studio with us. It was kinda just compiling all those things into one larger concept, without putting any of my friends on blast.
For sure, that's really cool. I'm actually a music student and I had to take a songwriting class last year, and I'm not a songwriter at all but I personally found it really fun to write about other people's situations, and kind of dramatizing their stories to make it super entertaining.
Ry: Yeah, to your point about writing about your friends – it's drama, but it's not yours. So it's an interesting way to write about it because you feel personal to it, but it's not your personal story. That's always been my take on songwriting, I never liked telling people my business but I'll tell you what's going on with everybody else. So, that was our approach to the whole album.
What would you say are some of your biggest musical influences, especially when it comes down to inspiration for the album and your own music?
Tamir: Some of my influences are Deftones and some of the classic grunge bands like Nirvana and Sound Garden. Some funk bands as well influence me, as far as my sound goes and the way I play.
Ry: On my end, it really does range. I grew up in a world where everything was played and there weren't many rules. But it ranged from everything from like death-metal to Billy Joel. In terms of this project specifically, there was definitely a lot of 90's influence. I was listening to a lot of Alanis when we were writing this, I was listening to a lot of Sound Garden. Tamir and I definitely had a lot of Deftones going on kinda back and forth. We wanted to respect the origins of that stuff, and we wanted to respect how much we loved it without being a rip-off. It was fun trying to navigate that space. But those are definitely our influences.
Moving onto production – what was the production process like for you guys? This whole album I'd say is very bass-heavy, which kinda reminds me of IDKHOW BUT THEY FOUND ME in that sense. Is that something that you thought about, and do you think it sets you apart from other modern rock bands whose music is commonly guitar-heavy?
Ry: It's stupid that that's common. But we love all those guitar bands. The production process was really interesting, we went to a few different producers and the one we settled on, Chris, is amazing at his work. We're sparse, we have two people. And we're not like a 'Twenty One Pilots' two people where there's two of us doing things and then there's a thousand backing tracks to it, or there's other stuff going on in the background while it's just the two of them playing – it's just us. So with the production, we didn't want to go over the top with it, because we wanted to be able to make it so that if you came to one of our shows it would sound pretty similar to how it did on the record. We didn't want to do the whole, have a laptop in the background playing the song – that just isn't really us, and so that was kind of our way of handling it production wise. Like okay, let's make sure that we can do this live in the room the same way we do it on the record.
Tamir: As far as production, it was just a journey honestly from all the songs we made. It was a journey both apart and together and it just all came together. A full-circle type of thing.
Ry: Some of the songs did require us to take a minute, because we would be in the studio together for three or four hours and then you just, hit a wall a little bit. Sometimes it's like "all right, I'm gonna go home," or "I'm gonna go smoke," or "I'm gonna go hangout with my friends," or "we're gonna leave and come back and then we'll talk about it." And that helps a lot too, kind of putting trust in the process as they say.
What do you want your fans to takeaway from this album?
Ry: I think the thing to take away from the record is that sometimes shit just falls the fuck apart. And it's okay that, that happens sometimes. There's still growth under the forest fire, and there could be positive movement from things falling apart – whether that be in a relationship, or in the world and in society, or whether that be individually, within yourself or with your people, or with your family – sometimes it just needs to blow up. I think that's the takeaway, without being too dramatic.
What would you guys say is your favorite song on the record, if you have one?
Tamir: For me it's "Daydream Nightmare," only because it's a song that reflected back to when I had to go get his bass all the way from the studio. I had to drop it off to him and it was just a long trip for me that day, and I worked that day too. It was a whole journey, and that song reflected that whole day and what we were going through. That's the reason why I like that song.
Ry: Yeah, when we wrote that song I had Covid, and it was like Covid being very bad. I had an 102 degree fever, I'm like lying on the floor, and at the time I had all my instruments in the studio and not in my apartment. I was dying and I couldn't do anything in my free time because I didn't have any energy, and the one thing I could've done I couldn't do. So I hit up Tamir and he owed me some money, so I was like "I'll absolve you of your debts if you can bring me a bass, because I need the bass to do something." And he ended up, after his shift at work, coming from the Bronx into the city, and then from the city into Brooklyn to drop off the bass, and then went all the way back up. If I recall correctly, before he even got back to the Bronx I had written "Daydream Nightmare" because I already had the energy in my head of like "oh I want this." And then within probably less than an hour it showed up pretty much exactly how it did on the record. I have the voice note of it on my phone and I'm all nasally and I was trying to play it. So yeah, that was the context of Tamir's story. My favorite song is "Believe Me (Or Don't)." I love when we play with the loud/soft dynamics. I think lyrically, that song was definitely a challenge to write because it wasn't a perspective that I'm used to writing from or have any experience in. So it was a fun challenge in a way.
Finally, what's next for the band for the rest of the year? Any more shows planned, maybe a tour, or new music?
Ry: I sure hope so. We're working it out right now, very much on the low-low. We just had an album release party that went really well, and now I think our plan for the next little bit of time is just to play shows as they come around in the area. We're going to be pushing this record for as long as I live. Just taking it a step at a time and doing all that, nothing too crazy yet. I think there's some stuff lined up for later in the summer, but yeah.
Keep up with Gardenia https://linktr.ee/gardeniatheband
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