Rare Candy sat down with Emma Witmer at Trans Pecos in Brooklyn—with only a few interruptions to look at cute dogs—to talk about her latest album, themes in her music, artists she is currently listening to, and what Gobbinsr would be like.
By Paulette Arnold
RC: Do you find yourself reaching to certain parts of your life for song inspiration?
GOBBINJR: There are definitely some songs where I started them at a certain point in my life and then that point kind of passed and I have to really get myself back in that mindset. The song, “fake bitch,” was actually really like that. I wrote it when I was angry and then I didn’t really care about it anymore when it was half done, so I just had to piss myself off to finish the song. I journal a lot, especially when I’m upset, so what I like to do is go back into that in order to get me into the right headspace.
RC: Can you speak more about the title of this new LP “ocala wick” and what it means?
GOBBINJR: I found this hat on Saint Mark’s Street when I was a freshman in college and it said “ocala wick” and I liked how it sounded. I don’t know, I like just finding little things that you don’t know much about and appreciating the beauty of it.
RC: Where did the cover art come from?
GOBBINJR: That was just kind of a representation of me and things that I do. Just a bunch of brightly colored, strange objects that don’t really seem like they would fit together, but it works out. My friend Flint Kirschenbaum helped me out with it—well they did most of it, I just made a couple of the little creatures but they did basically everything else.
RC: Do you have a song on the LP that you are especially excited about?
GOBBINJR: Ooh! There are a few. There’s one song that is basically about the first time I’ve ever really mourned and that’s really special to me. I’ve never really written any song quite that intense before. There is also a song that I did that Heeyoon from BOOSEGUMPS sings on, and I’m really excited about that. I’ve never really featured anyone before on a track, so that’s exciting.
RC: Is there a common theme in the songs in the upcoming album, ocala wick?
GOBBINJR: Yeah, I mean obviously themes of sexual harassment and not digging that. Still themes of loneliness, stagnation, and just wanting respect.
RC: Is there a topic that you like to focus on most when you’re writing music?
GOBBINJR: Whatever is making me angry is the easiest for me to write about. When I sit down and I don’t know what to write about I just think about what makes me pissed.
RC: Do you usually write music by sitting down and focusing on trying to produce something, or does it mostly happen when you are out and you get inspired by something?
GOBBINJR: Honestly, it’s a little bit of both. It definitely depends on the song. The first single of this album, “afraid of me,” was definitely one of those out in the world songs where I had the whole song in my head and I was like “dammit! I wanna be at home and be able to play guitar now!” Then, a lot of the songs were from more of a quiet, thoughtful process where I was sitting and focusing and figuring out structures.
RC: The titles of your songs have a certain aesthetic to them, is there a reason you wanted them to be more colloquial by making them all lowercase and using text-lingo?
GOBBINJR: I don’t really want to have to subscribe to all the rules of professionalism to be taken seriously. I don’t really like to capitalize names of songs unless it’s something really important.
RC: Do you feel that working independently in terms of writing, recording, and producing gives you a certain freedom that some other artists don’t have?
GOBBINJR: Yeah, it’s so much freedom. It would be nice sometimes to have someone to kind of reign me back because you can just go crazy doing your own stuff. I see my friends going insane producing their own things, but it’s all about knowing when to stop. If you’ve got that down then it’s really liberating.
RC: Is there someone that you go to during your process to try to reign you back?
GOBBINJR: I will always send songs to my friends just to be like “do you think this sounds like a song?” And sometimes they’ll give me really nice advice and I’ll be like “okay, nevermind, I want to do what I want.” Stuff like that! I try to give people the opportunity to reign me back.
RC: How is touring with a band different from making music on your own?
GOBBINJR: Playing on your own is so much of an inside myself experience and I can just get too far in my head when I’m playing a solo set. When nothing is there to think about besides the actual words I’m singing, it can get a little harsh. It’s definitely so fun with a band because I just play with my best friends, so it’s so much better to me. I mean people do also like solo sets, because you can hear the lyrics more.
RC: Do you think the band has helped you form the music in a certain way?
GOBBINJR: I find myself writing in more of a band format lately, whereas my first album and songs on the EP definitely weren’t written to be played live ever.
RC: Is the band that you’ve been touring with on the album, or is it all done by yourself?
GOBBINJR: That’s all me! I even did some drumming.
RC: How can you find balance between the emotionally drawing lyrics and the synthesized, happy, pop tunes in the music itself?
GOBBINJR: That’s just kind of something that happened naturally with me. I’m the kind of person that laughs at a funeral. Sometimes you just have to make hard emotions happy and cute, which is tough. I like to have it sugar-coated so people think that they’re just listening to a cute little song. And once it really gets into their head they’re like “oh shit this is serious.”
RC: Do you think having serious underlying meaning accompanied by upbeat music is a helpful way to get messages across?
GOBBINJR: It can definitely be a strategy for getting real messages across, but that’s not always what I’m trying to do. But I sometimes think about that, for sure.
RC: Are there any topics that you haven’t written about yet in songs that you want to touch on in the future?
GOBBINJR: Oh yeah! This album and forward I had never ever been in a relationship before. I have my next album actually written and it’s all about relationship stuff. There’s all that whole different world to unlock coming up.
RC: Do you think you’ll be able to reach back into the mindset of when you had never been in a relationship before?
GOBBINJR: Definitely, I’m always still going to be the loner kid. Just because I’m in a relationship doesn’t mean I’m not still a lonely person. I think it’s still applicable to earlier themes.
RC: You told me that you were based in Bushwick, do you think living in New York gives you a better accessibility to focus on a career in music?
GOBBINJR: It definitely helps a lot to be in New York and to be in Bushwick. It helps to know so many musicians here. I grew up in Madison and there are so few musicians to this day from there that I love. Here, there are three people whose music I love and they live down the block. It’s wild.
RC: I know you have a small comic that goes along with your EP “vom night,” how did that come into creation?
GOBBINJR: That was really sick! My friend Jordan Michael, who was managing me, put out the EP and he connected me with Sophia Foster-Dimino, the comic artist, and it just clicked. Our art is pretty different, and obviously from different platforms, but it worked well together. It was really cool. I just made the EP and sent it to her and she came up with all the concepts that she picked out of it that were really accurate and she made this whole comic to go along with it.
RC: How do you feel the visualizations of the songs help express the meaning? Or do you think that it takes away from people being able to interpret the lyrics on their own?
GOBBINJR: I think it helps because when I write the songs I have a very particular little meaning in my brain, so seeing it interpreted a little bit differently but still with the same core meaning to it is really nice. It is great to see it in a different light. Really, song meanings can mean whatever they want to any person, I think.
RC: I know there isn’t officially a gobbinsr, but if there was, what would they be like?
GOBBINJR: Gobbinsr would probably be a really giant, magnificent tea tree. I don’t know if that exists, but I’m just imagining a tree with tea bags coming off of it.
RC: Do you have a favorite tea?
GOBBINJR: I just love simple tea. I’ll just get the cheapest black tea that I can get at the supermarket. I like just tea, nothing else in it. I’ve been really getting into iced tea too, that’s where I get my caffeine these days. That’s what is keeping me going.