From Bangor to Glasgow; New Jersey’s Underwater Peoples to London’s Phonica Special Editions, there’s motion in the tale of Sad City. Building on the reverb-drenched strolls of his debut, ‘You Will Soon Find That Life is Beautiful’ returns to ambient-leaning excursions, opening with ‘Polymath’. Mellifluous and immersive, it also features sidechaining to an extent that’s more often associated with the attempt to keep kicks afloat when competing with autotuned vocals and the like; but here it’s married to SAW-era Aphex Twin melodies and timbres, effecting a breadth of oneiric intrigue that makes moves towards a stylistic redemption of a type of processing that’s seen abuse in recent years. ‘Easing’ invokes another Warp mainstay, with pastoral, BOCanadian melodic flicks in a uniquely simple stereo space.
‘What I Talk About’ lengths out at a comfortable ten minutes, and while the opening pads may strike some as perhaps slightly shrill, the smooth, rolling percussion is gorgeous, and a rare reassurance. The EPs titular track is pure, beatless ambience, a set of textures and layered oscillations that verge on a recursively rewarding positive feedback.
Not content with just highlighting this new EP, we thought we’d get in touch with Sad City for a chat and a mix. Read on below for Gary’s take on influence, environment, and music, and check out his three-act selection.
First off, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you’ve been up to recently?
My name is Gary Caruth and I produce music under the name Sad City. I currently live in Glasgow but am originally from Bangor in Northern Ireland. I have just released a record called ‘You Will Soon Find That Life Is Wonderful‘ with Phonica Special Editions. Recently, I’ve been working a lot on remixing. I have a few things lined up for the coming months – one of which is a series of remixes for Emotional Response. Excited about those.
As a Northern Ireland native, what are your thoughts on Ireland’s current electronic music scene?
I’m ashamed to say that my knowledge of Ireland’s electronic scene is pretty limited! I’ve been away from Ireland for about 8 years, so I haven’t had too much contact with the music scene there. Belfast always has nice pockets of people who love music; it can just be hard to find them when you live there. Hopefully the music scene is doing well. I’d definitely like to play in Belfast again soon.
You studied Philosophy in Aberdeen. Do you feel your studies have influenced your music?
I wouldn’t say any philosophers in particular have influenced me – or at least I don’t think any have. Studying philosophy as a whole may have opened me up to the idea of things being conceptualised. I approach my work pretty conceptually, so that’s possibly where I got that from. It’s an interesting subject to study or read about, because it helps you to see things from different perspectives – it broadens your outlook.
‘Sad City’ seems to connote quite a lot – can you tell us about your moniker?
It doesn’t really mean anything. The classic old story of… it just came to me. I’ve worked under so many different names; I just decided to stick with that one.
Do you have any particular environments that you prefer to create music in?
I work kind of sporadically, so the best environment for me is at home, in my (make-shift) studio. I like locking myself away and just jamming. That’s generally when I’m most productive. I jam around something, or a few things over the course of an hour or so, then sit down and see what I’m into from it. Or that’s how I work MOST of the time at least.
Outside of music, what else inspires you?
I read a lot. Sometimes reading can create an image in my head that I feel like making music around and I’ll go work on something. I like creating atmosphere and mood in my music, so certain films make me want to work. After you see a film that you like, the mood and the setting and the images of the film leave a residue in your mind, which makes it easy to go home and kind of set a score to your memory of them.
How do you go about creating and recording music?
I work on music every day, but I don’t record it all. Most of the time I’m playing around with a melody, or trying to find the right sound for an idea I have. I honestly have no steadfast way of deciding that I’m in the right mood to record. When I can create a sound, or a feel that I think most accurately pins down what I’m trying to conceive, I guess that’s when I know I’m ready to record. Then I’ll just work straight through until I have a recording I’m happy with. Then I can build on it.
Are there any particular instruments you’d like to explore in order to further your music?
It depends on what I’m aiming to create, whether I need to bring in other instruments. I definitely want to record more live drums. I’ve played the guitar since I was a teenager so I’ve always got an urge to incorporate that. Pretty much every time I hear Robert Fripp I get that urge! I really want my friend Julian to record some clarinet for me too.
Your mix for Dummy Magazine featured some diverse artists; Brian Eno and King Tubby, both figureheads of their respective genres, were included. Do you draw on ambient and dub when writing?
Definitely. Brian Eno has been a big influence on me. I went through a period of pretty much exclusively listening to his music. He’s a genius. I see Dub music as like the absolute height of music production. I love the sound of deep bass – there are few things better than hearing someone like King Tubby through great headphones. The roundness that you get with the bass in his music is incredible. I try to have that same sort of sound to the bass in my own music. I’ll never hit the spot the way Tubby does though!
How did you first get involved with New Jersey’s Underwater Peoples label?
I was introduced to Ari & Brody from UP by Julian Lynch when we studied together in Aberdeen. Julian and I had become close friends and worked on music together lot. When Julian moved back to the States, he passed some of my music onto Ari, who was just starting up ‘UP’. He was into it and asked me to appear on their Summertime Showcase record. I sent them some more tracks and they ended up putting them out on vinyl. It’s a great label. They’re a really good bunch of guys too. I’d like to release something with them again in the future.
How about London’s Phonica Records?
Nick Williams – who works at Phonica’s [superb] record store – got in touch to say that he was really into my first record. He basically pushed it to Simon & Vangelis who run Phonica and they eventually emailed me and asked if I’d be into putting out a record with them. That was back in September time I think.
They’re all great guys too. Nick has a really nice enthusiasm toward new music. He booked me to play at a night being put on by Phonica & ReviveHer at Corsica Studios in London. That was the first time I’d actually met them all. It was a really great night. There’s definitely a lot to be said for working with personable people! They put a lot of money and effort into putting out my most recent record. I’ll always be grateful to them for that. Hopefully there will be many more releases to come with them.
What are your plans for future releases? Are you sitting on an album or more EPs?
I’ve been really busy working on remixes over the past month or so. I’m really enjoying playing around with those. I’ve got some tracks for a demo that are pretty much ready. I’ll work on finishing those off over the next few weeks. I’m hoping to lay down a collaborative thing that I’m working on via email with Julian too. I’m planning to put out at least another EP of my Sad City stuff this year.
Tell us a bit about your new record; are there any prominent themes within, or tracks that signify a particular moment or experience during the process?
I recorded the tracks over the course of a few months, spent between Bangor and Glasgow. I didn’t sit down and plan a 4-track EP – I formulated 4 tracks that I was really happy with and decided to work and refine those rather than try to lay down more tracks. I’ll always opt for that approach. I definitely feel much more comfortable about putting out 4 tracks that I am totally happy with, than trying to stretch out a full-length.
London designer Jack Featherstone was behind the EPs cover art – did you have any say or influence on the design? What are your thoughts about it?
To be honest, I was so impressed by Jack’s work that I basically told him to go with what he felt worked best with the music. I’m so so happy with the final outcome. It’s perfect for the record. He’s a properly talented guy. I really hope we get the chance to work together again.
Tell us about the mix you recorded for Inverted Audio? Is there a particular theme set in it or particular tracks that are special to you?
I don’t think there’s a theme necessarily, but I find with mixes that themes end up working their way through a set of tracks without you intentionally putting one in there. I tried to give this mix three stages, sort of. It’s a nice way to approach collating tracks – to place them into acts. All the tracks are special to me in their own way. There are a few artists I’ve included tracks by whose work I definitely admire a lot. Aphex Twin for one. There’s an unreleased track of mine slotted in at the end – hopefully someone will find that special!
With summer and the festival season upon us, are you looking forward to anything in particular? What is on Sad City’s horizon?
Well, remixing and recording mostly. I’m playing a show in Glasgow on 14th July – supporting Com Truise at a venue called Broadcast. I’ll probably play a few other shows, but mainly, I want to concentrate on laying music down for an EP.
Finally anything else you’d like to leave us with or comment on?
I hope you enjoy my record!
Sad City ‘You Will Soon Find That Life Is Wonderful’ is available to buy from Phonica Records, we recommend you do just that.Sad CityPhonica RecordsElectronica