Gone Gone Beyond first formed when David Block, through his collaborations with his project The Human Experience, introduced solo artists Mel Semé, Kat Factor and Danny Musengo to one another. Each artist hailed from a different part of the world, bringing a unique style and experience to the project. While built upon a foundation of folk-Americana songwriting, their songs branch out into myriad of other genres, including electronica, jazz, soul and world music.
Since the release of their EP, 49 Bogart, and the debut of their first full-length album Things Are Changing in 2019, Gone Gone Beyond has performed at a range of high-profile events including Coachella, Lightning In A Bottle, SXSW, Red Rocks, and the UN General Assembly, and have just released their excellent new album 2030.
The group took some time to answer our questions about their songwriting process, the themes of the new music and to breakdown a couple of their brand new tracks.
Indy Review: When the four of you first came together, how did you start your songwriting collaboration? Did it develop naturally, or did you have to set a structure for how to work together?
Gone Gone Beyond: Our first album was a compilation of tracks that Mel, Kat, and Danny had written on their own with David. But as soon as that record came out, we started working on this one together, as a band. A lot has developed in that time. We wrote 50 songs for this record. Recorded 30 and finally got it down to 12.
IR: Where was the album recorded, and how did that environment inspire the writing and atmosphere of the songs?
GGB: We recorded this record kind of everywhere. We were traveling a lot before the pandemic and we got in sessions wherever we could. When lockdown started, David and Danny moved to Topanga, California, so a lot of that place and vibe finished the record out.
IR: In what ways do you think your distinct strengths and styles complemented each other’s? Did it allow you to take these songs in directions you normally wouldn’t have ventured into when playing solo?
GGB: We each have our “superpowers” and we recognize that in each other. But we all also write, sing, produce and play. So there’s this beautiful refinement that the songs go through each time. You get excited when you hear what the next person added to the pot.
IR: 2030 carries strong themes related to climate change and the timeline we have to overcome the crisis we face. When you first came together to work on this album, was that a subject you discussed addressing, or did you find that common theme coming together as you wrote songs for the project?
GGB: It comes from our general love of nature. Worship of nature, really. There was no real forethought. It was just in the zeitgeist, we suppose.
IR: What led you to decide to produce the album yourselves?
GGB: The whole vibe of the record comes from the experience we were having. The traveling, the living together, the prayer, the psychedelia, the family vibes. There was never really an option other than doing it ourselves. Plus, The Human Experience (aka David) is IN the band…so production is intrinsically part of the whole sound.
IR: The line “It’s out of my control, so I’m gonna coast for a little while” in “Coast” makes me think of things I’ve learned in therapy about radical acceptance, and how to deal with aspects of our lives we have no control of, and the vibe of the song captures that feeling perfectly. When writing the track, was it coming from a more personal place, or were you seeing it through a more universal lens?
GGB: Both. At the time, it was from a personal place, noticing that when if you can let go of the want, life becomes illuminated. But it also seemed like a giant bit of serendipity having Covid happen literally as we were all in Santa Cruz recording the track. The message took on a whole new meaning.
IR: One of the most moving songs on the album to me was “Gravity”, especially the lyric “Gravity don’t let go of me”. Can you speak a bit about the meaning behind the track, and what inspired it?
From Danny: “It was inspired by me leaving NYC after 18 years and leaping into the unknown with the band. It just seemed in such stark contrast to the life my ex-wife was living at the time, raising children in the suburbs. That’s whose voice I wrote the second verse in.”
IR: “A Better Way to Love” is more percussion-driven than the other tracks on the album, with various beats and handclaps, and eventually builds up with more instrumentation. For a track that evolves the way this one does, how many iterations of it did it take before you reached the final version? Was there ever a version that remained stripped-down throughout?
GGB: Yes, there is and it’s on the record. “Canyons.” They’re the exact same song done two ways. They were actually recorded right alongside each other.
IR: “Marigold” ends the album on a really hopeful note. When sequencing the album, was this always the plan? What do you see as the journey the album takes listeners on based on the song order?
GGB: We’re going for the full emotional experience. What it sounds like to be human. “Marigold” was always thought of as the last song. To end on hope.
IR: If you could make one lasting impact or change to popular music as it is now, what would it be?
GGB: We just want to be as honest as we can be. Maybe make people look up at the sky a bit more.
Check out 2030 tomorrow, June 25th, and listen to the pre-released songs here!