You don’t hear a lot of f-bombs in slow-rolling, acoustic indie-folk. But Noah Gundersen can deliver, with expletives that feel more like a sorrowful caress than an angry backhand. The 24-year-old Washingtonian led us by the chin through three track-heavy EPs over six years, through breakups and reunions, familial struggles and introspection, each time stopping just short of a full-length. But wait no more, San Diego. In support of Ledges, his long-anticipated debut LP released earlier this month, Gundersen headlines Soda Bar on Saturday, Feb. 22, to woo us with all the old-timey f-bombs he can muster.
Gundersen travels with his usual pack -- sister Abby on violin, brother Jonathan on drums, and friends Micah Simlar and AJ Cheek on bass and keys and guitar respectively -- to play the music that at times mimics the field songs of the 1930s. He finds his power in the sparsity of the compositions, often laced with theological remnants from his childhood. Throaty poetics crawl across scratchy strumfuls and sharp-stringed laments, a late-morning fog that swallows its path. It’s easy to get lost in the thickness of Gundersen’s music. But his head isn’t stuck in the clouds.
Read on for Gundersen on what existential crossroads informed Ledges, what he’s listening to (hint: it’s highly twerkable), how he handles life on the road, and what drink you can offer him at Soda Bar this Saturday.
Noah Gundersen: Thank you, yeah, it’s been a crazy week. I’m really excited.
NG: I thought it was about damn time that I put out a full-length album. I felt like I owed it to my fans, and it also felt really good for me to be able to make an album statement. I don’t really listen to singles -- except for Miley Cyrus' “Wrecking Ball” -- and I love albums. I love the idea of concept and themes running through a full piece.
NG: [Laughs] Somebody started out an interview with me the other day that asked do I consider myself an old soul. [laughs] I don’t know what that means. You only see yourself through your own lens. I’m grateful that I had a head start on it -- some people don’t really find what they’re good at or like doing until they’re older. I started writing songs when I was 13, and had plenty of time to practice writing shitty songs before I started writing halfway decent songs.
NG: I’d probably go into business in something. I like thinking of creative ways to keep people engaged and to do an old business in a new way. And I think we live in a time that’s really exciting with that for music. But this is really all I’ve ever wanted to do my entire life -- I think I wanted to be a firefighter or something when I was like, five [laughs].
NG: I know, I know! We went on this tour with Brett Dennen, and they’re really into tequila. It’s the only alcohol that’s an upper. So if your night’s feeling a little sleepy, just take a shot of tequila and bypass the whole Jäger-bomb situation.
NG: [Laughs] Okay, go tequila. Can that just be the main note of the interview?
NG: “Noah Gundersen says go tequila” [laughs].
Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, recently moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.