An Interview with Sven Gamsky of Still Woozy
by Erin Christie
On the eve of January 22nd, I rushed from work, camera in hand, to catch a sold-out show at The Sinclair in Cambridge. There, I found a room packed to the brim, a palpably jubilant energy present throughout, and a live show I was sure not to forget—Still Woozy’s Boston debut.
Still Woozy is Sven Gamsky’s solo project, started out of his home in Oakland, California. Despite having a limited discography and still having yet to release a full-length LP, he’s already earned a wave of praise, a headlining tour in tow. Most recently, Gamsky released a single alongside Billy Lemos and Blake Saint David entitled “Wait,” which exhibits a more somber side of his notoriously hypnotic sway.
At the gig, the crowd shimmied from side to side, threw their hands in the air (like they just didn’t care), and enthusiastically sang along with each passing song—which included covers of artists such as Hank Williams and Mac Demarco. The crowd couldn’t get enough, which even prompted an encore in which the group—comprised of Gamsky and friends Peter and Yona— graced the crowd once more with a rendition of one of their most infamous tracks, “Goodie Bag,” for they had no other songs to play.
I witnessed “fangirl”-esque screams in approval, joyous exuberant cries, and rapturous applause throughout the evening, reminding me of the true happiness music in any capacity can bring to its listeners. Critical reception isn’t something Gamsky should ever have to worry about.
Via e-mail, I was able to talk with Gamsky about Still Woozy’s conception, his musical upbringing, and his hopes for the future.
Every musician has a distinct story as to how they found their way to where they are today. In terms of your own musical upbringing, how did you realize you wanted to pursue a professional career in such?
I’ve always been drawn to music and music making. Around nine I told my parents that I wanted to stop taking piano lessons and try out the guitar. I learned songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Good Riddance (time of your life),” which had me sooo much more excited than taking lessons with this elderly piano teacher who would literally fall asleep mid-lesson. When I got a little bit older I got a cheap mic and interface and started recording myself, usually just channeling my preteen sadness. But nothing else has ever called to me like music has. I think I've always known that I would be doing music professionally, I’ve just always had that feeling.
Growing up and even now, were there any distinct musical acts that have inspired you whether in terms of style, sound, or simply as people?
I think when I was younger I really looked up to Jimi Hendrix as a person and musician. It just seemed like he was always tapping into this raw energy, which appealed to me. He was emotive and experimental and kinda just obsessed with music which I definitely felt.
“Still Woozy” is a solo project and also one that is independent from a label (as far as I know) which is super commendable considering how masterful what you’ve released is. Have you faced any difficulties in essentially having to carry the project on your back? Or is that part of what makes it so gratifying?
So I don't actually feel like I have to carry everything on my back now. Even though I don't have a label, I still have a team of people that help me with a lot of the heavy lifting. I’m really grateful for these new friends because I really am not the kind of person that thrives in those more business-oriented environments.
I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but “Woozy” honestly is a great way to describe the ambiance that you often create- it’s one that flows seamlessly and prompts one to sway back and forth immediately. Do you see yourself sticking to this type of hypnotic, synth-based sound, or are you going to simply see where the future takes you?
I don't really want to get stuck in any particular sound, I have too many inspirations for that. I grew up in a time where the internet let you have everything you wanted without many labels. So I've never been one to put things in boxes to try to organize haha.
In November of last year, you graced the stage at Tropicalia and you have Coachella and Gov Ball lined up for next spring which is super exciting! In terms of live shows, especially ones in front of crowds so large, what’s your general goal? Does performing ever make you nervous?
I'm sooo stoked for these upcoming festivals, tropicalia was one of our favorite shows, the energy was just there. As far as goals go, my bandmates and I just want to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously. Performing music is such a ridiculous thing in general, so once I get onstage and realize how ridiculous it is, all my nerves usually go away. I still love it and think it's really important, it's just kind of a funny thing.
What does the future of “Still Woozy” look like to you? What can fans hopefully anticipate within the next few years?
The future looks like more music, more videos, and more shows! We're definitely traveling out of North America at some point hopefully soon. I just want to keep experimenting and making shit. As far as making it goes, I just want to make stuff that feels honest, while going off too. As long as it makes me wanna move, I'm good.
Still Woozy is an act that you definitely want to pay attention to—with his already successful stint considered, big things are on the horizon.