Contrasting musical styles on Gothic Tropic’s Fast or Feast

fast or feastIn an interview with Clash earlier this year, Cecilia Della Peruti - the Los Angeles-based songwriter behind Gothic Tropic - claimed, "I don’t want to lock myself into one genre because I love everything." The theory behind this statement has very much been applied to her band's long-awaited debut album, Fast or Feast, due for release on 19th May 2017 through Old Flame Records. Lurching between disco ("Don't Give Me Up") and post-punk ("If I Had a Body"), it sheds light on an ongoing theme behind Gothic Tropic's music as well as Cecilia's approach to the industry.

Contrasting musical styles within a record is not a new thing. Back before many of us were even born, vinyl's widespread use of an A-side and B-side demanded a mental, if not atmospheric shift in style. Well into the 00s, before digital dominance really struck and the concept of releasing a 'snapshot' package of songs became obsolete, it was par for the course for mainstream acts to release a B-side ballad to match every hip shaking lead single. The idea of bunging a few crooners onto a record was paramount for major label pop acts too (and in this writer's opinion, only Backstreet Boys ever really nailed it).


Even rule-bending bands such as Pulp complied, with the 1992 release of Separations proving the comparison too hard to stay away from. In the 21st Century, the tradition has been continued by artists who prefer to follow a conceptual structure; you can hear the split loud and clear on multiple double releases, including Bright EyesDigital Ash in the Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, which purposefully tackled the subject.

Della Peruti's obsession with contrasts began before Fast or Feast was even a glimmer in Gothic Tropic's eye. The guitarist has also worked with Charli XCX and Børns, whose hectic approach to touring and recording ultimately influenced her decision to form her own anti-establishment band. The fast-paced tempo and world of these two artists are put in stark contrast with the rock and Americana musicians that Della Peruti has worked with, including Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley, Ryan Adams, and Jon Sortland of Broken Bells. Throw in support from Karen O into the mix, and you have yourself a curriculum vitae that's so versatile you might think its owner has transformed into some kind of career guzzling monster, who's successfully ingested her competition. But no, it's just Cecilia, doing her thing.


Contrasts even seep into the language we use to describe the music that we love. Rock pop. Alt pop. Despite their love for exploring different avenues of sound, Gothic Tropic reportedly describe themselves as 70s influenced indie pop: and any pragmatic music fan will tell you abbreviations of the words "independent" and "popular" simply do not belong together.

The location and setting the music was born into also plays its part, as the many faces of Los Angeles, Gothic Tropic's central base, have hugely influenced Cecilia's songwriting. For the press of Fast or Feast's lead song "Your Soul", Della Peruti issued a statement regarding the "dark side" of her hometown, and how "natives have a much different perspective than the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed transplants out for an opportunity. LA’s underbelly was home to my teenage self, and the relationships and situations that grew out of that environment earned a love song.”

Incidental contrasting musical references and styles are laced throughout the band's history, but on Fast or Feast, the division is purposeful: opening track and 2016 single "Stronger" is frantic indie pop while closing track "Feed You to the Sharks" sounds like Liverpool psych-folk band Stealing Sheep finally took the plunge to record underwater. All the styles approached are brilliantly executed and the musicianship is always accomplished, and many of the songs fit succinctly together. However, moments on Fast of Feast have an inevitable downside: it can be a bit too varied. "If I Had a Body" is gloriously dirty and DrunkenWerewolf would very much apperciate more of the same. Instead we treated to psych folk by way of disco, indie, indie, and pop. It's all Gothic Tropic, but without a clear direction, the record presents as 10 well-rounded tracks from four or five completely different releases.

Gothic Tropic - or more specifically given regular line-up changes, mainstay Della Peruti - has spent a long time working on the foundations of the band, which officially formed in 2011. (EDIT: to clarify, it only took 29 days to record the album, not 6 years!). Although it demonstrates a lot of potential and some blinding pop tracks that will no doubt feature on DrunkenWerewolf's end of year playlist, Fast or Feast can at times lack a clear direction. Is this a case of too much time spent overthinking the final result? Possibility. Hopefully it won't be another 6 years before Gothic Tropic release a follow-up.


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