Gabi Garbutt releases her second single, ‘Lady Matador’, on 20 April. Showcasing raw, emotive vocals over her six-piece band The Illuminations: a soulful rhythm section, and a Dexys-esque brass section. (A comparison which makes perfect sense when you learn that Gabi’s main collaborator is current Dexys co-producer and sax/keys/vocals man Sean Read.)
The title of the song is inspired by the dancer Mia Malone, who performs at London burlesque/poetry night The Poetry Brothel. “She does an incredible matador dance that's a sort of mix between burlesque and flamenco. I sing about watching her perform in the second verse.” The release of ‘Lady Matador’ comes hot on the heels of a buzzing 2017 which saw the band supporting both The Libertines and Frank Turner (at the personal request of both).
We are a little bit in love with Gabi now, so we asked her our 10 questions:
1. Who would you most like to cover one of your songs?
Cerys Matthews. I absolutely adore her voice, it’s so raw and visceral. I’d love to hear her sing one of my songs.
2. If you could collaborate with someone – any person, living or dead, musical or otherwise – who would it be, and why?
Basquiat. The recent exhibition of his work, which included his poetry as well as his art, at the Barbican left me totally inspired. Adding his energy and ideas to the process of making an album, and him doing the album artwork, would be amazing.
3. What was the last song you wrote, where were you when you came up with the idea, what inspired it, and how did it turn out?
The last complete song I wrote was called ‘This Higher Place’. I had finished writing and demoing it but something didn’t fit quite right, as the lyrical content didn’t really match the vibe of the music, so I wrote a whole new set of lyrics for it. It came together really well after that, my band all came up with excellent parts for it straight away and we played it at our gig on Friday. Went down a treat. It’s about how love adds a sort of spiritual significance, a real magic energy, to life, and makes experiences transcendent. I started writing the lyrics lying in bed unable to sleep, which is when I get most of my ideas.
4. Which was your favourite gig you’ve a) played and b) watched?
That’s a difficult one because I’ve really loved every gig I’ve played with my band The Illuminations. We’ve played a couple of gigs at The Monarch in Camden and it’s always particularly good fun playing there, so maybe those would be my favourite.
Top three favourite gigs would be Patti Smith in Liverpool when I was about 16, The Flaming Lips at Brixton Academy in 2014, and Ezra Furman at The Lexington earlier this year.
5. Recommend a record and a book that you think our readers might not have heard of.
Peter Marshall’s book about William Blake called ‘Visionary Anarchist.’ He my favourite poet, and this book very artistically and clearly sets out Blake’s whole philosophy, through examples of his writing and etchings, and through his own interpretations.
6. What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring songwriters?
Work with people you trust.
7. Your top 3 most beloved albums ever – go.
Dexys Midnight Runners – Don’t Stand Me Down
Patti Smith – Horses
The Clash – London Calling or Super Black Market Clash
8. What are your musical goals?
Play loads of brilliant shows and make brilliant records that hopefully a lot of people will see and listen to.
9. What’s the most important thing we need to know about you right now?
We’re releasing a single on the 20th April called Lady Matador and the single launch show is on the 19th April at the Roadhouse in Covent Garden and we’d love for you to be there.
10. Give your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians.
Ezra Furman – the most exciting artist out there, incredible lyrics and vision, real passionate and unique vocalist, and an explosive live band.
Superorganism – Fantastic pop weirdness.
L.A Salami – Earnest vocals and lyrics from the heart.
Stephen Evens – Our drummer Stephen Gilchrist’s band. Really excellent, unique, strange, rousing pop music, and he’s a wonderfully entertaining front man.
He also plays in Hot Sauce Pony, fronted by Caroline Gilchrist, who are brilliant too.
CuT – Space punk warriors.
‘Lady Matador’ is out on the Famous Times label on April 20.
Catch Gabi Garbutt live:
London Amersham Arms – March 23
London Camden Monarch (Mark Beaumont presents) - May 9
London Roundhouse (w/Frank Turner) – May 11