Don’t Touch GobbinJr
TIDAL caught up with gobbinjr (a.k.a. Emma Witmer) during the last week of Shea Stadium’s existence. The Brooklyn venue where she cut her teeth as an intern and a performer is the latest causality in New York’s history storied history of cops versus DIY venues, and Witmer’s planning to head to that borough to say goodbye. First, however, this week’s TIDAL Rising artist spent some time chatting with us about playing and working at Shea (and dodging creeps), “mean pop” and how she was birthed from the bong.
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Can you introduce yourself? How did you become gobbinjr?
It started about two years ago. It was just after my first year at NYU. I wasn’t making music at that point and I kind of forgot who I was. I didn’t really have a sense of self anymore. I started music again, kind of reinventing myself and just trying to make everything that I do as neat as possible.
It’s a very selfish project, because it’s very based on me, very focused on my personality and working out my own problems and everything. Some people call it ‘mean pop,’ which I think is really funny.
What’s ‘mean pop’?
Some of the songs are angry, especially songs I’m working on now. [Writing love songs is] not really my style.
Why did you decide to call yourself ‘gobbinjr’?
Gobbin is the name of my first bong, actually. But right after I named the bong I was like, ‘Oh, I need a stage name and that would be a great band name.’ But I didn’t want to take the bong’s name, so I added the ‘Junior.’ I’m birthed from the bong I guess. I don’t know.
What was the first band you ever formed?
It was called Modern Mod. I started it with my best friend when I was fifteen and I was the drummer, actually. But I wrote, not all the songs, but a lot of the songs. And we were kind of like a pop rock band. We didn’t tour; we played some shows. Farthest we got from Wisconsin was Illinois.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
I would write little funny songs when I was a kid and stuff. Like, I remember once I wrote a song that was called ‘Long Live the Elephant.’ Just because my friend said something else and I misheard it and I thought she said, ‘Long Live the Elephant’ and made it into a song.
Do you remember the lyrics?
‘Long live the elephant, young to old/I’ll tell a story that we once told/He went above the hill to find some food/And then he came down in a grumpy mood/’Cause he had no food.’ And then the jazz hands at the end is part of the song.
So who were you into growing up, musically?
Growing up, a lot of different bands. I went through a lot of different phases. I guess like really early on my mom showed me the Beatles. My parents signed me up for piano lessons really early on. So I also was exposed to more classical, jazz and ragtime and stuff. But let’s see, specific bands … There are just so many that just flew by. I had a Strokes phase, I had a Green Day phase, I had the Who phase. I like rock, I guess.
So you said you’d gotten away from doing music in school. What were you studying?
I was going to school for music, so I should have been making more music, but I was actually going to school for production, so I was more focused on the technicalities rather than writing and stuff. After three semesters there, I dropped out. It was just not quite what I’m going for. It felt like I needed my direction and I knew what I was doing really without their help, I guess.
How did you get into production as opposed to just making music?
I played a lot of different instruments pretty early on. By the time I was fourteen, I learned drums, guitar, bass, keys; I’ve also been singing since forever. I wanted to play all of my own parts. To do that, I had to work on the computer and record myself. I found out that it could get really interesting and I could do a lot of cool things. So that’s mostly where it started out. I think I was about fourteen or fifteen when I started recording myself and really getting into production.
What did you use?
I had a really old computer. I had a 2-input interface and really crappy mics. Just like regular mics that you would use at like a venue and stuff, like live mics. And I had a baby crib mattress that I propped up against the corner to have a vocal booth.
My parents let me take over the whole basement when I was younger. Because my brother and sister were older than me and so they had moved out four years before I did. So I just got the whole basement. We put cork on the walls and the egg cartons, all that stuff trying to make it noise insulated. It was cool.
Do you record everything now, still?
Yeah. I just tracked another album and I had my friend help me out tracking drums. He just hit record.
Do you have a studio where you live?
No, I’m still just either recording partly at my house or I recorded a lot of my last EP at Shea [Stadium in Brooklyn].
So you’re working on your LP?
Yeah, yeah. I just finished mixing it actually. So I just need to get it mastered and then it should be done. It definitely has some mean aspects. The meanest song I’ve every written is on that album. But I think it’s the best songwriting I’ve ever done.
How is the song the meanest song?
Well, it’s called ‘Fake Bitch.’ So that gives you an idea. A lot of the album is about dudes being creepy to me at shows.
Just everybody creeps me out really easily, but dudes in particular, they just like … I don’t like being touched by men I don’t like. And working at Shea a lot, there’ll be dudes who come up and kiss the side of my face and stuff. Like, you can’t do that.
Is this like when you play shows or when you’re working?
When I’m working, playing. Once I was just hanging out at a show and this guy was just like, ‘I really love your music. You have no idea how amazing you are.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I know I’m cool. Just chill.’ And he was like, ‘Can I kiss your forehead?’ And I was like, ‘No.’ He was like, ‘Can I stroke your nose?’ And I let him stroke my nose so he would go away, but like… It’s so weird. People are really weird to me.
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