Hardcore for Freaks: Gel Discuss Their Debut Album, Only Constant

Photo: Angel Tumalan

New Jersey hardcore punk outfit Gel formed at the end of last decade and have quickly become a fixture in the scene since then. Touring with the likes of Municipal Waste and High on Fire off the strength of releases like last year’s Violent Closure EP, Gel are a must-see live band. If you’re unfamiliar, their recently-released debut album, Only Constant, captures that same energy on tape.

To get the full story on Gel and Only Constant, you’ll have to grab the Decibel Magazine Tour Issue, but you can get a taste of their music and the interview with vocalist Sami Kaiser and guitarist Anthony Webster below.

For a lot of bands, putting out your debut album is a big thing. For you guys, you’ve been touring a lot already and released a lot of EPs and tapes. Do you feel a heightened level of pressure about putting out a full-length for the first time or is it pretty similar to the process the band has been going through since it formed?

AW: Writing it was definitely more pressure. Writing a cohesive record instead of a cohesive EP was definitely a little harder and then there’s the pressure of we have been touring so much, so there is a lot more attention on it, for the most part it still feels the same.

SK: The process I’d say was pretty similar. It was more collaborative this time around and definitely more thought put into the compositions and the songwriting. The only parts where I personally feel is the heightened visibility a little bit. Other than that, it’s the same with the other releases. I feel pride in putting that out.

AW: Excited to have that out there.

Because you spend so much time on the road, did you write music on tour? 

AW: We wrote this record mostly last winter and we weren’t really touring that much, so we had much more time at home.

What was the recording like for the album?

AW: It flowed out.

SK: Yeah, it flowed out. It was pretty streamlined. We recorded at Landmine Studios, which our drummer works out. He recorded my vocals entirely and then Trish, our producer/collaborator/engineer was also there and then the instrumentals Trish tracked.

AW: It was two days to record the music and three days to record the vocals pretty much. We knocked it out pretty quick but we had the songs pretty nailed down before going in.

SK: Besides lyrics. I kind of ad lib as I record. For this, it was the most I’ve prepared for sure. I’d say I had 90% of the lyrics and then 10%. In the past, for Violent Closure, it was like 50/50.

On this record, the lyrics are a little more personal for you this time around, right? 

SK: Absolutely. They center around my realization of my alcoholism and focusing on my mental health and taking the reigns on that, working through it but in a trying-to-be-more-skilled sort of way.

Is it scary to put yourself out [there] like that? 

SK: It’s vulnerable for sure but it’s a good thing that people can connect with. I think it’s authentic on my end. I feel good about the lyrics that I’ve written and the expression of the negative emotion but also in trying to work through and channel.

In the past lyrics, it’s been like all the negative emotion pushed out. This is more me trying to keep a positive lens and it’s vulnerable but it’s ultimately something I think that’s good. I’m learning to be comfortable with it as we go, as we play more shows, as the songs trickle out. It’s an experience.

You guys wrote this record a year ago already. Are you already thinking about new releases or will you slow down and tour on this one for a while? 

AW: I wanted to start writing this spring. We’re gonna have some downtime in the spring and I’m already like, “I just want to buckle down and write another record.” We could wait. We could hold on a little bit.

We have some commitments to comps and stuff that we’re going to knock out. I don’t feel the pressure of having to do another LP. I feel like the next thing, it could be an EP, it could be an LP, it could be two songs. Kind of just down for whatever. I’m not going to push us to do it if it’s just not there.

You’re just rolling with the punches.

AW: I like playing shows more than I like writing anyway so it’s like “We could do this tour or we could take a month off and write.” I’d rather do the tour.

There’s no rush. With just putting out a new record, you can coast on that for a long time, especially when your live show is as good as yours is. 

SK: There’s no rush. When we feel inspired, we’ll pursue it then. For right now, we got already a lot on our plate.

AW: I don’t want to write the same record again.

SK: Things have to happen whether that’s just time, experience. Shit has to happen.