“[ibid.’s] work bears the mark of a budding audiophile. . . As if getting a brief, fogged glimpse into the world of someone with very different eyes than you.”
ibid. is the creative moniker of Gabriel Mathews, an experimental musician based in Portland, OR and Los Angeles. I wrote the opening quote during 2011, discussing ibid.’s piano-based ambience-filled EP India Ink. There were creaks and raindrops,
long heavy notes, and dark, tender songs. ibid. has shape-shifted across his
art since, remaining ever distinct and powerful into his most recent album
Gaols (2012). Gaols is composed of distorted bass, the haunt of Mathews voice, found sound percussion, and is one of my favorite, most affecting albums of the past year.
thb: Your releases take markedly different approaches between them. From India Ink to 2011’s This Could Have Been A Warmth to Gaols I’d say the only link I find is your voice (both your physical voice and I suppose a consistent tone); are you actively endeavoring to engage different influences when you change like that? What would you say guides such change?
ibid.: Hm, yeah. That’s definitely going on, the shifting, though I wouldn’t necessarily say it has anything to do with influences. It’s more about my process, which for whatever reason tends to start with lyrics, followed almost immediately by overall sonic conceptualization. So, with Warmth, I was like, “This will be an acoustic guitar album with live drums. The voice will be panned to one side while the guitar is to the other. There will be organ on the first half and feedback on the second, etc.” And then the arrangement of Gaols came about similarly, though I’d say it was probably even more thoroughly set before I started writing or recording the music.
thb: Why so with Gaols?
ibid.: No idea. I kind of just one day, and I don’t even remember when this happened relative to the writing of the lyrics, but I was like, “This next thing is going to be distorted bass chords. And it’s going to have percussion made from foley samples.” I think the only sonic element that I thought of relatively late in the game was Ava [Mattaliano, backing vocalist on Gaols]’s singing.
thb: Did you feel like something was missing before you decided to add her? I think it’s very very powerful.
ibid.: Um, so she’s been a friend of mine for a long time, since freshman year of high school. And I’ve always known she had an amazing voice. And I don’t really know when I made up my mind to try to pin her down to sing (Which was ridiculously difficult, by the way). And I don’t know if I necessarily felt anything was missing. But, I think it ended up being a pretty important thing for the album. I feel like on an album pretty much about loneliness it was important that I not be totally alone.
That might be a totally retrospective thought, though.
thb: Where does “Gaols” come from? Why that spelling? Aesthetics?
ibid.: Yeah, I think it’s mainly aesthetic. Before I had even written most of the lyrics, I think, I was writing the word out as it appears on the cover, in notebooks in class and such.
But I also just like something about the old-fashionedness of it. I think a lot of the sentiment on the record is sort of old-hat. (Unfortunately.)
thb: “Old-hat” is a good, encompassing way to put it, from the images of “Bather” to the use of the Laocoön figure, and that’s interesting especially in the context of an aesthetic concept that is so modern. Yet, I guess feels ancient and appropriate in its simplicity. the technical/technological aspect of it enhances the solitary, simple mood or, focus, if you will.
ibid.: Sure, I think. I don’t know how conscious any of that was, though. But I’ll take credit for it, ha. Laocoön came about mainly cause I think that sculpture is fucking incredible. And then his story is great, too. And then “Atreus” was like, “Oh, let’s continue this Greek mythology thing.” The House of Atreus is also really awesome to me.
thb: Talk about the House of Atreus; how it appeals to you?
ibid.: I guess I just think it’s really cool, in a way, this completely cursed family. The things that led to their cursing (Eating their own children and such). I think it’s the sort of fucked-up we don’t get much of anymore, no matter how much other fucked-up shit we get.
thb: Have you played live as ibid?
: Yeah, a few times, though none of the Gaols
: If you were to play from Gaols
would it be just you and a bass?
ibid: And a laptop for the beats, yeah. I have a sort of dream of getting Zack Levinger, who drummed on Warmth and with whom I played a house show doing some of those songs over a year ago, getting him to reinterpret the Gaols beats for a drum kit. But I have no idea if that’ll ever happen.
thb: Did he have any creative input on the drumming for Warmth? Would you ever loosen up the creative reins with someone else in general with this project? Ava is credited for coming up with some of her own parts.
ibid.: Yeah, the drum parts on Warmth were hashed out over Skype, but I guess I’d say he really wrote them. I’d give him some direction, he’d play something, I’d tweak it, etc.
The parts Ava came up with were largely a product of her knowing much more than I do about singing and melody and such, same with Zack on the drums.
As for general loosening of the reins, I think ibid. is probably the name I’ll give to anything where I’m the principal creative, but I wouldn’t mind at all if it ended up having more members, and I’d also be down to work in a more collaborative band of some sort.
The main issue there is just that I kind of know nothing about music, I can’t jam cause I can’t be like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll just play a progression in B now.” I can jam with drummers, that’s about it.
thb: Do you have intentions of learning more about theory or anything like that?
ibid.: Ha, man, I tried. I took intro to music theory my freshman year and it was gone from my head the moment the class ended. I can’t seem to internalize any of it. But I wouldn’t complain if I could, haha.
It’s funny, there were moments on Gaols where I’d be trying to take this bass part I wrote (This definitely happened with “Brother”) and put a beat under it and I was completely stumped because I’d managed to create some bass riff in some ridiculous time signature that I couldn’t figure out. So I had to have my more musically inclined friends tell me what count I was playing in.
thb: Haha, ah. Do you have a favorite off Gaols?
ibid.: Um, I have a few that I don’t like as much, but most of them I still think are pretty good, which I can’t necessarily say about Warmth. Up there would be “Brother,” “Atreus,” “Gelding.” I’m also fond of “Colors.”
thb: So do you feel differently as time passes about a release’s success?
ibid.: On a level or two. At the same time, I really believe in putting things out when they seem to be basically finished. There were things that I definitely didn’t perfect, on all of my releases, but I wouldn’t really have wanted to, if that makes sense. They now capture whatever was going on at the time they were made.
thb: Are you conceptualizing for a future ibid. release now?
ibid.: As a matter of fact, I am! I’m working on a six-song EP called Good Works, which will be arranged for mostly baritone guitar (Pretty much the best/most underrated instrument available to rock and roll), and which will be punky and fast and loud. I’ve been listening to a lot of Drive Like Jehu.
And then there’s lyrical material for another EP, which will be called Ortho, and which will probably be sort of similar.
thb: How do you feel like you’ve grown into these releases from your past work?
ibid.: Honestly I’m kind of hoping they end up being a little bit less mature mature-sounding. But I think my vocal abilities and style have changed and improved and gotten me to a point where I feel comfortable doing a bit more shouting, which is the plan. And I’ve also just become a vastly better guitar player since Missive.
thb: There’s a hook on Warmth where I heard you shouting and it felt like your potential as a punky singer was really intriguing.
ibid.: Is that on “Speakeasy”?
ibid.: Ha, yeahhhh. I actually wanted to do more shouting on Gaols but it never fit.
thb: Do you have a time frame for either those releases?
: Not really. I’m hoping to have real live drums on both of them, so things hinge on that, sort of. Hopefully at least one will be out sometime in the summer.
// Please please please find more ibid. at ibidibidibid.bandcamp.com.