INTERVIEW: Gabe Mouer of Patternist

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After breaking onto the scene nearly five years ago as Patternist, Gabe Mouer has delivered songs that make us want to either dance our hearts out or curl up on the floor and cry.  Last year, Gabe released his debut album, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Here, and had plans of taking Patternist on the road this year, but well…  So, while shows might have been put on pause at the moment, our love and respect for music continues, which is why we decided to catch up with Gabe and learn more about the album, his creative process, and his affinity for awkward teen movies.  

Photo via Instagram (@patternistmusic)

Melodic Mag:  How have you been holding up during this complicated mess of a year?
Gabe:  I think as well as can be expected.  Living in isolation for such a long stretch has a pretty steep learning curve, at least for me.  I probably spent half of the year being utterly aimless and depressed, which I’m sure is basically par for the course.  Lately though, I’ve found that if I sit and force myself out of the apathy and channel all of that into my work, I feel much healthier.  It seems to be going well thus far, knock on wood.  But, we miss touring and connecting with people, that’s been really tough.

MM:  Your debut album, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Here, recently turned one – is it weird to think it’s been out in the world for a year?  How did you know it was time to release an album instead of another EP?
G:  In so many ways it feels like it came out ages ago!  I already get way too nostalgic about the record; making it was honestly one of the best experiences of my life, and I often think that if I never released music again, I could look to IDKWIDH and feel like at least I gave things my best shot.

There was a confluence of small things that pushed me to move away from focusing on EPs and singles and into doing an LP.  I was starting to feel very bogged down “hit hunting” — only focusing on releasing singles in hopes that you land that ever-elusive “viral smash.”  It’s not as if doing that is entirely wrongheaded, it just got to be pretty constraining creatively.  With the record, I didn’t worry so much about only delivering a collection of would-be hits; I had some breathing room.

Also, it was an opportunity for me to start to move away from the synth pop thing I had been a part of for a few years up to that point, in a significant way.  In my mind, I was almost attempting to replace one body of work with a new one.

Really though, I just love albums as an art form.  Great records take us on a journey – it’s like getting to dig into someone’s mind and explore what makes them tick.  It’s the closest analog music has to making a film or writing a novel.

MM:  The album has this relatable, coming-of-age feel – were the songs inspired by personal experiences?
G:  Gosh, thank you so much first off, it’s really gratifying to hear that.  Early on in the process of making the record, I decided that I wanted the songs to feel more like short stories than all out confessionals.  I think what I was trying to do was maintain a sense of narrative structure within the allotted three minutes, which was done with varying degrees of success song to song, while establishing at least a semblance of thematic congruency throughout the album.  I suppose the coming-of-age feel is a byproduct of my having drawn from events that shaped who I am in some way, fictionalized them a bit, and built out from there.  I guess the short answer is, “Yes.”

MM:  Is there a track on the album that stands out a little more than the rest/means the most to you? 
G:  There are three songs that I feel nailed the rubric:  “Bikes,” “Summer Reading List,” and “No One Waits for You.” Even though “I Don’t Feel Real” was the first track written for the album, it wasn’t until I finished writing “Bikes” that I realized what kind of record I wanted to make.  It reified in my own mind what I had to offer as a songwriter and laid the blueprint for IDKWIDH.  I think those three songs are the best I’ve written, for better or worse maybe the best I’ve got in me.

MM:  The videos for “I Don’t Feel Real” and “Feature’s Dead, Angela” are very quirky and creative – how did those storylines come about?
G:  Oh, I’m not going to try to take credit for that – it was all Aaron and Anneliese, who co-directed both videos.  All we knew going into the process was that we didn’t want to come across as taking ourselves too seriously… I mean, I do to an extent of course, but I don’t want anybody else to think that when they see me, haha!  The record is maybe not the most uplifting listen, and I wanted to contrast that by way of the music videos, just to add a bit of levity to the overall presentation.  They have a knack for coming up with these left-field ideas, and we were immediately in love with both pitches – it was like “Check, and Check.”

MM:  You released an acoustic version of “Feature’s Dead, Angela” earlier in the year, and I was just curious – does the title come from that scene in Twilight, when Eric just completely kills Angela’s vibe about doing “the feature” for the school newspaper? 
G:  Yes!  Every time someone makes that connection, and really it’s not that often, I’m elated.  Ashton (bass, backing vocals) and I are massive fans of those movies; I think they are a complete and utter mess where so much talent and thought went into creating something that so uniquely captures the histrionic nature of puberty, but does so in ways I don’t think anyone involved intended.  It’s impossible not to love it.  (Side note:  We also are obsessed with the show, Riverdale, for similar reasons.  We ARE adults, I swear).  The aggressive, overblown delivery of the “feature’s dead” line comes seemingly from out of nowhere, and it makes me laugh every time.  I think at one point, Ashton looked at me and goes, “That has to be a song title,” so there it was.

Photo via Instagram (@patternistmusic)

MM:  Any new music in the works? 
G:  Maybe… Okay fine, yes.  That’s all I want to say on that for now.

MM:  You offer mixing/production/songwriting services on your website, which is so cool!  This may be a loaded question, but what is your favorite part about making music?
G:  Ah, that’s such a tough question.  I think of songwriting as the vehicle by which I understand both myself and make sense of the world around me (which is super pretentious, I know), but it can also be a slog and pretty disparaging at times.  The drive to create can be almost more of a compulsion than a rational action in a lot of ways; it’s a tempestuous relationship.  So, while I fancy myself a songwriter, maybe above all else, I hesitate to say it’s my favorite part of the process.  There’s just so much baggage wrapped up in it.

Over the last year, I’ve really grown to love mixing.  I find the creative problem solving aspect of it kind of thrilling, plus I don’t have to worry about all the existential vulnerabilities tied up in the songs as much, haha.  A year out from the record, I’ve been lucky enough to mix and produce a few other projects.  I think when it comes to working on other artist’s songs, mixing and producing is what I enjoy most.

Overall though, I feel very lucky anytime I’m able to help realize an artist’s vision, to be a sounding board for their creative expression.

Photo via Instagram (@patternistmusic)

MM:  I have been a fan since the “Give It Up” era (2016), and have enjoyed watching your career unfold over the years.  What has been the most interesting part of this journey so far?
G:  Again, thank you so, so much, and props for sticking it out with us so long.  I often wonder how indicative my personal experiences in this industry are of what your everyday “under the radar” indie band goes through throughout their career.  The whole thing has been interesting, even the most discouraging bits, and believe me, there have been many.  Really, since the first year I started the project, Patternist has teetered on the edge of commercial viability, and even though we have yet to really break through in a meaningful way, we’ve gotten to do things that I should frankly be way more thankful for.  It’s all equal parts fascinating and perplexing; I‘m not sure I can even begin to say what the most interesting thing has been.

MM:  Any last-minute shoutouts/comments?
G:  Things are gonna start getting much more active on our socials as we close in on the end of the year – please keep an eye out if you’ve got nothing better to do with your time.  Also, listen to our friend Mike’s new band, @rangelifeband – it is good.

Thank you very much, Gabe!  Looking forward to all of Patternist’s future endeavors. 

You can listen to I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Here on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

Keep up with Patternist:  Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Website

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