By: Shamus Hill
Hailing from Western Massachusetts is Deadmall — an extraordinary duo composed of Gabe Gill and Honeyfitz that specializes in crafting starry eyed music that gracefully leaves the mind of the listener in perfect solace. While both Gabe and Honeyfitz are in possession of solo discographies, there’s something captivatingly unique about the music the pair have released alongside one another — with this sentiment only being reinforced on Deadmall’s latest project, Zach’s Mice, which was released this past Friday. To gain some more insight towards what went into the making of this project, I had a conversation with Deadmall where the duo touch upon the group’s origins, their transition to NYC, and how Western Massachusetts ties into their identity.
Shamus Hill: To start things off, I wanted to ask about what went into the making of ‘Zach’s Mice’. What were some of your early goals in terms of recording the project? And how did they change with time?
Honeyfitz: We made it mostly last Fall and it definitely didn’t feel like we were starting an album.
Gabe Gill: I think we started it kind of half-heartedly because we still had to finish up parts of Bunny Rabbit and the Deadmall 1 EP at the time, but I think we wanted it to be bigger sounding and more polished from the start. I don’t know what our first thoughts on the sound of it were.
Honeyfitz: We were just making songs — doing whatever felt like the next step sonically from Bunny Rabbit and DM1, but there was no big plan. I think it’s the album where our production is most synced up. We were making beats in a super collaborative way where its hard to tell who’s contributing what.
SH: I see where the both of you are coming from. This project in particular seems to combine a variety of sonic elements from the group’s prior releases, and the both of you also appear to be meshing sonically better than ever. Would you attribute this to anything in particular? Like was there something about living together in Hadley recording music that amplified things? Or would you say this is just the result of years of development alongside one another?
GG: I think definitely because this was the first project we made when we lived together, a little of both. But living in the same space made it so much easier to be in the same space mentally and kind of be taking in the same influences at the same time.
H: We made a lot more songs because we were together all of the time, whereas Bunny Rabbit we made essentially in a week in December 2017 when Gabe was living in Boston. There was this urgency to make those songs before Gabe went back to Boston. Zach’s Mice feels like we could take our time and execute the things we learned on the first project.
GG: But still, most of the songs were made in one session. I think it honestly wasn’t until after ZM that we’ve started working on songs for much longer. They still have some of that urgency just in that we both were writing really fast and just putting all of our ideas down.
SH: That makes a ton of sense because you can quite literally hear how in sync the both of you are throughout ZM. The bond the two of you have has really enabled your music to reach entirely different heights. While on the subject of Hadley, how would you say Western Massachusetts, and MA as a whole ties into who the both of you are? And subsequently how it ties into your music?
GG: Really deep! I think a lot of the initial Deadmall aesthetic and idea was really around trying to make music that was inspired by growing up in Western MA and the landscape, community, feeling, etc. of being from there. A lot of [our] music has this contrast between like really dense, dark passages that feel like a house party or something where you might be crushed with 200 kids in a basement & then there’s parts that feel like just driving or walking on the bike path or a field where everything feels really huge and empty and beautiful.
H: WMass is the best place! Both Gabe and I have been really integrated into WMass music scenes for a long time, and that’s always been super helpful in terms of always having models for bands and musicians making shit happen for themselves, but I think musically the stuff i make has always been as much in opposition to the people around me as it was influenced by them. It’s funny now to be surrounded by people who are making similar music to me, cause I’m really not used to it.
GG: Same, which is funny because I think the music scene in WMass is also equal parts more like our music and less like our music than it was when we were teens. Like there are people doing stuff with autotune and like emo/hip-hop adjacent stuff but we were more hanging out with kids in rock bands and I think Deadmall ends up sounding mostly like neither of those things, or both of them.
H: Gabe and I used to book shows together before we were really friends because we knew that our music had more in common than other peoples’, but I don’t think we could have articulated that at the time.
SH: It’s really interesting that you say that, because it seems as if Massachusetts as a whole has been birthing this exact type of artist. A lot of artists here are upset by the art (or lack thereof) that’s surrounding them, so they strive to create something unique to fill that void. In my eyes that’s the essence of what you two are accomplishing with Deadmall.
H: Yeah I think that’s it really. I would never want people to get the impression that WMass isn’t full of people making great music, but none of it was ever quite what I wanted to hear, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out what it was that I wanted to hear, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on it now.
SH: I wanted to ask about what went into the decision to move to NY, and how would you compare it with MA in terms of its effect on your music?
GG: It’s definitely different in NY. I think it was a thing I always wanted to do when I was like in high school, but we moved kind of for no reason. I think meeting Rothstein and seeing how he was able to network and connect with a community of musicians here inspired me to just take that logical step. It’s ended up impacting me as a person way more than it’s really influenced my music though, because musically I’m always chasing a feeling of like riding a bike over a bridge.
H: I never wanted to move to NYC. It just kinda happened, like the cards fell into place and all of a sudden it seemed like the logical next step. I was seeing this community that Gabe had gotten to be involved in and was excited to be around people making similar stuff.
GG: In some ways being in NY has made me focus in on what I carried from WMass into my music and accentuated those elements. I think we would have gone a little crazy if we stayed in WMass, which has a big comfort but it feels like the time of our lives to try and get a little more out of things.
H: Yeah it was time. The last year there was incredible, but it also felt like the walls were closing in a little bit, like every knows each other and you just see the same faces over and over again like since high school.
SH: Change is both good, and inevitable, so it’s exciting to see how well this transition has been working for the two of you. Moving back to the subject of Zach’s Mice, how would you describe the project to someone who’s never heard it before?
GG: It’s for kids who are starting to feel a little anxious about how much time they’ve spent in their hometown. We made this big crazy list of influences on the Deadmall instagram but it kind of sounds like nothing. To me it sounds like the coolest, most smooth take on like “emo rap”, but it also has like an experimental folk song and a yacht rock song and a song that sounds like a T Minus beat so I don’t know. I guess I’d call it “noise pop”.
H: It’s funny because I think there are lots of specific influences and thru lines, but it’s hard to put my finger on the bigger genre or sound. I think it’s sort of stadium rock that we made in my bedroom.
SH: What can listeners expect next from Deadmall?
GG: Our next album is way mellower, it’s like bigger and calmer. And we both have solo projects coming I guess.
SH: That’s another thing I meant to ask about as well, what would you say is different about the music you two make collectively under Deadmall than the solo stuff?
H: It used to feel like Deadmall was a blend of our solo stuff, but now it feels like our solo stuff is hugely influenced by Deadmall.
GG: Ya for my new solo stuff a lot of it was me trying to figure out what I couldn’t or wouldn’t do on a Deadmall song and use that to trace the sound of what I was going to do as a solo artist.
H: It takes me much longer to make honeyfitz songs, and it feels like much more of a cerebral process.
SH: Do you two have any parting words pertaining to Zach’s Mice for our readers?
GG: It’s the best album, I’m stupid excited about it honestly.
H: Just that we play the mice on the album, it is stupid good, and it feels so nice for it to be coming out because we’ve been listening to these songs for a year now.
SH: Thank you guys so much again for taking some time out of your weekend for this interview!
H: Of course! Anytime
GG: Of course, thank you!