That’s the name of Gilligan Moss’ upcoming EP and it’s also a question that’s worth answering. In the three years since the release of their debut ‘Ceremonial’ – which was followed up with a delectable buffet of remixes (Sia, Glass Animals, Tegan and Sara, and a rework of Sébastien Tellier’s interminably iconic “La Ritournelle”) – original songwriter and producer Evan has been joined by Ben, a childhood friend and musician who has brought a new dimension into the electronic outfit.
Though Ben has been part of Gilligan Moss for a while (he joined after the critically acclaimed release of ‘Ceremonial’, playing alongside Evan on a tour where they supported Glass Animals), ‘What Happened?’ is the first official collection of music that they’re releasing together. That said, it’s not the first time they met. They’ve both been friends for years, meeting back in pre-school in Chicago where they grew up.
The two share a similar venn diagram of music: one that moves from early forays into the likes of Outkast and UGK, through to Radiohead and back out the other end into electronic luminaries Daft Punk, Four Tet, and DJ Koze, with groups like Animal Collective and Caribou somewhere in the middle.
On paper, those selections sound like – and they are – a diverse mix. But they’re also a good representation of the Gilligan Moss sound: a smorgasbord of propulsive club music, experimental pop songwriting, and trippy ambience, all spread across a foundation of electronic music. Their mission, they say, is to bridge the gap between several zones – be that the club, the tunes blasting from your car on a summer’s day, or even in the background somewhere in a bedroom.
“What we’re doing with the project is to look to the capital C – cool club music, – realm but also to what’s happening on the radio, what’s happening in pop,” explains Evan, citing Jamie xx as an influence. “It’s about finding ways to bring worlds together and make music that can exist in the club, and at home, while still being informed by pop songcraft.. It’s really hard to do that in a credible way. Fusing those things together is what our ultimate goal is on this EP.”
Though the pair are very much placed in the New York DJ scene, frequently playing sets, the writing and recording sessions for ‘What Happened?’ took place upstate. Yes, it was in a cabin in the woods; and yes, they laugh about them not being the first do to this, but the space allowed them to think and change their working process. “In Brooklyn,” they explain, “we’d have to take a train or find a time that worked for us. But up there we’d each work on a song in different rooms then come together and spend hours work-shopping it.”
It’s this process of collaboration – of democratic, utilitarian, ego-less workmanship – that’s allowed the two to create a project that explores a variety of textures, bringing in the nuances of each of their influences. “We really try to explore every direction of a song and that requires a massive amount of energy and focus, so being away from people allows us to hone in and nail our process,” explains Ben of their decision to decamp from the apartments of New York and to head north.
However, that’s not to say Ben and Evan are the only musicians involved in the project. Carrying on in the grand tradition of electronic music, ‘What Happened?’ features guest vocalists and samples pulled from years of crate-digging. Unlike some producers though, the duo have a novel – and perhaps more time efficient – way of crate-digging. The opening title track, for example, includes a mallet sounding instrument that came from a YouTube tutorial. The lead single, “Want U So Bad”, features an Italo disco sample – another track that was found by deep diving into the sea of YouTube recommendations.
“It’s as much of an art, I think,” they say, of their approach to sourcing sounds through the internet as opposed to using a record shop. “There are random accounts that find rare records and you get sucked into a certain algorithm. When we work we keep YouTube open and Ableton and flick between the two.”
As for the guest vocalists, British singer Betsy features on “Heartbeats” - a collaboration that came off the back of a remix the duo crafted for her track “Waiting”, in 2017, which was star-picked by Elton John for his Beats 1 radio show. In this instance however Betsy’s vocals are pitched down, giving the track a gloriously Cher-like effect. Meanwhile a mystery British band were involved with “Want U So Bad” while a friend – Ross, who is doing a PHD in ethnomusicology in London and is part of a group called Burhou – joined in on closing track “Movement”.
As a collection of songs, ‘What Happened?’ brilliantly showcases Evan and Ben’s ability to move between sounds, tapping into the synapses of many a different brain and drawing an inclusive circle upon which anyone can enter. They make music for the club, the house parties, the long-drives in cars and the solo listens in headphones on early commutes or late night sojourns on a metropolitan transport system. The place where the music is played doesn’t strictly matter. What makes this new record from Gilligan Moss such an interesting, special prospect is the way it moves between those scenarios and the experiences people have within them.