I’ve been fascinated by Gecko since the moment I first right-clicked through on MySpace (MySpace!) and, pretty quickly, got myself pleasantly lost in a profile that, just like his songs, meandered joyfully through a cheeky, cheerful succession of left-field ideas that, while initially as surreal as they were surprising, were funny, and almost instantly recognisable as a charmingly wry, idiosyncratic take on life as we all, almost certainly, know it, but probably don’t realise until someone smart enough turns up to tell us, straight up, something we’ve subconsciously been living all along.
Will writes songs about things we’ve all experienced, but that he’s seen and explained in a way that makes so much sense, and that pokes just the right amount of fun at it all the life experience is universal, but his idiosyncratic wit, his delivery, and his charming knack for making uplifting music out of it all, are completely, and wonderfully unique.
It’s music that’s charmingly, impishly relatable in its deadpan, yet wry, take on 21st century life – a fistful ideas we’ve probably all had, examined in ways we’d never thought of, and strung together into uplifting little songs about getting through it all, with your eyes wide open, and taking in all of that mess and celebrating it for what it is: it’s nonsense, and yet it’s all-consuming, all around us, and it’s in us – in all of us. It’s addictive because it’s life as we’ve already lived it.
This is absolutely captivating – there’s so much depth and warmth to Will’s music and his performances. We caught up to ask what he thought about putting all of this into a full-length album, taking it on the road, and taking over Twitter with his reindeer joke.
- We’re made up that you’ve made a full-length album. How did you enjoy putting it together?
It’s been a long time coming! It was such a joy to get in the studio. I made Volcano in Muswell Hill with my producer Ben McKone and a whole menagerie of incredibly talented musicians. Thanks to the brilliant people who funded the album by pre-ordering it, I found I had more time than I’ve ever had before, so I could really take what was in my head and realise it.
- You’re given to exploring and developing ideas through your music – did making Volcano, as a full-length album, allow you to take this further, or to do it differently?
Since flying solo I think I’ve felt more freedom to be braver conceptually. Six of the eleven songs on the album take on different characters, be that a feminist version of Rapunzel, or a character in an ignored Italian Renaissance painting that is opposite the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
- Your sound has changed – with the added samples, keys and electronic elements.
Again this is to do with that freedom: my voice is the glue that keeps the album together, but musically I can take it in all sorts of directions. Stripped back acoustically, or with a huge Dre style beat, or with a gospel style hammond organ or a 60’s style big beat.
- You’ve said that Gecko the band were “not a punk band” – and you’re comfortable at spoken word nights, for example, and at the Edinburgh Festival and on so many different bills. Does the versatility in your music mean that we couldn’t put you in any sort of box?
I definitely enjoy being the odd one out in lots of different contexts. Finding the spoken word scene has been one of the best things to happen to me in the last couple of years. But in whatever bill that I find myself in I won’t change what I’m doing other than maybe choosing different parts of my repertoire.
- Some things you talk about in your songs are experiences we can all relate to – does that universality of the experiences help to make your music more versatile?
I don’t think I consciously try to write in a way that’s relatable – although if I’m writing a story that I want the audience to follow, then I’m very conscious about making it clear. It’s funny how often songwriters can talk about being ‘honest’ as their ultimate goal. On the surface level most of my work isn’t ‘true’ but if, for example, I’m writing about the tooth fairy then the heart of the subject matter is from a very real place.
- But presumably recording and touring as a solo artist gives you the scope to work more easily in the way that DIY punk artists can? Do you see any commonalities with that? For example you’re available for house shows, right?
Definitely. I love being able to grab my guitar and then jump on my tour bus (the megabus) and be free to play anywhere really easily. Even into mainland Europe. I also love playing in living rooms, I’ve done this a lot recently with an organisation called Sofar Sounds. Check them out! Their shows are very special and happen all over the world.
- Do you take into account the context when you play a particularly different show, or unusual ones for you?
That’s one of the most exciting things about playing in an unusual space. Typical gig venues are all pretty similar so the environment doesn’t massively vary from show to show. But if you’re playing in a museum near a dinosaur or in a garden in Italy or an art gallery in the Netherlands then there’s more scope to incorporate your surroundings in to the show.
- Are there even unusual environments for you any more?
I would still like to play in a cave, on a boat, on a beach and in a hot air balloon.
- Some of the experiences feel really personal – and sometimes you write from the point of view of a character. Does that make it easier to explore your ideas?
I think so, I find it too limiting just writing from one perspective. And often by taking on a character you can explore the theme in a more interesting way. By being Rapunzel I have more license to talk about the female perspective, by being an insect I can be more scathing of humankind’s impact on the environment because I’m not being a self righteous human. I’m an insect mate! And then also by doing this it means when I do write a more personal song it also feels new and exciting. Randy Newman is a big influence on me in this. I’m really confused why more people don’t do it.
- Is this something you’d have done with a three or four-piece band? Do you think you’d have written different songs – or arranged the songs differently?
Since being solo again I’ve become much more adventurous with my storytelling. And the impact of watching a lot of poets and being up at the Edinburgh Fringe two years in a row has seeped into my writing by osmosis.
- The Library worked really well as a full-band song, even though it was so different to the recording on your album – but actually Got Science feels like it’s performed in a similar way to when you first played it live, only now you’re playing it as a solo artist. Do you consider that when you’re writing songs, or do you find that they can translate really easily?
The Library has existed for ten years now. It’s had five different verses as time has gone on. The only thing that is the same is the words of the chorus. I knew The Library was going to be on the album from the beginning. Got Science felt like a nice way to open the album up because it’s about my love affair with music and I just added the huge last verse. When I was writing with the full band in mind it still always started from the same place: me and an acoustic guitar, so the transition has actually felt pretty natural. And having Ben McKone making the beats has helped!
- You’re getting out there in other ways now – you tweeted about reindeer and it made Buzzfeed’s top 100 for the year! Have you been pestering all the plagiarists out there?
That was a really interesting saga. For those that missed it I took a photo of a Christmas shopping centre display mid way through being set up. They’d only just put up Rudolph and all the other reindeer were lying on the ground. It looked like a crime scene. I tweeted the photo with a joke caption and it’s exploded all over the internet – including a lot of people completely stealing it without credit.
- Was it flattering in any way that so many people wanted to nick your joke?
Of course. It’s more flattering to be credited though!
- Are you going to get an award for it?
I don’t know if I get to decide that!
- How is Ben McKone?
He’s great. I’m so proud of the work he did on this album. I can’t thank him enough.
- Can you please tell him we said hi?
Of course, bananas!
- What’s next?
There will be a music video for Rapunzel in the new year and then I do a seated tour called An Evening with Gecko, and then tours in the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia.
An Evening with Gecko
10th March 2018 SOUTHAMPTON The Art House
15th March 2018 BRIGHTON Caroline of Brunswick
23rd March 2018 SHEFFIELD Regather
31st March 2018 BRISTOL Wardrobe Theatre