Sven Gamsky decided to go solo in 2017 as Still Woozy, a persona dedicated to his constant confusion and permanent dreamy state. He’s somehow relatable, yet really far away. It seems almost impossible that one guy can make beats alone in his garage and return a product so psychedelic, alchemic even. The magic of Still Woozy lies within the fact that you can listen to his entire tracklist and realize you got so lost in the melody that you didn’t catch the storyline. That’s because half of the storyline is the musical experience, the journey that takes you everywhere and nowhere at once; the enigmatic odyssey.
From the age of seven, Sven remembers finding joy and comfort in anything musical, and he found himself experimenting with various instruments. As he got older, he decided to pursue music as a career and attended UC Santa Cruz where he studied classical guitar and electronic music. While his music sounds anything but classical, it is evident that he has a complex understanding of musical composition, one that is unique to Still Woozy only.
With his newest single, “Rocky,” Sven touts the traditional cover art, created by his fiancée Amiya Kahn-Tietz. And while the sound is similar to classics such as “Goodie Bag” and “Habit,” this single feels more new wave, bright, and optimistic. Sven says he has been playing with various sounds and says his forthcoming album will be different than his previous releases. “It’s been really nice to jump-start my brain again and kind of start over,” Sven says over the phone. “I’m just so excited to release some things that I feel like are some of the best things I’ve done.”
We chatted with Sven about his newest single and music video for “Rocky” which was filmed in his home in Portland, as well as his tips for anxiety and what projects he has coming soon.
So what have you been up to during quarantine?
Well, I really messed my foot up. It was brutal, it was so brutal. I just tore a bunch of ligaments, so I’ve been really out of commission, just trying to heal. It’s really stiff and swollen still after like two and a half months.
I was just an idiot. I was just having fun and I went out of my way to just slide down a railing on my butt. It was so unnecessary. I physically went so far out of my way to do it. And it was raining and I was wearing a parka and there was no friction so I just shot down the railing. I just crunched under my foot, and then had to walk back actually. There was a gate, so I had to walk on it for like 10 minutes which was brutal.
What was the process for the upcoming album? Was it different than your normal songwriting producing process?
Basically, I’m so slow because I’m my own worst enemy a lot of the time. I’ll just kind of self-sabotage and just nitpick for a thousand years. So I was talking to my managers and they were like, okay, you’re going to have to speed things up a little bit. I was like, shit. You’re kinda right. So I got in contact with a producer named Lars Stalfors, and he’s been coming up [to Portland] and we’ve been working on stuff together. He’s become a good friend and he’s pretty much unblocked me creatively. I feel like I’m able to get so much more done. We just basically hang out all day, work on music, and talk and it’s really changed everything.
What kind of music are you listening to currently?
I think it’s been kind of all over the place. I’ve been getting into a lot of oldies. Etta James, “At Last.” That song is like a work of art or something. It’s like the Mona Lisa, It just really captures such a good energy in a way that feels really kind of pure or something. I think I just have a lot of anxiety basically and so I listen to music that can help. That’s kind of the stuff I’ve been listening to.
It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily happy music. It doesn’t have to be happy. It can just be like where you feel this sense of kind of peace.
Yeah, I feel like a lot of your songs feel really happy and uplifting, but a lot of them are probably influenced by anxiety and harsher thoughts.
Oh yeah. It’s so funny to me when people are like, ‘your songs are so happy.’ Cause to me I’m like, oh wow. I was so depressed when I wrote that. Like the “Habit” guitar line, I just remember feeling really low, but it helps me to make little things like that. People are like “Habit” is such a happy song! I’m like what??
What’s your favorite song, right now, at the moment, that you’ve ever put out?
I think “Rocky” right now. I don’t know. I’m excited about it and just to start to put out other songs that I have. Cause we have like a bunch of songs.
So the inspo behind the Rocky video, what was that?
Yeah. I was totally incapacitated with this foot and I called my friend, and we always make videos together. And he just came up here and we tried to honestly make something serious and it just didn’t work. We tried for like a week to brainstorm shit, and I just think that I’m not that serious of a person. So if I try to make a big art statement or whatever, it’s always going to be kind of stupid. You know, or if I take myself too seriously, it depends.
This song was never meant to be taken too seriously. So we had done all this work, and then we came back and put it together and we’re like, well, this is just bad. There was a moment where my friend almost went back home and we were going to have to tell the label that it didn’t work out. And then my friend went out to the hot tub to just calm down because we were kind of stressed about it and I was just like let’s just make something stupid. That was literally it. Let’s just make something dumb.
Your partner does the album covers – does she just listen to the song you make and get inspired and then make art? Or, how does that work?
It’s all different ways. Sometimes she’s just make something and I’m like, that’s insane and she’ll let me use it. Or sometimes I talk to her, I sit down and say we should do something like this. But there’s no one way to do it.
Is that the same thing with your songwriting process?
Oh yeah. Sometimes I start with drums, sometimes I start with guitars. I’ve been trying to get back into the piano so I can write more songs on piano.
You started playing music when you were really young – do you have a memory that’s your first musical memory, like when you fell in love with it?
Yeah, I remember being in the back of my family suburban, they were driving around and I was in the way back. And I had a little CD player and I had one of the Beatles records on, “I’ve Got a Feeling.” I just remember I put the headphones on and I could just imagine playing that song in front of a crowd and just the feeling. It felt so peaceful at the same time too. That song is in line with other songs that kind of helped my anxiety.
How old were you?
I was probably seven.
Oh wow, baby.
Yeah, baby. But I remember I was like, hey, that would be so cool to do that. I think I’ve just never lost that.
Does that feel cool that you’re doing it?
It’s insane. It’s literally insane. I still don’t really believe it’s true. I still am like, oh, I can just go away tomorrow. You know, I could wake up here.
Have you found anything really helps other than music to ease anxiety?
It’s probably not that healthy, but I play a lot of chess now. It helps me. I do it probably a little too much where it’s like probably not helping, but it is an immediate distraction, which is helpful, but it’s not always the healthiest thing, it’s helpful but maybe not the healthiest cause you’re kind of just foregoing dealing with the anxiety.
Did you watch The Queen’s Gambit?
Yeah, yeah that’s what started it for me.
If you could pick anyone to collaborate with who would it be?
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photos / courtesy of artist
story / Sam Berlin