by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Psycho Gab

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Psycho Gab

Five musicians, all skilled up via being music students at the University of Auckland, creating a intriguing mix of modern jazz and RnB. That’s Psycho Gab. Joining the enthusiasm from student radio, NZ On Air Music dug their latest single Pianomen enough to feature it on their NewTracks compilation this June.  

What are your full names, where are you from and what instruments do you each play?

  • Rosetta Stone (Pōneke, vocals)
  • Caleb Wong (Pōneke, keys + production)
  • Orlando Cooper (Tāmaki Makaurau, bass + production)
  • Finn McNeill (Tāmaki Makaurau, drums)
  • Max Henley (Pōneke, guitar)

All based in Tāmaki Makaurau currently.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Three of us (Rosetta, Caleb and Orlando) are currently at University Of Auckland studying popular music, which is where we all met and started playing music together, and Finn is also at UoA studying jazz. We wouldn’t be playing together, and a part of the amazing Auckland music community if it weren’t for uni!

Any other projects we might we know you from?

Caleb is producer Wongii, who has released a few solo singles, and working with Pōneke bands Crumbly Jack and Mel Stevenson. Finn and Orlando are in Tāmaki Makaurau jazz group Fruju Peak.

What’s the background story of how Psycho Gab came together?

Caleb and Rosetta started writing together in late 2021 for uni assignments, and that’s how our first single Messy came about. We were starting to jam together as a group through uni, and once we started playing Messy and come up with new songs, we found that we were playing a genre of music that none of us had really explored on our own.

When did you come up with the name for the new project?

Psycho Gab was originally the name of our recently released single Gabben, which was written during Cyclone Gabrielle in early 2021, and uses a lot of storm imagery in the lyrics. We eventually turned this into our name because we loved the double meaning with ‘Psycho Gab’ and ‘Crazy Talk’ – which we knew would be the name of our debut EP. Gabben was also one of the first songs we wrote together as a band, so it felt fitting to use the original name!

How has your writing evolved from the beginnings to now?

Our sound is always evolving! We’re lucky enough to have members of the band who are really talented in music production – so recording and documenting our sound has been a huge part of our process from the beginning. Our upcoming EP is really a diary of this evolving sound, and shows a lot of our influences in RnB, jazz, soul, pop, and everything in between.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

We’ve had some amazing gigs at one of our favourite venues, The Wine Cellar (happy 20 years Rohan!) and a highlight was when our friend Nikau, aka Casual Healing, came up to play with us. We’ve also received a lot of love from student radio over the past few weeks for our single Gabben – so seeing it appear in the SRN Top 10 has been pretty special!

What makes Pianomen stand out for you as a single?

It showcases a sound that we haven’t shared before, and reflects a recording process that was really exciting, ambitious, and experimental for us. It’s probably the most proud we are of the singles we’ve put out so far, and it really showcases all of our strengths, while exploring realms of jazz that were really exciting to write and record!

What is the story behind Pianomen?

When someone was offering $50 for anyone to take an upright piano off their hands last year, Caleb and Orlando seized the opportunity and drove across Tāmaki Makaurau to pick the piano up, lug it into an elevator, onto a trailer and into the garage at our old flat. Pianomen came out of this experience, written by Caleb as a bit of a love song to Orlando as a celebration of friendship… and pianos. After lots of rewrites and jamming, we settled on how the song is now and decided to run with the imagery of speeding down roads at night, bringing about these themes of lovers on the run, like Bonnie and Clyde.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

We all love the end, when everything starts to break down, and it really feels like the story is falling a art. The scream and all the chaos – it’s supposed to represent when being on the run loses its excitement, and everything crashes and burns.

Who wrote the single and where? 

We wrote the song in our bedrooms, and did a lot of the recording in Orlando’s home studio set up Bilbo’s Clubhouse. But the second half of the song was recorded live at The Lab in Mt Eden, where the incredible Olly Harmer was our sound engineer! We spent the day running the end and figuring out how to really bring the chaos. A t one point Olly got this massive gong off the wall for Rosetta to hit in the middle of the recording! Definitely not what we thought would be on the song… but it’s now it’s a highlight of the track for us – and that was just so much fun to record!

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

We just hope everyone else grooves along to it as much as we do!

Who else is in your team?

We’ve been really lucky to work with Lil Sister for our releases. The team at DRM have also been super supportive of our releases in distribution. 🙂

Any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

Our debut EP ‘Crazy Talk’ is out July 12!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Revulva This Town
  • SkilaaJenny Greenteeth
  • Crumbly Jack – Red Lite

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks?

We are yet to receive NZOA funding, and this is our first time on NewTracks – so we’re definitely just finding our feet in the big music machine! Advice-wise… we just try to remember that while NZOA support is amazing and so appreciated, it’s not a part of everyone’s success story, and it’s just one of the many amazing pathways we have in Aotearoa for music to be heard and spread!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

We love supporting student radio – in particular our local 95bFM. Such a talented community of gig reviewers, interviewers, hosts, and music journalists, doing it out of love. <3.