By: Zak Kolesar
A unique part of the Columbus music scene is the content nature that some musicians possess. Yeah, New York is a few steps away and Chicago’s lure is even more captivating, but the desire to prove something here at home has become more and more prevalent in Columbus.
That desire is showing to the world that a flourishing music scene can be cultivated here, and Gahwns is all about being a part of that movement. Its deeply textured psychedelic indie rock makes the trio difficult to pigeonhole, but from a positive perspective that can be looked at as throwing an enormous net into the pond of Columbus’ music consumers.
And so far Gahwns has primarily done this in 30-minute spurts as an opening act. And that is just fine by them.
"We kind of like opening up. There might not be as many people there, maybe people are walking in halfway through your set, but we have found that we're all pretty confident in walking up there and fucking slamming,” bassist Matt Luebbers said.
Also consisting of drummer David VanLaningham and guitarist and vocalist Alec Alvarez, this formation of Gahwns heated up in the cold grip of January 2017. As evidence by Luebbers’ comment, confidence quickly soared, as the group is now gearing up for an active summer just a year later. While the three are involved in other local projects as well (The Crashlanders), they met on separate occasions while studying at Ohio State and joined forces as musicians years later.
After meeting up with the band in late May, it became very apparent how organic Gahwns keeps its product. From in-house recording and mixing to a studio basement that holds up well for a non-professional pad, the absence of outside forces truly accentuates the fluidity and flexibility the three bring to the table in their music.
A short sit-in on a practice session truly exposed how expansive the band can make its recorded tracks.
"We're trying to keep things organic. We definitely have set forms of songs but also the songs are set up to have a lot of expression inside of them," VanLaningham said.
During our conversation, the three never agreed upon a specific genre to define Gahwns. Regardless of the alternative indie vibes of “Loners,” trippy tones of “Midnight Marmalade” or the folk-laden “The Big Picture,” one thing about Gahwns’ sound sticks out during this particular practice session: freedom.
The type of freedom that Gahwns is representing is the same space that jam bands use to go off on during their sets. Although Gahwns has yet to flex its jam skills with elongated live sets, teasers of “Oh No” and “Science Fair Project” during the aforementioned basement session prove that the three have the musical dexterity that jam bands use to create monster cuts.
“A lot of bands don't have spaces to jam,” Alvarez said. “That's what sets us aside is we just don't have a three-minute song played the same every single time."
Physical proof of this came in the form of shared eye contact and flawless passing of the baton during the mentioned practice session. Solos flowed seamlessly, yet no transition came too off guard.
But unfortunately for Columbus music lovers, they haven’t been able to experience the full Gahwns spectacle yet.
“It seems the music in Columbus, it's a formula of...maybe three local acts and somebody out of town and you have four bands on these bills and it's awesome to see so many bands showcased but also...when you're playing for 30 minutes, you can't tell the whole story," VanLaningham said.
As much as the members of Gahwns love to both share the spotlight and shred on their respective instruments, they know that the average music consumer isn’t ogling over 10-minute epics. As much as the three would love to add an extra five minutes to the Spotify version of “Loners,” the group has expressed satisfaction with the mood of its first three singles.
"I don't mind a seven or eight-minute song, but it's just not realistic to get your product out there,” Luebbers said.
Gahwns is on its way, though, to having the freedom to play extended versions of its tracks. This was also evident during the group’s May practice session, in which during those near-10-minute excursions, the three emphasized that even though playing off of each other is important, playing for each other takes precedent
“In every song we're actively looking at each other to make a change," Alvarez said, also quoting the legendary and local Tony Monaco Trio as an inspiration for this practice.
Although Gahwns doesn’t seem to be about fitting any generic mold, the group seems to believe its strategy is a winning one. This strategy may make Gahwns an underdog, but the multifaceted group sure is over performing in that role. With an arsenal of sounds and the ability to elaborate on different genres through jam techniques, Gahwns is gearing up for a summer takeover.
With an upcoming show this Friday at Woodlands Tavern, Gahwns will once again be opening, this time for Thomas and the Work-Men and The Original Soundtrack. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the cover charge is $5. Gahwns will be performing at 8 p.m. The group is also working on releasing a full length this year.