While it might seem odd, the illogical nature of foley helped Gately to think differently when it comes to compositions. “It’s great for coming up with ideas and changing the way you think about sound,” she says. “Instead of being literal and having everything correlate very logically, you have to think outside of the box.”
Gately’s work in foley eventually led her to making her own soundtracks, but she began to find herself “getting lost on tangents” and found working for others increasingly restrictive because “you have to do what the director wants.”
“I found I had to have an outlet for these instincts,” she says. So, after taking an electronic synthesiser class while still at university, she realised what she really wanted to do with her work. “A week later all this information kind of crystallised in my head and I made a track, which was on my first EP, called ‘Last Day.’ I was just like, ‘oh, this is what I want to do!’ I want to sing, and have these off-kilter sound effects layered and maybe that could be music,” she explains. “It happened in just a couple of weeks. I wasn’t a music maker and then two weeks later I am!”
Despite this, it’s still relatively easy to draw a line from Gately’s work on soundtracks to ‘Color’. Her music for Miguel Jiron’s animated short film Sensory Overload – where sounds such as clicking pens and tapping feet are massively amplified to represent the torturous impact of the everyday on a young autistic boy – bears a distinctive similarity to the industrial nature of her debut album. Indeed, some of the noisiest and most chaotic moments on ‘Color’ are like manifestations of nervous energy, something that doesn’t escape Gately’s notice. “I’m naturally an anxious person but the only way I can arm-wrestle with the anxiety is to lean towards it,” she explains. “So when the record gets really crazy, that’s how I feel like sometimes when I’m anxious, or really excited or sad.”
Despite its clattering and cacophonous nature though, ‘Color’ is, at its heart, a pop record – certainly the most accessible release to come from Tri Angle Records. It defies your expectations of what a stereotypical album by a field recordist is supposed to be with memorable hooks and pulsating, danceable beats. At times ‘Color’ is vaguely reminiscent of the playfulness of Grimes, or even the swaggering attitude of Charli XCX. It’s not that Gately is averse to traditional field recordings (she says that she loves “the stuff that’s very much more nakedly recorded in a field, birds and things”) but at the same time, she’s not interested in playing it safe either.
“I’m always interested in taking what I like and what I do and saying, ‘how can I challenge this?’ I think it’s because I get bored doing the same thing,” she says. In the past she’s certainly not been one to settle into one particular style. “I started off, especially in film school, really with minimal soundscapes and the not very tonal or melodic ends of things,” she reflects. “But then I’ve veered very much into pop music structures, with experimental timbres and weird effects.”
Gately hopes that her insatiable desire to experiment with sound might rub off on others looking to be a bit more adventurous with their music. “With this record in particular, my general feeling is that I’m not afraid to look like a fool!” she laughs. “If other people are afraid, I hope that my music would make them less scared because they have someone in front of them that other people can laugh at!”
Far from becoming a laughable figure though, Katie Gately has shown on ‘Color’ that being constantly inquisitive and unafraid to try new things can lead to exciting new soundscapes and musical forms. In her eyes, even the craziest of ideas could turn into a revelation. As she says: “what’s the worst that can happen?”
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