Still Woozy on authenticity, fatherhood, and plans to make another *six* albums

The singer-songwriter sits down with HUNGER to talk his upcoming sophomore album, 'Loveseat'. 

You’ll know Still Woozy (or Sven Gamsky) from the track ‘Goodie Bag’. It’s smooth, memorable little introduction lodges itself in your ear, and becomes one of those songs you’ve just “heard somehow”. Emblematic of a genre that’s been dubbed “bedroom-pop” – think Clairo and beabadoobee – it’s ‘Goodie Bag’ that’s helped earn Gamsky a legion of dedicated fans. Take a quick look through the comments on the music video for ‘Again’, a single he dropped three weeks ago, and you’ll see something of a common thread: “It’s so rare to find an artist where every single track hits it out of the park,” reads one. “this is gonna be a no skip album i feel it in my bones,” says another. That’s probably because, rather miraculously, something like ‘Goodie Bag’ is no happy accident for Still Woozy. Catchy hooks and psychedelic sounds are a fixture of the American singer-songwriter, who’s put out not only a number of singles since his debut in 2017, but an album named If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Now, three years after his first, comes his sophomore offering, Loveseat. “I feel like I’ve grown so much as a producer and a songwriter,” he tells me over Zoom. “I think this whole album shows that, and I’m so excited for people to hear it”. 

When Sven Gamsky joins our call, he’s sat against a backdrop of lush Oregon trees and bright blue skies. Though it’s an out of the ordinary setting for someone dialling in from gloomy London, it feels understated in a way that’s typical of the American singer-songwriter. Despite being a prodigious talent, Gamsky packed up and left the Bay Area (his hometown) four years ago. “Oregon has been able to feel like my home in a way that where I was born and raised never really did,” he tells me. That might have something to do with the fact that it’s Oregon where he and his wife Amiya – who features in a slew of the artist’s videos, and is the one behind the majority of Woozy’s album artworks – welcomed their first child. “I think having a baby is honestly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. That’s kind of overarching all the other feelings underneath that are less important, you know? Putting out music and working and being stressed and all this other stuff”. 

Talking to Gamsky, you do get the impression that putting out something like Loveseat, his upcoming album, is a source of tension. Given he’s been making waves since 2017, it’s surprising that Loveseat is only his second long-form offering. He’s put out a number of non-album singles and EPs over the years, and though each of them are as good (if not better) than the last, they rarely materialise as part of something as hefty as a whole album. “I’m not the kind of person who’s satisfied with making the same thing over and over and over and over again. I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I wasn’t experimenting and growing, but there’s a lot of that on Loveseat”. While Gamsky finds it hard to pinpoint how the emotional “throughlines” of his music have changed between his first album (If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is) and Loveseat, what he is sure of is how he’s “grown so much as a producer and a songwriter”. That’s glaringly obvious to the listener too. Though there’s still the multi-layered, verging on psychedelic sound that first appeared in his debut single ‘Vacation’, everything has been taken up a notch for Loveseat

On ‘Shotput’, the first single from Loveseat, typically Woozy, thump-y guitar is joined by a hectic mix of percussion that (almost surprisingly) works perfectly. Even Gamsky’s lyricism is more confident, with the hook (“Just barely five foot / You hit like a shotput”) coming across as playful and almost comedic, in the vein of wordsmiths like Belle and Sebastian. I bring up the Scottish indie group with Gamsky when discussing the lyrics in the track ‘All Your Life’, which charmingly captures the magic of minutiae like watching reality TV. He tells me he loves them, and it’s easy to see why – Gamsky talks about how, similar to Belle and Sebastian, his “songs have to meet the threshold of realness to [him]”. Elsewhere on Loveseat, Gamsky’s growing confidence comes not in the form of self-assured lyricism, but the singer-songwriter experimenting with sounds that feel worlds away from what someone might expect from him. He describes ‘Rid Of Me’, a markedly sombre offering, as a “ballad-y song”: “a cross between Coldplay and Alicia Keys”. Though it might sound like an odd blend of musical references, fans will see that it works when Loveseat drops this summer. As does, well, everything that this titan of “bedroom-pop” puts out. 

With the third single from Loveseat dropping today, HUNGER sits down with Still Woozy to talk fatherhood, authenticity, and what the future holds for the artist  — and luckily, it’s another six albums… 

Amber Rawlings: Hi, Sven. Nice to meet you – how are you?

Still Woozy: I am tired. Having a baby, it’s like, it’s almost random. Sometimes he’ll sleep great and then sometimes he’ll be up all night. It’s incredible, but really tiring.  

AR: Congratulations on becoming a dad, by the way! And thanks for taking the time out to do this. We’ll get to your second album, Loveseat, but first off, how is life treating you right now?

SW: It’s never just one thing, but I’m pretty great overall. I think having a baby is honestly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. That’s kind of overarching all the other feelings underneath that are less important, you know? Putting out music and working and being stressed and all this other stuff. It all exists too, and it’s all there, but at the end of the day – when I’m really stressed and stuff – when he smiles at me or something… I’m just like, ‘everything is okay again’. So, that’s most important — things are really great. 

AR: For anyone who’s unaware of you as a person, could you tell us a little bit about yourself — where you grew up and your story?

SW: Yeah, I grew up in the Bay Area, which is basically the suburb of San Francisco. I was just the California guy until four years ago, and then I moved up to Oregon with my wife. We have a house here and it’s like… You know when you’re born into something, you just go through the motions? But when you make a decision to leave  and find some place new, it’s almost like because you found it yourself, you’re able to claim it. Oregon has been able to feel like my home in a way that where I was born and raised never really did. I feel really good here. 

AR:  I can relate to that. I know you had a band before Still Woozy that must have really catalysed your interest in music, but were there any other particular moments that sparked your passion?

SW: I don’t know. I can go far, far back. I’ve been recording music since I was 10 or 11, and I can remember making horrible, horrible songs with my friends. But it was having an older brother who was into music when I was younger – and always looking up to him – that probably pushed me into listening more. I had all these Now compilations — you remember those? 

AR: Of course! Like those Now That’s What I Call Music albums?

SW: Yeah. That was like my Spotify playlist.

AR: Moving on to Loveseat, has there been pressure around creating your sophomore album? Did you feel like you had to achieve something “more” with this album, or was it just a natural progression of what you put out in your first? 

SW:  Maybe there’s pressure, but I can’t tell if it’s external or internal. I’ve always wanted to grow and develop, and I’m not the kind of person who’s satisfied with making the same thing over and over and over and over again. I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I wasn’t experimenting and growing, but there’s a lot of that on Loveseat

AR: Of the songs that were sent over to me, one that really stuck out was ‘Rid Of Me’. It feels like a real change of tone for you. Could you talk me through some of the inspirations for that? Was it a particularly cathartic song to write?

SW: Yeah, I really love that. That’s probably one of my favourite songs on the album. I don’t know, I’ve always loved those ballad-y songs, but I’ve never really been able to take a crack at it. This is my first, like, real crack at it. I have so many different inspirations. I listen to a lot of different music and I want it all to show up somehow at some point.

AR: Who would be a key inspiration for ‘Rid Of Me’. 

SW: It’s kind of funny, but I’d say a cross between Coldplay and Alicia Keys. It lives in this weird, different space. I grew up liking Coldplay. Coldplay was the first show I ever saw when I was 12 or something. That, like, blew my mind.

AR: Really? You’re a big fan of them? 

SW: Yeah, you know, I haven’t listened to anything they’ve put out in the last, like, 20 years, but I’ll always have a place in my heart for them. It’s like my guilty pleasure. 

AR: They are really good. They get a lot of stick but they’re good. 

SW: Yeah, they do get a lot of shit. But a lot of it comes from the heart and, you know, it resonates.

AR: The name of your last album – If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is – was a Kurt Vonnegut quote. What’s the inspiration behind the name Loveseat?

SW: If you’ve seen the artwork, it’s a name that really matches that. It’s one of my favourite pieces of art that my wife has made. And this whole album is about my relationships and the love that I have for people in my life. Loveseat just felt appropriate. It’s about how we’re all, I don’t know, supporting each other. That’s the inspiration and I didn’t want to overthink it. 

AR: Speaking of visuals, your music videos are, by and large, quite understated. There’s bigger budget ones – ‘Habit’, for example – but the feel in the video you just put out for ‘Shotput’ feels like the epitome of your style. What direction do you see yourself taking for the visuals accompanying the songs on Loveseat?

SW: Honestly, no idea. I think that’s something that I’m always figuring out. I don’t love putting myself out there in a very physical way like that. Some people have the whole thing planned out. Like, ‘I’m going to do this album in an eighties style’. And they have all their looks and they do all these themed photo shoots. But for me it has to feel authentic to me to put it out. It’s kind of annoying — if I was able to be more mutable, I think it would be easier. I could do all this shit and be okay with whatever. But I’m so annoying when it comes to feeling good about what I put out there. This recent video felt really good because I was just having fun with my friends. That’s what I’m going for more than having this, like, unified vision of how I present myself. I just want to be myself. That’s not the sexiest thing for, you know, the outside world, but I can’t really do anything else, and I don’t really want to. 

AR: Today you released ‘Again’, the second single from Loveseat, and I’m still trying to make up my mind on what I took from the lyrics. I’d be curious to hear the inspiration behind ‘Again’ and why you chose it as the second single. Is it a good summary of all the themes in Loveseat

SW: I don’t know about it being a summary and all that, but I just love the song. I love how it sounds and how I produced it. And the story to me is… I mean, you can take away what you want from it, but to me it’s about being caught between a daydream and reality. Like, imagining you’re something else – like you’re in a fantasy a little bit – and then you’re getting ripped outta the fantasy. 

AR: What I loved about the track ‘All Your Life’ was how you highlight the minutiae of life. Like, there’s this whole little segment about you watching reality TV. Are you someone who just gets inspiration from all around you? 

SW: Yeah. Again, it kind of comes back to the earlier conversation about me being so neurotic about, like, what’s presented. My songs have to meet the threshold of realness to me. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to feel okay about in 20 years from now, or whatever. I don’t want to look back and be like, ‘who was that guy?’ I have to feel okay singing it every night on tour. I have to, you know, back it. And when I write about things that are real in my life, I can sing it with meaning and with intent, and I think that helps me feel more connected to the music in general. 

AR: I mean, I feel like all the best artists have lyrics like that. It reminds me of people like Belle and Sebastian.

SW: Yeah, I love them.

AR: So, ‘Shotput’. It feels quite marked in terms of your production style. To me, it sounds a lot more multilayered and complex. How has your creative process changed between now and the last album? 

SW: Yeah. I mean, I feel like I’ve grown so much as a producer and a songwriter between now and then. I look back at my old demos and there’s still, like, the emotion there, but I feel production wise and skill wise, I’ve been able to hone my skills a lot more. I think this whole album shows that, and I’m so excited for people to hear it.

AR: The throughline I got from ‘Shotput’ was the idea of softening to love, which feels like a real progression from the sentiment in a song like ‘Habit’. Is that softening just like a reflection of where you are in your life now with your family? And how do you see those ideas evolving with say, a third album?

SW: You know, it’s funny because I have enough material for a third album. It’s interesting to analyse it like that. I think people who digest my music can see the throughlines more clearly than I can. I don’t really sit down and approach things thinking about higher concepts like that. Maybe I should, but I feel like when I try to do that, I put myself in a box and it ends up feeling forced. For me as an artist, the North star – the guiding light or whatever – it’s always something internal. It’s something going on emotionally and it’s not a higher concept or a direction like that. Does that make sense? I don’t know if I just deflected your question. 

AR: No, I get it. I think you’re saying it’s intuitive. 

SW: Yeah. It’s intuitive. 

AR: Even if they haven’t heard your new singles, people will have heard ‘Anyone But You’, the song you wrote for the film of the same name. How was the process of making that? 

SW: It was great. It was actually really easy and fun. I would love to do more shit like that, I think. It’s nice to have to make music from watching something and taking it in, instead of just sitting down and recording. You have a little bit more to play off of.

AR: What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve taken away from creating Loveseat?

SW: That I just want to keep going. I want to make, like, six more, albums. Where I’m at now, I feel very creative. I make songs all the time and I have so many ideas. Yeah, I just want to keep going. 

AR: I guess you’ve kind of answered it there, but do you have one big goal within music? Is there something particular that you’re chasing?

SW: This is where I think back to when I did my label meetings way back when. I was asked the same questions, and I felt like I didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear a lot of times. I think they want artists to be like, ‘yeah, I want number ones’. ‘I want to be on all these late night talk shows.’ ‘I want to take over the world’. But I think what I most want to do is just make classic songs. That will connect with people  and that I will look back on and be proud of myself for making. 

AR: I feel like you’ve done that already,

SW: I don’t feel like I have, to be honest. I hear these songs from the seventies and eighties and I want a song like that. That will last. I mean, hopefully I’ve done that, but, I wouldn’t say that I had. We’ll see.

‘All Your Life’, the third single from Still Woozy’s upcoming album, was released today alongside a music video. Loveseat will arrive on the 28th of June. 

  • WriterAmber Rawlings
  • PhotographerAlex Rorison
  • ProducerNessa Humayun
  • GroomingRosie McGinn
  • StylistLucy Parker