1883 Magazine

We headed to The Monarch in Camden to find out more about Gabi Garbutt’s new project with Sean Read of Dexys. She tells us about her journey so far, through the Sticklers, the Breadmakers and CuT, to her current incarnation with the Illuminations and how working with Sean Read came about.

Gabi is inspired by poetry, expression, love and the human spirit, dazzling, expressive and passionate. Here she talks us through the creation of Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations and shares her new single, ‘Armed with Love’plus cosmic happenings and survival tips for 2018.

Hi Gabi, great to meet you.

Hello! Great to meet you too.

How was the show?

It was excellent thanks, a really buzzy high energy show, with a great crowd. I’ve loved all our gigs. I’ve always wanted to be in a band with a brass section, and all the guys in the band are fantastic musicians and play with such conviction, it feels really powerful.  

Armed With Love is a beautiful debut single, can you tell us more about it...

It’s about someone very close to me who experienced some awful things in her life, and dealt with it in such an incredible way that was just pure love and hope. I wanted the music to mirror that too, there’s an underlying sadness to it, but it’s also full of life and excitement too.

Tell us more about your songs, areas that you find yourself gravitating towards?

I like writing about those moments when everything feels so beautiful, cosmic and wild, it’s sort of crackling and fizzing and you suddenly feel how fragile this state is and everything feels on the verge of collapse. Those intensely lived moments when everything feels eternal and transitory all at one.  I’m trying to find new and imaginative ways to write about things that are universally true and relatable.  I also like to write about love in its various forms as love is a refuge from horrors of life, and is something to believe in as well as the human spirit.

What inspires you the most to write music? Other than music?

Loving songs and wanting to make some myself. Feeling things strongly and wanting to express it using words and music. I think anything you experience in life can find its way into a song.  I’ve always been into poetry but I find words much more powerful with a rock n’ roll energy behind it. I like what this St Ives poet that I really admire called Bob Devereux said in an interview, when writing poetry the rhythm of walking adds something to the creative process, in terms working on the pace and rhythm of the words. For me I do that with cycling, cycling is a really good space for working on lyrics and particularly good for writing for rock n’ roll music as the words are set to a faster pace. 

You have been in a few established acts including the Sticklers, can you tell us about how you got to this stage and meeting Sean Read from Dexys.

I met Sean fleetingly a few years ago backstage at a Dexys concert. Then when I was in my last band The Sticklers, we were put in touch with Sean by CuT, who were recording with him at the time. I knew I’d love to record with him too as the Dexys have always been one of my favourite bands.  He recorded us a few times at his Famous Times Studio in Homerton, then after The Sticklers disbanded in early 2016, I sent Sean some home demos I’d been working on, he really liked them and was up for collaborating with me.

Sean Read has helped me develop as an artist, given me confidence, and has helped shape my sound. The other guys in the band have all done this in their own way too, and continue to be hugely inspirational; – Jimi Scandal, Stephen Gilchrist, Alec Sala and Callum McQuattie.

What was it like being in the studio with Sean Read?

It’s always great fun working with Sean, and he’s a very versatile musician and full of brilliant ideas, so it was an enjoyable process working on arrangements together. It was a really smooth process too as we’re very in tune creatively in terms of our vision for the songs. There’s also something very special about the studio itself - it’s an inspiring place to be.


Can you tell us about 5 tracks that may have changed the direction of your life?

Green Day – When I Come Around
Green Day were the band that got me into punk rock when I was about 11 years old and made me want to play rock n’ roll. This is the first song I heard by them. I then went on that classic journey straight from Green Day to The Clash, who remain one of my favourite bands and will always inspire and influence me. 


Bob Dylan – I Want You
This is the song that made me want to be really good at song writing, to really pay attention to every aspect of what makes a song magic; the melody, the lyrics, the rhythm of the words, the energy and the spirit. To me it’s a perfect song.     

Patti Smith – Gloria
My English teacher gave me a copy of Patti Smith’s Horses when I was 16 and hearing that album for the first time was momentous, this merging of poetry and punk, two things I loved, into something more powerful. I just felt pure excitement at the possibilities of music, and started on a new journey, ground zero being where CBGB’s punk meets French poetry. 

Dexys Midnight Runners – What’s She Like

I think this is the most expressive and original song out there. This song made me realise that the important thing in a song is the passion and emotion, real human feeling coming through. The sounds the singer makes and the music stir up inside you, with honest lyrics written from the heart, that’s what songs are all about for me, and this does all that better than any other song I know.

Jr Walker & The All Stars – How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You

This song made me fall in love with Motown. I think it’s the happiest song in the world.  Our band’s live sound is really influenced by that upbeat Motown energy. There’s a certain type of euphoria that live rock n’ roll brass & sax makes you feel, and this song captures that.

We are coming up towards the end of the year. What are five ambitions for 2018?

Keep developing as a song writer, continue to try to write better songs. Complete and release the album, make something me and the guys are really proud of. Play a lot of shows, in London, out of London, and general world adventuring. I really love playing live, and my band The Illuminations are fantastic, I’m really lucky to have them, so I’d like lots of people all over the world to see us.

Play the piano better. I’ve written a couple of songs on the piano and have been really happy how they turned out. They’ve got a different feel to all the other songs where I’ve started on the guitar. Write every day. I mean to do this, but don’t always manage it.

Tell me about 3 Gabi Garbutt survival techniques for everyday life?.  
Pay attention to what the pigeons and other birds are doing. This is an endless source of amusement and wonder and will liven up your street walking. Treat people well. Avoid rush hour.

If you had to be someone else for a day, who would you choose to be?

That’s a difficult one because I’d love to experience lots of different people’s realities. I’d quite like to experience life as a bird for a day, but it would probably have to be a bird of prey as I wouldn’t want to be looking over my shoulder all day. 
Other than that it would probably have to be something like Brian Wilson while he was making Pet Sounds or something. 

What songs do you have coming up for 2018?

We’ve been back in the studio over last few weeks, recording some more songs that will also be on the album. One of these is a collaboration I’ve done with John Hassall from The Libertines, which we’ll release as a single early next year. I’m always working on songs and there are a couple that I’m particularly happy with that we’ll be adding to the live set soon.

If you had to do the definitive new bands list of 2018, who would you choose

Of the bigger bands, I think Ezra Furman is the most interesting artist out there and I’m very excited by the sound of his new album that he’s releasing next year, called Transangelic Exodus. I’ve really loved the two singles he’s released from the album, particularly ‘Love You So Bad.’  L.A Salami is a really unique artist and I love the honesty of his lyrics. He’s been smashing it this year, so I look forward to hearing more from him.  John Hassall & The April Rainers make brilliant psychedelic pop. They released a great record this year and I’m excited to hear what’s next.  My brother Leo has been recording a new E.P, which is already sounding great, so I’m excited to hear that, and what  I’ve heard of Sean’s son’s band Roscoe Roscoe sounds really interesting, so I look forward to hearing more from them. 

Where can we find out more?

Come see us at The Water Rats on Jan 12th



For the latest on Gabi Garbutt head to www.facebook.com/gabigarbuttmusic











Twitter Youtube Instagram Tumblr Facebook

Glam Style