Still Woozy on the Relationships That Helped Form “Loveseat”

With his second album out now, Sven Gamsky talks collaboration, fame, and knowing when a song’s reached its final form.
In Conversation

Still Woozy on the Relationships That Helped Form Loveseat

With his second album out now, Sven Gamsky talks collaboration, fame, and knowing when a song’s reached its final form.

Words: Melanie Robinson

Photos: Alex Kennedy

July 05, 2024

Picture it: a group of twentysomethings floating down the Guadalupe River, each in an inflated rubber inner tube, their toes dipping in and out of the water. It’s summer and it’s 102 degrees. They’ve got cheap beer, bad weed, and a waterproof bluetooth speaker—out of which comes “Goodie Bag” by Still Woozy. As the conversation wanes, it’s replaced by bobbing heads and arms slowly waving in 4/4 time. We’re in an indie movie, it seems, and the theme song is playing. 

“Goodie Bag” was released in 2017, and I’ve been jamming it ever since. Sven Gamsky’s bedroom-pop project has since put out a handful of well-worn singles, an EP in 2019, and one Vonnegut-referencing full-length in 2021. His newly released sophomore album, Loveseat, illustrates Gamsky’s ongoing playful passion for vibrant, atmospheric soundscapes, as heard on singles like “Again,” “Shotput,” “Lemon,” and “All Your Life” (please check out the video to this last one). He’s a thoughtful creator who’s venturing into more complex storytelling, seen on tracks like “Big Fish” and “Houston.” While his sound has matured, Gamsky’s sense of playfulness and whimsy still remains intact. 

Ahead of the album’s release, the songwriter and producer chatted with us about his latest milestones (both personal and professional) and upcoming tour. We bonded over crossroads, the uncomfortable visibility of limelight, and SZA. Read out conversation below, and be sure to grab tickets to his Los Angeles appearance at the Greek Theatre in October. 

Congratulations on both this latest album and your newborn baby! What’s it like being a dad?

It’s the best thing ever. You have to be in the present to be a dad. I’ve got a lot on my plate, but [he] always helps me stay grounded. When I’m stressed and then I go and play with him, I’m like, “Oh wait, this is what matters, these are the moments that are worth living for.”

I saw you recently posted his first laugh on your Instagram.

That was absolute heaven. I’m not even kidding, I think that was one of the best moments of my entire life.

Let’s dive into this album. How do you think your sound is growing? You’ve mentioned wanting to push boundaries in addition to using more acoustic elements. 

One of the most obvious ways is that there’s more live drumming. In the past, I’ve done the drum programming myself. While I still did that a lot on this one, I have a friend [Ryan James Carr] who’s an insane drummer. One of the guys I worked with on the album [Cole Williams] mixed “Lemon,” and he also helped me produce a couple of other songs. He grew up down the street from me. We actually got each other into playing guitar when we were nine or 10 years old. We formed our first band together when we were 11. I hadn’t really collaborated with him or anything in years, so it was really nice to have that bond and work through some music.

You work with friends on your music videos too, right?

Yeah, it’s honestly more of a symptom of me not being comfortable when people who don’t know me are looking at me and taking pictures. That’s not really my favorite place to be, so when I’m doing something vulnerable like being on camera, I like to be with people who I trust and love. I kind of wish I could show up like Harry Styles, but it’s not who I am.

So many people, when they reach this level of fame, crave that attention. Your perspective seems grounded.

It’s such an ungrounding thing to be in this industry and do all this shit and have your image be out there. It’s not my favorite part; my favorite part is obviously crafting music and connecting through live shows. Everything else you just have to deal with.

The videos for your singles are conceptually rich and markedly distinct from each other. What do you want these visuals to contribute to your sound? 

I want them to feel like a representation of myself. They can’t be overly serious, because I’m not, most of the time. They need to feel light and fun. For the “Again,” video, I invited my friends up to Portland and we spent a whole day shooting this other video. We had three hours before they left and then we made the [“Again”] video. It was just an idea we thought was funny. Those are the moments I feel like I’m striving for—the moments of clarity. There’s no direct path when it comes to my visuals. If you were to sketch out a bumblebee’s path, that’s what it would be. There’s always detours.

What inspired this album? You’ve previously credited your partner as a central source of inspiration. 

[On this album], there’s actually the least amount of songs about my partner. I was like, “I know, I’ve done so many of those songs.” It’s always an emotional spot for me to write from, so that’s where I tend to go, but I wanted to push myself and ended up writing about different relationships. I also wanted to branch out more into storytelling. I always loved “story” songs. Like, I remember listening to “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan on the bus home from school. It’s just such an amazing storytelling song.

How do you know when a song is done? 

I’m a notorious tinkerer. I have hundreds of versions of every song. I’m a no-stone-left-unturned kind of person. I think I had, like, seven or eight masters for each song on the album. I try to warn people, so most of the people who work with me know what they’re getting into.

I know when a song is done when I can’t add anything to it; there’s no room. It’s not that every space is filled, because that would be overstimulating. Each song has its own set of needs, and each song kind of calls out for what it wants. You listen to that, and once it’s fully realized, it’s the best version of the song that it can be. 

Your music has an energy that makes a listener want to move their body in a freeing way. Talk to me about dancing.

I’m not very good at it, but I love it. It’s being present, and not taking yourself seriously. And all of those things are good for my mental health, so I try to do the things that make my life the most enjoyable. That would be my ideal: for people to feel free being a fool, to not feel any judgment and just let themselves be in the moment. 

“Each song has its own set of needs, and each song kind of calls out for what it wants. You listen to that, and once it’s fully realized, it’s the best version of the song that it can be.”

You’re featured on the remix to “Hush” by The Marías and “Pool” with Remi Wolf, and you’re a producer on “Too Late” by SZA!

I want to collaborate with SZA again. I wasn’t in the room with her, so I’d love to be in the room with her and make songs. I had a friend from high school who ended up in the music industry as a producer, writer, and engineer. I did a session with him two or three years ago and we just jammed for eight hours. They ended up cutting a little sample out of [that for SZA]. Last minute he was like, “Hey, we used this sample, do you want to add anything to it?” I recorded a bunch of shit and I sent it back to him. A lot of it made the cut. 

What are you most looking forward to on your tour? 

Some of these venues are iconic, like Red Rocks. Also, I grew up in the Bay Area, so going to the Greek Theatre to see acts was my childhood. That’s crazy to me. Having these full-circle moments is what I’m most looking forward to. 

We talked about storytelling earlier. I want to touch on “Big Fish.” Who is that song written for?

That song is actually about my dad. That one for me is very emotional. Before I put it out I played it for him to make sure that he was OK with me putting it out. It was an emotional moment. I always loved that movie, and it’s about a father/son relationship, too. 

Talk to me about the album title. Why “Loveseat”?

It’s people—or these creatures in the artwork—supporting each other. That’s what relationships are: they’re places to hold the people who you love and support them. FL