Returning with their brilliant new album ‘Red Sun Titans’, GENGAHR are pushing back to hit new heights. Check out the latest cover story for our New Music Friday playlist edit The Cut.
Words: Steven Loftin.
Photos: Jennifer McCord.
In the three years since Gengahr’s last album, things have changed. Regrouping after 2020’s ‘Sanctuary’, the London-based four-piece took stock of their standing. “We’ve had to work incredibly hard just to be here now,” Felix Bushe admits. “Having this moment, this is some act of defiance in terms of getting to where we are.”
Joyous defiance is the perfect descriptor for Gengahr’s return. “I think a lot of saner, more sensible, smarter human beings would have decided to try their hand at something else at this point,” the frontman chuckles. “But we believe in what we’re doing, and we have a profound love for one another as well. We enjoy making music, so it makes sense to do it.”
Luckily, they did keep at it. From the ashes of an album spoiled by COVID, and a stormy time trying to figure out just what they wanted to do, rises ‘Red Sun Titans’. It’s an expansive, luscious-sounding offering. But, most importantly, it’s Genghar back to their best and brightest.
“We want the journey of the record to be quite clear,” says Felix. “I see the songs as symbols and icons, but also little messages, almost mantras for reminding myself – that are also helpful to other people – how to exist.”
It’s a return to basics; they’ve figured out how to put the pieces of their past and present together to craft their future. After the regrouping, they began to write and play songs. Admittedly hardly groundbreaking, but with the intricacies and process growing from 2015’s ‘A Dream Outside’ to 2018’s ‘Where Wilderness Grows’ and beyond, Gengahr had deviated from the simplicity. They stripped the noise back to four mates doing what they do best.
“We’ve seen a lot, we’ve done a lot, and we’re still very good friends”Felix Bushe
Most importantly, ‘Red Sun Titans’ features some of Felix’s most personal offerings, something he emphasises in his attitude toward ‘Red Sun Titan’. “I feel very calm. It’s been a little while since we’ve put [an album] out, and it doesn’t feel quite as chaotic as normal. I don’t know why that is.”
It could possibly be because ‘Red Sun Titans’ is Gengahr’s freshest start yet. “In some ways, it feels like the very beginning again,” explains Felix. “In terms of our headspace. We’ve got very good at allowing everyone to have room to have space and do the things they need to do.”
Growing up is key to this revelation and the latest chapter. “I don’t feel the same pressure that maybe I felt at the beginning,” he reckons. “That new young band thing, where every single waking hour, if you’re not driving towards recognition and making something that’s going to change the world, then you’re not spending your hours correctly.”
It’s those personal offerings which allowed Felix and co a chance to work through a whole heap of stuff to reach this maturation. “I was surprised looking back at how much of myself was in it,” he says. “Because I didn’t think I was doing that at the time. I think I was just writing songs, things that sounded right and felt right, and I didn’t appreciate how much of myself was being examined.”
Indeed, not the lightest of starts, Felix notes that ‘Red Sun Titans’ began as he was dealing with “questioning my own choices and my own existence.” But when the results sound so easy-breezy, it’s hard to discern the reckoning it holds – yet it’s all hidden in plain sight. From Gengahr’s point of view, it takes a certain amount of trust in the rest of your band to bear your weight such as this. Fortunately, they have been together since childhood. Forming when they were 12, they were even managed at that point. “We were playing and doing stuff in our very early teens, playing club nights when we shouldn’t have been in there!” he marvels. “We’ve seen a lot, we’ve done a lot, and we’re still very good friends, and as close to family as you could be. We have an unbelievable idea about how the inner workings of all of our minds work because we spend too much time together,” he chuckles.
The strife that led to ‘Red Sun Titans’ was a perfect storm; ‘Sanctuary’ not finding its feet, while also reflecting back upon their dizzying start. Gengahr’s debut was an album that poked the dreaded hype hornets’ nest. Looking at the musical landscape Gengahr are reemerging into, Felix recognises that he feels “a little bit disconnected” now. “We were one of these bands that had a huge amount of buzz when we first came out, and people wrote amazing things about us… and we probably disappointed most of them. That’s the reality,” he shrugs. “And now a lot of them probably think well, why the fuck should we care about this band anymore? They’ve done four albums. They’re not as big as Foals or Arctic Monkeys – who gives a shit? But the other side of it is, I think we’ve made our best record yet, and we’re still getting better, so they should care.”
“We don’t feel dependent on anything now; we’re just here, and we’re doing what we do”Felix Bushe
There’s a childhood innocence that flows throughout like a trundling river. It reflects an easier time, shimmering in the airy weightlessness the band have made for themselves. While it also reckons with the heftier side of life, it never strays too far from its basest idea of just letting the frothy white water glide over you as you pass through.
On late album cut ‘Napoleon’, Felix softly sings the line “Fear is just a chemical”. It’s not hard to discern that this is very well the crux of ‘Red Sun Titans’. It’s embracing the unknown, doing away with those negative thoughts and realising that Genghar have found an entirely new chapter that is the amalgamation of all of these lessons and sounds. It elegantly folds itself throughout every song, seamlessly playing up to the majesty that it holds for the group.
“I’ve always felt like Genghar is greater than the sum of its parts,” ponders Felix. “And I think it’s very difficult for me to be entirely myself all the time because I, to a certain degree, say things that are agreed with by a collective, and that is always going to lead things into a certain direction.” He continues, “It does become a collective crusade almost at the end. Everyone has to buy into it, right? They have to believe in what’s being said and feel it as well.”
Suffice it to say that ‘Red Sun Titans’ is Gengahr at their strongest. And for all the trouble they had to go through to get here, Felix is the first to admit that it was worth it. “I just feel like there is a weight lifted from us,” he nods. “We don’t feel dependent on anything now; we’re just here, and we’re doing what we do. For me, everything starts and finishes with the music, and we’ve done the album now, and we’ll go on to do another one.” With this delightful threat hanging in the air, Felix ends: “This is an opportunity for us to show again why people should want to embrace us as a band, and we hope to continue defying the odds as we go.” ■
Gengahr’s album ‘Ren Sun Titans’ is out now. Follow Dork’s The Cut Spotify playlist here.