Gossett's debut EP begs a second look, in more ways than one. Like, is that a lock of hair stapled to the doodled insert in the cover?
Then sign up for Gossett's Guide Through the Casio Forest. In a DVD case looking like some otherworldly artifact, Gossett's EP is, in hand, enough to make you wonder. It comes autographed, numbered (mine is 25 of 50) and complete with a lock of Gossett hair. Gossett's odd brand of Syntho-Folk is the sort of thing that inspires the auditory equivalent of squinting. But it's hard to scratch your head while it's bouncing involuntarily.
Gossett is Matt Gossett, bassist for the band, Swissfarlo and, thus, a member of the Datawaslost (DWL) Indie collective. Released in November 2001, Casio Forest represents the first seven songs he has ever written.
Gossett says he always wanted to write songs, but until this time last year, it just wasn't there. When asked about the sudden burst of creative juice, expecting some tale of forsaken love (most of the songs seem to center around a relationship gone awry), Gossett shrugs and says that his real inspiration came in the form of a Casio keyboard.
"I've been trying to figure out what my style is for years," he says. "And I was doing these really bad John Cougar Mellencamp kind of things that just didn't work. So finally I think I really found my style with the keyboard. With this weird kind-of dramatic keyboard. Kind of computery. I try to emulate things like what The Who did in the later years ... It doesn't really come out like that, but ..."
At 21 years and seven songs old, Matt Gossett has plenty of time to figure it out. Besides, it's his bundle of contradictions, along with a healthy overindulgence in guilty pleasures, that most works for him musically.
Gossett's sound is like a trail mix comprised of only pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips. But somehow his juxtaposition of low-fi keyboard ditties and flat, drum-pad rhythms with rootsy guitar melodies and a gruff, Dylanesque voice manages to seem only natural. And in seven songs, he displays promising versatility as a budding songwriter.
Casio Forest opens with "Love Can," a Pop-ish number that is answered with a sequel at the end of the album ("Love Can 2").
"I like cheesy things, like sequels," Gossett says, Miller High Life in hand. "A certain type of person has to make a sequel, you know. I like that stuff." This from a guy whose motto is "Have a good time all the time," borrowed from the movie This is Spi¨n al Tap.
With restrained guitar riffs and a pokey keyboard chords that sound more like incessant beeping, "Crack" is a tribute to an ex-lover who made Gossett want to crack. The song has an inside-out, off-kilter charm that leaves you nodding your head and spontaneously regurgitating lines like "All I wanna do is make it to the nightly news."
In "American Broadcast," Gossett experiments with a messier electronic terrain. Against spacey Casio sounds from a button probably labeled "R2D2," the vocals have been overlapped until it sounds like someone singing underneath layers of fuzzy syntho-fabric.
I'm more taken with Gossett's acoustic leanings. His most full-grown songs keep the mechanic keyboard/drums as a backdrop for textured guitar and vocals. In "51," a meandering harmonica keeps the emotion rolling between Gossett's yearning vocals, as well as revealing his potential to flesh out well-structured skeletons of songs.
In "Left With Me," Gossett offsets guitar plucking and soft, high vocals with steady, low guitar riffs and vocals for a soothing, mellow Folk creation. A straightforward, laconic lyrical style suits Gossett's offhand, heartfelt deliverance: "I just kissed another girl today/For the first time in a thousand years/I wish remainders of my life away/In increments of everyday/You made your interruptions gracefully/But it isn't like you wanted me."
Gossett has the rare ability to slip in word plays like "when you write me, you can't right me" without them sounding overlabored. His verse comes out like rambling inner monologues or letters written with no intention of sending.
Casio Forest has attracted the attention of some national e-zines. Gossett seems a little taken aback by the warm welcome his first attempt at songwriting has garnered.
"I (haven't) gotten any bad feedback," he says. "Everyone's just like, 'Hey, I really liked your album' — that's really cool. (But) if there is any bad feedback, I want to hear it, 'cause I don't know, you know. I want to know what's wrong with it."
He proceeds to ask me for negative feedback.
Gossett appreciates the home his music has found in DWL. "It's cool. There are some people that I'm friends with. Others are friends of friends that I've never met. I think it might have even started as kind-of a joke. But it kind-of snowballed into actually getting good reviews and national attention."
Gossett seems hesitant to accept that people actually like his music without strings — or hair — attached. "I am glad that I put hair in my album, because people remember that. I think I had a good gimmick, you know. You kind of have to have a gimmick — at first, at least."
Gossett has already begun working on new material. He's yet to decide what his next Cracker-Jack-style album prize will be.
"I don't know," he wonders. "I have to do something ... to top that. I just don't want it to get any more gross. Some people tell me the hair's gross."
Gossett hair gross? Be careful — it'll grow on you.
Find the latest on GOSSETT and all of the Datawaslost bands at datawaslost.net.