Gilligan Moss’ Mature Brand of Domestic Electro

The electronic Brooklyn duo joined KHOL at Treefort to discuss performing live again, their approach to remixes and how music fits organically into their lives.
Gilligan Moss' dance-inducing set at Treefort was cathartic for everyone in attendance. (Left to right: Evan Dorfman and Ben Cronin) (Jack Catlin/KHOL)

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Music Interviews

Brooklyn-based electronic duo Gilligan Moss make upbeat, organic dance-pop featuring funky, complex rhythms. Gilligan Moss performed their debut self-titled album to a raucous crowd at the Knitting Factory at the recent Treefort Music Festival in Boise.

Band members Evan Dorfman and Ben Cronin joined KHOL Music Director Jack Catlin immediately after their set on Saturday night to discuss how it feels to be performing for a live audience again, their approach to remixes and how their music fits organically into their everyday lives.

Listen above for more and check out a transcript of the interview below.

KnewJack: Alright, this is KnewJack, the music director at KHOL in Jackson, Wyoming, coming to you live from the Treefort Music Festival here in Boise, Idaho. Sitting across from me is the duo Gilligan Moss. So, you have previously described your music as, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, but “Deonce” or “Garden Disco.” For listeners who are new to Gilligan Moss, can you tell us a little bit about the group and your sound?

Evan Dorfman: We try to mix the stuff that we love, which is, on one hand, club music and then we also love songwriting and we love albums and fuse the two of them together in a way that makes sense.

Ben Cronin: I would say we’re like a Swedish smorgasbord of our musical delights. A lot of electronic music, feels very like heavy handed and serious and dark. And I think we’re both kind of after trying to make it a little brighter, sunnier, warmer and to also inject it with some of that like hazy, sunny, 70s album music, at least for this record. We do it for the young people and the old people. It’s electronic music that like young people like and my dad likes, which I think is a good benchmark to reach for.

KnewJack: How does it feel to be back on the road performing for audiences again? I mean, I just touched on it but you guys looked ecstatic having the best time of your lives up there. Can you speak on that?

Evan Dorfman: Yeah, I mean, we released our first album and then in the middle of COVID and you don’t really get any feedback other than just looking at Spotify numbers and Instagram and all of that. We don’t actually get to see faces or people reacting to the album that we spent years on. So this is one of the first times we’ve seen people actually react to the album. People had heard some of the songs, so it was, I mean that alone…

Ben Cronin: Probably characteristic of many musicians. I felt very starved of any sort of feedback, like when you’re just making music at home and passing it back and forth and not really getting any outside input, it can be like a little lonely and a little just kind of like abstract, this thing that you’re working on and to be on a stage in front of people and look at all these moments that you’ve crafted to, like, make people feel emotions and think things and to see it happening in real life is just like a deeply gratifying. I feel like my spiritual well was like at a pretty low tip for the last chunk of time and it really filled me all the way back up. It’s amazing to be around people and play live. It’s so fun.

KnewJack: So switching gears here a little bit. It’s been a tumultuous couple of years. Like you said, you were in isolation and not really getting any feedback on your music, but you know, not just with the pandemic, but protests for racial justice, presidential elections, debates about vaccinations, etc. What role has music played for you guys in processing the times we’re living in?

Evan Dorfman: I don’t have good words for it because it’s sort of my lifeblood of listening to music all day long at home when I’m out and about, especially, you know, when we’re stuck at home for so long, I’ve probably listened to twice as much music as I normally do.

Ben Cronin: I mean, like at the beginning of the pandemic, when we were deep in George Floyd protests and kind of like at a moment of extreme social reckoning, I think realizing that we do have a platform where people do listen to us. It was important to kind of, in our subtle ways, just kind of like let people know where we stand on things. And it was it was a moment of like kind of realizing that we do, regardless of the size, like we do have a followership and we do want to make sure that our values are being communicated both in our music and kind of in our presence on the internet.

KnewJack: During the pandemic, you know, one of the silver linings was like, Evan touched on it a little bit, you listened to twice as much music as you usually do, and you get to digest and dig deeper into maybe some artists that you already love or you may have heard of that a friend recommended but you didn’t really have the time to like, really get into it. Can you give me like one particular artist that you discovered and just really fell in love with during the pandemic?

Evan Dorfman: This artist out of the UK named TSHA. She has all her music is great but she released a song called “Only L” that Ben and I are both obsessed with. So I’ve been listening to a lot of her. Then there’s this band called Parcels who I think are kind of the best live band out. I think they’re just a fantastic group of songwriters. So I’ve been listening to them a ton and then I found myself like, really craving like hard club music. And there’s this duo out of the UK called OverMono that I listen to a lot when I’m looking to kind of like transport myself to a dark club.

Ben Cronin: I just picked up a record by a group called Mano Le Tough. One of our heroes, DJ Koze, just helped them kind of like, release this record, and it’s totally awesome. I think like one of the things that I really enjoy in our music, in the creation of it, is trying to find a way to blend club music and non club music, and it’s so cool how the end product can sound so different with different artists and they kind of have a lot of the same rough ingredients that I think we tried to bring to our record but it just sounds way different and is really fun to listen to.

KnewJack: So in your bio, it states the music they make is joyful and built on a love of dance music and a wide range of influences old and new. Can you touch on what are some of those influences and how do they make their way into your music?

Ben Cronin: Yeah, if you are by a computer and you happen to have Spotify, YouTube or a vinyl by a band called ELO, you can crank this song called “Jungle”. I can’t remember what record it’s on but when Evan and I went to write a bunch of this music, we would do kind of these upstate retreats to write a bunch. And like the very first record that felt like, man, this is going to be a really good spiritual waypoint for our writing. Was this record ELO, it’s called “Jungle.” It just has so much energy and it’s so raw and so like dancey and kind of like 70s, you know, it’s obviously a record of of that era. I think is like a great starting point for our influences for this record. It really goes back to what I was saying about trying to get sunny influences into electronic music. Like we really wanted to make something that felt kind of like a stoney summer afternoon, kind of like cartoonish and joyful and fun that was still like experimental and kind of made the listener feel like, whoa, that was like a weird decision. And that’s been a main through line for all of her music because like in any song, it never feels complete until there’s a moment that we hope the listener is kind of like, whoa, like, why did they do that?

Evan Dorfman: I think you explained it well. You know, there’s Steely Dan influences there. It’s a lot of like kind of “dad rock” 70s albums that we admired, like the way that albums were kind of put together in the 70s and even the sound quality of like a Fleetwood Mac record. We tried to kind of get that concept mixed with like the warmth of those records mixed with, you know, dance music. So that was the goal.

KnewJack: So you’ve had the opportunity to remix tracks from some very talented artists like Glass Animals, Sebastian Tellier, Sia, Tegan and Sara, et cetera. What is your creative approach when you’re asked to do a remix?

Evan Dorfman: We used to go super wild. There’s some like the Tegan and Sara one, the Tellier one, I guess, and the Gooey one, they’re like six minutes plus. It wasn’t like an intentional thing, but it was basically like, how can we just go like as far as possible with a remix like the Tegan and Sara one I remember especially has like four different sections and it’s just like different like movements.

Ben Cronin: Our general hope with the remix is like so many remixes are so boring and it’s just like the original song with like club drums, which can be really cool and functional in its own way. But like, we basically have looked at remixes as like we have all these cool stems. These are all like new parts of like a new song or a new thing that we can make. And, you know, sometimes it gets us in trouble because like, sometimes you know, we’ve done remixes that have been rejected from big name artists that like, we really didn’t like the vocals. So we used like point zero five seconds of it and then created like a totally new thing. And we’re like, “this is the remix”. And they were like, “that’s not the remix”. Gilligan Moss is all about the interesting choices, and it’s always more interesting to just kind of have a wild approach to it and then to be like, Wow, I didn’t know you could make a totally different song using these parts rather than like you slapped like a big kick under this thing and called it a day.

KnewJack: It’s almost like an entryway to your music. You want people to, you know, resonate with it and want to seek you out. That’s what I think the mark of a great remix is like, “this is amazing, who are these guys?!”

KnewJack: To flip the script a little bit, congrats on the Cyril Hahn remix. So the opposite direction, I guess, is how did you ask him and did you give any guidelines or, you know, how did that process work?

Ben Cronin: Basically, we’ve been working with a really awesome label called Foreign Family Collective. They’re based in Seattle. It’s an artist run label from Odesza, and they’ve got like a ton of really amazing acts on there. And when we were thinking about remixes for this record, we just had like a bunch of friends kind of volunteer to want to do it. And then Cyril, he had been in contact with Foreign Family Collective somehow. And I think somebody at the label just was like, “Hey, take a listen to this and see what you think”. And we were like yeah that’d be awesome if we could get him, like he hadn’t been putting out a ton of music. We both really like his music a lot. And you know, when you’re like pitching remixes like, we’re like, we’ll pitch it to these 15 people and like nine times out of ten, they’re not available or they don’t want to do it or whatever. And he was down and he sent us an amazing DM on Instagram that was like he followed us and I was like, “Cool, he followed us” seems like he might do the remix and then he has this great video and it was, he had cribbed like this footage of old Korean women dancing on YouTube to the tempo of his remix that he was making, and he just sent this clip of like the work in progress, a remix to these old women, kind of like in a dance studio like 50 year old Korean women kind of just moving. I was like, flabbergasted. I was like, “This is so cool. I don’t know what I’m watching. Like, this is amazing.” And he told us he was like, “Oh, when I’m like getting in the groove of writing, like, I just kind of look up the tempo and look up choreography in that range on YouTube. And it kind of helps me get out of my, like my software. I can kind of just watch the energy of a track happen”, and I think the remix turned out awesome. I’ve been dying to, like, play it out at a club so far, and it sounds so great.

KnewJack: Gilligan Moss, your self-titled debut album came out in April of this year, has a very interesting and unique flow to it, featuring a sort of world of different styles and textures with way more depth to it than just an hour long DJ set that you guys touched on with the “Dad Rock” elements. There’s some heavy Fleetwood Mac vibes in there, Steely Dan. You even take the chance to get introspective with “UknoIknoUkno”, et cetera. Can you walk us through the making of the album and your songwriting / storytelling process?

Evan Dorfman: I like to think that it kind of just like organically fits into our lives. There’s some songs that we just write at home like, “UknoIknoUkno”, that has my fiancé singing vocals on it, just kind of cut it at home. There’s “Joy To The World.” That has Ben’s fiancee doing backing vocals and the hook.

Ben Cronin: “Slow Down” has my dad’s dog accidentally recorded into it Which is like, if you hear, I can’t remember it’s like during the verse I was recording the vocals and he was just barking, and it randomly worked in tempo

Evan Dorfman: We’re trying to get kind of the vibe of like sort of domestic life, home life casual. I think the goal is to get some of that to translate to the record. So a lot of songs kind of have that element. And then Ben and I do a ton of writing. We like to go upstate and just get out of the city, get out of Brooklyn. So we’ll spend like one or two week stretches, just doing brain dumps, writing a ton of stuff. I’d say probably like 85 percent of the album, 90 percent of the album originated from sessions up there and then the album was finished up there, too. It’s kind of a weird mix of like a lot of the record try to imbue with sort of that every day at home stuff, but like the initial ideas and the finishing process happen sort of in isolation with the two of us upstate.

Ben Cronin: It’s also kind of a fun like as far as writing goes, like we’ve typically had like a pretty utilitarian approach, like there are songs that Evan started that like I contribute to. And then there are songs that I start that he contributes to, and there’s a couple that we started together. So it’s a very fluid creative process. And I think since our interests are aligned and we’ve known each other for so long, it’s pretty easy to kind of like, I mean, there’s obviously no objectivity when it comes to like writing music, but we’re able to kind of listen to something that’s a work in progress and be like, you know, this works, this doesn’t work and kind of come to a similar conclusion. And like 98 times out of 100, we like totally agree on like every creative decision. So it’s it’s what makes the partnership fun and successful, I think.

KnewJack: So, you touched on it, but for the listener, you guys have known each other since preschool, which is what — age four? You grew up together in the Chicago area and now both live in Brooklyn. How does that relationship inform, I guess, the creative process and just like, how does that work? Do you guys get sick of each other and have the same thoughts and jokes? It’s a really compelling story to have friends that have known each other for that long be musical partners.

Evan Dorfman: Yeah, I mean, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have just completely compatible vibes and, you know, temperaments. We’ve driven across the country in a Hyundai for a month. We’ve spent I don’t even know the total, I couldn’t even guess the number of hours we spent together. We very rarely come to blows. I don’t think we’ve ever like really had like a blowout fight before. So I think just like the way we’re our temperaments fit really well. And then creatively, we just kind of have a hive mind where I know if I like something, Ben will like it and vice versa. We like the same stuff. Some bands, I feel like each member has their own taste and that’s kind of part of their thing. There’s elements on the edges, I think, where we have different tastes, but we’re pretty aligned on like the stuff that we really love. And I think that’s kind of what makes the creative thing work is there’s not a ton of difference in what we’re looking for out of a song.

KnewJack: You’re not trying to convince each other on an idea, really.

Ben Cronin: It’s very rare that that happens. I mean, there are a couple of times where I think like having oppositional opinions is, like, really important. There are a couple of times where like we can like save each other from like throwing out gold in the trash bin. There are a couple records on the on the album that are like that like “Special Thing”. I remember, you know, we were missing one last piece for the record. We really wanted like kind of a clubby fun house jam that was like tempered a little bit by like French Disco and was just kind of like a barn burner. And it was funny, like Evan had written this thing and was like, Uh, we were at the end of the day and this big creative mission. And he’s like, I don’t know, I have this thing kind of sucks. I’m just going to like, start something new. And I was like, “Yo, this is unbelievable, like, I don’t like, what are you thinking? And I was like, give it to me” and you know, I worked on it for an hour and then it ended up becoming a super great song. And the same thing with like, I think like “Ferris Wheel” had that same thing too. Like, Evan hated it for a really long time. And I remember this moment, we were upstate and I had it stuck in my head so frequently, and I just had this big image of it like I could hear it at 9 p.m., sundown at a big festival and it was like, this feels so good, like we can’t. And I made Evan like, close his eyes, and I turned the monitors up all the way. I was like, Man, we have to use this song. And he was like, Oh, right, I gotcha.

KnewJack: That’s why the duo pays off right? Because you’re not inside. You’re just too deep sometimes in the track and you don’t, you know, you don’t have the perspective.

Evan Dorfman: Yeah, totally. And I think there’s there’s kind of like a there’s like a veto card where if someone like feels really, really passionate about something, then it’s like, I I trust that you’re playing that card for a reason and then eventually you kind of come around to it.

Ben Cronin: And we also really respect, I think, the life of a song and like your identity with it, like there are time like you never really know as a musician if a song is going to do well or like, you know, if a song will become the one that you play for forever and ever. And there’s always a moment where it’s like, you know, it doesn’t happen super frequently but there are times are like one of us has to be like, “I love you, this was a fun song to work on but if I can’t live with this for the rest of my life, then we can’t like put it out.” And there have been a couple that we had to like scrap because of that. But we were, I think, usually very aligned on on almost everything.

KnewJack: In the song “Slow Down”, there’s a deep narrative voice, almost God-like, parting of the heavens that comes in telling listeners to “just dance, baby, just breathe and let it go.” I feel like that right there sums up the escape everyone’s been looking for after these pandemic times, where we can forget all of our stresses or hardships and just let it all out on the dance floor. How cathartic was making and finishing this album for you guys?

Evan Dorfman: Extremely. We work very slowly. We’ll spend months on a given song. An album is something we wanted to do for a long time, but never, it would take us like two years to make a four song EP, so the thought of making an album felt like we’d be 50 by the time it happened. When we sat down, Ben mentioned we listened to that ELO song called” Jungle”. At the beginning, we kind of like broke out what want, kind of bullet points of, like what we want to accomplish with the record. The vibe that we wanted to have. And to our surprise, like at the end of it, we actually accomplished I think to a “T” what we set out to do. Aside from just finishing an album that fulfills kind of the original goal of what we were trying to do creatively, I think made it doubly cathartic.

Ben Cronin: I think also for me, and maybe I diverge from other artists or Evan like I’m very like, process oriented and even tonight, like, it’s amazing to get to the end and like play stuff because I sort of like wash away all the hard memories of like working for forever on a song and like, I feel like the mark of a great song for us is like when I’m playing it and I’m like, I feel like honored and privileged to be able to do it because it doesn’t feel like something that I participated in. It kind of just feels like this amazing thing that I really like. Like, I feel separate from it a little bit by the end. I feel like Evan’s like he’ll go back and hear stuff that he doesn’t like or would have added. And I’m always like, I feel very grateful to be at the end and be like, “Wow, this is like, I can’t believe we wrote this. This is wild.

Evan Dorfman: I definitely feel that. I have an insecurity with every song. So when I still when I hear them, like even in the show tonight, there’s little things like “ehhh” that wasn’t great but that’s why we’re a duo. It’s a balance of those two sides.

KnewJack: Yeah, the perfectionist can get to you. You can’t let a song go sometimes, you know, you just have to be like, “All right, this is it. It’s done. Let’s put it out” and then it works.

Ben Cronin: You do get to the end and you’re like, I love all the parts like from a songwriting perspective, this is great. I don’t know, it’s not quite there, but there are just some that, like, don’t ever get the 100 percent A-plus check mark, but it’s time better spent just saying, “OK, that’s good enough” and kind of keep it moving. That’s our new strategy.

KnewJack: So what, in your opinion, is the biggest area of growth from when the band started to where it is today? I know, Evan, you started as a solo project, so how has that arc treated you? And you know, what do you think the biggest area of growth is for you guys?

Evan Dorfman: I think it’s an identity thing. I feel like we as artists have kind of hit that like that moment in life that people talk about, like in their thirties or forties where you, like, just become comfortable with who you are. I think in our early days, we were trying to be another artist, trying to emulate people, which is, I think, good to kind of learn the craft. But with this album especially, we’ve kind of settled on what feels just uniquely ours. We were looking for an identity for a long time, and I think I still can’t articulate it very well what we landed on. But it just feels like we’ve landed at a place that just kind of comfortable in our own skin, which in the early couple of years I didn’t feel like we were there. So that’s, I think, been the biggest growth area for me.

Ben Cronin: I have a lot of personal and professional qualms with the music biz. I think there’s like a lot of rotten stuff, and it’s a really, really hard career. Like, I think for anyone listening, like making music is obviously so fun and it’s amazing to be able to get to tour and perform and whatever. But it is so hard to be able to, like, make a living and like, quote unquote make it. And I think an area that we’ve really matured. I think the first couple of years we were like, had this idea that like a light switch would flip on and that we will have made it and like our our whole thing would be sustainable and fun and whatever. And like, it’s never happened. And I think that the place that we’re at now is like, we’re like, OK, we both love making music and we’re going to keep making it and like, that is good enough. And we’ve got a ton of other interests, other things that we do. And it feels like it’s something that I still have to work on but it’s like it makes the creative process a lot more fun when it doesn’t have to be totally married to the idea of success. Because the real successes, the creative ones that you have when you’re I mean, it sounds corny, but it’s like being able to like, write a song, enjoy it and then have other people enjoy it. Obviously, if somebody wanted to pay me a million bucks for our set tonight, I’d be really bummed. But like, you know, I’m really happy with the music that we’re making. I think that’s a good place to be.

KnewJack: You touched on the record label earlier, but I wanted to get your opinion on what it’s like being part of the Foreign Family Collective label. It feels like a cutting edge musical movement with a diverse cast of very talented characters. ODESZA Rufus Du Soul, Big Wild, Mild Minds, Nasaya x Maro, et cetera. How do you guys feel about that collection and to be a part of that?

Evan Dorfman: Yeah, it’s been awesome. We had heard of Odesza, and when we found out Foreign Family wanted to put out our record, we honestly didn’t know a ton about them. And then within a couple of months of working with them, we’ve just been blown away by just the level of both thoughtfulness at the label itself but the community that they’ve built, they’ve got this incredible fan base that’s kind of built into the label, really just kind of positive minded community of people, the other artists on the label, all are friends, they’re awesome. It really is kind of a family and we’ve been welcomed into it. And it’s just it’s the total 180 from past labels and kind of what we’ve experienced in the industry. So yeah, it’s just been totally eye-opening that, you know, a label like this exists and we’ve been working with them for a little over a year, probably now.

KnewJack: Must be comforting to, you know, not have to worry about that side of things and know that’s being taken care of and you know, they’re looking out for your best interests.

Ben Cronin: I mean, record labels are kind of a funny thing because like at one end, you have like really big labels that are basically functioning as a bank. That’s like taking bets on the next Ariana Grande or whatever. And then, you know, smaller, bespoke labels that just care about cultivating a sound. And I think Foreign Family is such a great middle ground because they’re able to like like the quality control that they have over all of their creative decisions is really amazing. And I think everyone that works there is like very hard working and thinks outside of the box. And since it’s not like a traditional huge label, like I think there’s a really like agile, fun way that they work that is like totally in service of the artists. They’re amazing.

Evan Dorfman: And that’s kudos to Odesza for like, you know, it’s their, it’s kind of their brainchild. It’s a lot of the people who run the label are friends of theirs from back home, and they’re all like, extremely good at what they do. They gave us detailed notes and feedback on our album. And I think they do that with every artist like they really kind of dig in and they care. So it’s really cool what they’ve built.

KnewJack: Finally wrapping up, guys, what’s next for you? I know you’re you’re embarking on a tour. I think it started tonight. Are you, you know, working on new music? What do you have planned for the tour, etc.?

Evan Dorfman: Yeah, we’re trying to do new writing for the tour. So kind of re-imagining some of the songs, hopefully add some new bits and then the goal is to write album two. Hopefully we can start getting some things knocked out for it on the road. The other thing that we have coming out, a Deluxe Edition of the album and we ended up it was a song from the sessions, but we did a bit of writing to kind of push it across the finish line. So we do have new music coming out in the next few weeks and then it’ll be writing the new batch

Ben Cronin: And we’re both really pumped for this. Had to shuffle some of the the shows around a little bit, but we’re going out with this guy, Elder Brook, who’s totally awesome and so just so excited to like, I mean, the distance between like the bullet and the sound like, you know, we put this album out a long time ago in my mind, but this is really the first chance that we’re getting to play it out. So like for the next month, we get to play this music and share it with people with, you know, in support of a really cool act. And then, like Evan said, put out the deluxe. We’ve got some really awesome like it’s so like I didn’t really imagine that like having remixes and reimagined versions of songs would like, feel cool or interesting. But like, I think everybody that we’ve chosen, submitted, like, really interesting takes on our tunes. We’ve got an awesome one coming out next week, by this duo called Young and Sick that just takes the song that we wrote called “World Service” and is like, I don’t know, it’s kind of the “Ben & Evan” approach. It’s like pretty reimagined and like fun and like jammy. And um, so yeah, looking forward to that, coming out, the new single we’ve got, we thought it would kind of be funny and interesting sounding to put out an acoustic guitar remix of a song of ours called “Ultra Paradiso”. So we have this kind of like Paul Simon Graceland remix of one of our own songs coming out, which I like. I really love and I’m excited for. I hope other people like it too.

KnewJack: Gilligan Moss, Ben, Evan, thank you so much for joining us here at KHOL. You can hear Gilligan Moss’ music during our new music mix that airs every weekday after my show, “The Heavy Warmup,” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’m Jack Catlin and this is KHOL Jackson.

Support for this coverage is made possible by the Wyoming Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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