Editors’ Notes GENE comes five years after Inji, Sam Dust’s debut under the moniker LA Priest, found a home amongst psych-pop enthusiasts. Some fragments of the album were made as early as 2014, composed on a homemade drum machine also named GENE. “I wanted to drop the record in 2018, but I was coaxed into letting it build up,” he tells Apple Music. “I'm more of a 'drop it while it's hot' kind of guy.” Label forces felt a later release date would add to anticipation, but Dust is happy to go with the flow. Two years later, the album feels lived in and analog, in keeping with Dust's aesthetic (he claims to not have a phone). Here, Dust tells the stories behind each of GENE's songs.

Beginning
“When I was writing the song, I had these three syllables—dah, dah, dah—stuck in my head. I actually tried about 50 different words in the refrain, but ‘be-gin-ning’ was the thing that fit the song, and it felt right. When you come into an album and you've got a song called 'Beginning' in it, it has to start the album. You can put it somewhere else, but it feels a bit too quirky or something.”

Rubber Sky
“I actually recorded the first version of this song while I was driving. I had my laptop, so I stopped, and I put the laptop on the dashboard and set it up. I've never done this before or since, and I just started recording and laid down the melody and all the harmonies on it. I had those ideas sitting around for maybe three or four years. It was the last song I added to this record. You don't want to forget. If you don't recall all your ideas, you could lose albums' worth of material.”

What Moves
“‘What Moves’ was another very late addition to the album. There’s a similarity between the first few tracks, specifically the first three. They share this common sound that the rest of the album kind of goes away from into something else. It's the first time I've ever modeled a song on another one of my songs. If you look back at my previous stuff, each song is fairly unrelated. This was an attempt—a very loose attempt, but an attempt nonetheless—to have some sort of connection and flow. 'What Moves' started as an early Dictaphone recording, but I never considered it a very good idea until I was like, 'I've got to just make a single for the album.' It sounds kind of cynical and formulaic, but I tried to do it with a lot of soul, and I just took this one melody and tried to give it as much depth as I could.”

Peace Lily
“I played the melody on the keyboard when I was out in the Sierra Nevada mountains. That's where I started the record. I only had what I could carry in a suitcase when I went over to America from the UK. I had my first prototype of the GENE drum machine and a little white Yamaha keyboard. 'Peace Lily' was probably the simplest song on the whole record. It was just me playing the keyboard, kind of badly, because it's one of those mini-keys keyboards, so you can't really get your fingers to hit the right notes. I think it turned out all right.”

Open My Eyes
“Beginning with ‘Open My Eyes,’ I was trying to create a light and dark, two sides of the record. I arranged the record in terms of light to dark. I wrote this around the same time as ‘Beginning,’ so it was one of the early recordings. It didn’t have that certain darkness to it when I first wrote to it. But it required a lot of lyrical content, and as I put the lyrics down, I realized that because the chorus came very early on, it was about seeing both the good and bad. I'm looking at everything in that song, I suppose. It has a bigger-picture feel to it.”

Sudden Thing
“I wrote this song when there were difficult things happening in my life, people around me were going through difficult times. This was late 2017, early 2018. There were a few emotional times happening around me. This song was my way of dealing with it. There is a sadness, a realization that things come to an end, that time passes on and things are not going to remain the way they were. I just needed an outlet for that. Luckily, if you are an artist, you have a real opportunity to get it all out and in the open, and move forward. This song was my way of looking back and taking weight off my shoulders.”

Monochrome
“When I wrote this, I wanted to pay tribute to heavy metal, rock, and those genres. Obviously, I've never really been strictly a guitar player, or considered myself really adept as a guitar player, so when I think about metal, it's like death metal anyway. I never dive into genres deep enough to know what they truly are, so this is my interpretation of metal. It's just the way I hear the genre. One of the references for this song was Radiohead's song 'Myxomatosis,' which is a really clever way of making a heavy song. The lead sound is just a crappy synth sound in a way, but it sounds great.”

What Do You See
“I wrote ‘What Do You See’ on the same day or the day after ‘Peace Lily,’ but it didn't really turn into a song. I was just noodling on a keyboard. I found this glitch on the keyboard that I took with me, that mini keyboard, where you could record a loop. If you held the keys down, they would just mash together into this impossible keyboard line. That just sparked it off, because you could hear all these melodies in this garbled mess of notes. I just put the vocal line down over those melodies in the next day or two. That was one that was sitting around, not being used until the last week of recording as well. That and 'Rubber Sky' came along really quickly. It would have been a very different record if it wasn't for the last week of recording.”

Kissing of the Weeds
“I think these recordings might be from 2014. They're from a night when I was drunk with some friends and I was just playing the acoustic guitar in a kitchen. You can hear people talking and singing along and things. We were on a ferry once, and the wake-up sound on the ferry is of Celtic origin. The wake-up sound made us all laugh, because it was so sincere. The guitar line is based on that Celtic wake-up call. It’s this kind of slightly haunting and medieval-sounding thing.”

Black Smoke
“I consider ‘Black Smoke’ to be a sonic experimentation in the form of a ballad. I wrote it while I was just trying to push the drum machine to its limits and see what textures I could get out of it. Most of it is just layers of that. It wasn't very easy to make it into a song, and I didn't want to push it to be a traditional verse-chorus-verse thing, so I really just left it alone and just let it be. I wanted it to be a journey into the unknown. The end is from when I discovered that my place in the States had a cellar. The first thing I did was get my drums out of storage. They'd been in storage for years, and I finally set up my drum kit down there. At the end of 'Black Smoke,' you can hear me just going crazy. That's what I did for exercise as well at that time. I didn't go out much. I just went and played the drums.”

Ain’t No Love Affair
“This was the first recording of the drum machine that the whole album is built on. It's from when it was just in this form of a bundle of wires, it wasn't even in a box at that point. And I didn't know what I was doing. I just hit record and everything else in the song came later. It's weird for me, I suppose, to explain that the songs are just essentially drums, because not many people think of songs in that way. In the last two songs, and especially in the last song, I'm just trying to find out what’s possible over the backbeat provided. Over such an unconventional backbeat, I'm just trying to find out how you can actually deal with a song atop it. That's the merit of those things. They're not going to ever be radio-friendly tunes, or even party-friendly necessarily, but there's just a potential for future reflection and learning within these experiments.”

SONG
Beginning
1
4:06
 
Rubber Sky
2
5:00
 
What Moves
3
3:49
 
Peace Lily
4
1:59
 
Open My Eyes
5
5:25
 
Sudden Thing
6
3:46
 
Monochrome
7
4:25
 
What Do You See
8
3:45
 
Kissing of the Weeds
9
2:14
 
Black Smoke
10
4:54
 
Ain't No Love Affair
11
4:25
 

Music Videos

  • Rubber Sky
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  • Beginning
    Beginning
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  • What Moves
    What Moves
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