I open my email to the subject line- Sam Gellaitry- and immediately do a double take. My eyes blur with excitement as I start reading.
Hope you’re doing well. I wanted to check in about Sam Gellaitry. He’s just shared his first new track in almost three years, “plan4me.”
Three years? Where the hell has Sam Gellaitry been? My brain wanders to the nicknames that my friends and I would call the prodigious producer back in college. SAMMY G! My Scottish genius! He’s the kid! Wow, I haven’t heard anything from him in a minute. My curiosity of what he’s been up to turns to a dire need to know. A Sam Gellaitry interview would be exceptional. I respond to the e-mail to gauge interest.
Hi there Patrick,
I hope all is well with you:)
Is Sam available for interviews? Would love to coordinate one structured similar to THIS ONE we ran with Ellen Allien.
Four days later, an email informing me that Gellaitry is keen to chat stops me in my digital tracks. Woah. You have to act fast and be flexible to avoid interviews falling through in COVID times. Hmmmm… I’ll be traveling in New York on that day. Well, New York is only 5 hours behind Scotland as opposed to the 8 hour difference I’d be facing in LA. Oof, 11 AM Eastern will do.
I call my friend Elliot. We used to bump Sammy G tunes together in college and he’s always been a huge fan. If anyone has some insight, it’s him. Elliot picks up and the second I tell him about the interview, he asks me the very same question I had planned on asking: “So, wait, actually though, what happened to Sam Gellaitry?” Gellaitry’s project had always held a mysterious allure. The recent level of privacy, or conscious silence, feels more Frank Ocean-y than anything.
Gellaitry’s last project, Viewfinder Vol. 1: Phosphene, dropped in April of 2019. There was a US tour that followed and then, for months on end, fans have been teased and appeased by the occasional cryptic Instagram post, Soundcloud activity, or tweet. I Google “Sam Gellaitry” and filter the search to only display results from the last year. A handful of Youtube appearances, a livestream from August of last year, and most importantly…
A Twitter interaction, impressively on brand:
So the album was 93% done a year ago?
My alarm screams at me on the day of the interview. Holy 9 AM Eastern. I’ve only been in New York for 48 hours and jet lag is kicking my ass. Gross, 6:00 AM Pacific. As I get out of bed, Sam is wrapping out errands in his hometown. I look up the time change again. 2:00 PM GMT in Stirling. Stirling, located in central Scotland, is just 15 minutes from Doune Castle where they first shot Game of Thrones’ Winterfell. Visually, it has a similar vibe with a castle of its own, impressive medieval architecture, and luscious green fields. To my surprise, Stirling has the same population as Palo Alto, where I grew up.
“I think my town is the perfect size to grow up in. You can find out what you like and dislike through qualities of people but you ultimately also know that these people are a small snapshot of a massive world, you know what I mean?” I do know what he means, I had a similar experience. Gellaitry follows his assertion with a humble confession…
“When I started, I really wanted to get to the point where I had 60,000 followers on SoundCloud, because that’s how many people live here [in Stirling].”
Gellaitry started producing Electronic Music at age 10. His brother, 5 years his senior, introduced him to the software and exposed him to experimental sounds, such as Happy Hardcore, that were popular at the time. Small towns and fairgrounds in Scotland have kept this heavy iteration of dance music alive. Gellaitry explains that Scotland’s “love for really euphoric dance music, stuff that people got over a long time ago… was a big part of [their] growing up.” While he describes it haphazardly as “cheesy rave music,” we pause to make note of the influence that the sound has had on the likes of Charli XCX and 100 Gecs over the last couple of years. As for the music Sam was making at age 10, French-House featuring original samples that he’d cut on FL studio.
Fourteen years later, music has allowed Sam to travel the world, but he has always returned to Stirling. He tells me he has been on the hunt for a place of his own for a little over a year. “I just want a detached house where I can make as much noise as humanly possible and not feel like people are there.” I ask if he is considering moving to London or New York or LA. “Nah, here man, I can’t leave this place for some reason. It has a magnetic pull over me… I love going to LA… NOT to stay over. I love going to London, not permanent. I love New York, NOT permanent… a home which feels very homely and being able to explore all my favorite places is all I need.” When travel restrictions are lifted, Sam is eager to get to Japan. Me too.
I realize that “Where the hell has Sam Gellaitry been?” is an entirely silly question.
He’s home, where he’s always been. If you combine his following across all social networks, you could populate Stirling and the 3 neighboring towns. But another confession, one with more weight, comes out: “I’m 24 now. When I started making music, I always told myself if I didn’t make it when I was 24 then I was going to quit.” This may seem dramatic to some, but I know exactly what he’s talking about. I first told myself the exact same thing about turning 25 back in my early teens.
For the most part, Sam works in solitude. He prefers it this way and living in Stirling makes it a whole lot easier to do so. “If I was surrounded by my peers… I’d constantly be listening to their music because I’d be around them. Their influence would have an effect on me, whether I like it to or not.” Too much noise. Gellaitry doesn’t actually listen to other people’s music much at all. I imagine it could be a fatal mistake when striving for a nearly unparalleled level of originality.
That said, Gellaitry recently committed to a proper management team for the first time. His vision for the future and for certain project advancements just downright warrant more manpower. Much of the mysterious allure up until this point comes of the fact that Gellaitry has yet to drop a music video, merch, or… well, his fans have pretty much just spent years reveling in the sonic perfection of his beats in remixes. How can he focus on much else with fans tirelessly begging for more?
Gellaitry gets the “drop, drop, release, release, now” messages often.
I joke, “But never the ‘how are you?'”
He laughs and shakes his head, “No, I [do] get threats to release [though,] which I like. I think that’s funny.”
Music videos are on the way. Gellaitry’s friend recently picked up an old handy cam which will set the aesthetic of the visuals to come. Merch is on the way. Gellaitry has plans for a Scottish streetwear brand that I have a sneaking suspicion will popularize kilts in the rap community. New music is on the way. “I started singing, [at first] it wasn’t fully in my accent. I had to find my voice, for lack of a better term… it’s [still] a lot more daunting than just playing a beat.” Sam Gellaitry was holding down his own lane within pop culture at large by the time he was 16. You’re not a fully formed person at 16… or at 24… or at 25. But with patience and the proper support, Sam seems to be heading in that direction.
Sam feels increasingly familiar at this point, like an old friend that I’d only met once, years ago, but we managed to stay in contact. We continually interrupt each other as the conversation progresses and the energy rises. I forget about the list of questions I had prepared. I finally open up to Sam and shed light on the perspective that I carried going into the interview:
I mean there is, and has always been, almost a persona around your project…or like, a character, like the classic, people yelling ‘SAMMY G!’ So with this new shit, is there going to be an increase in focus on… calibrating the character? Or do you think it’s going to fall kind of more natural to your personality?
His voice quiet and sincere, his accent thick as ever…
“I think it’s going to be the bridge from people’s perspective of me or perception of me to what’s going on in my head, really…
… I’m not one for tweeting, for example, I’m not going to sit into it. I’d like to, if I don’t have all these followers… my humor is a bit… can be like dead, tired and almost dark… so like sometimes I would stay silent… but it’s like, bringing that into it. I want it to be like a true audio embodiment…” Sam interrupts himself and doubles down on the sincerity in his tone. “That’s another thing, too! I do feel like people would wonder what I was really like or how to pronounce my second name or what my voice sounds like.” And at 24, Sam Gellaitry is finally “ready to show it all off.”
We spend the rest of the call trading stories and taste. We were both taken advantage of by snakes in the music industry from a very young age. He tells me, “That was horrible shit. That’s why I didn’t need to chill for a bit as well.” I, too, have been there. Favorite Kanye West album? “Graduation.” Yes, mine too! Death Grips? We both had a phase, one that of course became too dark at a point. He puts me onto Tisakorean who I listen to walking around the Lower East Side, laughing to myself, later that day. We chat on the brilliance of Björk, James Blake’s older EPs, the swagger of Stone Island, Bon Iver’s creative process on 22 A Million, and other niche pop culture subjects until we’ve more than doubled the original time allotted.
The title of his last release, “plan4me,” was the perfect double entendre. While I’ve been sworn to secrecy on specifics, there is a whole lot coming from Sam Gellaitry that you’d better get ready for. Everything coming out follows the same set of,
1. You don’t have to live in a creative hub or major city to be a creative. In fact, it may hinder your creative potential.
2. You don’t need to constantly release new work to be a creative. In fact, sometimes a break is the single best thing you can do.
3. Oftentimes, people who seem mysterious are leaving things up to your imagination until they figure themselves out for themselves.
In moments of solitude while working on something or another, occasionally my brain switches off and I’m as original as anyone has ever been. I think everyone is capable of this in their own right. After amusing him with my personal take, Sam puts the feeling into words in a way that I’ve never been able to…