BY KEELY MCAVENEY Here’s what you need to know about Gordi: she is a 25-year Australian old singer-songwriter who combines folk and electronica with striking results. Her debut album Resevoir came out last summer, described by one critic as “At once cavernous and claustrophobic, substantially assembled from gloomy electronica and echoing drums, all of which provides an appropriate backdrop to a rich voice appealingly laced with melancholy.” She is currently touring with the likes of S. Carey, Bon Iver’s drummer. He’s featured on her track “I’m Done,” a breakup ballad that is both emotionally fragile and empowering. Not only has she mastered lyrical and melodic balance, but also occupational. When she’s not touring, she’s ardently pursuing her studies at med school. Her U.S. tour with S. Carey made its way to Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia last night. Here’s what she had to say to Phawker:
PHAWKER: I’m sure you get asked all the time about the stage name Gordi? But, where did it come from, and why did you choose it for your stage name?
GORDI: Yeah, it’s a family nickname that, like, yeah, my brother started calling me when I was a kid, and we don’t know where he got it from. He just like picked it out of nowhere. He was a weird child. [laughing] And, yeah, it’s, I don’t know, I kind of like, I thought of… it was suggested to me a few years ago that maybe I think about playing under another name, and I kind of wasn’t keen on the idea, and then, yeah, eventually, like, I don’t know, I came around to it. And, yeah, I feel like I’m too far down the road now to go back. Unfortunately, I sort of started going by it at the same time as Lorde and Birdy were coming around. I thought it looked like some weird imitation.
PHAWKER: Tell me about your reasons for titling the album Reservoir.
GORDI: It’s one of those things that I was thinking about what I was going to call the record, and I’d made a list of all of these different words that I liked, and lines from the songs. And none of them were really kind of sticking for me, and then I have my best mate who lives in New York. We actually talk on the phone all the time, and she and I often would use the expression that if someone’s a bit like, sort of, if one of us is a bit like reflective or contemplative, or a bit like down, then we would talk about being like, “in the reservoir.” And it was just like this real colloquial thing we talked about, which we eventually shortened to “res,” like I feel like I’m a bit in the “res” today.
PHAWKER: Like “down in the dumps,” but it sounds way less lame.
GORDI: Yeah, exactly, but it kind of sort of is like it sort of starts as that down in the dumps, but we—I sort of expanded it to mean just like you can really be reflecting on something, mulling something over while. And that was like being in this reservoir of just feeling, and, so yeah, I sort of suddenly was talking to her and talking about being in the reservoir. And I was like, that’s what the album should be called ‘cause it’s a reflection of my reservoir.
PHAWKER: Is songwriting how pull yourself up and out of it, or is it more like you’re stuck in the reservoir when you’re writing?
GORDI: It’s very much like a cathartic process, so I’m experiencing anything really. I’ll sit down on the piano or with a guitar and, yeah, just start to play and it’s kind of, requires an emotional process sometimes.
PHAWKER: Do you work on the melodies and stuff first, or is it normally the lyrics that come before? Or is it kind of like the same time?
GORDI: The melody and lyrics always generally come at the same time, like I’ll sit down at a—I mean sometimes I’ll get like one sort of line or lyric stuck in my head that then I flesh out, but most of the time I’ll start playing some chords and then I’ll just like start laying a melody over the top, like I’m singing in gibberish…and the words are sort of coming out before I know what I’m saying. And then I start to write down what I’m saying, and then, you know, it’s sort of like working it out backwards. I kind of think it’s like you’re picking up these pieces of a puzzle, and then you put them all together at the end.
PHAWKER: I also wanted to ask how much creative initiative do you take in your music videos? ‘Cause I watched all of them, and I really enjoyed “On My Side,” and it really reminded me of the title Reservoir and indicated similar themes. I thought at least the title itself as a whole. Do you normally let whoever’s directing take the idea and then it branches off? And you discuss it more.
GORDI: Yeah, I think initially when I first started, I was pretty like, you know, I just have to be on board with the idea but the director’s sort of run with something. And I still do because, I think, we get people whose work we like because we want their ideas, but I now have a much more close conversation with the director…that actually the video that just came out yesterday, for “I’m Done” with S. Carey. The director’s actually a really good friend of mine, and she sort of had this—she kind of wanted to focus on the reference to…Daphne, so she kind of had that idea, and I sort of was like a statue focused thing. And I was like, I wanted to bring, a more human element to it, so why don’t we represent it you know, in people, and so we sort of collaborated in that way to arrive at that, you know, final vision. But, I do think it’s important to give, you know, the director artistic license because, you know, you want to make them feel valued, and there’s a reason we chose them to direct that video. Otherwise, it’d probably be terrible. [laughing]
PHAWKER: I couldn’t imagine what I would do if someone gave me a camera and that kind of artistic license, it’d be terrifying. What do you normally listen to? What is the best album you’ve listened to recently?
GORDI: I’m actually really obsessed with the new record by Soccer Mommy.
PHAWKER: Oh my god, I was hopeful you’d say that.
GORDI: We just had it on in the van. I love the song from her original record, or whatever that record collection’s called. Yeah, but this new record I’m really really into at the moment, so yeah, I’m listening to that on repeat.
PHAWKER: You guys have a similar style, like dream-pop-y but not overproduced.
GORDI: Yeah, it’s really beautiful, and she kind of plays those like, another thing we have in common is those open chords, like she plays a lot of open chords, and it brings a really nostalgic kind of vibe, which I really like.
GORDI: I’ve done a few, not several, but I did a few last year and a couple this year and all. Yeah, but this is my first time in the states in a little while. I did a run last August. I think this might be the longest one I’ve done in the states ‘cause I’ll be touring through June.
PHAWKER: What do you think of the states? Does it feel jarring?
GORDI: It is like—I mean Sydney and L.A. are not that dissimilar, and I live in Sydney, so it’s like whenever we get to L.A. I mean they hugely different but just in terms of you can find good coffee and, you know good food… Australia has an abundance, we think. It is so wildly different from place to place here, like even driving up the coastline. The coastline changes throughout. There’s so many different types of people and places and yeah it’s just such a melting pot everywhere you go. And this is bigger. Everything’s bigger. You have, where we have two supermarket chains, you guys have like forty. You know, and if you go into a supermarket in Australia there’s like three different brands. You pick one of those, and here it’s just like the choices are overwhelming.
PHAWKER: Not only do we love food, we love to make it really difficult for ourselves to choose just one fattening, disgusting kind.
GORDI: [laughing] Yeah, I feel like sometimes, there’s a few words that we have that’re different. We were in Santa Ana the other night, and we were at this Vietnamese place, and we were ordering this Banh Mis. And my drummer said to the people at the counter, you know, can you not put coriander on mine, and she was like, yeah, okay. Anyway, he came back, and he was like, she says there’s no coriander or anything. And I was like I think she probably doesn’t know what it is. It’s cilantro here. And he had to go back and be like, hold the cilantro. And she was like, ohhhhh.
PHAWKER: Cilantro tastes like soap. I have that weird taste bud thing, and I guess some people don’t have it because they love it?
GORDI: I feel bad for those people, though.
PHAWKER: I saw an older interview of you that says you were studying for a medical degree. Are you a doctor?
GORDI: [laughing] Yeah, I’ve just finished the degree so…
PHAWKER: That’s so impressive. How did you do that?
GORDI: I haven’t started working yet. I’ll start working next year.
GORDI: Yeah, with a lot of anxiety. [laughing] I got through it by the end. It was a lot of juggling schedules, and the medical school was actually pretty lovely in letting me—like, I’d submit to them a little proposal thing that I need to go on tour. So, I ended up, I had all my final exams last September because I did a big tour last year actually. I’ve just come off a chunk of time. Like I did an eight week term that went right up until last Friday, and then I flew on Monday to L.A. It’s just always like tag teaming. Like I’ll get in from a tour on a Saturday and then go back into work on Monday.
PHAWKER: Did you ever think about stopping, or did you want to stick it out the whole time.
GORDI: Yeah, every single day, and there were times when I came quite close, but I was kind of just too stubborn, and I thought it would be a waste because by the time things had sort of started to happen I was like two-thirds of the way through, and I felt like I just ought to finish it, which, yeah, I’m really glad I did.
PHAWKER: I’m so impressed. I can’t handle my workload, and I really don’t do much at all, much less tour the world.
GORDI: I feel like you kind of always do what’s in front of you. I feel like if I didn’t already have that, I would’ve felt like it wasn’t possible, but because I had to do it I just did it. You kind of come out of it, and you’re like, wow how did that happen, but at the time, you make it work.
PHAWKER: Was it at home, in Sydney?
GORDI: Yes, in Sydney.
PHAWKER: And then you did a lot of it online? So technical of me, but I’m wildly curious.
GORDI: No, no. It’s all face to face. So, the last two years, it’s like basically a full time job five days a week. You’ve gotta be in there from eight till six, but I became pretty good at sort of trying to beat the system. And when I’d have overseas tours I’d have to just tell them that I needed time off for…they were pretty good about that. But like Australian tours, there was a point last year, like last July when I had to be at hospital on a Monday, and then that afternoon sort of open to play a show that night, and then I had to fly back to Sydney the next morning and go to hospital for the morning. And then I flew to Perth, which is like, you know, New York to L.A. like across the country, played a show that night, then got the red eye back and was at hospital at eight AM the next day. It was a lot of—you can’t do anything online—so it was a bit of a shit fire. I just, I don’t know, had to do it, so I did it.
PHAWKER: Are you going to try to keep balancing touring with working when you get back? You can?
GORDI: Yeah, I mean the rest of this year, I just have four more weeks that I have to complete when I get back, like just because of touring, like just to make up my hours in order to actually graduate and pass all my exams. Then I’m going to have the rest of the year to pretty much, just like touring and writing and stuff, and then next year I’m going to apply and start my internship. I’m going to try and ask the hospital if instead of doing it over one year, I can do it over two so I can apply for like ten weeks off, and then during that ten weeks I go touring and come back and work full time, so next year [laughing] will be a pretty big year. Once I can get that internship, I can then kind of work whenever, and then I’ll always have a practicing certificate.
GORDI: Yeah, I never really thought that music was a viable career for me. I just didn’t. I thought I’ll just always write and play, but I just didn’t really anticipate that it would become… I mean I’m so happy. I love it. It’s my passion. I’d never give it up. I thought…I think I’m probably a bit too sensible. I thought something else was a good idea.