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Madness and the Film: An Interview with Caroline Gorman

BrownxRISD

Madness and the Film: An Interview with Caroline Gorman

Alif Ibrahim

Interview by Alif Ibrahim

Tell me about yourself.

I’m from New York City. I did a lot of music throughout high school, and that’s just sort of how people viewed me creatively, mostly as a musician. But I’m doing a lot more film stuff here. So it’s kind of funny that not that many people know I do music here. I’m in a band right now where my bandmate lives in London, and we are just in very separate universes.

Caroline Gorman '18 is one half of Madness and the Film. Originally from NYC, she's been exposed to the sleepless art scene that now continues to fuel her passion for music and film at Brown. A musician, film-maker, and visual artist, she has great projects lying ahead. 

How did you first get into music in high school?

I’ve been playing classical piano since I was 4.

Did your parents make you do that?

No, actually I really liked it. It was lucky that I got to take lessons from that age, and I was just really into it and picked up ukulele, guitar, bass, drums and then started singing. The more instruments, the more fun it was to play music.

Did you play with your friends in high school or was it more just by yourself?

Actually, it was more just like me in my room doing my thing, and I sort of did that for a while until I realized that it could be a social tool, made friends at a different school, and we played some shows together. I recorded an album by myself in New York in the 10th grade, and played a bunch of shows that summer to promote that album.

Where did you play?

Everywhere, like small shitty bars. Anywhere that we can book.

How was it like performing in small, shitty bars when you were in 10th grade?

It was fun, I definitely have some audio and video recordings that I will never watch at least for another 15 years (laughs), but I think it was a good experience. I really liked acting because it allowed me to assume another personality and different mannerisms on stage, whereas when playing music, all of my songs were really personal and about my own life at that point of time, though they’re not anymore really. So I was very conscious of the fact that I was myself on stage, which is a different, more self-conscious experience. But I didn’t view it like that at the time, just looking back, because I haven’t played a show in a while.

You haven’t?

No (laughs).

Are you planning to?

Yeah, I really want to get more into electro-experimental music. I have a really strong instrumental foundation and I want to take it more to the computer. A lot of people think that the top electronic musicians don’t have a lot of instrumental knowledge. Sometimes that’s the case, but a lot of the times they come from a strong classical foundation.

You said that a lot of your music from high school came from personal stories. How is it now that you’re in a band?

I like it a lot better because I can still write about personal things about my life, and people won’t automatically assume that it’s about me specifically. That takes the focus off the individual, which I think is a better way to appreciate art. In the context of a collaborative effort, like writing with somebody else, I love working that way because you see things that you can’t possibly on your own. We don’t get to hang out that often and when we do, we have very intense writing sessions just for a few days at a time.

Let’s talk about Madness and the Film.

So David’s my bandmate, we met almost two and a half years ago, the summer of 2012. We are sort of an unlikely band because when we met he was 31 and I was 16. Which kind of shows, as cheesy as it sounds, that art has no bounds in that respect. It didn’t really matter, because we just started playing and we wrote a song within a few hours of meeting each other, and I’ve never had that experience with anyone before. We edit each other’s work really well and are able to bring different things to the table and have grown as a collaborative unit over the years.

We’ve written over a hundred songs and have recorded eight songs together. We’re pretty selective. It’s an interesting process because I’ve been much more analytical about this kind of music compared to when I was writing by myself.

How so?

Writing in a band has forced me to assume a producer’s mind as well as an artist’s mind, and think of the songs as something separate from myself whereas before it was more like “I wrote this song I’m not going to edit it and now I’m gonna put it out there”. Now I’m more conscious of the fact that the song is something that’s separate from me, if that makes sense.

When you meet someone, you don’t usually go straight into recording a song, so how did you end up writing a song so quickly with David?

Oh yeah, I’ve never had that experience with anyone else. I think sometimes there’s, something sort of inexplicable and you don’t know why or how it happened happens, and you just understand that you’re thinking in the same way. The creative process was so personal to me for so long, and I’ve done it alone for so long, that it was very eye opening to realize that you can share this experience with someone else and make art that’s even better and more powerful and means more to you personally that can still access a greater audience.

You live in Providence now, your family’s in New York and David’s in London. If you were to define yourself, personally or as a band, where would you place yourself?

I think we’ve sort of been a New York–London band, cause that’s where we’re both from. David’s obsessed with New York and wants to live there, and I’m obsessed in London and want to live in London. It’s easy to romanticize what you don’t have. We’re both in love with both cities and so we market ourselves as a New York-London based band.

Obviously New York and London are both gigantic cities that are filled with a lot of different opportunities.

They’re both very artistic cities. So is Providence.

Yes, so is Providence. How do you think you set yourself apart from other upcoming bands with potentially equally interesting stories?

I think there are a few information-based aspects of our band that makes us sort of unusual. Whenever I tell people that I’m in a band with someone in London, and oh hey he’s also 33, people think that’s it’s kind of atypical, naturally. Our sound as a result is a little bit different because we both come from such different places and experiences that it manifests itself in a different way than if I was in a band with somebody that I share daily experiences with at Brown. Even when I played shows with friends in high school, we had relatively similar lives.

It’s definitely more interesting with an element of mystery to it because we don’t experience each other’s lives in the same way. We only have these few days when we’re together and though we talk almost every day on Facebook, it’s not like we’re living each other’s worlds. It’s kind of refreshing because it lets me step outside of myself and fulfill my role in this band in a different way that’s not my entire personal life. That allows me to keep some distance.

What would you say your world is?

Right now my world is pretty much Brown. It’s completely overwhelming in the best way, just being here and being involved with everything. I was not one of the people in high school that got really involved in activities. I just sort of did my own thing, but now that I’m here and the school activities are things I really enjoy, like making films, I became really involved.

And what’s David’s world like?

Right now he’s working for British Airways. He was a flight attendant, and he was flying out to LA a lot and that’s why we recorded some music out there. He lives in London. He’s not a student anymore (laughs). He teaches guitar as well to students. So yeah, we have pretty different lives.

You briefly mentioned that you do different mediums of art, and I know you’re doing much more film stuff now. Where would you place music in Caroline Gorman’s art world?

I’ve recently been trying to rid myself of the notion that music is only this band, because it’s so much bigger than that. Music is everywhere, I love music, and I’ve given my last three years to the development of this band, and both David and I have been very, very focused on it. But it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket because if it doesn’t work out, I can still be creative in different ways. I’m trying to do more experimental music at the moment to step out of this songwriter’s mindset.

I do a lot of scriptwriting in high school and now I do a lot of experimental filmmaking so it’s refreshing to use the medium in completely different ways. Music is in film, music is in theatre, and I’m trying not to view it as a separate thing that can’t infiltrate other aspects of my life, because it’s not true.

Very quickly, what are some of your musical inspirations?

I hate this question (laughs).

Okay, let’s think about it this way: instead of specific bands, let’s think of it as where you look in terms of sound or emotions.

I like this better. Well recently I’ve been listening to “non-music”. Like experimental noise, I guess. I found this song, and showed it to my friend on last.fm or something. On the tag is “avant-noise”, which we thought was the funniest thing so we started a film production company called that. It sounds incredibly pretentious, but it’s kind of hilarious. It’s so on the edge. Avant-noise.

I’ve been trying to be more selective about the type of music I choose to listen to, because a lot of times I put music on just to put music on instead of thinking about the impact about how they make me think about the world. So I’ve been listening to more experimental noise to take myself out of this very strict mold that I have in terms of what I think a song should be. I spent a lot of time analyzing pop music and trying to fit more alternative music in this pop mold, which is interesting in its own right but I want to explore a different side of things now.

I see you’ve got an EP coming up.

Yeah! We’re actually on the process of taking down all of our old stuff. We have our new EP Outlaws coming out within 2-3 months. We’ve finished recording, and we’re just waiting on more business…stuff. We’re really excited to get it out there.

Why are you taking your old stuff down? That’s a pretty interesting move.

Well Lana Del Rey used to be Lizzie Grant, which I think is fucking hilarious, and a lot of people love that about her, that she’s completely manufactured. I don’t think she admits that she’s completely manufactured, whereas Lady Gaga changes her look all the time and she acknowledges that while I think that Lana Del Rey is like “this is my authentic self” and it’s kind of confusing that she doesn’t embrace her stage persona. All that is to say that it’s been done before, and we recorded our first EP two years ago and we both feel that it’s kind of dated.

So you’re changing your stage persona?

Yeah…admittedly!

What are you trying to go for?

We’re just trying to go for a new sound, and find an image to match that. I’m really interested in performing with film projections. We are Madness and the Film after all. It’s sort of funny because when we decided on the name, we both liked it, but it didn’t have any real meaning to any of us but we kind of thought it made sense. But over time, I realized what it means to me in a new way, which is interesting.

What’s in the future?
Ooh, who knows, Alif. Oh my!

Okay, how about this, where will I see you in one year and where will I see you in ten years? 

That’s a big question, but I’ll do my best to answer it. I’m not opposed to taking a year off to do music, but I will only do that if it’s absolutely necessary. I think these days it’s super easy to get your stuff out there online and have it be successful, and tour when it’s absolutely necessary. So that’s a possibility. I’m really just into being creative at Brown, it’s been a great time. There are so many interesting people here, you just have to put yourself out there and get to know people to figure out whom you can collaborate with. In ten years, hopefully I’ll be working in film, TV or music...or theatre. Any of those I’ll be happy with.