Standard operating procedure. When something stimulates a reaction, we must reflect – on our personal feelings and experience as well as all available information – before formulating our reaction.
– Gavin Dunaway
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
GD: I was born outside of Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia, and spent 27 years trying to get out. I kid, but it’s very hard to get away from the DC area – there are good schools and government jobs; the suburbs are safe and comfy. And a little dull. On a professional (for a living, I’m an industry journalist) and on an artistic level, I needed something more, something bolder. I still love my hometown, and the choice to move to New York (really Brooklyn) was a tough one, but I’ve been here six years and have never felt more at home. A few years ago, I found an amazing deal on a big apartment in Bushwick near the Jefferson L, and I’m sitting pretty near my rehearsal studio as the neighborhood rapidly transforms.
The main reason I migrated to Brooklyn was to extend my rock’n’roll dreams: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 7 and jammed in bands for longer than I can remember. While I jumped around from band to band for a while, my main focus now is the group I lead, Libel. I try to blend my love of 70s glam (e.g., David Bowie) with 90s post-punk (e.g., Fugazi), while sprinkling socially conscious lyrics on top – examining the contemporary state of identity; the decay of the middle class and domination of the plutocrats; the slide into hyper-reality; and even the volatility of love amid cultural confusion.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
GD: Standard operating procedure. When something stimulates a reaction, we must reflect – on our personal feelings and experience as well as all available information – before formulating our reaction. Technology has encouraged us to respond without reflecting (I’m looking at you, Twitter), turning so much of our culture into a series of knee-jerk reactions with little depth. Indeed, I think many of us are so lost in the flood of information that we desperately seek guides to follow and allow them to tell us what to think – about politics, art, etc. Reflection withers, response dominates – we’re all desperate to be heard, and ultimately validated, in an ocean of voices.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
GD: I tend to let songs gestate for years; crafting both music and lyrics require a great deal of reflection before finalization. For example, I’m finishing up lyrics to a song focused on gentrification. When I finished the first draft, I thought, what is this trying to say – gentrification is bad? No, it’s more complicated than that. Am I just merely describing what I’ve seen in Bushwick the last few years? If so, is there a message below the straightforward chronicle? In the end, I realized the lyrics reflected the callousness of the gentrifiers (which includes me) to transform areas without any – wait for it – reflection on the environment they are disturbing. And then we move on when we get priced out or just… bored because the area turns into something we don’t recognize (or like).
So my creative work feels much more dedicated to reflection, and encouraging others to reflect and develop their own responses.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?