Words by Michelle Kicherer
“People email me, say, ‘Hey Catch,’ because they think it’s me but it’s not. But hey that’s why I like it —is it a person? Is it, go catch this person named Prichard? It doesn’t really mean anything but most importantly — and what I want everyone to know — it’s everyone involved in the project. Whether you’re a manager, engineer, musician, you are part of Catch.”
Sawyer Gebauer has been writing and performing music since he was a teenager. At 19 he moved to Sweden, where he spent five years working on a farm through WWOOF and where he happened to fall in love with the farmer’s daughter, Evelin Sillén. The pair started the folk group Brittsommar, which paired Gebauer’s haunting, lower-than-deep vocal stylings with Evelin’s whimsical voice.
After five years of successes and touring all over Europe, the couple — and the group — fell apart, and Gebauer returned to the states. It was 2016 and he was ready to find his voice again. He formed Catch Prichard, whose first EP, Eskota, took on a steel-guitar-heavy, Americana feel, laden with sad songs and working-class strife.
For their new album, Utter Disbelief (out February 22) Catch Prichard takes on a completely different trajectory. Songs are heavy with room-devouring synths and powerful keys, lovely steel guitar, and the occasional sax, all reverberating around Gebauer’s instrumental voice. Unlike his last Brittsommar album, which was mastered at Bob Weir’s TRI studios, Gebauer initially recorded all of Utter Disbelief in his room. He enjoyed the slow recording process, the low stress of self-production, and the freedom to explore his atmosphere. Same voice, different vibe.
The Bay Bridged: I wasn’t going to start with this, but I can’t help it: You have a very unique vocal styling.
Sawyer Gebauer: Thank you.
TBB: It’s baritone-bassy; dark in a kinda weird way. Actually, it reminded me of the first time I heard Joanna Newsom: I tilted my head and thought, What the hell? I wasn’t sure at first but the more I listened the more it grew on me and now I just think it’s a very unique instrument.
SG: I think that’s a good thing.
TBB: So that reaction doesn’t offend you? That people have to pause, maybe frown and ponder?
SG: No, no. I think it’s good when things grow on you like that. That’s always the first comment about the music: my voice. But some of my most favorite albums I didn’t like right away! I had to give them a few listens before they really meant something. Kind of like a relationship: you can have a hot, intense thing that’s fun but it dies out quickly. Some of the things that take time become the most important. I knew I had something very special, unique I guess, as far as my voice goes. I knew that not everyone was going to like it but I guess that’s how it works. We’re kind of a love or hate thing, and that’s good with me.
TBB: What about comparisons to people like King Krule?
SG: I’ve worried about that before. You’re the first person to actually have said it but I’ve worried about it.
SG: Well, it’s not that I don’t like what he’s doing. We’re just really different and I feel like just because we both have low voices doesn’t mean we’re in the same spectrum. Although, Jay-Z and Beyoncé both love King Krule. But they haven’t heard me yet!
TBB: Let’s make it happen. Beyoncé! Give this a little listen. And Kanye, what about a collaboration?
SG: I’m ready.
TBB: But joking — or not — aside, do you think you’re more keen on being compared to a Waits, Cohen, or Cash because they’re old legends?
SG: Well…it’s definitely a little cooler.
TBB: The single “Going Crazy” off the new album: It has this heavy feeling. I feel like the lights dim when that song comes on. Like the colors in the room shifts to, what —
TBB: Ah — what about the rest of the album?
SG: It’s all kind of purple-blue, black, gray.
TBB: Like a bruise.
SG: I think the album has a lot of rest and meditation. I recorded it all initially in my room, actually. Then we recorded and mixed it at Zoo Labs in Oakland.
TBB: Who’s on sax in that song?
SG: His name is Jess Kohlhede. Actually, we were just about done recording but there was something missing. We thought a saxophone would be really fucking cool and luckily there was this guy working on his scales in another studio room and he agreed to come in. He laid it down in one take and it just makes the whole song.
TBB: What fate. It makes the song so warm and unique.
SG: That song would not be what it is without him.
TBB: This album was a lot more pad-driven; synth-driven.
SG: Yeah and I love that shit. I taught myself piano in the last couple years, which had a lot to do with this transition.
TBB: So what’s next?
SG: I’d love to play more shows. Amnesia, Make Out Room, Brick & Mortar. I love those spots, I’d love to play them.
TBB: Let’s get you a bookie.
SG: Bookies don’t do shit.
TBB: You heard it here first, folks.
Embleton, Young Sue, Adam Spry, Catch Prichard
February 28, 2019
9pm, $5 (21+)
Michelle Kicherer is a fiction writer and music journalist living in Oakland, CA. She is the Associate Editor for The Deli Magazine, she enjoys long walks, and her second novel is in the works. Instagram @michellekicherer