Icky, Icky Feelings; An interview with Adam Cimino and Matt Jones of Male Gaze

Being caught in a male gaze can be unsettling or welcome, depending on your perspective. In the case of the band who has adopted the appropriate moniker, both are true. With fuzzy power pop, distorted noise and art rock, and spooky goth sensibilities at play, Male Gaze deliver a clamorous racket that is challenging to classify, but satisfying on many levels and to many audiences. Whatever category or non-category they occupy or fanbase they set out to attract, the band released Gale Maze via Jones and Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer’s Castle Face record label in late March.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Male Gaze’s Adam Cimino and Matt Jones to discuss the band, their relationship with Castle Face and how Northern California influences their sound.
How did the members of Male Gaze come to decide to collaborate together?
Adam Cimino: Mark (Kaiser) and  I had been playing together since his move back to Northern California in September ’13. It was more or less just an excuse to hang out and drink a couple beers together after work. He invited Matt to join us around April and he immediately began to help shape some of our short ideas into more dynamic song structures. Within a few weeks, Matt had honed in on his own writing style that worked well with the direction Mark and I had been headed.  
Matt Jones: After Blasted Canyons I was excited about the prospect of keeping it simple and loud. Mark said that the two of them had been meeting up weekly and I slid right in. It wasn’t long before intent developed.
Were you a fan of The Mall and Blasted Canyons and were they fans of Mayyors?
AC: I interviewed Mark for a college paper in 2001 and was a big fan of both Shove and his former label Omnibus. My appreciation of Mt St Mtn and Mayyors is just a continuation of my many years spent fanning out on all things Kaiser. I use to serve coffee to Matt back then. We weren’t close buds but I would go to his shows. I was recently shuffling through some old CDs and found that our old bands were even on a comp together.
MJ: For my part I had played with Mayyors on one of their last shows in San Francisco, at the bowling alley. So heavy it was hard to make heads or tails of it, and their singer reminded me of Satan, always a plus. The Mall I had known wayyy back from being in bands in Santa Rosa. Our conversations at practice tend to divert into “remember so and so from such and such” because we unintentionally have all been in the same mix, aging like buried hardboiled eggs. 
Does the band differ from what you’ve done in the past, or should people expect what they’d come to expect from your collective past projects?
AC: This is definitely more toned down than The Mall. We are getting old.
MJ: This is my first band in 15 years without a synthesiser in it.  
What kind of chemistry exists between you guys and how does it help to make the music you create together fulfilling for you?
AC: I still look forward to meeting at the Arrow and drinking a beer or two before we head to the space. It is ultimately just an excuse to hang out. With Matt’s recent move to LA things have changed a bit, but Mark and I are doing our best at keeping the routine alive and well. With that, we have also sort of reverted back to he and I writing shorter more simplistic drum and bass parts that we bounce of Matt in hopes that’ll he’ll take one and run. Matt continues to bring in his own ideas as well, and we edit them together to add builds and bridges. 
MJ: Again, coming from Blasted Canyons it’s been vastly different. Far less “stitch-n-bitch” and far more like weekend warriors doing an archery course. 
Are you pleased that with the reception the band has been getting so far?  How can you tell that people “get it”?
AC: People have been pretty rad.
MJ: I’m consistently and pleasantly surprised by positive reactions to my icky, icky feelings in song form. We have recently played a few shows that got taken over by jostling young jocks, which leads me to the conclusion that we’re tapping into a Jungian subconscious jock-jam deficit no one knew was there…always a plus. The flip side, speaking to the negative reactions to the name by those that recognize it for its academic (and ultimately more menacing) definition, is a bit more complex. I consider myself a feminist, have always worked and played with strong women, and have no problem regarding them as equals. However, this band being composed of mostly icky, icky feelings necessitated a negative name. I fully recognize that adopting a mantle that in code speaks to exclusion of women from art and alternately intimates a predatory outlook isn’t exactly a crowd pleaser, but it felt right given the vibe and the material we were putting together, so it stuck. I hope my educated sisters in arms can accept this non-direct reasoning and judge the band on its own terms. 
MtStMtn., your label did the first 7-inch, but the LP was release by Castle Face Records.  How did that relationship come about?
AC: Inviting ourselves to our own party.
MJ: Full disclosure dictates that I declare I work at Castle Face. It was not my plan to put this record out but John (Dwyer) insisted when he heard the demos…
How did your coming to age in Northern, California influence the musician you’ve become today?
AC: I learned how to play set drums on Hippie Hill, Mark is constantly trying to add slap bass and Matt really wants to blend our sound with metal and hip hop.
MJ: Irrevocably. I came up in the right place at the wrong time growing up in Santa Rosa, so I moved to San Francisco, which at first seemed like a mistake, or at least as far as music was concerned. Then I met John Dwyer and he cracked my world open, and I had the pleasure of watching the SF scene gestate and take off, and I flew to greener pastures right along with it. Priceless times that can never be duplicated, and having that second city, underdog, non-industry DIY grounding is very important to how I look at the world. 
What did you appreciate most about growing up there?
AC: Amoeba, the Sierras & EMB
MJ: I hated growing up in suburbia as much as the next guy and being in a place so many considered to be an oasis or a paradise away from the rest of the world didn’t make it any better. Thankfully there’s a long and storied history of awesome and weird music coming from the Bay Area (and being run out of it) and growing up here there was always a sense of can-do, DIY, book your own fucking life, don’t wait for someone else to “sign you”, just make what you can of what you have. Drive three hours and play a house party, it’s worth it. “Eating shit” touring was like a rite of passage and the stories from older kids in bands just made it seem that much cooler. That continuity, regardless of the style or scene, has been there since I grew up and was vitally important. 
Are you willing to recognize Male Gaze as a “pop” band, as some media have indicated?
AC: We are still teetering back and forth, which is where I hope to stay.
MJ: “Pop” is not a four letter word. 
(Visit the band here: http://www.malegazesf.com/.)