Treasure MammaL's frontman, Abelardo Gil, certainly has been on several musical journeys throughout his life to land him where he is today. Born in Venezuela, he's lived in the Phoenix metro since 1995 when he moved from Los Angeles. Although he's been in several area bands, he's best known for Treasure MammaL, a project that's still going strong in its 15th year.
Gil's history here in the Valley music scene is a rich one. His first band locally in Tempe was called Paper Tiger Trio, a noise and jazz-oriented band in which he played theremin. He then moved away from the noise and got into more into experimental compositions with Tres Tres Bien, concurrently running his house venue The Lab. As Tres Tres Bien expired, he moved into a six-piece band called Clementine focused on depressing songs about depressing feelings. After a while, he realized that he wanted to write songs that make people happy, and after years of darkness, noise, and constant experimentation, he founded Treasure MammaL.
Fronted by Gil since 2003, the entire premise behind the band's catalog is built upon the foundation of "wanting to have fun in an experimental way." Featuring Matthew Wood, Andrew Hiller, Holly Hall, and Taylour Geiss, the band looks at its work as "an opportunity to change a life." They are currently working on a new record, for which Gil wrote to John Mayer asking to record with them. This Saturday, September 15, Treasure MammaL graces Arizona stages twice in one day, first at an 8:15 a.m. set (yes we said a.m.) as part of the annual "Indie 500" put on by the folks over at the Trunk Space, and later at a nightcap in Tucson at Che's Lounge. New Times was able to catch up with Gil to talk about his gear, his new idea for a single release, and his band's upcoming shows.
Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Abelardo Gil: I think a secret weapon that I have is that I channel spirits during recordings and performances. Because I am channeling spirits, I’m not really there anymore and it allows magic to happen. I feel like it has a great effect on our sound and the way information is presented. As far a signature sound goes, I’m not really sure, but I do a lot of different processes. Sometimes I record stuff on Betamax or cassette tapes, then put it on Pro Tools and then back on my SP-404 sampler. The only thing that is consistent with our sounds is that it all ends up on the SP-404 sampler.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
My favorite piece of gear is a Maplin 5600s synthesizer. I bought this piece of gear off of eBay and it was not only in a flood, but it was also in pieces. After three years of rebuilding this synthesizer, it’s functioning 100 percent and there is nothing else that sounds like it.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
I had a Mellotron Mk Vi for a couple of years. A Mellotron is basically an archaic sampler from the '60s. It has a keyboard on it, but each key triggers a sample of a sound. It is incredibly difficult to maintain because it is truly an electro-mechanical instrument. But, when you played it, it sounded like ghosts were living in the tape of the machine. It always sounded eerie and beautiful.
Full disclosure, I am totally addicted to Craigslist. One day, I was scouring through Craigslist and I saw a guy in Mesa that had several keyboards for sale. Most of the keyboards were '90s workstation pianos like the Korg 01/WFD … but he also had this Mellotron Mk Vi which was remade in the '90s. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. I called up Owen Evans from Roar to go help me go check it out. So, we drove to Mesa to check out the Mellotron and I brought some synthesizers to trade. It was very difficult for Owen and I to not be really excited about possibly acquiring this piece of gear. I actually, had to tell Owen to not act excited about the Mellotron (even though it was his favorite instrument). There was a few things wrong with it and I focused on the things that were wrong with it and eventually, I convinced the seller to trade me for some synthesizers. It was definitely a dream to acquire this piece of gear and I used it as much as I could. However, I took it as a lesson. Sometimes when you really want something and you acquire it … It’s possible that the thing you wanted so bad could be a gigantic pain in the ass.
Just listened to your track “Missed Connections.” What a fun, sweet, and genuine track. We loved all the swirling sounds and the drum tracks are super wild. How did you go about recording and tracking this song?
Most of the song was created at 513 by Mike Hissong and myself by sending the clock from Protools to the Sequential Circuits Pro One synthesizer. I wanted to recreate a song from an Optigan disc. After Mike and I created most of the structure of this song, Owen Evans added a really great bridge on the stand up piano. After the instrumental was laid out, then Jef Wright and Jef Wrong laid down some siq beats on it. Finally, the vocals were done by myself, Robin Vining, and Lonna Kelley. I believe that this song contains an Arizona feel to it… Just because it includes all these really incredibly talented AZ musicians like Robin Vining, Owen Evans, Lonna Kelley, and myself.
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You had said during our phone conversation that you were working on a new single about online dating, and that you were planning on releasing different versions of the “same” song. Can you please expand upon what your plans are?
I wrote a song called “Online Dating” and I recorded it in Portland last summer with Ben Barnett from Kind of Like Spitting. The idea was to have both verses in the song be different online dating profiles created by the people that I ask. So, the intro, chorus, and outro of the song are all the same, but each verse is created by someone that I have recorded. Included on each dating profile is the name of the person, what their interests are, and what they are looking for in a partner. Some of the profiles are real and some of them are fake. For example, "Hi! My name is Karen and my friends call me the spiritual gangster because I’m always going with the flow. I’m looking for someone who has a balanced chakra and likes to travel. Because I want to see the world." This is just one short example of many profiles that have been created. I currently have recorded 40 different profiles, so I have 20-ish different versions of the song. People that have contributed already are Sean Bonnette, Tatiana Crespo, Ben Braman, Kenaim Alshatti, Philip Buckman, The Doyenne, Robbie Pfeffer, and Kayla Clancy, to name a few.
Treasure MammaL has two shows coming up this Saturday. One is at 8:15 a.m. as part of the Trunk Space’s Indie 500, and the other is at Che’s Lounge in Tucson. Any words you wish to share with readers about your upcoming shows this weekend?
The first show that we are doing is at the Trunkspace on Saturday morning. I’m calling it the “Treasure MammaL Half-Hour of Power,” which will be a continuous nonstop collection of mashups that I put together and tracks that we don’t usually play on the regular … Later on that night, for the Tucson show at Che’s Lounge, we are playing with the two drummers and I plan on giving a few haircuts during the set. We’ll call my hair salon for the night “Fantastic Mam’s.”
Indie 500. 4 p.m. Friday, September 14, at The Trunk Space, 1124 North Third Street; thetrunkspace.com. Admission is $10.