GIFT Brings the Sounds of ‘Illuminator’ to Los Angeles Venues – An Interview

GIFT - Photo by Dana Trippe
GIFT - Photo by Dana Trippe


LOS ANGELES – New York City based band GIFT has an album releasing on August 23rd called Illuminator. They’re also doing a two-night stand in Los Angeles on June 13th (Thursday) at Permanent Records Roadhouse and June 14th (Friday) at Genghis Cohen.

The band has released two songs from the upcoming record: “Wish Me Away” and “Going in Circles.” “Wish Me Away” has a sonic tone that has the feel of a band playing a dim lit bar in a David Lynch TV episode, “Time’s lost, I pretend. It dawns on me. This life I can’t repeat. Like sinking sand. It’s gone way too fast.”

“Going in Circles” starts off with an electrical current buzz that turns into early 90s alternative rock. The song can be blasted from the car as you drive to that summer house party (or headphones as you take an Uber or public transportation). The music video turns the band members and musical instruments into Salvador Dalí inspired performances.

Vocalist and guitarist TJ Freda was kind enough to respond to a US Rocker Music interview. Please do enjoy and if you live in the Los Angeles area, consider catching their upcoming shows.

Q. What is the story behind how the band formed?

A. I moved to NYC from Boston in late 2018 with no intention of having a band. I had previously spent time playing in a variety of different projects but when I moved to NYC I took a moment for myself and didn’t have a band. I started writing songs for myself with no intention of showing anyone. One night Kallan and Jessica urged me to show them the songs I told them I had been writing and the band started naturally from there, no pressure, no obligations.

Q. You have a new album coming out on August 23rd called Illuminator. Is there a message / theme that you hope people will take away after listening to the music?

A. Illuminator is about fleeting moments, the speed of light, and people coming in and out of your life, surrendering to the speed at which life is flashing by. Isolation, falling in and out of love, watching events, and moments go by like cars on the highway, and watching everything happen simultaneously.

Q. Illuminator is your second album. How did the process differ between recording your first album, Momentary Presence, compared to Illuminator?

A. I recorded Momentary Presence mostly by myself out of necessity. The pandemic made it so I had a lot of time alone, I recorded Momentary Presence almost entirely in my apartment. Illuminator was a lot more collaborative. The album was still recorded in my home studio but everyone in the band helped with various parts along the way. We went to a studio in Brooklyn for 10 days and went in with little direction besides getting final drum takes. The band came everyday and in the lulls between recording drums, we recorded a lot of different types of instruments that were around the studio, like grand piano, guitars (through amps!), percussion, and even a rainstick. Having the others involved helped push the album into new exciting territories and gave me the confidence to take bigger swings than I would have if I was doing it alone.

Q. The band has been together for a few years now and you dealt with the pandemic shutdown. Are there any pearls of wisdom that you would suggest to bands that are just now forming as a group?

A. It’s funny to think we have “technically” been together for five years but it really only feels like two. We played two shows after forming and the pandemic paused the band for 2 ½ years, so 2021 really feels like when we got going. A 5-piece is difficult, it’s a lot of different personalities and moving pieces. Communication is the most important part. If you’re not communicating as best friends then the music will suffer. It’s always been about friendship first and foremost to keep everyone sane. Do things out of your comfort zone.

Q. Outside of music, what are some of the interests of the band members?

TJ Freda: Frogs,The Matrix Trilogy, Rockaway Beach (NYC), 90’s Grateful Dead, Coconut water.
Jessica Gurewitz: Crows, silence, English royalty that have wild names, Magnets.
Kallan Campbell: Skating, climbing, hiking, biking, chess, soup.
Justin Hrabovsky: Getting into Survivor almost 25 years after it started, the 1995 Michael Mann film Heat, reading Nick Cave’s Red Hand Files, Gerolsteiner mineral water, Defonte’s in Red Hook.
Gabe Camarano: 4 wheelers, VHS, steak, early Santana, biofuels.

Link to tickets for June 13th HERE.

Link to tickets for June 14th at Genghis Cohen HERE