If you watch MTV or VH1 regularly, if you listen to regular or satellite radio, if you have internet access, if you leave your house and walk around malls and shopping centers—if you have friends, you have heard the infectious single, “Somebody That I Used To Know,” off the latest record from Gotye called Making Mirrors. And you have more than likely fallen in love with it. That song just digs its way into your brain and refuses to leave; something about it just resonates very deeply within you. It’s pretty, and it’s relatable–something everyone goes through at some point in life, plucked right from the heart of every person in the world and written down, then set to music. It’s triggering, and you’re sucked in for all four minutes and four seconds of it.

Gotye, pronounced “Gauthier,” is Belgium-born Australia-raised Wouter De Backer—or, as simple as possible, Wally. He’s been around for quite some time, releasing records since 2003, but really, truly broke out with 2011’s Making Mirrors (U.S. release, 2012), which had been more than two and a half years in the making, prior to its release. For this album, the typically sample-heavy Gotye took to turning sounds from regular instruments into digital music; completely new territory for him. His previous work had been electronic music sampled from various records in his collection but challenging himself to make music in this new way has proved to be beneficial, and proved that he is absolutely an artist.

“It took me quite a while to get everything together,” he says. “I tried really hard to stay away from sampling my record collection, and I’d say I did fairly well with that. This record is sort of half and half—I started with the instruments I had, digitalizing them, and then about halfway through, I gave in and dug through the records.” The result ended up being a hit record.

But despite how effortless he makes it seem, it’s definitely not easy, working with so many different sounds and mediums. And he’s a drummer, by nature. How does he get everything to fit together so well for the final product—not just in the sense of a single song, but an entire record—without his head spinning off into space or driving himself completely mad? Slowly.

“It’s a self-imposed process to find as much direction as possible; with a single song there’s better intuition,” he continues. “Capturing and manipulating the sounds and the music, getting it all to function the way you want it. Well, hopefully the way you want it! And as you work up, and it all starts to come together, you feel the texture, the groove of it all. You get a better sense of what you need to do—of what works together. Editing it all is part of the fun. There are so many possibilities inside, and outside, the parameters of sound. The sequencing is critical. And sometimes the most difficult part. You want to tell the story properly.”

Crediting everything from orchestral music and revered composers to Kate Bush as an influence, Wally also has a crate of records given to him by a former neighbor at a young age to thank—as some of those old vinyls have been sampled and transformed into brand new sounds and songs. Imagine August Rush, but with a sort of mad scientist instead of an orphan, and a computer instead of a guitar. He goes on to say, “I like godly and clean sounds, long format, electronic music…oh and drumming. I’ve always been a drummer.”

You’d think a big ego wouldn’t be far behind a big talent, but it was surprising to meet Wally as such a down to earth, humble guy; still sort of awkward with the fame, and still his own worst critic. When I asked whether he’d foreseen “Somebody That I Used To Know” taking off the way it has, he said no. “Not at all…I was amazed at the responses it got. It was exhilarating and overwhelming, but I also felt very…exposed. I did a lot of photo shoots, that was new. I don’t know, I have a lot of mixed feelings about the attention it got. There are a lot of unofficial remixes and covers floating around the internet now and I get so many emails, a whole heap of crap in my inbox, telling me to check this out and asking what I think of that and I’m just like, ‘I don’t care! I’m over it.’ I do love the song though, and I still enjoy playing it very much.”

Featuring fierce as hell female singer Kimbra and one of the catchiest hooks I’ve ever heard, while it’s clearly the “breakout” track off the album, “Somebody That I Used To Know” is definitely not the be-all, end-all of the record. It’s much, much more than that. He touches upon genres like garage rock, funk, neo-exotic, and Motown, all while keeping everything balanced and cohesive via tone and structure. It’s impressive—but what’s his favorite song on the new album?

“I don’t know! I like ‘State Of The Art,’ and ‘Bronte.’ Sometimes ‘Save Me’ is my favorite. I feel that I may have taken away something from some of the songs, in mastering, but I’m proud. I challenged myself. Some material I felt may have been weak, other material didn’t make it. There are some things that I wish hit harder, and I wasn’t totally pleased with some of the vocals, but that’s just how I am. It’s behind me, on to new stuff!”

Despite the few reservations he has about it, Making Mirrors has certainly opened a lot of doors for him—one of which is leading out to the U.S. tour he is currently on with Kimbra supporting. Most of the dates are already sold-out. “It feels great! I’m excited about it,” he says. The tour culminates at Coachella, which will be Gotye’s first American festival performance as well. “Oh, it’s gonna be an awesome way to finish the tour, it’s a big deal! And I’m excited that I’m not the only Aussie band on the bill. It’s also super cool because, in America, I guess the festival culture is not as profound; there’s really only a few big festivals you guys have every year, and I’m excited to be a part of this one. Coachella is like, one of the biggest. And Radiohead is also playing!” he says, excitedly. There may still be tickets available for the March 25 show at Terminal 5 and March 27 gig at Webster Hall, but you’d better snag them quick if you can find them. And you’d better get there early, if you’ve already got them. These shows are going to be packed.

“I’m working on a more ambitious live show,” Wally says, which leads me to wonder if he ever gets any sleep at all. “With projectors, animations, lights, costuming—I want to do a lot. I want to do a lot in larger venues, a grand scale.” Almost jokingly, I ask him what else he’d like to tackle, musically or creatively, and he adds to his seemingly ever-growing list. “I’d like to work in a more down-beat fashion in upcoming releases. With little to no drums or percussion. I’m a drummer, that’s where I feel comfortable, but I want to work away from that. I want to experiment with textures, chords, melody and feeling—gentle sounds. Sort of like Kings Of Convenience or Fleet Foxes. I would also like to work on becoming a stronger vocalist.”

Personally, one of the first things that hit home for me when listening to his music, were the vocals he says he needs to work on. Mesmerizing tones and depth, and a sort of shyness that might otherwise seem forced if it were anybody else. It’s distinct—electronic music with actual emotion and soul. Gotye is one of those artists who I feel will be constantly evolving, and I can’t wait to see what he puts out next. He’s looking forward to it as well.

“I’ll be doing a lot of touring and live stuff into 2013, and the 10-piece band I work with live will be coming with me. I want to take it around the world. I’ll be working on animations and stuff, for the live show, as I said, and costumes.” It will be a treat to see a whole stage presentation; in the past, he’s played behind a drum kit and triggered the digital stuff on his own. But seeing it all happen in real-time, all together, is going to be a spectacle. Another record is also in the works.

“It takes me a long time to make records,” he laughs. “To find what direction I want to go in, how I want something to feel and sound. I’ve got a project going, a concept, an album. But it won’t be rushed, or forced. It’s happening, though!”

 

You can catch Gotye at Terminal 5 on Sunday, March 25 and at Webster Hall on Tuesday, March 27. His new album, Making Mirrors, is available now. For more information, go to gotye.com.

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