Smoke Season’s frontwoman Gabby Bianco talks gender, fashion, being a producer, and going solo.
LOS Angeles-based power duo Smoke Season was gearing up for SXSW, the annual Austin, Texas, music fest, when we caught up with frontwoman Gabby Bianco.
As the 30-year-old musician-producer sits in our makeup chair, she recounts her favorite festival shows—Noise Pop in San Francisco and Echo Park Rising in Los Angeles—and explains the importance of checking the stage mechanics.
“Soundcheck usually consists of me making sure the pipes in the ceiling or the scaffolding onstage can handle my body,” she says. “I will climb or jump off anything. I have a good time onstage, much to my body’s dismay.”
Since forming their band in 2013, Bianco and multitalented musician Jason Rosen have manifested a strong following with their eccentric blend of indie-electronica. “We’re one half Portugal. The Man and one half No Doubt,” Bianco explains, shaking her long auburn hair. “We like to play with brightness—colors, textures, and music. We are heavy on the sunshine. We’re sunny punk.”
In addition to her work in Smoke Season, Bianco recently embarked on a solo project, a six-song EP titled BIIANCO. She wrote, produced, and played everything herself, and enlisted Grammy-winning engineer Matt Wiggins (known for his work with pop icon Adele) to add some magic to the final mix. Bianco says she just wanted to make the music she listens to when she’s “crying, driving, or having sex,” but what resulted is a spectacular collection of chill-wave electronica.
We sat down to talk with the up-and-coming producer about her latest project, and what it means to pose for Penthouse.
Why did you decide to go solo with BIANCO?
In the past year or so, I’ve been writing different types of music which didn’t fit with Smoke Season’s vibe. I needed another outlet for these songs.
Smoke Season has always worked with different producers, [but] as I started working on my own songs, I realized they were getting more and more diluted as I involved other people. I took a step back and realized I am a producer! I make all my synthesizer patches, I know how I want my vocals to sound, and I have the vision for my songs. I just needed to brush up on the technical aspects. So, I spent a few months learning how to compress, engineer, and side-chain myself, and what resulted was my six-song EP I completed practically on my own.
That’s an amazing accomplishment.
There aren’t a lot of female producers in the electronic genre. I’m hoping they’re all out there, like me, just waiting to make a name for themselves. Women bring a different perspective behind the scenes. We have a different voice and story.
How do you interact with your fans?
I will sit in [Smoke Season’s] DM’s and talk with any fan who asks a question, especially when it comes to making their own music. I went on this retreat a few months ago where a bunch of musicians were teaching Ableton-based [music software] programs. It was amazing. I’m always trying to teach other people and learn from my musician friends. Music is a symbiotic relationship.
Who are some of your muses?
I’m a classically trained pianist, so Tori Amos has always been an inspiration for me. We had similar upbringings. She taught me how to dive into the dark emotions of my songwriting, especially when I was younger and just getting my start. As a producer, I really look up to Moby and the way he plays with sound and percussion. As far as style goes, I love Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne. Cara plays with femininity and masculinity in such an appealing way. I try to embrace androgyny.
Is androgyny a political statement or a fashion statement?
For a long time, femininity and masculinity existed on a hierarchy, with masculinity on the top. I feel like we’re moving toward a more horizontal plane, which means anyone can slide all over the gender scale and no one is any more valued than the other. I try to lead by example. Plus, this is just the style I like.
Did you ever think you would be posing for Penthouse?
It means something different to my mother than it does for me, judging by the phone call I got a few days ago when she found out I was doing this. [Laughs] She was like, “Do NOT show your pussy!” But things have changed—the times have changed. This has been a really empowering experience. I’m bringing the bush back, whether you see it today or not.