GATTO BLACK | 8 Days a Week (debut single, interview)
In the midst of the pandemic and intense days of remote work during 2020, singer-songwriter and musician Sal Mastrocola continued to work virtually with his bandmates Taylor Hughes and John O'Neill to create new music for their band EXNATIONS. Two impressive tracks ("Love in the Time of Quarantine" and "Twin Flame") saw the light of day in the form of single releases. The monotony of everyday routines and isolation provided Sal with the idea and opportunity to step out and explore a new genre of musical creativity. In between EXNATIONS songs, Sal's one-man, bedroom post-hardcore side project, GATTO BLACK, was born.
In his garage in Buffalo, NY, Sal sang, played and recorded every instrument on his frenetic, caffeine-charged debut single, "8 Days a Week." The track was mixed by Walter Kazmier (Dog Eat Dog, Gym Class Heroes) and mastered by Mike Piacentini (Converge, Misfits, New Found Glory). With an electric vibe that provides the framework for Sal's angst-ridden vocals to burst and boil through, "8 Days a Week" is a three-minute, hardcore-themed release that will lyrically resonate with listeners who struggle with the challenges and anxiety of persisting within a non-stop, meeting-filled, "can you see my screen?" remote work environment that can tax and drain energy and creativity.
"Hardcore has a reputation for leading with its aggressive side. There's catharsis and healing to be found in expressing anger at 200 BPM," Sal comments. "But growing up as one of the more reserved kids at the DIY space, I always preferred wielding humor and self-deprecation to get my point across. Those qualities are front and center in GATTO BLACK. After all, punk and hardcore have always had the ability to take you by surprise – like a cat ready to pounce and spill coffee all over your lap."
SoundThread Music Blog recently caught up with Sal Mastrocola to talk about the birth of GATTO BLACK, the new single, and a bit of perspective on the virtual work environment.
Congratulations on the new solo project and debut single! Can you elaborate on the origins and inspiration behind GATTO BLACK?
[SM]: GATTO BLACK was born out of a desire to reconnect with the music that turned my world upside down as a kid. The aggressive, cathartic, life affirming feelings that the best punk, hardcore, and emo have the power to instill in the listener. And it's the pursuit of those powerful feelings that guide the songwriting process.
The clever lyrics for "8 Days a Week" paint a pretty accurate picture of the remote-work, "you're on mute!" work environment that many listeners, myself included, can relate to and smile about. I think many of us have found that virtual workdays consume more hours, energy and patience than we ever anticipated. Do you have any tips for keeping calm and carrying on through the virtual workday?
[SM]: Remote work has brought forth challenges and benefits. It's got its ups and downs. Reminding myself of the duality of its nature, and the privilege that I have to be able to work remotely have helped me get through this long slog of a year. There are lots of silver linings - getting an extra hour to cook a meal for my family instead of commuting, popping out for 15 minutes between meetings to play with my daughter - despite its challenges it's unlocked a lot of special little moments that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Focusing on that really helps me get through. And taking walks. I take lots of walks.
"8 Days a Week" presents a much harder sound compared to the indie/electronic sound of EXNATIONS. The only vague similarity I recall is the memorable and angst-ridden New Year's resolution you delivered near the end of the "11:59" EXNATIONS single. Is the style/genre of "8 Days a Week" representative of what we might hear with future GATTO BLACK releases?
[SM]: Absolutely. I'm leaning into my loud fast and angry side for this project. Even though it is a punk project, the principles behind my songwriting have lots of overlap between the two projects. I want to make every single second count - not a note or moment should be wasted. I want to "build a world" unique to the project, using recurring themes, language, and tonality to create a sense of place that the music lives in. And as with EXNATIONS, the visual component is just as important as the music - both as a component in that world building and as an additional creative outlet for me as an artist.
During 2020, EXNATIONS (you, Taylor, John) was able to compose and record a few impressive singles ("Love in the Time of Quarantine," "Twin Flame") in the socially-distanced, virtual world. Is there more EXNATIONS music in the creative pipeline?
[SM]: There is something cooking! EXNATIONS has another song coming that really dials in our dark and dancy impulses. Excited to share it in the not too distant future. In the meantime, we've all got some really exciting side projects going - Taylor is making music under Pure XTC, and John just launched his first podcast about mid-century modern design called "The Perspecta". Definitely check those out while you wait to hold you over ;)
What else is in the music pipeline for GATTO BLACK?
[SM]: I just put the finishing touches on the music video for 8 Days a Week! I'm hard at work on the next single, with plans to do a full length record (8 or 9 songs). Being that this is a punk project and the songs are shorter, I want to release a larger batch to compensate. I'm an album guy, I love spending extended periods of time immersing myself in music. So I want to create that kind of experience with this project.
Thanks to Sal for providing the insightful responses! While we await more new music from GATTO BLACK, check out the just-released music video for "8 Days a Week."