I can't really remember if I knew the people or the music first. 'Gungor' was a term synonymous with loud, fun loving, individuals and music which, for lack of a better term, towed the edge of the inside. Michael and Lisa were the most unique people I had probably ever met at the time... not because they desired to be 'unique' necessarily but because they were so distinctly (and uniquely) themselves and they have remained that way. Years have passed since our initial meeting in Denver Colorado. Our friendship has grown and changed through the years as life evolves around and through us. We have shared moments of joy, moments of pain, moments of laughter and our deepest (often irrational) fears.
About a year ago the Gungors moved to Los Angeles with their two beautiful daughters, Amelie and Lucie and that is where our friendship grew. Though we don't see them as often as we would like, their presence makes LA a better place. Drew and I have been honored to witness and partake in their (one wild) life up this point, and we (selfishly) hope they stay out our way for a while longer so we can continue to do so. The move has had it's moments, as moving so often does, and seeing them grow (as individuals, parents, musicians, and partners) through this season has been a humbling affair, one which makes your soul long for purpose, contentment, beauty, and light. And for that we are truly grateful.
Today I want to share with you a photo series I was lucky enough to do with Michael, Lisa, Amie and Lucie this past Summer. My friend Logan Cole came to capture the day, it was beautiful and full of life. Lisa was also kind enough to do a little interview with me. Her words are honest and kind, vulnerable and from her heart. And so, with out further ado, I give to you, Lisa Gungor-
Q. Number one, how do you take your coffee?
A. Americano or pour over, no sugar, no cream. (drinking an Americano right now)
Q.Number two, what is your current cocktail/adult beverage of choice?
A. Old Fashioned. Or really, to be specific, the New Old Fashioned from Williams and Graham in Denver. But Denver is a long way away now, so I can’t get the new one, just the old one. (first world problem)
Now for some real questions...
Q.Could you please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about who you are and what it is that you do?
A. My name is Lisa, but I wish it was spelled Leisa because I think it is more interesting. So let’s just pretend it’s spelled Leisa. I play and write songs in a musical collective called “Gungor” which just so happens to be my last name, and I also just so happen to be married to the other Gungor, Michael. I sing and I write songs in attempt to open hearts and minds, to connect people, to tell my story in the way that seems to be therapeutic for me. Music has this incredible ability to transcend language, religion, race. The moments we are all singing together, or the moments you are listening silently on your sofa, we feel connected, you can say “yeah, me too” and be safe…and that is incredibly meaningful.
Q. At any given time how many people are involved in ‘Gungor’ as a band?
A. 2-13ish. Sometimes just Michael and I will play an acoustic show, or sometimes we have a string section, bass, two drummers, a flautists, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and any other accoutrement we think fun.
Q.How was the process of writing this album different from your others?
A.Writing this album was more emotional for me. The others have definitely been emotional and truth telling, but this one…this one holds words and melodies from the hardest time of our lives - where I didn’t know what one day to the next would look like, where I didn’t want to get out of bed or face another day that felt like life was caving in upon itself. After our youngest was born, she had to have two heart surgeries, and for the first time in our lives, we faced losing a child, an ache you just are not prepared for. We were also without a home during her second heart surgery, moving from our home of eight years, and faced an uproar of negative comments from the ol’ internet after a blog post went viral. Oh, and we also were in the middle of an existential crisis (…If you can avoid going through all of these things at once, please, do so.)So yes, it was an incredibly difficult time and we processed it all through writing songs. It was our therapy and our healing. It is amazing how it has connected us with others, others who are saying “yeah, me too.”
Q. What was the thought behind making One Wild Life into a three part series?
A.Nearing the end of the first album, we realized we were cutting so many songs that we loved, we wondered why not continue the story. All along, we were inspired by the human as a whole and wanted to portray this idea throughout the album – soul, spirit, body. All of it is connected, not separate but spilling one right into the other. And it was interesting that the first album already had the feeling of soul, soul was a common thread in the songs already. Toward the end of the first album, we begin to sing of spirit, thus spirit will be the next album. Toward the end of that one, it will bleed into body, and body will be the third, making it’s way all the way around to soul again. Complete, all connected.
Q. Do you feel like being in LA changed the process of writing, recording, producing OWL?
A. Yes. Our environment affects our creativity in unquantifiable measures. We will never really know in what way it is different than writing in Colorado (our previous hometown), but we have been running into so many people in Los Angeles that are inspiring, they are running at their work with passion and that is contagious. While I have been so homesick and long for those familiar relationships, I think being in Los Angeles gave us a new perspective and forced us to keep moving forward. It has been like meeting someone you just click with and think “I’ve known you all along.”
Q. What is your ideal song writing environment? And what is it like writing/working as husband and wife?
A. Ideal writing environment - cup of coffee on the piano, paper and pen (not computer), lots of sunlight and a candle. …there always has to be a candle, preferably a woodsy smell or this glorious one I recently discovered called “Oaked bitter Orange.” Mmmmmmm.
My dream is to someday write in a cabin on the melancholy shores of Iceland, all cozy and dreary. Perfect. It is both incredible and difficult to work with your spouse. We do well writing together and performing together - I think that is where our magic is. And I feel incredibly lucky that we have that. There have been moments where we are singing together and it just feels like we were fashioned to do this, it pulls on my soul in a profound way. But the business side…that’s the rough side, we butt heads a lot because neither of us really like the businesses side, neither of us like lists or numbers or organizing, so it brings out our bad side…definitely tough waters to navigate. So we steer clear as much as possible and try to focus on what we do well together. Or if we do have to do business stuff, whiskey helps.
Q.Life little luxury you can’t live without?
A. An Americano. Oaked bitter orange candle.
Q. When did you first know music would be your path? How did it shape you?
A. I never had a moment where I knew music was my path. I started writing songs when I was young, but I just didn’t think it would ever be my career…probably because I grew up in a super sports crazed family and being involved in sports was never an option, it was just how life was. I remember being so nervous that I wasn’t good at basketball, and I just knew whomever I would marry would love basketball and he would be embarrassed that his wife was below average on her free throw. (Michael, thank you for not being a basketball player). But when I could, I would climb the tree all the way to the left in our front yard (it was my favorite) and I would sit up there for hours making up melodies, writing lyrics and poems. In the evening, I would fall asleep in our orange rocking chair with big headphones on as I listened to my Dad’s old records. I also loved drawing - music and art have been my loves ever since I can remember. I could draw or write what I was feeling or thinking, creating my own world in pen and paper. And I think that shaped me to want to be vulnerable. I wanted to express thoroughly my emotions, it made me feel good to let it all out on paper, arranging words and rearranging to say exactly what I wanted to say. Like a puzzle - my head, heart, and hands figuring out what pieces fit where.
Q. If you weren’t musicians/song writers, what would you be doing?
A. Architect. I actually went to school for interior design and had plans of continuing on to architecture. Sometimes I feel like George Kastansa and just want to lie and tell everyone I am an architect because to me, it sounds sexy and smart. But I love architecture, I would love to continue in it again someday.
Q. Hobbies outside the studio?
A. Changing diapers, making a mean mack’n’cheese, bedtime stories. Or if I happen to get up at 5am or stay awake until 1am -painting with watercolors or yoga or sleeping. I love sleeping.
Q.How do you define the perfect sunday (I know this, but the readers don’t)-
A. The perfect Sunday is sleeping in, walking to the market with my family and/or friends, buying all the ingredients we need for brunch, then going back home to make a grand feast while talking about the big and small things of life. Then sleeping again.
Q. What would you say the style/tone is of the new album and how does it differ from I Am Mountain and the rest of your back catalog?
A. I think the tone of this album is a mixture of the tones of our past albums. In “I Am Mountain,” our previous album, we really went a different direction with our sound than we had before - more of an electronic vibe mixed with some western tones. “One Wild Life” draws on some of the electronic and also incorporates the grand orchestra from our past albums. I think we have found a good blending of these two worlds. We like to experiment, so we’ll see where this next one takes us.
Q. Lastly, will you be touring the new album in the coming year? If so, where can we expect to see you play?
A. Touring is a bit in the air at the moment. Touring is incredibly fun and we love talking with all of the people who come to the shows, but it is also difficult to travel with two children and be away from home a lot. We have scaled back on our dates so that we can be a part of real life more, be connected to our community and do more writing. One of our daughters has several physical and occupational therapy sessions each week, and the other is in kindergarten, so we don’t really love taking them away from that. If we do a tour, it needs to make sense for our whole family, so we are figuring out the best way to go about that. Tour dates and spot dates are at gungormusic.com. And we’ll let you know when we are playing in good ol’ Los Angeles again!
One Wild Life- Soul was released while I was traveling for work this Summer. I had heard several of the songs while home in LA in the spring, sitting on their deep sofa. Sinking into the warmth of the soft leather after a stroll to the farmers market and long filling (for the mind and body) brunch. We would listen to the melodies flow around us, filling the air, enveloping our souls. Those Sunday after noons were, for lack of a better term, sacred. Perhaps it was those memories flooding to the surface, perhaps it was my tired and overly traveled spirit... whatever the case may be, when I first listened to the album on my own (in a hotel room in Melbourne Australia) I couldn't help but dance and smile. I hurt in the best way possible and I wept from the deepest reserves of my being (the track 'Light' gets me every time). This album sinks into your being and permeates your surroundings (it is all I have done yoga to for the last month... no joke). Their is something almost tactile to it, you can feel it.
Obviously I have an attachment to the music, because I have an attachment to the people. But I can honestly say, all bias aside, the album gets better with every listen and, to put it bluntly, no amount of loyalty can make a bad thing good (so logic would say that this album must be really fucking great... and it is). However, in all fairness, you should give it a listen for yourself, take the music in and see how it settles.
Michael and Lisa, you guys are two of the most beautiful, wonderful, soul filled, honest human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Thank you for taking the time to talk. I look forward to passing the time with you again very soon (at home in LA!).
Hair and makeup by yours truly- www.kelseyzahn.com