“It took me a while to get over the heartbreak,” says Gabriel Bruce, mourning the dissolution of his old, Nick Cave-indebted band Loverman. He was helped through those dark times by the love of a good organ, when he purchased from a neighbour the trusty Farfisa that appears throughout his debut solo album, set for release this summer.
“I really felt like I was a terrible person, because the guy had this studio set-up, but with marks on the walls where all his old gear once was,” explains Gabriel over a cup of coffee as black as his artfully dishevelled suit. “He was a broken man – he handed it over to me with a tear in his eye.” Quickly the Londoner began writing brand new songs on it, including 2011’s brilliantly harrowing debut, ‘Sleep Paralysis’ – accompanied by a 50-page pamphlet with writings by Gabriel about actual sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations (“I thought it was something that was universally experienced”) – and the Springsteenian ‘Car’s Not Leaving’, all pinned down by his loin-shuddering bass vocals. “I just bought another organ exactly the same ,” he says guiltily. “It’s out of protection for the first one, because I worry about her. So I’ve got this floozie organ, but my old girl is in my bedroom waiting for me when I get home.”
Born by the hum of London’s Westway flyover to a half-American, half-Brazilian father and a mother from a family of stained-glass makers, 22-year-old Gabriel is the kind of dapper goth-abilly gentleman that Lana Del Rey would totally leave her Take Me Out light on for. While making a Dalston café seem more like the absinthe-fuelled Left Bank, talk turns to another man with a voice so deep you could dive into it from the top of the Eiffel Tower: Leonard Cohen. “When you see him play, it’s not like watching a gig – it’s like having dinner with Ghandi. It’s a dark art. He likes sex and death.”
And so, it would seem, does Gabriel, who, with his superbly doomy lyrics, wants to tap into the “melancholic lust” of poets such as Pablo Neruda and García Lorca. And if that isn’t enough to get your own organ into overdrive, we can only assume that you’re dead to the world.
Need To Know:
For Fans Of: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen
Buy It Now: ‘Sleep Paralysis’, out now
See Him Live: Gabriel plays London’s Electrowerkz on February 23
Believe It Or Not: As well as all the quasi-sexual stuff about his organ, Gabriel’s interview also took in: the fact he used to paint people’s portraits for money, his friendship with Fred Spector, and how he cried when he found out Michael Jackson wasn’t a girl
This article originally appeared in the February 25th issue of NME