It’s hard to pigeonhole who Gilligan Moss – the duo comprised of Ben Cronin and Evan Dorfman – is. While originally from the Midwest, they currently produce out of New York City – but they don’t fit the mainstream glitz of Manhattan clubs nor the kitschy hipster-driven deep house and techno of Brooklyn.
As well, their discography, featuring remixes for artists like The Knocks & SOFI TUKKER and Sebasian Tellier, looks like something you’d see from any EDM producer, but their sound veers far away from the expected with organic elements juxtaposed against the glitchiness of synths.
Although the two have known each other since childhood, Gillian Moss started as Evan’s solo project in 2015, and Ben joined later. As a duo, they’ve released two EPs, Ceremonial and What Happened?, and have performed at major festivals like Coachella, Pitchfork Paris, and Electric Forest.
Offering a diversion, their new track “Ultraparadiso” is meant to take the listener away to a tropical locale with its uplifting yet chill sounds. With “Ultraparadiso” out on August 18, we had a chance to talk with Gilligan Moss about their latest offering:
What ideas did you have in mind when producing “Ultraparadiso”?
We often go on writing retreats to upstate New York when we’re working on developing new songs. This tune started as trying to capture what summertime feels like up where we write. We wanted to basically bottle sunshine.
It sounds like the track mixes electronic elements with musical instruments. What was your approach for putting together this track?
Mixing electronic elements with instruments! That’s one of the things we’re always aiming for in our music – we want to blend timbres, blend genres, and blend eras.
One of our favorite parts of the song is the back section about four minutes in. We wanted to basically unleash Rusted Root meets Paul Simon vibes and slap it into a dance song.
You’ve both known each other from a young age. How did you end up producing together?
We have a musical kinship and share a sort of hive-mind when it comes to our writing approach; probably a result of having been in each other’s orbit since the age of 3. We went to preschool together in Chicago, went to the same summer camp, and eventually reconnected in NYC.
Evan was gearing up to go on tour with Glass Animals, and Ben was meant to come along as tour manager, but before playing a single show, Ben joined the live setup and we started writing together on the road. From there, we just naturally morphed into a duo.
For both of you, who or what influenced you to start producing individually?
Evan: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with recording and making little songs. For me, it was never the classic route of entering music through learning an instrument – from the jump all I cared about was making recorded sounds. What really put me on to electronic music was Four Tet’s “There Is Love In You.” That record is what got me interested in a lot of the things that inform Gilligan Moss today: building songs as collages, blending organic and electronic, creating things that can be played in different contexts.
Ben: Seeing Evan using software to make music for the first time really blew me away, and he encouraged me to give it a shot too. TBH, I’ll never forget seeing the little assembly of dancing green lights in Ableton for the first time.
I was trained as a jazz piano player growing up, and when I reconnected with Evan, the whole realm of electronic music was very new to me.
At first, I was super discouraged that I couldn’t easily translate my musical ideas, but the challenge of learning a new set of tools really helped me to re-examine my whole musical framework. It was fun to essentially tear down my music education and jump into a completely new genre.
How would you describe Gilligan Moss’s sound?
We always struggle with this one – which is ultimately a good thing. Our goal is to be a couple of different things at once. We’re electronic musicians who blend in elements of classic songwriting and pop.
We make dance music, but we also like to make pretty things that don’t make you want to dance. With everything we are doing, we try not to be too serious, and hopefully some of that lightheartedness comes through in the music.
In 2018, you released an EP titled What Happened? What was your process for putting together this release?
We made this tune alongside a whole bunch of other songs we’d been working on over the past few years. We do the majority of new idea generation in upstate New York.
Our process when we’re up there is to fall into a bit of a wormhole – basically just cook and make music all day. We often set up an outdoor studio and make a lot of noise.
You reside in New York City, which has a varied electronic dance music scene. Where does Gilligan Moss fit in New York City’s scene?
We’ve got some close friends that we collaborate with a good bit, but we don’t really plug neatly into any scene here. Our goal is to not so much fit into a bigger scene as much as create our own cozy little scene of friends that we work with.
Aside from “Ultraparadiso,” have you put together any new music while sheltering in place?
Yes! We’re always writing, and we’ve got a bunch of new music on the way. We haven’t released a ton of music up to this point in our career, but we’re loading up the cannon so that we can release a steady stream of music going forward.
Whether performing or producing, where would you like your career to go in the future?
Ben: I would love to do a tour performing in museums and aquariums across the world when we are able to do that safely again.
Evan: I just want to make a lot of music and play a lot of shows – an aquarium tour sounds nice.