The cassette for Gulch Days by Crater Lakes arrived at my home in a neat little cardboard box which was adorned with stickers and packed with crumpled paper, a couple of odd trinkets, and a hand-drawn note from the band. In keeping with the actual content of the album, my package was marked with a nostalgic aesthetic shrouded in mystery. Likewise, the album mirrors the package in the sense that it does still remain concrete, delivering tangible sentiments through the mystique.
Gulch Days is the debut album from Everett native Rylie P. Smith. Smith was a founding member of Everett group Fauna Shade before leaving the band to pursue his own unique creative direction. Smith began writing and recording music in high school under the name “Lorene’s Lab,” which pays tribute in name to Smith’s great-grandmother. However, according to Smith, Crater Lakes “embodies everything that I’ve been doing in music by myself throughout the years.”
WATCH the official music video for “Gulch Days” here.
One defining element of Gulch Days is a sense of nostalgia. The title track — which embodies the theme of the record, according to Smith — is inspired by a place in Everett he visited often in his younger years. He explains:
It’s kind of over where Laura Palmer’s house from [Twin Peaks:] “Fire Walk with Me” is. This place is basically four blocks worth of land that dips into the ground like a giant ditch, with a forest inside. In my head, I thought that would be referred to as a Gulch. Anyways, I used to climb down into this gulch and hang out with myself almost everyday. I would draw, write, think, fantasize, thought about writing and directing a short film of some sort … When I think of “Gulch Days,” I think of all of this, and just the general idea of nostalgia, reflecting on youth and times when you were alone, but feeling creative and getting to know yourself. I think everyone should have their own “gulch days” at some point in their lives. You can look back and think “Man, that was kinda sad, but kinda cool!”
Besides the lyrics of the album, which are informed by various relationships, events, and emotions of Smith’s past, the record’s sound also invokes a sense of nostalgia. Crater Lakes’ neo-rockabilly sound draws inspiration from the Beach Boys, the Cramps, and Beat Happening, indulging in a lo-fi aesthetic which hearkens to a time when records were grittier and warmer due to limited recording technologies.
While Gulch Days is so characterized by looking towards the past, Smith believes that his forthcoming record — to be titled Youth Dew — will be more of an artistic “self-portrait” and a complete picture of his direction as a musician. But until then, Gulch Days is well worth a revisit. You can stream and purchase the record below, and also be sure to check out the band on Facebook and Tumblr.