"THE IMAGE in my head was the Terminator in a honky-tonk," says Daughn Gibson of his sophomore solo album. Released by Sub Pop, Me Moan takes a hard corner from the bleak minimalism and lo-fi country-tinged patina of Gibson's debut, All Hell. This time around, Gibson injects a smorgasbord of samples, vocal manipulations, dark electronica, Americana, house music, new wave—quite literally, anything that he came across.
"I just build sounds," explains Gibson. "I'm really not so much concerned with melody, just with vibe and mood. I just chisel and chisel, add samples, grab stuff from weird old records, grab stuff from VHS tapes, whatever."
Gibson's former life as drummer in punk and metal bands from in and around his hometown of Carlisle, Pennsylvania—most notably the stoner-metal band Pearls and Brass—provided him with the foundation to know what he most wanted to express creatively, as well as the most expedient way to go about it. It's a long way from motorik drums and lava-low riffs, but the isolation and self-dictatorial nature of the creative process Gibson employed while working on Me Moan seems to agree with him.
"What takes five hours of deliberation for one person in a band to say, 'I don't like this' takes me a second to say, 'This is bullshit,'" Gibson says. "For me, that process is invigorating because I can start with one intention and end up on a completely different planet. All I have to worry about is if I like it."
Flashes of ethereal medleys from ghostly composers like Portishead pulse through tunes like "The Pisgee Nest." Elsewhere, songs arrive blistered with beats ("Kissin' on the Blacktop"), slathered in lap-steel loops ("The Sound of Law"), or permeated by bagpipes and marching drums—an aural addition to the song "Mad Ocean" that Gibson recorded personally with his iPhone while at a Flag Day parade.
Gibson's almost comically low baritone propels these tales of rough living through osmosis—which is to say that these stories aren't necessarily Gibson's, but rather snippets swiped from the universal domain. His mix-and-match approach to storytelling mirrors his affinity for sampling on Me Moan, crafting a kind of Wiki-style sound collage that's as intriguing as it is danceable.
"I try really hard when I'm hearing any story from anybody to discipline my empathy, and to treat all stories as being something completely exotic," says Gibson. "[I try] to keep where I live as a place that's exotic, and to keep my eyes open for different people or different experiences and not just get bored with the routine of the small town. Allowing that input to come in and wash over you, so you can pick different ideas or different scenes, is the one thing I'm constantly working on.
"The part about country music for me is that I can relate to it," he continues. "Not necessarily personally, but I have empathy for these stories and these people, what they're going through. I know these things are happening. There are stories in Guatemala or Japan that I could retell because they're universal, human stories. In particular, I'm trying to make them, not Pennsylvania-based, but more American, because I'm American; that's where I live and that's how I relate."