I’m listening to the third track from Gorilla Gorilla’s eponymous EP when the chorus hits me with surprising force. Not because of anything musically jarring -- in fact, the raw, breathy melody from the band’s singer and guitarist Molly Bolten is absolutely stunning. I’m suddenly struck by the band’s maturity. I can’t believe I’m listening to five students. The track I’m enjoying, “Haven,” treads the line between hip hop, neo-soul, and rock with confidence and playfulness. In venturing into well-trodden genres like hip hop, that are steeped with such precedent and such pre-defined sound, Gorilla Gorilla has me floored by their refreshing openness and boldness.
The authenticity comes from honesty, a complete lack of pretense. “Sunny,” the EP’s opening track, features Max Crawford, the band’s rapper and singer. When I first listened to the EP, my glancing impression was that “Sunny” mimicked some of rap’s most identifiable structures and subjects. But Crawford’s words don’t rely on tropes of the rap game: “Sunny” chronicles the emotional sincerity of a formative childhood moment.
To my ears, so much on GG EP feels fresh and immediate, a totally of-the-moment sound that captures each of the five musicians’ excitement and willingness to experiment. “Sunny” gets going with keyboardist Logan Roth, playing chords on Rhodes with satisfying richness and presence. Bolten and Crawford layer their voices, singing the simple, repetitive hook. Sometimes, with R&B- or Motown-style tunes, I find myself wondering how many simple combinations of chords and melodies can still remain catchy. Gorilla Gorilla has definitely found some new ones. I can’t stop listening.
Now that all that talk of their genuine sound and musical honesty is out of the way, let’s get real about Gorilla Gorilla’s groove. The most danceable tune on GG EP, in my opinion, is "Southern Point" -- a tasteful cover of the Grizzly Bear tune. Thumping basslines and punctuating guitar strums nod to certain disco hits. Drummer Arjun Dube and Bassist Conor McGrory showcase solid musicianship over an odd-time heavy-hitting bridge. Listening to the tune now, my head is bobbing too hard to further describe the groove. Check it out, along with the whole EP,here on the band’s SoundCloud:
A final note on the EP. It’s mixed really well. The band recorded the album with Grammy-wining producer Aaron Levinson at Range Recording Studios in Pennsylvania. Gorilla Gorilla did it right. They have shows booked through the semester at Princeton, but if Princeton is too far away, their online presence is growing, including iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, you name it.
It’s no surprise that here at Princeton, on a campus so familiar with bands like Snarky Puppy and Mokaad, students come out in huge numbers to enjoy Gorilla Gorilla’s sound at every show. Gorilla Gorilla’s future beyond their time at Princeton remains unwritten. But hopefully, the GG EP is just the beginning. As the band continues to navigate the hills valleys of their musical journey, Princeton students will be proud to say that we heard it here first.