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Daughn Gibson: Stoner Punk Morphs Into Honky-Tonk Crooner

Daughn Gibson / Photo by Kristine Eng

Who: A one-time truck driver, as well as a drummer for Pennsylvania blues-punks Pearls and Brass, Josh Martin is a newly minted Sub Pop signee now working under the nom de plume Daughn Gibson (a sly nod to country legend Don Gibson, of “Sweet Dreams” fame). Martin’s solo work mines the shadowed, stubbled, wonderfully grey areas between classic jukebox country music and sample-based, post-Burial pop atmospherics.

Sounds Like: His full-length debut as Daughn Gibson, All Hell (released earlier this year on Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Korvette’s White Denim label), announced the arrival of a singular, sumptuous hybrid, a sound that, while redolent of both cowboy bars and rain-slicked London streets, felt very much like it was composed in long-haul solitude. Of his gig driving trucks, Gibson, 32, says: “It depends on the kind of person you are. It’s a lot of time alone, a lot of thoughts bouncing around in your head. It made me a little crazy. When you’re gone all the time or just by yourself, you forget how to interact with people in a meaningful way. But then you also get these moments, these moments that are perfect, and a good song comes on or you see a mountain or a landscape that makes it all worthwhile.” In this particular case, Gibson was calling from a Dunkin’ Donuts near the roadside waterslides of Wisconsin Dells, en route to a tour stop in Minneapolis.

Deep and Dark and Lonely: “Waylon Jennings, pretty much,” says Gibson of the reason he began experimenting with singing in the rich baritone that’s come to define his recordings. “I was writing these songs and singing over them and I kept wanting to go lower and lower. Eventually, I discovered that this voice was it, and it felt really, really good. Even if it twisted and turned the music in other directions, it was the one I wanted.” Gibson says he remembers clearly the moment that he tried to sing in such a low register, a moment of self-discovery not unlike Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s first embrace of the falsetto. “It was January and I went up to the mic and just belched it out and I thought…oh my,” he says. “I attempted it like that because the song asked for it. The song requested it be sung like that.”

Croon Glorious Croon: Though he’s spent over half his life drumming (a skill set that’s lent itself well to composing innately rhythmic music), Gibson got his start as a singer in high-school productions of Oliver and West Side Story. “It was a lot of fun,” he says. “That was my sport. But doing this sort of feels similar in a way. I’ve just got my hand on the flamboyant valve.”

The Next Stage: Later this year, Gibson will begin recording his Sub Pop debut, an LP that’s tentatively slated for release in early Summer 2013. “Before, there were no guideposts because there was never any intention of going anywhere with it; I was pretty free,” says Gibson, who is currently in the midst of a creative transition, swapping electronic drums for live percussion. “But now, it’s performing these songs live. So I definitely keep that in mind when I’m writing. I keep a certain kind of energy in the songs that can be translated live a little bit easier. That’s just it’s own kind of wild, intangible thing that comes about and surprises me everyday.”