Introducing: Corey Gulkin – Half Moon & Qs

“With Half Moon (October 2023), Corey Gulkin takes a confident leap into the thick of emotional transformation, locking eyes with the unknown. Confrontational, restless, and spirited, the Montreal songwriter’s latest full-length album rides the terror and thrill of stating exactly what’s happening and refusing to back down.

Emerging from the world of folk music, Gulkin drew attention early in their career as the 2013 laureate of the John Lennon Songwriting Grand Prize. Their 2016 EP The Wharf was nominated for a GAMIQ award for Folk EP of the Year, and they’ve consistently landed in the top 5 of CultMTL’s fan-voted list for Best Montreal Singer-Songwriter. Across 250+ live shows, Gulkin has shared stages with artists like Waxahatchee, The Weather Station, and Marissa Nadler. Their steady presence has established them as a key figure in a cohort of Montreal songwriters exploring fresh approaches to the craft, along with frequent collaborators Thanya Iyer, Cedric Noel, and Common Holly.

In recent years, Gulkin has alchemized their musical pedigree through experimentation, busting genres and tackling difficult topics along the way. Their 2018 full-length All The Things I’ll Forget, which chronicled an abusive relationship with nuanced insight, provided an artistic release that allowed them to approach their next project with a renewed sense of possibility. When an injury prevented them from playing guitar – normally their main mode of songwriting – Gulkin temporarily pivoted to synths. After rebuilding their strength, they reclaimed the role of lead guitarist for Half Moon’s striking solos. They honed their vocal power, reaching a breakthrough during a Banff Centre residency. And they began writing with the specific intention of channeling queer heartbreak, love, and rage.

With Gulkin’s tenacity and vulnerability at the forefront, Half Moon revels in this new territory. Longtime Gulkin collaborator and bandmate Sam Gleason, now in the producer seat, draws on a lively palate spanning lounge rock, art rock, psych rock, and straight-up rock and roll. Gleason balances Gulkin’s burning declarations with precise sonic touches, highlighting their many twists and turns.

“Faceless Woman” finds Gulkin’s evil capitalist alter-ego thrashing through a disorienting sequence of ugly feelings, marked by snakes-and-ladders guitar and bass interplay, distorted vocal interludes, and a late-breaking key change that’s almost sickly sweet. Standout track “Raya” opens gently, providing a moment of steady footing before unleashing pure catharsis, its searing guitar illuminating the alluring swagger of Gulkin’s lyrics. The love-struck harp spirals of “Breaking the Distance” channel the challenge of forging new forms of intimacy that reflect the desires of the actual people involved rather than a set of restrictive expectations. The emotional urgency of refusing constrictive models of being and relating is threaded throughout Half Moon, coming to a potent point with “Sister”. Over chord progressions that cascade with tension, Gulkin picks apart the constraints of womanhood, acknowledging its role in shaping their personhood right alongside their anger at its suffocating effects.

As their songs shape-shift from seducing, to confronting, to comforting, and even to slinging barbs, Gulkin’s fire-eyed clarity remains the undeniable constant. It’s the anchor that lets Half Moon delve into the emotions we tend to hide from: competitiveness, angsty love, icky embarrassment–dancing on the edge between euphoria and disaster. For all Half Moon’s sparkling turmoil, penultimate track “Thirty-One” finds them hinting at hard-won peace: “I’m not hurtling towards anything/For the first time.” Hold Half Moon’s unflinching gaze all the way through, and you might be surprised at what you find.

I think you are getting used to me sharing full press releases because when they are well-written, I love to share them in full. This time it is the case as well.

Corey is a very talented musician coming from Montreal, Canada and this album is proof of that.

Well-crafted folky indie art rock with beautiful vocals, little melodies, and various instruments that create a mesmerizing atmosphere.

Another great fact about this album is that my beloved label Anything Bagel is pressing it onto beautiful screen-printed tapes. They are releasing amazing music and I am so happy to be able to cover it on this blog.

I recommend you to start listening to this album from the first track and you can watch how the atmosphere and energy are changing from track to track. Another great album that should not be missed this Fall. I have to put it my my Spotify queue so I can listen to it while working my day job. You should do that as well!

I reached out to Corey and asked our 3 Qs and here are the answers:

What inspired you to start making music and what keeps you making music?

I was really lucky that my parents were able to start piano lessons when I was very young, maybe 5 years old. My mom is a documentary film editor, and my dad is a guitarist, so I was surrounded with the arts. Becoming a professional musician was not considered to be a weird or divergent career in my family. I was a pretty shy kid, but when I finally started writing songs in my early adulthood, it became a really important way for me to process and explore things. Making music is a light in my life that has brought me into a beautiful community – I cannot imagine living without it.

What was the most challenging thing in your music (artistic) path?

Music is a deeply spiritual and personal experience, but to make a living it requires interfacing with an industry that treats music as just another product to be marketed. In 2015, I toured Canada and the US multiple times; I was gone probably 200 days out of the year, and had almost 10,000$ worth of credit debt by the end of the year. I had a breakdown once I got home for good – the level of rejection and financial stress were extreme and I burnt out. It took me 2 years, a lot of therapy and antidepressants to recover, and another 3 years on top of that to pay off my debt. I’m much more careful with how I balance things now, but it does mean playing less music.

What would you dream to do if anything was possible?

I think musicians are deeply undervalued by the industry. Everyone wants a slice of the pie of our earnings, whether it’s Ticketmaster’s high ticketing fees, large venues taking merch cuts from artists, or Spotify’s criminally low streaming rates (and the list goes on). Yet, the industry would not exist without musicians, and these kinds of greedy behaviors not only create immense financial challenges for musicians, but also drive up prices for audiences (when inflation is already awful). My dream is of a world where musicians are valued for the deep work that we do, and that our work can be accessible to the public (art is for everyone!). The good news is, I believe this is very possible! Music unions like United Musicians and Associated Workers (UMAW) are doing great work in the US, including their #mymerch campaign to end venue merch cuts.

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