Most people don’t get to see the process a band goes through in order to get to where they are right now. I’ve been privileged enough to watch gates grow as artists the past few years. I’ve photographed them in rooms built for 200 kids and venues that could hold 1200. But I never really had the chance to see exactly what they’ve had to do in order to accomplish all they have. I finally had the opportunity to spend two days with them as they prepared for their Parallel Lives album release show at Mercury Lounge in New York City, where I got a glimpse into where gates started, their preparation process, and their chemistry as a band.
My weekend with gates started when I met up with vocalist Kevin Dye at his Brooklyn apartment before we headed to Jersey for band practice. We had a few minutes to catch up on all that they’ve been up to the past few months, from releasing their newest album Parallel Lives to touring with La Dispute and Thrice. There were nothing but positive things being said about Kevin’s experience on the road but his real feelings about touring with these two influential bands came out throughout our drive to Jersey with their sound engineer Dan. I listened as Kevin raved about doing guest vocals for Thrice, “I couldn’t not do it. Nobody was stopping me.” Playing with Thrice was much more than just a cool experience to Kevin: “I never thought that when I was in high school trying to be like Thrice that I would be touring with them.”
It was nice to see how giddy Kevin was about being able to share the same stage as a band he grew up listening to. It reminds you that the individuals in bands are people too. The rest of the night was spent listening to gates run through their set. Before we took a break to have dinner, I grabbed a minute with them to chat about all the attention they’ve been getting. Over the past few months I’ve watched more and more of my friends post about them on social media; even naming Parallel Lives as one of their Albums Of The Year. I wanted to know what it was they did this time around that people really responded to. While being more prepared and learning from the release of their previous album contributed to the success of their latest release, as a whole they couldn’t pinpoint exactly why people responded so well to this record. “Bloom & Breathe was the first record we did so when we did Parallel Lives, we knew exactly what we were going to do. We were planning out posts when we were still in the studio,” guitarist Dan King says to me as he reorganizes his gear.
As we sat down for dinner I took a minute to really take in the entire evening. I watched as bassist Mike Maroney’s parents put together a phenomenal dinner and dessert for us (shout out to the executive chefs for gates) and learned that these family dinners have been happening since gates started. The band has always practiced at Mike’s house and they’ve stuck to it over the years. I can’t really describe what it was like to witness everything first hand but it made me realize that all of their time spent together and having an environment that encourages their music to thrive contributes to why they’re so down to earth and grounded.
I met up with gates the following day during load-in for their album release show. Most of our time before the show was spent moving equipment around like a game of Tetris, soundchecking, and grabbing a bite to eat. But before they took the stage, I asked Mike and Dan for some advice on what they do to keep motivated, what to remember when someone feels like giving up, and how to deal with haters. Mike’s thoughts on the topic were, “Just stay humble and always prepare for the worst.” As far as dealing with haters Dan said something that really resonated with me, “If somebody has the time to form an opinion about you, you’re doing something right.” With that said I headed up to the stage where gates was set play to a packed Mercury Lounge. After hearing them rehearse the set twice I was excited to see the crowds reaction. Without fail, fans loved every second of their set as they sang along to each track. Their guitar work is instantly recognizable and you can’t help but get excited. There is something about gates’ music that is so soothing yet it still packs a punch. To have such contrasting feelings working so cohesively together is a feat yet somehow they execute it beautifully.
For the longest time I saw gates as the band that was smart enough to bring flood lights for their live performances which helped me achieve great photos. But now, I see them as so much more. After my time spent with them, I saw why everyone including myself gravitates toward this band; they’re a family that loves their cheesecake and dulce de leche. They still get giddy about playing with their favorite bands. Needless to say, they’re living the sweet life, but above all else, they are a group of humble and talented musicians making music that they want to make. Bottom line is that the honesty and integrity of this band are what make them stand out among the crowd.
Tags: day in the life, Gates, Mercury Lounge