February, 9, 2018.
That’s the day you can scratch down as the official moment the relationship between the members of Calgary psych-metal-soul band Gone Cosmic was cemented.
Rare can those kinds of things be marked, with vagaries being the way most musicians work, but this one is particularly memorable for vocalist Abbie Thurgood — and not just because it’s also her mom’s birthday.
It was the day she felt she was officially in, officially part of one of the city’s most exciting new indie rock acts, the “fourth puzzle piece” of a bonafide local supergroup as her bandmate, bassist Brett Whittingham, says while sitting in Inner City Brewing to talk about their behemoth of a debut Sideways In Time.
The beginnings of that relatively brief journey to the unholy marriage that is the whacked-out, wonderfully triptastic and groove-fuelled brainstorm of Gone Cosmic began with Whittingham and guitarist Devin “Darty” Purdy, his partner in bong-ready crew Chron Goblin, as well as drummer Marcello Castronuovo from fellow headnodders Witchstone, jamming together, performing Sabbath covers.
Two years ago they began to write originals in a similarish heavy, heavy vein, eventually coming up with seven new tunes. So stoked with the direction in which they were headed, they had a show booked for three months later, a 420 festival, before they had a vocalist — or even a band name — leaving an open palette for whomever they chose to give words to their weird.
They chose well.
“Abbie just changed the whole game for us,” Whittingham says. “We knew we were setting up a vocalist for some challenges in terms of the songwriting and arrangements and that weird stuff going on in the background.
“We auditioned probably half a dozen vocalists and the first time Abbie sang with us it was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the one.’ ”
“I remember when I first auditioned for Gone Cosmic,” says Thurgood, who was previously one of the singers for soul-pop, doo-wop act The Torchettes. “I met the dudes, went downstairs into the jam basement that’s just amazing, and after the jam I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ …
“I got in my car and I’m just outside and, like, ‘Pick me. Seriously, I want in on this band.’ ”
And while both parties admit they were sold on the union, it wasn’t until a second jam — that fateful Feb. 9 — that Gone Cosmic was a thing.
How did they let here know?
“I got grilled by Marcello,” Thurgood says with a laugh. “Like all of the interview questions, it was awesome, I love him so much. Like, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ ‘Are you staying in Calgary’ and, ‘Are you involved in heavy drugs?’ ”
They both laugh.
“For real, I got grilled.
“But it was after this grilling they were like, ‘OK, well, do you want in?’ I was like, ‘Well, obviously.’ And then a bottle of champagne came out. Darty had gone to Costco and gotten a bottle of champagne. It was Kirkland’s finest.”
And so the good spaceship Gone Cosmic was so fittingly launched, becoming a remarkably defined and distinct player in the city’s rock scene.
While Whittingham admits gender was never the defining thing he and his mates were looking for, he does also say they had something of a direction in mind: “Nice, soulful, bluesy, melodic vocals over heavy psychedelic inspired music with some sprinkles of progressive stuff in there.” Or, on a more succinct note: “If Janis Joplin jammed with Black Sabbath.”
Thurgood, who had only previously heard of Chron Goblin, but had never heard or seen them, admits she was a little “nervous” about walking into an almost fully formed project, worried that her input would be only as a hired vocal gun.
But, that was quickly dispelled.
“It was arms open, ‘You do you,’ and that’s kind of the theme of our project. It was cool, I had this canvas to throw my brain at,” she says and laughs again.
“We never wanted to hire a vocalist,” Whittingham says. “We wanted an equal partner in the project and equal contributor and equal business partner and … someone who has the personality to gel with us weirdos.”
That was confirmed when they hit OCL Studio with those original tunes — now fully vocal-filled, with Thurgood pulling lyrics from former ideas for songs, other inspirations — as well as a new one, My Design, which was written as a full collaboration between the four.
They spent more than a week at the facility, moving in, sleeping, eating and living together “Fleetwood Mac style,” Thurgood says, while working with acclaimed local producer Josh Rob Gwilliam.
Not only is the end result something that will push them into a greater conversation — it already earned the slick and mighty Sideways In Time a deal with German label Kozmik Artifactz — it also reaffirmed that everyone’s decisions to move forward together were wise ones.
“We had the best time,” Thurgood says. “It was unbelievable.”
“It was a huge relationship building event,” Whittingham agrees. “We honestly just didn’t know Abbie aside from jamming, so that was really great to get a full eight, nine days together being creative and productive … and collaborating. And outside of that, the working time, we were cooking meals together and for each other, and playing board games and jumping in the pool at 2 a.m., and having friends and family over to hang and celebrate and participate with us. It was a super great bonding experience for us.”
Now the bond will get road-tested — after the Friday, April 12 release at The Palomino, they’ll head off on a brief Western Canada tour with likely many more to come.
While Whittingham admits it’s been somewhat challenging to juggle duties in Chron with Gone — the Goblins also recorded an album at OCL, which should see the light of day this year — he says that everyone in the band is “committed and excited” to see what comes next.
“We’re not trying to hold anything back,” he says. “We’re going for it hard.”
(Photo courtesy Mario Montes.)
Gone Cosmic release their new album Sideways In Time Friday, April 12 at The Palomino.