The Romantic Charge of Sadness

The Gloomies want you to feel good about feeling bad.

Andy Craig was born and raised in Encinitas, California, a small and very affluent beach town located about 30 minutes north of San Diego. It’s the type of place where you won’t have any trouble scoring fair trade coffee to pair with your vegan scramble, and if you heave a stone 30 yards in any direction you’re bound to crack the window of a yoga studio. It is, for all intents and purposes, a pleasant place to live. Just not for Andy Craig. Not anymore.

Craig relocated from his hometown of Encinitas to New York’s East Village back in 2011 where he played in bands like Guards and Sacco. “Even if you move back… I think everybody should leave San Diego,” he once told the San Diego Reader. And eventually he did. In 2015, Craig returned to Southern California and formed The Gloomies with drummer Chris Trombley, whom he played with in Sacco. Craig describes the video for their first single, “LSD,” as “a surf video in the theme of Wes Anderson,” which pretty much describes the song itself. The material on the band’s 2016 Blackout EP followed suit, especially on the Casiotone beach vibes of “I Want You Bad” and “Fire Escape.” But gently lurking in the mix is the signature element that holds every Gloomies tune together: Craig’s faraway vocal, drenched in reverb and full of lo-fi melancholia.

“I like songs that make me sad,” admits Craig. “When I was younger I wanted to feel something. Something that had happy lyrics was just less interesting to me. [That’s why] I always liked the Beach Boys. It sounds happy but lyrically it’s not. It’s the romantic charge of sadness that inspires me.”

Craig’s vocal timbre is reminiscent of vocalists like Rob Shapiro (The Glands) or Rob Crow (Pinback), but whereas those two bands’ version of indie pop is bright with entangled melodies, The Gloomies craft darker instrumentals that lounge around in the mid and low ranges. It’s not that the guitars can’t open up; it’s that Craig doesn’t want them to. The results are stoney, head-nodding, sad boy anthems that deserve radio play outside of the indie ecosystem—and Are We Getting Better? is full of them. The album also has three “Voice Memo” tracks, which unfold like hazy demos and add to the overall dusky flavor.

“They seem like they’re happy, but I feel like our songs are a lot darker,” says Craig, who admits that recording the new LP felt more natural and akin to earlier material from the Blackout sessions. “People write off of certain feelings. I write off of bad times in my life or difficult times rather than happy times. It’s just easier.”

It’s hard to imagine that the strange and isolating emotions brought about by quarantine won’t reveal themselves in future songs from The Gloomies. Craig has been holed up in his small New York apartment with his girlfriend and his dog “trying to find some normalcy.” During our interview, he namechecks two singers as influences—Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, specifically the latter’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” When you break down the lyrics, it’s hard to find a more appropriate tune to describe Craig’s last 10 years. A forlorn traveler, migrating from coast to coast, lonely and pensive. And despite the seemingly maudlin outlook he has on the world around him he remains content to sit blissfully by, just watching the world around him spin and spin.

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