Gemma is one of those happy accidents. A musical project that came together spontaneously, and almost entirely by chance. There’s no heartfelt meeting story to tell. Like many musicians, Felicia Douglass (Ava Luna) and producer Erik Gundel would cross paths because they happened to be on the same Market Hotel bill five or six years ago. Over time they’d run into each other, express their mutual appreciation, exchange a few words and move on. Last year the simple greetings turned to conversation about how they were both interested in creating electronic beats and working on their own material. Gundel eventually reached out to Douglass to see if she’d sing on one of his tracks and they were both so pleased with the results that they continued to push forward. “I don’t think we even talked about making a full album until we realized that we had a lot of songs in the works,” says Douglass. Gundel recalls that “It was very fun and easy as far as collaborations go, it didn’t really make sense to stop.”
Their chemistry was immediate. Time and time again the process proved to be liberating for both musicians. “We never butted heads about parts of the songs; I always liked what Felicia contributed, hopefully she enjoyed what I was doing. We were on the same page when something wasn’t working…the album developed in a really natural way.” This unified style and vision gave birth to Gemma’s unique brand of post-R&B and silky electro-pop. The duo’s debut album, As Ever, due out October 2nd via Inflated Records, is a sign that they were destined to be a team. Gundel’s production, influenced by a wide variety of intricate electronic music, including Max Tundra, Herbert, and ‘90s-era Timbaland, provides the perfect accompaniment to Douglass’ smooth, effortless vocal delivery.
Douglass, whose main contributions to Ava Luna’s past two albums (“PRPL,” “Coat of Shellac”) were clear standouts, has also lent her talents to artists such as Toro Y Moi, Sinkane, and Mr. Twin Sister. On As Ever, her soulful voice is the unquestionable focal point. Soft melodies and stacked, pillowy vocals soar over her counterpart’s experimental concoctions. The album’s lyrics are often sentimental, about memories or moments in time, fleeting exuberance or misery. Perhaps coincidentally, a lot of the music is built upon samples of obscure or forgotten music, small snippets of sound that Gundel found evocative or, like the lyrics, fleetingly exuberant. The result is an album that feels like it was the creation of one mind, proving that the process of collaboration does not always have to entail compromise, and ensuring that the future is bright for Gemma.
“The songs on ‘As Ever,’ Gemma’s first record, are quiet, alert and beautiful: dance music, party music, but of a seriously adult kind.” – The New York Times
“…a silky, poppy new project with plenty of open space, mid-’80s R&B hooks and gently skittering beats.” – The New York Times
“It’s a delicate, careful combination that finds Douglass’ heartfelt voice melding to Gundel’s bleary, DJ Koze-like melody perfectly. It makes for a sound that feels exploratory and airtight all at once.” – FACT
“Presented alongside a shimmering but minimalist electronic backdrop, Douglass’ voice sounds fully actualized on ‘As Ever.’ The song makes erratic jumps across the emotional spectrum with each lilt of Douglass’ voice; it’s sensual, anxious, hopeful, but above all, it’s earnest.” – Stereogum, “The 5 Best Songs Of The Week”
“Douglass’s vocals creamily waft over and around Gundel’s technicolour loops.” – The Line Of Best Fit, “Song of The Day”