How Gneiss Vibe’s Got So Nice

Up and coming Atlanta artist Gneiss Vibe stays heavily influenced by his past while looking to the future

            Born up in Boston thirty-two years ago, Gneiss (pronounced like “nice”) Vibe (pronounced like “nice”) began playing the trombone in middle school. It was through an after-school program, a necessity for Gneiss as his, like so many other public schools in cities, had cut their music programs in an effort to redirect the funds to more pressing situations. The program was where Gneiss first interacted with music in a defined way, learning how to read sheet music and tap his foot to make sure he was on time with the conductor. Gneiss immediately took a liking to playing the instrument, so when after a few recitals and months of practicing and the program ran out of money he was understandably disappointed. Fortunately, instead of simply discarding the instruments or putting them into some storage locker to gather dust until more funding could be raised, the program decided to allow the kids to purchase their instruments which is exactly what Geniss did. His older brother, who was in the program as well, played saxophone and had joined a Haitian marching band of members of their community that was connected to the Baptist church Gneiss and his family attended. Alongside another friend of his who played trombone, Gneiss was signed up for the marching band by his mom under some protestation, joining his older brother and younger sister as the only teenagers in the group. The group was tapped to perform for a variety of functions, with a frequent gig being welcoming visiting Haitian diplomats with their traditional sounds. While Gneiss loved playing for the groups conductor, who by Gneiss’s accord was a fantastic conductor capable of simply changing the written music by ear in the middle of a song and change it on the page, the repetition and structure began to wear on him. When they would march, Gneiss began to improvise and play by ear instead of staying on page, and after one such show, “This forty year old dude in the group came up to me and told me that I sucked” to which Gneiss thought, ‘Fuck that’ and soon left the marching group, a wholly understandable decision. He was there to have fun, and once that happened, in conjunction with his sister quitting the group and other kids leaving as well, it was time for him to move away and deeper into his musical progression individually.

            When Gneiss initially made his move into crating music on his own, he began making beats. Originally Gneiss downloaded FL studio, and after some of trial and error it began to feel natural to him. His years of formal training and deep musical knowledge allowed him to understand the way that sounds should slide together fairly quickly and allowed him to push himself further. Gneiss’s focus in fact was only on making beats in those early days in Boston, putting his voice onto the track wasn’t even in the picture. When it comes to listening to music, Gneiss has always been a Fugees fan, but when it came to his own production style, Pharells influence loomed large for Gneiss. He dove right into what was coming out of the South at the time, clean and tight 808’s that exploded in popularity in the early 2000’s, picking apart beats in order to understand how the producers were making them pop so much. It has been a long journey from those initial days, and Gneiss has currently moved away from the sampling in order to focus more on incorporating live instrumentation into his music. Throughout his time creating, Gneiss never really harbored aspirations for becoming a rapper, as “Rapping is a full-talent scale, and I never used to really write”, he explained, although he will write a verse or perform vocals for bands that he has played in over the years if called upon. He has done a lot of open mic events around Atlanta, and before live performances were shut down, Gneiss had been around the town a lot, freestyling at shows and pushing his sound all over. One of his frequent stops was at Snitz Ole Bar where he would perform, essentially using his vocals to enhance his beats while focusing on the overall sound, receiving plenty of positive feedback. Quarantine has allowed Gneiss the time to slow down and pull together all the pieces, expanding his tool-set and setting himself up to continue down his path. During our conversation, Gneiss said, “Music is the only thing I want do to for the rest of my life” and if he continues with the work that he has been putting in, there is no doubt he will be able to speak that into existence.

If there is one thing that Gneiss’s Haitian roots taught him, it was that being independent and building himself up through those closest to him was more important that seeking the help or adoration of outsiders. In other words, depending on outside influences to prop oneself up, be it pursuing materialistic gain to flaunt or taking the short way when the long path is visible can be an ugly cycle and doesn’t often lead to long-term happiness. Outside of being an independent artist, learning on his own how to create a way for himself, Gneiss’s family lies at the base of his rock-solid foundation. He has been married to his wife for eight years now after first meeting her in high school. Together, they have five sons with the ages ranging from two to ten, and the team certainly keeps Gneiss busy. His oldest son has begun diving into music on his own by playing drums, placing an even greater importance on Gneiss’s ability to write while away from home in some peace and quiet. Over the years, Gneiss added bass-playing into his repertoire, continuing to allow himself the ability to include those live instruments into his beats as he has been working on. He continues to use FL Studio, and has been really trying to develop his own sound in the past couple of years. Gneiss has spent years working on his skills in behind the boards, and his recent music reflects that. He has an eclectic style that lends itself well to those live instruments, adding a freshness that has often been lacking in a land of rinse and repeat beats. It will be interesting to see if his writings work well over such beats, as the possibilities are endless creating an intriguing listening experience and need to listen closely.

            Outside of creating music, Gneiss’s life is still music. He substitute teaches, always willing to step in for an arts teacher especially if it is a music class at a high school. He has stepped away during the pandemic, ending up with a job as a security guard of an apartment complex which forced Gneiss to sit around all night, doing rounds every so often. It was during this time that he began writing a lot more, although like most people would faced with hours of time to pass, Gneiss participated in one of his other favorite pastimes watching movies. Eventually though, the hours began to drag on and Gneiss figured that while he had the time to himself with the ability to listen to instrumentals if he wanted, he might as well work on his pen game. In fact, the last nine months have been fairly busy sonically for Gneiss. A good friend and fellow artist named Pigeon linked up with Gneiss through mutual friends and the two of them immediately clicked on production. The introduction lead to almost a month of intense collaboration that ended with two 3-song EP’s that are “real experimental, we tapped into childhood and meme culture” entirely new territory for Gneiss. He has at least one full-length project in the vault, and is planning on releasing a song based in reflection on 2020, the same thing that he did in 2019, with a track entitled, “Overflow”. In addition to working with PIgeon, Gneiss sat down and produced a full-length album for the first time over quarantine, adding another brick to his talented foundation. Although his life is incredibly busy, Gneiss wouldn’t have it any other way as he is surrounded by his family, whether it is in the studio or at the dinner table. Who knows, maybe one day he will be able to sit down with his oldest son and show him the ropes of creating beats that Gneiss taught himself so long ago.

Jake Zinda

23 years old, from Wisconsin Hip-Hop Journalist @CMAG N.S.C.T.D.

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