Satchmode offer up a different perspective on a perennial songwriting muse with their debut full-length album, Love Hz.
“It’s all an exploration of the darker side of love,” explains singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Gabe Donnay. “I’m exploring the natural reaction to the dissolution of any relationship. When you’re really close to someone and suddenly you lose them, the loneliness and isolation that follows is just as powerful as the intimacy was in the first place. You end up more alone than when you started. Grappling with that experience is what ties these eleven songs together.”
With propulsive synths pulsating, neon energy glimmering, and electro pop harmonies hypnotizing, the Los Angeles quartet—Gabe, Eric Downs, Bo Jacobson, and Sam Skolfield—bring heartbreak to the dance floor. Since emerging in 2013, the group’s distinctive brand of “Dream Pop” continues to enchant. Over the course of 2014’s Collide EP and the Afterglow EP in 2015, they landed 5 tracks on the Top 10 of Hype Machine, racked up 4 million-plus cumulative streams, and earned acclaim from outlets such as W Magazine, Dancing Astronaut, Marie Claire, Indie Shuffle, The Wild Honey Pie, and many more in addition to placements on prominent YouTube channels such as La Bella Musique and Mr. Suicide Sheep. Since the release of Love Hz, the band has landed 5 songs on Spotify’s Viral Top 50 chart across 12 countries.
Satchmode began in 2013 as a collaboration between Gabe and fellow Baltimore native Adam Boukis before evolving into the current four-piece arrangement. Gabe had been studying neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, but after graduating he decided to refocus on his passion for music, and he picked up and headed to Los Angeles to seek out new opportunities. Influenced by his years of study in many different musical traditions—including classical training on violin and piano as a kid, and later jazz, folk, and bluegrass—Gabe began to forge a style of his own while solidifying the band.
“I like ‘Dream Pop’ as a descriptor,” Gabe explains. “I like the idea that when you’re in a dream state, anything is possible. You’re drawing on your subconscious and everything that makes you who you are. This is the first project that’s allowed me to be open to using all of my influences. There’s an emotional core and a naked honesty that comes from the singer-songwriter tradition. There’s a meticulous construction and attention to music theory underpinning everything that comes from the classical side. It’s very open-ended and free to go anywhere in the future.”
Over the past three years, Gabe pieced together the songs that would become Love Hz. He’d construct sonic skeletons in his home studio and expand them with the band in tow. Throughout 2016, a slate of well-received singles (including “Further Away”, “State of Mind”, and “Undertow”) have paved the way for the album, garnering over one million streams and multiple features on iTunes and Spotify. Now, the single “Happiness” struts between sun-kissed synths, an infectious bass line, powerhouse vocals, and unpredictable production. It’s an ambitious song that charts a journey from melodic, upbeat pop to a swirling, expansive coda.
“Happiness was one of the last songs I wrote for the album, and I found myself pulling back from the heartbreak themes a little and reflecting on the whole process. Music has always been my last refuge,” Gabe admits. "It’s the thing that lets me process and deal with all my darkest thoughts and emotions. But of course sometimes I doubt the music itself, and when I do, it feels very overwhelming—like I have nothing left to lean on. The structure of this song mirrors that downward spiral when your negative thoughts and self-doubt are spinning out of control. Things can look fine on the surface even while you're unraveling on the inside."
In the end, it’s the raw honesty of Gabe’s songwriting that resonates the most on Love Hz. “I hope the music brings people in touch with their emotions,” he leaves off. “Everyone has experienced loss, guilt, and regret. It’s cathartic to go through that together. You emerge on the other side, and you’re okay.”