Still Woozy (playing Wed/13 through Friday/15 at The New Parish) was hanging out backstage at Lollapalooza at Chicago’s Grant Park, last summer. He had just finished his set and was waiting patiently for one of his favorite artists, flamenco pop singer Rosalía to take the same stage that he had just graced.
But the “Goodie Bag” singer got distracted when he noticed another big-name act on the lineup — basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, who now DJs under the name of Diesel, passing him by.
“Shaquille O’Neal is just walking around,” Still Woozy (born Sven Gamsky) told 48 Hills. “Yeah, he’s got a whole crew. I’m just watching Shaq go by right now. What a weird day. I wish I could hang out with Shaq, too and be part of his crew.”
Success still feels like a dream for the Oakland-born, Portland-based psych-pop artist, who managed to score a spot on every major music festival lineup this year, including Coachella, Governors Ball, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, and Austin City Limits, and counts pop superstar Billie Eilish as a fan.
Especially considering that a few years back he was making music—including five standalone singles and his recent five-track Lately EP—in his old Oakland garage.
“That was a big thing for me,” he said about his first major celebrity fan.
I spoke to Still Woozy about his current headlining tour, which hits The New Parish for three nights starting Wednesday, his influences and inspirations, and his dreams for the future.
48 HILLS Your Lately EP is so intimate. How does it translate to the stage?
STILL WOOZY On stage it’s three of us. There’s me, my drummer Skinny Pete, and a bassist/guitarist/keyboardist named Tani. There’s a lot of interaction between us and the crowd.
48 HILLS I’m assuming that Lately is about what you’re up to right now?
STILL WOOZY Yes, this is what I’m up to and this is what I’ve been working on lately.
48 HILLS I particularly love the super-smoldering track “Lava.”
STILL WOOZY That song is one of my favorites to play live. The crowd’s energy just goes up when that song hits. I just see it on people’s faces and it feels so good.
48 HILLS What was the process of putting the EP together?
STILL WOOZY I recorded everything in my garage mostly, other than a couple of people I’ve featured on shit, like Oakland native Elujay. But I’ve just been in the garage making music, trying stuff out, and throwing stuff back and forth and seeing what sticks for a while.
48 HILLS Tell me about your earliest experiences as a musician.
STILL WOOZY I always loved music so much and have written songs for as long as I can remember. I remember learning Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” and Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and then trying to write my own songs. I started recording that and steadily recording myself more and more and just getting better at it and getting more tools and meeting other people.
48 HILLS How did you settle on the Still Woozy moniker?
STILL WOOZY It just felt right. There’s no more of an explanation than just that. It needed to feel OK. It was just a gut feeling. A lot of this project is going with my gut instincts.
48 HILLS How did you develop your eclectic sound?
STILL WOOZY I’ve just been drawn to lo-fi sounds in general and just love a nice vibrato. I was in another band [math rock group Feed Me Jack] and it was fun playing around the Bay Area. But it wasn’t working out. There were a lot of heads and a lot of people involved and too much compromise, so I had to go out and start trusting my gut and just start from the ground up and just listening to what I like, really.
There’s all this shit out there and it’s too easy to be influenced by other people. Being an artist is almost like being a curator of your favorite things. You can bring your favorite things to life and have them all in one place and that’s what makes up your identity.
There are all these tools and all this music out there and I think the question of being genuine is almost bullshit. It’s about how are you putting together the pieces that feel authentically you.
48 HILLS Who are your musical influences?
STILL WOOZY Anybody who I’m listening to that is pushing and connecting and bringing a certain type of energy where they’re greater than the sum of their parts.
That’s Frank Ocean, Claro, Joe G., and especially Department of Eagles. If you would strip all of me away, Department of Eagles is me at the core. No matter how many years go by, I know I’m always going to come back to that. It just hits me in this deep place. That’s the group. It is about pushing past the bedroom pop label and growing. I just want to grow and be inspired by people who are doing that, too.
48 HILLS All of your songs are about relationships. Who inspires them?
STILL WOOZY My partner—10,000 percent. We’ve been together for four years and through all the ups and downs, I’m still so in love with this person. And, of course, there are mixed emotions happening because we’re both independent people and things go on in our lives.
But we’ve lived together for a while and that’s been consistently the source of my inspiration for better or for worse. But always for the better. Even the problems, we work through them. Even if I’m pissed off and singing about it, I still feel sorry for her that she has to be the person that everything is about. But she seems to be OK.
48 HILLS In your breakthrough single “Goodie Bag,” you sing, “Well If she had to choose me or her mom, I know I wouldn’t last long.” What’s that line about?
STILL WOOZY My girlfriend and her mom are thick as thieves. They are the best of friends. I’ve never met anyone like that who has a best-friend relationship with their mom. When I’m driving them around, it’s like I’m the Uber driver and they’re together in the back seat, laughing and shit. I don’t even care. I think it’s amazing.
48 HILLS I read she does the cover art for your releases.
STILL WOOZY She’s a talented artist. We lived in Oakland for a couple of years and now we’ve relocated back to Portland where her family lives. We got a house in Portland with a beautiful backyard.
48 HILLS What’s next for you?
STILL WOOZY In the next year, I see rolling out an album and more headlining shows, more videos, and just continuing on this road.
There are a lot of different things that I’m messing around with and I’m so stoked to get back into the studio and put that out because the studio’s where I’m most comfortable. I love playing on stage and I will have a blast on stage, but I love settling into a studio and just working on something.
Wed/13 through Fri/15 8 pm, $20
The New Parish, Oakland.
More info here.