In the Womb of Gloom. An interview with Gloom Balloon’s Patrick Fleming.

Pat Gloom

Pat graciously agreed to answer some questions in anticipation of his upcoming album release,“Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom, Underneath the Stars and the Moon.”  due out September 1st on Maximum Ames. I got a sneak peek at the album and it is absolutely JAW DROPPING.  His first was dripping with psychedelia while his latest is drenched in SOUL.

Your first Gloom Balloon album was dedicated to The Bill Doss, of The Olivia Tremor Control, what led to this beautiful tribute?
Well Olivia Tremor Control is my all-time favorite band, and I have had the great pleasure of meeting Bill, touring with him with the Apples, begging him to let Poison Control Center back him on a song, and then him even inviting me on stage with OTC on their last tour to sing Jumping Fences with them. So after all this I considered my hero a friend, even though I thought of him as a friend before I had ever met him cause he was such a big part of my life, his music, his songs, and his soul have been the soundtrack to my high school through adult life and making some music for him was the least I could do for his inspiring, world shaking music and kindness he always showed toward me.  

When where you first introduced to the Elephant 6?

 I’m pretty sure it was fall of 1996 at LET IT BE records in Minneapolis, where I purchased Dusk at Cubist Castle and On Avery Island, due to the fact that they were staff picks and the staff there had great taste in music, I can honestly say, my life changed that day. 

You’ve opened for a BUNCH of Elephant6 bands (please feel free to name them!). Do you have any stories  you can share about what I can only imagine were some of the best shows ever!

 Oh wow, yes I have been very, very lucky in this regard. I have opened for the Apples for a full tour, multiple shows with the Minders, Elf Power, Of Montreal. Opened for Circulatory System. Sang on stage with Olivia Tremor Control, open for Jeff Mangum. Did shows with Dressy Bessy, The New Sound of Numbers, Essex Green. I’m probably forgetting some.. Oh played with A Pollinare Rave (Kevin Barnes side project). The Music Tapes played my house.. 

I have so many stories I could share about these shows.. Giving Jeff Mangum a ride to the airport, begging Bill Doss to let Poison Control Center back him on Jumping Fences, begging Robert to play She’s Just Like Me. Having Will Cullen Hart and Kevin Barnes both play songs on my couch after shows. Or getting life lesson in touring from Elf Power’s Laura Carter when buying eggs at a grocery store.. she said, “Always buy eggs, you can feed an army.” 

What is your favourtie E6 song, album, cover art and why?

Well my favorite song is probably a 5 way tie between, Hilltop Procession (Momentum Gaining) by OTC, Ghost by Neutral Milk Hotel, She’s Just Like Me by the Apples, Secret Ocean by Elf Power, and Dustin Hoffman’s Wife Comes Home by Of Montreal.. Those are the ones off the top of my head that I have always loved so much! As far as album cover art, I really love the style of In The Aeroplane over the Sea, and Black Foliage those two stand out to me. As far as my fave album, that’s Dusk At Cubist Castle for sure, cause it’s my all time fave album.. Nothing comes close, I have probably listened to it 1,000 times and it still feels fresh and exciting every time I hear it. 

( In the classic DUSK VS FOLIAGE debate, I too am a DUSK guy)
What is your favourite NON-E6 related album? 

 My faves are Revolver by the Beatles, or is it the White Album, or Abby Road, I think I should just say the Beatles catalog has the most baring in my musical life and as a I grow older I find myself engulfing the solo careers of the Beatles as well.

On this upcoming LP, “Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom.”, the epic starts with the sounds of your newborn (congratulations by the way!).  Was having real baby sounds in the back inspired by Jeff Mangum’s Live at Jittery Joe’s, or was this just a happy coincidence?

 Well I do love that album, and I had a VHS copy of it long before it was ever released publicly, thanks to the early internet bootleg trading groups. No for me music is such a magical thing, that you have to go out into the stratosphere where all the songs in the world are living and go and grab them, you don’t  get accesse to this very often so when you do, you got to capture the moment! I was at home with my baby by myself looking after him and I was inspired at that moment to sit at the piano and write a song, when that happens you must do it then! So inspired I wrote the song in a flash in one sitting and I forget stuff all the time, and I had baby brain so I grabbed my phone to make a recording of it. I hit record, played the song, and Nilsson, my son, wanted to sing along.. But I couldn’t stop, this was my one chance to remember the song, before I had to change a diaper or warm a bottle. So I played it and he sang along.. I like the song and felt it’s deep meaning, and really personal context that I wanted to put it on the album. I tried to re-record it, and even wrote another verse but I just loved how magical and spontaneous that original demo sounded and there is no way to fake that or recapture it.  So a few nights before the album was done I spruced that original demo up a bit. And added a weird middle part. My friend Logan who helped record the record and I had didn’t really see eye to eye on it.. Cause it’s so lofi, but I think Christopher Ford helped me believe it was worth putting on the record to help tell the story, and he even said it was one of his favorites.. So I had to put it on the record. Now naturally most people would not put it first on the record but I think it’s really the only place it would fit and it’s actually one of my favorites on the album.

( I think it’s perfect as the first track! Immediately lets you know that this album will be full of surprises and have a certain uniqueness to it)

 While listening to the new album, I couldn’t get over how different it was from the first.  In my head, if each album’s sound created an image, it was as if the first album was the cover of Black Foliage, it evoked the idea of a dark but colorful cellar, someone laying on the floor with Lucy and having all this beauty burst out from the darkness, While this one evoked more of the Dusk at Cubist Castle cover, this colorful open, breathable world of magic where the sky is the limit, but there’s even more beyond there and you’re rocketing towards it. I also envisioned a stage production of this album, an unrealized film script of sorts.  How do you compare the two Gloom Balloon albums?

 Wow, I like the way you think. The first album was just supposed to be a single, because I was so down, I needed to do something musically, then Bill Doss passed away and the next thing you know the single turns out to be side one and side two is a strait up post card good bye to Bill. I never really envisioned that many people hearing it, but for some reason it really connected to some people and so did the stage show, which meant a lot to me and really dug me out of hole personally. As far as the new album goes, I had a few years to work on other peoples records as a producer which was really fun, and where I feel my true strength belongs! I love making records and I got to work on Christopher the Conquered’s I’m Giving Up on Rock and Roll, Twins’ Square America, and Quick Piss’ Rock and Roll Impotence.. 3 Records that were all made in very different ways, by very different bands… but all were really inspiring to me and I knew that when I had the songs to make a new record I really wanted to take my time and make a record that really goes for the fences! And takes a lot of chances! I also knew that now that I’m a parent, it might well be the last record I ever make. I also had to do some living before I had any songs.. New inspirations, and experiences that mean so much to me help create these songs. This probably could have been a double LP, in even more of the Dusk realm but after awhile, I realized that I had to cut some of the fat from this and get it down to 40 minutes that could fit on 1 LP. It probably lost some of the strange sound collage type stuff I love doing, but it ends up being more like a soul record from the 70’s which I’m pretty excited about. 

 Lyrically,  the track “Drying The Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom” gave me some Bob Dylan vibes. What is your favourite Dylan album?

 Thats funny you say that. Cause when I made the demo of that song, I felt so nervous and awkward about the how personal the lyrics were that I sang it in a very Dylany voice.. Only a few people heard that demo and one of them was the original drummer of the Poison Control Center.. Don Curtis, and he said to me, “I love you, doing your best Dylan on this one, I think you should sing it even more like Dylan.” So I felt less awkward doing my version of Bob.. Sometimes you find your own voice when trying to emulate others.. Dylan found his doing Woody Guthrie, Tom Petty found his doing Dylan and The Byrds, and Springsteen found his doing Dylan and Ronnie Spector.. I’m not saying I found mine, but doing an imitation gave me the confidence to sing these very personal lyrics! Just like Paul McCartney doing Fats Domino gave him the confidence to sing Lady Madonna the way he does. 

As far as my fave Dylan record, Blonde on Blonde is my fave but like the Beatles I almost just lump the whole catalog as one beaming beauty of musical madness. 

Although I know most people have not yet heard this album, so asking about specific songs may seem out of place,  but I hope it creates some kind of mysterious anticipation. On Saddest Story Ever ( one of my favourite tracks of the album), you mention cheap beer, and I was wondering, what is your favourite cheap beer and your favourite mixed drink?

 I’m a beer guy for sure, I’m always scared of mix drinks.. They smell like my dad when he used to beat me up as a kid, so I shy away from those.. But I do love Margaritas on a hot summer day, but as far as cheap beer goes.. I love your classics, Coors Light, High Life, Old Mil, Schiltz, Bud, PBR, Busch Light.. I have made many a record on Busch Light, you can drink 20 and not lose your focus on making music.. I can remember when OTC played their first reunion show in 2004 at The 40 Watt, I booked a solo tour around it so I could go and I was holding two 24 ounce cans of PBR the whole time so I never had to leave my front row spot! 

 What is your favourite track on this album?

 I think my favorite song on the new record is Brush My Teeth, just for how personal it is, and how the production turned out.. This is the first album I ever really wrote on a piano and when you are writing on an instrument you are truly bad at playing it makes you write different. This is one of those songs that just came out in 5 minutes and wrote itself my hands just kinda did it without me telling them to do it.. Again I made a demo fast and away we go.. I worked really hard on the production on this one. Cj Howard who played the horns lips about fell off. I was really putting him through the ringer, and Patrick Riley string arrangement is absolutely bone crushingly beautiful. I kept not finishing the song, cause I heard female voices in my head singing the back ground vocals that say.. “He’s Talking about Falling in love.” but I couldn’t ever get a girl to sing it.. I asked a few and we just couldn’t get it together so finally the record was so close to being done, I asked Christopher Ford, to sing the line and with that I finally felt it was finished and it was on to mixing it.. And then remixing it to my liking… It has a weird ending too which is kinda a homage to ELO and a guy named Eddie who is a photographer wanted to take some photos of me in the studio and hang out.. Which was awkward for both of us so to lighten the load, I had him say, “Little Old Lady got mutilated late last night.” which is the best line from Werewolves Of London which comes up earlier in the Gloom Balloon lore on our demos only cassette, so I feel this one connects all the pieces and most people would not know this but I’m a really obsessive compulsive germaphobe and there is a lyric about never wanting to be clean again. Love is sometimes dirty. So for this and many other reason this one is special to me. 

( My favourite tracks are: Password, A Sky that looks like a Bruise, Brush my Teeth, and Saddest Story Ever)

 If you could have an E6 member collaborate on your next Gloom Balloon project, who would you want to work with?

 Wow I’m dumb founded by this question, I would love to work with anyone.. So to make it easy I will just say, I’d love to write a song with BP Helium. 

 If you could work on any E6 project, which would it be?

 I would love to be a part of the movie that coming out about E6. I have so many great moments of E6 stuff on film and I was going to send them in but for some reason I never did.. Maybe I didn’t want to be a part of telling the story, I didn’t want to ruin the mystery of what the film might be… but with that being said, I would love to be a fly on the wall and watch them finish up those unreleased OTC songs. 

 A lot of the E6 guys do a lot of visual art as well, have you ever dabbled into other forms of art?

 Yes actually Gloom Balloon started as a huge painting I did while listening to Badfinger.. I also really love film so I do a lot of that for the Gloom Balloon shows.. Also I hope to have a music video for every song on this album. Im not great and any of these forms of art but Im a big appreciator of art and artist in general so I love dabbling! Creating is the greatest gift to the world. 

 Any chance you’ll be playing any shows in the great white north, and do you have any Canadian Bands that you’re a fan of?

 I have only ever played 2 shows in my life in Canada. And they both about didn’t happen thanks to our border patrols.. Long story short, we illegally played a couple shows in Canada but had a blast! I would love to get back there and yes some of my favorite musicians ever are from Canada… The Band, Cohen, Joni, Neil, Sloan, Arcade Fire, New Pornos, Destroyer, are all as good as they come.

(pssst. Pat, if you’re reading this, I really recommend you check out The Rural Alberta Advantage’s HOMETOWNS album, SHRINK DUST by Chad Vangaalen, and Lisa Leblanc’s S/T)

 And lastly, what does the Digestion Machine mean to you?

Right now it means my 18 month old son, he eats everything and it’s the only time I get to see it go in and out. 

 PS: Apart from this upcoming masterpiece, what other Maximum Ames records should we be keeping our eyes open for!?

Oh so glad you asked.. Christopher the Conquered, Twins, Mumfords, HD Harmsen, Derek Lambert, are my faves on Maximum Ames.. They are also my best buds in the world so that helps.. But I’m really lucky I can get so inspired by my friends music. 

(Immediate Family by MUMFORDS is an easy 10. That album was such a surprising treasure, which I’m sure I’ll be writing about soon!)


Thanks Pat! Everyone can find out more about Pat’s work and the mentioned bands at the following links. Buy this album. You will not regret it.


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