Post-punk band Ganser: Lanesborough native part of group that isn't afraid to ramp up the anxiety

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Lanesborough native Nadia Garofalo wasn't a stand-out music student as a child.

"I think it was really frustrating for me and the music teacher," she said of trying to learn guitar during elementary school.

Now, part of the keyboardist and vocalist's musical talent stems from her ability to generate discomfort. Garofalo is a founding member of Ganser, a Chicago-based post-punk band that derives its name from a dissociative disorder. Its music strives to honor that moniker by producing a sense of disorientation.

"We definitely operate more in the inner space of anxiety and internal struggles, and also communication and the various perils of that," Garofalo told The Eagle by phone on Tuesday.

On Friday, Ganser released its latest foray into an unhinged creative space: a debut LP called "Odd Talk" (No Trend Records).

"[The album] was very much about communication and how, sometimes, words fail," Garofalo said.

The subject matter hasn't deterred critics from commenting on the band's new work. On Feb. 23, The New York Times' chief popular music critic, Jon Pareles, listed a Ganser song in the publication's weekly "Playlist" feature. Reviewing the record's third track, "PSY OPS," Pareles wrote that the song "has gnashing, dissonant, trebly guitar riffs over pounding drum syncopations, with Nadia Garofalo wedging telegraphic little bursts of lyrics — 'now pay attention/your anger/fear/has got me' — wedged tightly into the groove."

Garofalo's path to national recognition was far from predictable. Growing up, she struggled to find an instrument that suited her. At "15 or 16," she began playing in a band, she said, but her artistic focus was ultimately placed elsewhere. After spending her first three years at Mount Greylock Regional High School, she attended an art program at Berkshire Community College for her senior year. She subsequently enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied interior architecture and design, as well as sculpture, beginning in 2006.

The 30-year-old eventually landed a job helping out on TV, film and theater sets with props and other aspects of production. But that role has been a "day job" since 2014, when Garofalo started Ganser with Alicia Gaines (bass, vocals). The group later added Charlie Landsman (guitar) and Brian Cundiff (drums).

"We really like using Google Docs," Garofalo said of how the four collaborate to write songs.

Garofalo often pairs with Cundiff during that process. They wrote "Avoidance," the album's fourth track, together. Like many of the group's songs, its vocals are nearly drowned out by the instrumentation.

"That one I'm pretty proud of and how that's been received," Garofalo said.

She and Cundiff also worked on "Touch Insensitive," the record's last track. Though the backing sound is still big, the chorus is more powerful in the song than others on the album.

"That one really touched me personally," Garofalo said.

Ganser has upcoming shows in Providence, R.I., and New York City. The band hasn't yet played in the Berkshires, but Garofalo feels there would be an audience for post-punk in the county.

"I think anxiety is a universal thing, that kind of inner language and maybe darker sensibility — but having a sense of humor about it," she said.

While Garofalo enjoys city life more than residing in a small town, she still hopes her story encourages young artists back home.

"When I was 15, I never thought that I'd be in a band that would be written about in The New York Times, or on Billboard, or anything like that," she said. "Even though we're not super famous, it still feels [like] my career is successful."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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