Angelo Gambatesa conceptualizes his work through a poetic lens. Even the name of his new creative endeavor, cherishes ( a self-described “synonym for keepsakes”) relishes in such grandeur, as a mechanism for him to remain grounded. “The name is present. It’s not something that configures in past tense,” he says.
Gambatesa introduces this new chapter with video for a song called “Gaslighting,” directed by Natalie Panacci, whose adeptness behind the lens is felt throughout the full runtime. “I am changed in the thought of you/And I’m confused about how I should feel,” he sings. There’s a plump sweetness to his vocal, perfectly pairing against lush, pastel imagery.
“Gaslighting” anchors cherishes’ self-titled debut EP, a three-track project firmly fashioned in a similar singer-songwriter style, due to arrive December 18th. The song was originally written two or three years ago, but was put on the backburner when “all this stuff happened in my life. I was going to put it out and things stopped feeling right,” Gambatesa tells Audiofemme. Notably, the title came after the song had been written. “At the time, I had never heard the word before. I was talking to a friend about things I was going through at the time. She brought up the term to me.” The emotional weight of the song immediately came into focus. “Maybe it was a bit serendipitous,” he adds.
When he sought out Panacci to direct, the concept initially blossomed from the definition of gaslighting and its super-charged connotations, but it soon took root with themes of “longing and loss. Rather than take the lyrics into a literal visual representation, Natalie conceptualized an idea around loss, grief, and bereavement ─ and a sense of place that can be guided by absence,” Gambatesa explains.
The artist’s presence in the video is merely ceremonial, and he moves about almost like a specter caught in purgatory. Actors Justine Christensen and Rhonda Warkentin play two unnamed women who struggle to make sense of various emotional and traumatic knots of human existence, seemingly wandering through their lives without purpose or drive. It all leads to the video’s profoundly moving scene in which it is revealed Gambatesa’s character has actually been dead the entire time.
Out of Toronto, Gambatesa showed an early proclivity toward music, taking lessons at just ten years old after tinkering around with guitar when he was very young. “I knew from the get-go it was something I wanted to do,” he says. He also grew up hooked to Much Music, the Canadian version of MTV, and would watch the channel for hours and hours after school.
Through his groovy indie rock aesthetic, he possesses an obvious admiration for classic rock acts like AC/DC, but it has been Canadian acts who have impacted him most. From such bands as Alexisonfire and Moneen to Circa Survive, he is a professed “guitar geek” and often harkens back to classic structures and ways of writing in his own music. Gambatesa attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s where he gained local street cred as part of indie rock band named Hit Home.
The group met as most college bands do, quickly realizing their similar interests and love for jamming out. Within a week or so, they began playing together and released their debut EP in 2013. Three years later, they split up, due to unknown reasons, and Gambatesa set about carving out his own artistic future.
Looking back, now nearing 30 years old, he describes that version of himself ─ a bright-eyed 19-year-old. “There’s a certain level of heightened naivety that comes with that age,” he remarks. He was “unrestrained and fearless in some ways. That time was full of certain merits but [I was] a bit of a mess. It was kind of an exhausting time, and I had a lot to navigate. It wasn’t a particularly fantastic time in my life.”
In the band’s aftermath, Gambatesa found himself “still indebted to the idea of being a full-time musician. It wasn’t necessarily discouraging, but it was inevitable. I had a desire to push through and start another project,” he continues. He “was at a juncture where I had to decide” what road to take next; he played in at least one other band, but it quickly dissolved, as well.
Cherishes emerged out of a deep desire to create, and he soon learned it was perhaps better to do so on his own terms. “Gaslighting” works as a somber, moving piece of music because of its beautiful simplicity; guitar chords embroider words that cut deep without being superfluous or overwrought. In his attempts to go leaner in songwriting, he quips that he’s still trying “to understand songwriting better.”
“I overthink everything. I’m bothered that on this EP, the first chord of every song has the note A in it,” he says. “I know it doesn’t matter, because they’re distinct songs.”
“Crutches of structure might inform some of the stuff I do,” he admits. “Then, there are certain tempos I find myself always stuck in. They can be good guiding principles, and sometimes, I’m like, ‘Man, can I only write songs at 85 bpm that have this same chord in it?’” Truth be told, if cherishes keeps releasing tracks as achingly gorgeous as “Gaslighting,” that may not be such a bad thing.