"Once I started writing naturally about relationships in the most honest way that I could, I found my identity, it became what I wanted to do."
"I started writing for the name, representing that serene and still moment I'd shared," says Greg Gonzalez, explaining the purposefully provocative band moniker Cigarettes After Sex. "I write about moments of love, whether they're the sweet moments, or the heartbroken moments, or the little buzz moments you have when you're falling for somebody. That's what guides me as an artist and makes me want to write the most."
From a solitary EP release in 2012 to a near cult-like following by 2017's eponymous LP, Cigarettes After Sex's tender and sleepy aesthetic, feeling much like a flood of dopamine right after that moment, has turned a lot of people onto their sound. With multi-award-winning megahit series The Handmaid's Tale cherrypicking Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby to be the anthem for the season's most pivotally hopeful scene, Cigarettes After Sex have now firmly established themselves as ambient-pop champions for love.
"Once I started writing naturally about relationships in the most honest way that I could, I found my identity. It became what I wanted to do," Gonzalez says. "There was something in those love affairs and relationships that impacted me so intensely. All of a sudden, you feel like you want to kill yourself, it's so intense. Or you go the other way and you're the happiest you've ever been. The depths of the emotions brought something out of me that made life worth living."
Gonzalez takes no offence whatsoever in claims the calm and meditative Cigarettes After Sex sound can put you straight to sleep. He's actually proud of it. "Growing up, I needed a lot of music to help me during intense emotional times when I couldn't sleep or my mind was going a thousand miles an hour," he explains. "I'd reach for records like Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis or Music For Airports by Brian Eno. These albums were saviours, they helped get rid of the noise in my mind. I wanted to make music with that quality, and it's cool that the music has gone far enough that it's helping people in some way."
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With films taking him to similar emotional depths, Gonzalez feels privileged that Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby was chosen for the soundtrack of the wildly popular dystopian saga, The Handmaid's Tale. Landing gently over a heartbreaking moment of bittersweet discovery, the song perfectly colours a powerful scene, filled with elation, liberation and hope. "The cinematography is gorgeous and inventive, and it's amazing how close our sensibilities matched on that moment in the script," says Gonzalez. "Their use of iconic music too, like Simple Minds' Don't You Forget About Me, is really powerful. It's a privilege to be in the company of such amazing songs."
Not surprisingly for an artist like Gonzalez, literature and poetry have also shaped and informed the Cigarettes After Sex aesthetic. "Richard Brautigan was a big one for me," shares Gonzalez, referencing the satirical American writer and poet. "He had a poetry book called The Pill Versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, which a lot of the lyrical style was taken from. Even someone like Haruki Murakami, with his modern, surreal style that's very much based on relationships, his novels are very much aligned with our sound."
Local fans will have their first opportunity to enjoy a Cigarettes After Sex moment when they tour down the east coast over the New Year's period, on what will no doubt be their first of many Australian tours. Gonzalez guarantees the fidelity of the Cigarettes After Sex experience for fans already hooked on the serene, still and meditative vibe of the album. "The live experience will aim to be a very pure version of what you hear on the record," says Gonzalez. "We're one of those bands that sounds like their recording live. We won't pull a fast one on you. There'll be no remixes. It's a compliment when people tell us we sound exactly like the record."