Gustaf, comprised of members Lydia, ‘Vram’, Tarra, Tine, and ‘Mel’, is an unintentionally no-wave, post-punk revival band you have probably already heard of by now. Their in-the-millions streams and distinct sound make them highly recognisable, being featured on shows like Gen V and performing at some of the top venues and festivals like Kilby Block Party.
Lydia, who responded on behalf of the band, describes this record as emotion > lyrics, layering “unhinged vocal musings” with solid base and percussions. Package P. 2 is a follow-up from Gustaf’s debut album, Package, reflecting on what it means to be presenting an image when the inside is empty. Following the mentality of an anonymous narrator, Package P. 2 is about dropping the limits we put on ourselves, accepting responsibility, and no longer blaming others for our downfalls. 
The narrator that we follow throughout the record has a crowded mind, losing their way and clouded by their thoughts and expectations. Gustaf’s wacky visuals reflect the chaotic and confused psyche of the narrator, with the release of the video for Starting and Staring mirroring the feeling of overwhelming emotion that Package P. 2 conveys. This new album is a helter-skelter combination of danceable (Produce) and rage-inducing (What Does it Mean) movie-worthy tracks that is a shining example of the band’s true sound.
Hi Gustaf, lovely to talk with you. To get started, can you please introduce all your members and their roles (musically and personality-wise) in the band?
I’m Lydia and I do lead vocals and sometimes talk too much onstage. Vramshabouh ‘Vram’ Kherlopian is our guitarist as well as backing vocalist and has some of the best socks in town. Tarra Thiessen plays percussion, a Cafe Bustelo can, and the occasional rubber chicken and also does backing vocals plus the pitched-down vocal effect you can hear in our songs —she also makes sure everyone in our audience has something to smile about. Tine Hill plays bass and holds it down like no other and looks great in a pair of Ray-Bans. Melissa ‘Mel’ Lucciola is our drummer and she is an all-around delight/ray of sunshine on and off stage while simultaneously being an absolute demon behind the kit (which is to say, she is really, really good).
Are you all from Brooklyn? If not, where do you all come from and how have your individual origins influenced Gustafs sound?
We all met in Brooklyn and got our start as a band here, but like many New Yorkers, we are transplants from other places. I’m originally from Massachusetts and Tine is from upstate New York; Mel, Vram, and Tarra are all from New Jersey. Tarra and I met at college in NYC and the rest of us came together through the music scene.
I definitely think the Brooklyn scene helped shape a lot of our sound when we were playing out a lot in the early days. We each have different tastes in music, but I find they collide and intersect in a fun way both when we are working on new ideas and when we are fighting for the aux cord.
You are a no-wave, post-punk revival band, but what is it about post-punk aesthetics and sounds that appeal to you? Are the albums lyrics influenced at all by the punk movement?
None of it was very intentional. There definitely is a secretly agreed upon no-wave, post-punk playlist that you hear out in a lot of NYC bars, coffee shops, and hair salons. So, by being surrounded by it and the inherent musical history of NYC, I think it just kind of sank in subconsciously. I do love the feeling of timelessness that the genre has and how certain songs and grooves still feel relevant even though they were recorded decades ago.
When the band first started, I was really into ESG and how they wrote songs that felt simple and complex at the same time. Similarly, with the lyrics, I’ve always tried to focus on saying the bare minimum while exploring layered emotions and hoping that the words might be cathartic enough to resonate with someone ten years ago or ten years in the future.
The last time you released an album was in 2021, which was your musical debut. What have you been doing as a band preparing for this new album since then? What was the creative journey you were on?
We started tracking this record right before we left for our headlining North American tour in 2022, and since then, it was a lot of touring and honing those initial sessions into what they ultimately wanted to be. We also linked up with new management (hi, Mac and Joe!) in late 2022 and they connected us with Erin Tonkon, who came in to produce and help us finish the record.
Our writing process oscillates between developments we discover while playing new material live and creative decisions made in the studio. For this record, we also made an effort to do some initial writing altogether for about half the songs, which is something we didn’t do for our first record.
What does the album title mean or refer to, and how does it tie in with the title tracks? Is there a recurring theme?
The album title is a reference to a song on our first album, called Package. That song opens with the line “My package is rotting and there’s not a product. I have a package forgotten, no chance to remodel.” To me, that line speaks to someone who is lost in a game of lack and anxiety. A package is an attempt to project an idea of something outward but is not the product itself. This record is about our narrator finally releasing that need to control their projection of self and the world around them and learning to drop the mental constraints they’ve put on themselves and others.
I've been swayed by the way you baulked when you caught me staring” is probably my favourite line in the album because of how well it flows. Are there any lyrics that you are particularly proud of, or any that resonate with you because of their meaning/impact?
I think one of my favorites is “I don’t lose time, it just moves forward,” which is off the last track, End of the Year. I think it sums up the lesson that the narrator has learned, which is that there is no such thing as wasted time, we all make our choices because it was the best we could do in that moment (which doesn’t mean we are always right). Someone who is obsessed or resentful of the idea of wasted time is still stewing in that ego-slob energy of our first record. What I like about this line is that it suggests our narrator is finally meeting themself where they are at and accepting their choices and actions as their own rather than blaming someone else for them.
I love the homemade aesthetic of your music videos! It makes them feel extra wacky. How did you come up with ideas for the visuals? Was it a collective thing or was it led by a creative director? Im particularly interested in the video for Here Hair / Hard Hair and why you decided to combine both tracks.
It depends. For Starting and Staring, we worked with the director Alex Ross Perry, who came up with the concept. I directed the Here Hair/Hard video. In terms of Here Hair/Hard Hard, we always saw those two songs as two parts of the same track, so it felt important to keep them together for the video. In retrospect, it probably would’ve made more sense to separate them for the sake of the viewer, but hey what is done is done! Sometimes it is fun to be stubborn.
I directed that video mainly because I wanted an excuse to try and make some really big wigs and the reveal was inspired by something Naomi Smalls did for the talent show episode of her season of Rupauls Drag Race All Stars. The song was originally recorded for our first record and then scrapped, but I always had this vision of us in giant (almost Woo-like) hair that would slowly lift to reveal a bald head. Time passed, the mood board changed a little, but the wig reveal remained the same. I wanted to do something that felt fun, campy, showed off the band’s personality and also gave Leonard (our rubber chicken) a little cameo because I was receiving complaints that he was not being properly featured in our videos.
Tracks like I Won have talking/discussion during the song, why have you chosen to incorporate these vocalisations when you run the risk of them becoming a distraction? Or is that the point, to make the track sound disgruntled?
A lot of the character essence behind the music is one of someone who is disgruntled. For the songs like I Won or Starting and Staring, where we have those vocalizations, I think the point is to reflect the crowded environment in which the narrator’s thoughts are flopping around in. In Starting and Staring, they’re losing grip of their thoughts in a crowded room. In I Won, they feel taunted by another person’s success beside their personal failures. They sound crowded because their interior monologue is crowded and they’re losing their way amongst the noise of other people’s thoughts inhabiting their mind.
All the tracks on this album have a coherent and recognisable sound that is distinctively Gustaf. What components make up this album? Think of it like an ingredients list when going shopping.
That’s funny that you mention ingredients because for our first album, I kept saying I wanted it to have the same vibe as a caprese salad. Nothing too cluttered, just a couple great ingredients well assembled that all come together to make one classic dish. Like with our first record, Package Pt. 2’s shopping list requires a healthy amount of bass and drums, layered with some mildly unhinged vocal musings, topped with percussion and then you season guitar to taste—some tracks require more of it than others. The point is to make sure everyone has their space to shine as an individual ingredient but also fit neatly within the collective whole.
What role do you see this album having in the trajectory of your future projects? How do you expect Gustaf to evolve?
Our recording process for the last two records has always taken place over long stretches of time. It would be nice to do the classic approach of going away somewhere for a couple of weeks and trying to contain the process within that timeframe, but scheduling can be tough. Sonically, I do think we will keep trying to expand the sound while also working towards capturing more of the live energy you get from us at a show. Like most artists, I think we just want to keep trying to make things that are progressively better than the last thing we did.