Garage rock singer-songwriter Ron Gallo loves to subvert his audience's expectations. On the summer festival circuit this year, he'd spend the space between songs reading prepared, prolonged statements from scraps of paper in an awkward monotone or leading crowds in two minutes of chanting "Om." When you're roasting in the afternoon sun, eager for the next riff to kick in, and the mantra-leading dude on stage is saying, "Great! Just 37 more to go," it messes with you a little bit. But that's kind of the point.
There will always be a bit of a prankster in this Nashville-via-Philadelphia musician. But he's also tremendously sincere in what he's trying to get the audience to understand: If you're getting impatient in a moment that, on the surface, is meant to encourage inner peace, what does that say about you?
Gallo's latest music video adds a visual component to that sort of self-inquiry. "Do You Love Your Company?," premiered on World Cafe, comes from Stardust Birthday Party, Gallo's forthcoming second album for New West Records, his third overall. Where last year's Heavy Meta was a searing exorcism of personal demons and interpersonal dysfunction, this upcoming record finds Gallo essentially erasing himself as he knows it and turning to broader cosmic concerns.
"When you sit with yourself / When you live with yourself / When you sleep with yourself / Do you love your company?" he asks as a galloping rock beat pulses. The song, as it unfolds, is a litany of questions about one's relationship with one's self, and the answers aren't always easy.
"I think a lot of people struggle with being truly alone, or fear silence," Gallo tells us. "I know I did for most of my life. But now for me, being alone, being quiet, going inward and fearlessly looking at the parts of myself I'd been avoiding is the most important process I've ever gone through."
In Gallo's previous video from Stardust Birthday Party, "Always Elsewhere," he aimlessly wanders a town carrying a cardboard box labeled "SELF." He considers the new video for "Do You Love Your Company?" a continuation of that video, but taking place within that box. In the video, Gallo's nervous head darts to and fro, floating in an opaque void, confronting dozens of versions of himself projecting from a wall of screens. These voices and visages taunt him and confront him about his own level of self-understanding. It's a look at what meditation feels like, Gallo says, and though the process is not clear cut, it can be a path to healing.
Stardust Birthday Party is due out Oct. 5 via New West Records