How many times in your life have you witnessed your casual, sidewalk busker; Usually out on a college town, strategically performing during busy hours of populated downtown environments, taking on a sort of ‘band in a box’ style to their show of talents? Often times, it’s one person somehow managing to accomplish guitar melodies, percussive rhythms by way of striking an acoustic guitar or even featuring the use of a condensed, bare-bones drum kit or makeshift equivalent, and they might even have other elements plugged in; All simultaneously carried out for any onlookers or passers-by that happen to be exposed to this trapeze act of musicianship. Sometimes, they may even make a living off of doing this street-side juggling act; Sometimes, the ‘living’ may even just be the experience and just the artistic show of how empowering, bonding, and universal the language of music itself can be. This, more or less, is exactly what the kind of spirit seen in artists such as Gull.

First realized between the years of 1999 and 2003, Gull existed, as recalled by mastermind Nathaniel Rappole, as a project built out of life experiences, human connection, and a need to experiment sonically. With such a long-standing history of travels and being involved in a myriad of exciting events, it is no surprise that this project comes with a layered story behind its conception. Even from the research I was able to do on his work, so much of what Nathaniel has achieved almost feels like ‘you’d just have to be there’ could summarize it. This is not to say details and accounts of what he’s done are nonexistent, but so much of the Gull experience truly comes from following closely, learning by witness and experiencing; Almost something resembling of birdwatching itself!

‘One of my earliest memories is of feeding Laughing Gulls with my family on a beach in South Padre Island, TX… They are very adaptable and opportunistic creatures, just like people. My father is an ornithologist who specializes in migrant birds. In 1989 he took a job with the Smithsonian and we moved on to an endangered wildlife preserve in Front Royal, VA. I became interested in music at an early age. I remember listening to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells on my parents’ turntable, and being simultaneously terrified and entranced by the Piltdown Man. When I was 16 I started playing electric bass in a band called Bucksnort. A few years later I was in a band called Klesha and our drummer (who was 10 years older) quit his job as a high school music teacher… He sold his house and moved to North Carolina to drive a snack truck. Out of necessity I pieced together a drum kit that was composed of some trashed percussion bits, and formed 1/2 of the musical project Snack Truck. I also started playing guitar in a band called Ultra Dolphins, and it was around this time that I dove into experimenting with doing music alone as Gull. I moved to Philadelphia in 2003 and made friends with a group of noise musicians. One of them had purchased a paper mache skull mask in Chinatown and gave it to me. Another friend attached an old telephone receiver + quarter inch jack to the mask, and I donned this somewhat awkward contraption as my primary vocal mic. I had 1 Gull show in a west Philadelphia basement… My 2 other bands took precedence back then. Summer of 2004 I did double duty on a 2 month long tour across the US, which prompted me to relocate to western NY and take a job for a traveling puppet company called Das Puppenspiel. We would practice our choreographed puppet moves with the attic ghosts of an old brick building, and in the late hours of the night I would work on Gull material. A couple years later I moved to Richmond, VA, and in 2007 I put more of a focused effort into Gull performances.’

Since the expanded focus for the project in 2007, Gull’s resume has only furthered as result. Having released two full-lengths, seven singles or EPs, and performing extensively both solo and with collaborators, Gull has traveled far and wide not just throughout the United States, but even overseas, gracing all ears willing to listen with his seemingly endless array of multi-instrumental talent. I recall first witnessing this live act myself in a basement, the DIY venue known as Lucy Lane here in Richmond, Virginia. If I remember correctly, it had to be sometime between 2017 and 2018.

Seeing him sit down at a drum throne, plug up his guitar to a small amplifier, set up some pedals, bits and pieces of a drum kit, and project vocals through this gas mask-like apparatus, it was instantly unlike any act I’d seen before. He’d put on mesmerizing guitar loops, do some chants and sounds vocally that would also get looped for added effect, and simultaneously perform drums beats while singing and even throwing in other guitar sounds and melodies. There didn’t seem to be much limit to Nathaniel’s unbelievable showmanship and general creative genius. Having followed him ever since, I can still vouch for this being the case years later.

Being the one and only member performing all the bits of the project, Nathaniel notes the advantages and logic of keeping it solo. As he mentions, ‘it’s easier to schedule and financially manage’, although he does admit he would ‘love to have a group of musicians to tour and play songs with in a live setting’. He goes on to mention the openness of ‘great opportunity for collaboration’ provided with recording, noting the work of some dear friends that supplied duties to his 2020 album, Relative Stranger.

‘I think the majority of that record was recorded in a 3-week period in 2015, and then over the course of the next 5 years it was chewed up and re-constituted by the recording engineer/producer (CyFi) and myself. The drums and main guitar were recorded simultaneously. Bass, synth, vocals, and any lead flourishes were added later. Synth Sax was provided by my pal Tristan Brennis from Dumb Waiter, and backing vocals on “Mouth to Match” by Amanda Wilson.’

“Mouth to Match” being a personal favorite, it presents a fine example of the aforementioned collaborative dynamic. Featuring the saxophonist Tristan Brennis of Dumb Waiter, and Amanda Wilson on backing vocals, the song possesses a strong, emphasized, avant-garde sound that feels captivating in and of itself before you even know what is being sung to you lyrically. A once-over of the lyrics leaves a bit of ambiguity to the subject matter, which is not surprising for artists of the experimental caliber of Gull. However, upon multiple listens and with the ideas presented, I was certain there had to be some big metaphor here. I even interpreted perhaps how this tied into some bigger picture of how much closer connected we are to the world around us than we even realized.

‘With the eye of the horse and a mouth to match
Oh, this dream of speed and sweat
Muscle under skin, that hot skin; Like a jagged cliff

‘With the valley far below…
Yes, that’s where the blood flows

‘From one heart’

When speaking with Nathaniel, I made mention of my consistent gushing and replays of “Mouth to Match” in particular, noting the passion, culture, and just pure absorption of the world around him in his music. The feelings I’d get listening to it felt as if a part of my soul was opened up that I didn’t even realize was closed off before. I would go on to pick up on more of this throughout Relative Stranger, of course, or at least as I perceived it. Although I may not have been totally spot-on or even close with my interpretations of “Mouth to Match”, Nathaniel more or less confirmed that much of his lyrical work does tie into his educated perception of the world around him. While this may not be terribly different from the goal or approach that many artists make with their lyrics in concept alone, Gull has a unique way of expressing his visions. He gives us artistic observations that somehow perfectly sculpt not just what life is like through his eyes, but the kind of sounds and rhythms that might even be involved with it.

‘I would say most of my songs lean in this direction, with “Fast Enough” and “Burning Shoals” being pretty straight-forward examples of our rapidly changing world;

‘Fast enough for you. It’s in the eye that cannot see. It’s in the air you cannot breathe. And all that’s left to say is Oh No.’

‘Buoyant moss in the sea. Ancient tongues surge through me. The Sun takes the ache and reminds us what’s at stake if we always do what’s easy. In the Burning Shoals a snake coils to bite its tail. In the bitten mind one finds lonesome time, and the fears of centuries.’

‘Both of these are about human isolation from the rest of nature and the fallout experienced as a result. “Mouth To Match” is a song that’s on the other side of this… It describes a dream I had where my consciousness was in the body of a horse. I was a young Pinto running through a desert. There was a mesa on the horizon with the Sun beating down, and I could see the length of my face and blood pumping through the sweat-drenched veins of my front left leg.’

Nathaniel’s sonic spectrum seems to have it all. Bits of electronic, synthwave, world, noise, rock, funk, darkwave, indie pop, and even some grittier, alternative pieces can be found all across tracks such as “Wild Bones”, “Hands Up”, and “…the Ghost”. With each EP, single, or full-length album visited, you’re sure to find a new dimension that Gull has managed to traverse with his aural prowess. Perhaps this could be a result of all the people he’s met, places he’s seen, experiences lived, and things learned. The takeaways of the human experience and the observations of what we and others around us endure, be it in hindsight or as it is happening, are certainly common sources of inspiration and song-worthy subject matter, but again, Gull is a top-lister at capturing what exactly that looks like and the depth at which it can influence you.

With Nathaniel’s extensive level of travels and exploration in getting to see and virtually live an extended-stay in many of the places he’s gone to, it’s hard not to wonder all about the things that he’s witnessed and how it’s impacted him as well as his music. Even with the concept, as earlier mentioned, that much of Gull’s history is best captured by simply ‘being there’, so to speak, what I could find on my own and observe of how he works told a story of love and awareness. This doesn’t stop at just the environment and natural world, but how every living thing, every rule of science, also seems to operate within it. Nathaniel exhibits this further with a multitude of live-recorded sessions done in attics of NY, streets of Mexico, and even a patch of sand and dirt in what looks to be the middle of an urban creek.

Beyond his recorded material, those live performances done in abstract, seemingly random, and nonetheless interesting environments add to what makes Gull such a remarkable human being. Seeing his recreations of various recorded songs done in real-time, not just in live music venue environments but in these spaces of his choosing, really drives the point home that as long as there is a will, there is a way. Using what seems like a minimalist amount of equipment, full performances that feel and sound as full as the studio-recordings are all over Gull’s Instagram and YouTube. It feels much like we are immersed into the environment surrounding him as he seems to be in performing.

One in particular that also comes to mind is his performance of “Camry” in the woods of western New York, during a snowfall, ice all over the trees, and what appears to be a dog roaming around in the background. All of it is done through a couple of pedals and an amplifier, assumed to be somewhere off screen. Even though Nathaniel doesn’t appear to be at much of any risk of harm, this video’s wild nature is no less evident. It begs the question, what goes into making these live-recorded sessions out in public spaces, or even more private ones, possible? What dangers might exist in doing that? Have there been any iffy circumstances that nearly shut down this adventurous spirit before?

‘The circumstances are always iffy. I liken it to the world of skateboarding, where you are doing something in public that not everyone appreciates. Sometimes people feel the need to let you know that they don’t like it and call the cops or try to deal with it vigilante style. Fortunately, in my experience most people seem pretty open to unprescribed happenings in public. I think it’s an important component and will go as far as to say it is in fact a service to the community (in many cases). Yes, we need to be mindful of each other and be careful not to infringe on anyone’s personal space or rights, but I don’t want to live in a world where everything in public is regulated and nothing surprising happens. I like to set up in a place and have it react to me and then me to it… This is a conversation that can assist all involved in taking a closer look at the environment and its inhabitants, human or otherwise.’

This ‘conversation’ of which Nathaniel speaks is what leads me to yet another big project involved within what he does as a traveling musician and a curious, adventurous, open-minded spirit. In his endless endeavors of understanding and sharing the wealth of understanding the world and people living in it, Nathaniel has been working on a wide-scale project known as Street Muse, of which I found some details on from a 2019 video posted to his Instagram about travels to Southeast Asia and giving one example about what the project entailed. As Nathaniel describes, it is all about how what is around us feeds into what we learn about each other and how a universal language exists that goes beyond words, dialect, speech, and any barriers found through differences from one another.

Street Muse is a documentary series that explores human culture through the lens of musical ecology >>> the idea that our environment helps to inform the sounds we create. As a solo musician I set up and perform in places all over the world with the intention of starting a collaboration/conversation with local artists… Through this interaction we learn more about one another, our respective environments, and instrumentation. This process is filmed and shared with the hopes of connecting artists with audiences who would likely never hear their music otherwise. Over the past 20 years the majority of my work and time has been spent performing and being on the road. Across Mexico, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Kenya, Europe, US, Canada, Thailand, and Laos ~ the more we know about each other, the better we are as a whole. It is a privilege to be doing what I am and I’m a lucky duck. I think the overarching sentiment that I keep coming back to is that despite all our differences, there are more things that we have in common when it comes down to it.’

Deeply intrigued with the implications and concept of this project, I couldn’t help but ask about a favorite place or memory experienced in his travels. What was returned was a story that almost felt like a script in one of the most emotionally-compelling films ever directed. If there is one thing I can say about Gull beyond his musical skills and creative genius, it is that this is a man who is truly living life to the last drop. Below is an account of probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever read, beautifully tied into what drives him to complete this Street Muse project with as much depth and dynamic as achievable.

‘I drove from Richmond, VA down through Mexico in 2010. The catalyst for this trip was to attend a wedding of a very close family friend in Xico, Veracruz. I stopped in various places on the way, and while doing a show in Alabama I met a musician who mentioned they had family in Mexico. I left my number and told them to meet me in New Orleans the following day if they wanted to come along. At midnight I received a call and they said they’d be joining me for the next month. We drove for several days, but my car would not allow me to go up a very steep road that was just 2 miles shy of the wedding destination. We hiked the final portion and missed the wedding by about 10 minutes. We were then invited to partake in the wedding bike-procession that went from Veracruz to San Cristobal, Chiapas. I rode my bike, and my car was a support vehicle that my new friend drove very slowly behind us for an approximate total of 450 miles. Every evening we would stop in a different town or city and I would often set up my equipment and perform on the street. A night that stands out was when I was playing on the Malecón in Veracruz and was approached by a British film crew that was hired by the Mexican government to do a movie called Hecho En México (1:06 in trailer). I met so many people through doing this trip, and noticed how quickly bonds were made despite our inability to communicate via speech. This helped to shape the idea behind the Street Muse series.’

If this weren’t enough to wow any reader, it is also worth noting what he recounts as one of his favorite collaborations done: ‘I improvised for 3 hours with 2 amazing Luo musicians in the Ngong Hills, Kenya in 2012. Reciprocity is an important component to Street Muse, and I’ve been wanting to bring these individuals to the US for a collaborative tour for many years. 2023 is promising.’

When it comes to Gull’s sound and what exactly influences it outside of life experiences and story-worthy travels, I find it difficult to really pinpoint any one or even group of musicians to compare him to. I personally think Mike Patton is long overdue to hearing Gull, fixing up a collaboration, and striking a deal on Ipecac Recordings. Some of the experimentation and abstract, unconventional approaches to instrumentation and generating the noises Nathaniel does feel reminiscent to that of Mike Patton, Björk, Death Grips, BATHS, and other noise manipulators that tend to think outside the box.

I can clearly tell Gull’s sound is enough to throw off Spotify, or at least an implication is there to suggest it. A quick glance at the ‘Fans also like’ section lists Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Diamond Head as some top picks. Not quite sure I hear the hair metal or ‘80s rock influence immediately in Rappole’s sound, but, appreciate the comparison of greats lumped together, anyway! Even if it may not be all too accurate, who knows, maybe Nathaniel and Halford are way-back pals.

Gull’s atmosphere feels cinematic, as well. With all the sounds and layers concocted through whatever he is able to do with his hands and feet (literally), creating a lot with very little, so to speak. It goes without saying I couldn’t help but wonder what Nathaniel listens to. What drives the Gull sound? What artists, if any, does Nathaniel reach for as a key influence to making it all happen? Was there any one source for what makes all these compositions of spiritual conductivity a reality? Spoiler alert: Some of you Stranger Things fanatics are about to lose it…

‘Too many things to list here… And I am constantly looking for new additions to my quiver of sound, while maintaining a streamlined setup. One source of constant inspiration is Kate Bush. The first time I heard her was in 2008 and although it was just a record, I was moved to tears. It is frightening what she is capable of.’

So maybe Spotify is at least somewhere in the ballpark with at least the ‘80s deal after all. Nathaniel makes a wonderful point, though, Kate Bush definitely has an aura of her own about her music. I can see some parallels between Gull and Kate’s approach to vivid vocal melodies, layering, and how immersed and atmospheric their overall styles tend to get. In fact, after learning this small tidbit about Nathaniel’s inspirations, it has me curious what a Kate Bush x Gull collaboration would sound like, and how soon we can expect it? If nothing else, Nathaniel could definitely pull off one of the most exciting covers of “Running Up That Hill” yet, I believe.

Nathaniel Rappole is a man of true wonder. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how incredible it is that just as profound and hypnotic as many of his studio recordings are, no matter how far back in the discography you go, you truly never get the same thing twice with his live performances. Just as he mentioned with his collaborative mentality, there’s always a new element somewhere each time I’ve caught him live. There’s always some new level, sonically or theatrically, that he manages to tap into. A new radiance of energy fills the room even for a song you’ve heard so many times. Much like with his take on Kate Bush, he has an unquestionable ability to move the souls around him when he performs. Being one for the outdoors and a lover of nature, I recognize that this sort of energy Gull has managed to capture resembles that of a natural wonder; Music that hits somewhere close to that feeling of finishing a long hike to the summit of a mountain top, and taking in the sight you nearly broke your legs to get to. As a small disclaimer: No legs have, should, and hopefully ever would get broken in the process of indulging in Gull’s music, either recorded or live. Listen responsibly.

As for the present and future of Gull, I asked about any upcoming plans that fans new and old should know about. With Lurcher and Relative Stranger currently being his only two full-lengths available, it is likely that a third would be on the way. Beyond this, who knows, you may even be able to catch him unexpectedly performing outside the next movie theater you take your date to, or even out at the Grand Canyon when you finally work up the courage to travel out to and hike it! Maybe that’s where the next full-length is getting tracked. So what exactly does Gull have planned for the future?

‘There is a 4 song EP that will hopefully drop soon, and a self-recorded full length hot on its heels. More performances and touring… Hitmeup. In terms of Street Muse >>> The projected plan is to touch upon each continent for 7 episodes with 2 bonus chapters hailing from island nations. See what bubbles.’

Gull is…
Nathaniel Rappole – Everything

Fly away with Gull to a new plane of enlightenment, by way of Facebook, Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, Bandcamp, or his website!



Easygoing weirdo with a love for life, music, art, culture, outdoors, meeting new people, seeing new places, and trying new things. Oh yeah, and I guess I never shut up about the things I love, too. That’s a quality!

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