This week, I sat down and had a conversation with UW Tacoma’s very own Micah Gelber. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Gelber is not only a devoted Urban Studies student, but also an accomplished musician. Under the name “Tumdust,” Gelber has been writing, recording and producing his own songs since 2015. Playing the bass, drums, and guitar individually, and mixing the sounds together, Micah essentially acts as a one-man band. Signed to the Youth Riot record label, “Tumdust” has already released three albums, varying from ‘bedroom pop’ to screamo, that can be found on both Bandcamp and Spotify. Gelber had the chance to sit down with The Ledger and talk more about his music and his future goals.
Q: COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME “TUMDUST”?
A: I was sitting at a track meet in a town called Orchard Farms, Missouri, junior year of high school and my stomach really hurt so I got some Tums from a friend. He didn’t have much left, so I just poured the tum dust out and just ate that. So, I was like ‘oh, Tumdust, that’s an interesting name’ but I didn’t have my own band at the time so it didn’t actually come into fruition until I was a freshman in college.
Q: HOW HAS THE DIRECTION OF YOUR MUSICAL STYLE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
A: It started as what I would consider pop, it’s called bedroom pop which is just lo-fi stuff. Then, I’ve been listening to a lot of heavier music — like screamo — a lot two years ago, and now I’m only writing stuff that’s heavier now. But I might start writing stuff again that’s more listenable.
Q: HAS LIVING IN TACOMA INFLUENCED YOUR MUSIC?
A: Yeah, definitely. I would never have been where I am where I am today if I didn’t come to Tacoma. Each person I meet, each thing I do is a huge reflection of my music. My music wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for the things around me. It’s not really me, it’s the things that I’m seeing and doing.
Q: WHAT DO YOU WISH TO EXPRESS THROUGH YOUR SONGS?
A: I hope that somebody listening to my music can feel a similar emotion — and it’s not an emotion I can really explain — but a similar emotion to what I felt when I started listening to music that’s just kind of… I don’t know… in a different direction than mainstream music. I like to think that my music is really imperfect and it’s got rough edges and I want that to make people think they can make their own music. It’s not like it has to be perfect for it to be music, in fact it doesn’t really have to be anything.
Q: WHERE HAVE YOU PERFORMED? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE VENUES?
A: Well, I’ve never performed as Tumdust except at my friend Luke’s house. But, the most fun place to perform is our house and at other house shows. I’ve played venues and I just don’t like dealing with managers and money. I feel like music is something that should be free. But I’m not a person who is in [a] position to say that because I’m not trying to make music my only thing.
Q: WHICH SONG ARE YOU PROUDEST OF PRODUCING?
A: Probably…I don’t know, I’d say the entire Hanz Clenching album I’m pretty proud of. I’ve been proud of that. Like, I listen to it sometimes and just remember how stressed I was about it and I can’t really remember thinking about one specific song in that project that wasn’t harder than the other.
Q: WHAT’S AN AVERAGE DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
A: Average day, honestly not a lot of music in my day. Wake up, shower, go on the bus to school, go to class, and then I usually hang out with my girlfriend Rose or my housemates.
Q: IS THERE A HIDDEN MESSAGE IN ANY OF YOUR MUSIC?
A: Yeah, there is. I have a weird relationship with my music. The message of the music is to just have these whatever kinds of emotions when I was a teenager, experiencing different things whatever that may be. I talk about, you know, love, and just liking the things you like, doing the things you do, and just being really weird and expressive.
Q: HAVE YOU EVER DEALT WITH PERFORMANCE ANXIETY?
A: Yes. Mostly when I’m up by myself playing guitar. Anytime I play “Tumdust” I get really anxious, but when I’m behind the drum set I don’t get anxious anymore.
Q: DO YOU EXPECT TO STILL BE PRODUCING MUSIC THROUGH “TUMDUST” TEN YEARS FROM NOW?
A: Yeah, definitely. It’s always been a dream of mine. Like, the main reason “Tumdust” is cool is it’s just for like, I write the songs for myself so that one day I can look back and just have this huge catalogue of music. And who cares if [it] all sounds the same or if maybe I’m missing the fact that I’m using similar chord progressions or whatever — it’s just cool to know that I’ve had all these thoughts. It’s just like a journal because I’ve experienced that whenever I write in a journal, it’s just a refraction of now. But with music, it’s like wow, I made that at that time and it’s just that sound I wouldn’t be able to produce again if I recorded it today. So, they’re just like little time capsules. In ten years, I’m probably going to be able to look back on the music I make now and hopefully feel what I said, and even if all the emotions aren’t good or whatever, about heartbreak and stuff, it’s still an essence of what my teenage years were.