The project of Emelia Austin (she/her), Shayna Hahn (she/her) and Nico Romero (he/him), Gal Pal was born out of a serendipitous meeting in college — same dorm, same floor, each member drawn to the other by shared ambition and a desire to play music in a space that felt non-judgemental and generative. Initial collaborations were improvisatory, long-winded and playful in the truest sense. They worked with equipment recently bought, a drum kit no one yet knew how to play. “We were learning our instruments together,” says Romero. “The project started from wanting to learn how to play and write songs with other people.”
This they learned, and learned fast. Gal Pal recorded their debut album GIRLISH (2017) while still in college and then moved back to the Los Angeles area from which they all hail. They’ve performed near-ceaselessly since, opening for bands like Pile, Ian Sweet, Palehound, and Momma. The songs on GIRLISH and subsequent EP Unrest/Unfeeling (2019) were written as Gal Pal began — all three in a room, switching instruments spontaneously, trading riffs and rhythms until the sense of wonder emerged, eyes met, and something stuck. This energy is palpable in the music — songs expand over multiple movements, time signatures shift in a blink, guitar riffs interlock as if dueling.
On This and Other Gestures, though, Gal Pal altered their process. Now all in their mid-twenties, Austin, Hahn and Romero experimented for the first time with writing in isolation, crafting songs with words all their own before bringing them to the group. The result is a sprawling 14-track record that explores the friction of newly-minted adulthood through each of their individual experiences, and sees the members of Gal Pal at the height of their personal and collective power.
While no two people have the same experience of their 20’s, it’s almost universally true that these years feel like a powder-keg of transformational material. It’s this lustrous and, at times, uneasy sense of metamorphosis that Gal Pal captures with such specificity on Gestures. “These songs are very personal to us,” reflects Austin. “We’re telling stories about different things — life, death, love, grief — all these things we’re going through and growing out of. These songs are about us processing change. Is it good, is it bad? We’re grieving, we’re celebrating.”
The duality of grief and celebration that permeates the record is at its core the nature of change. Stepping into a new version requires saying goodbye to a past one, and each member of Gal Pal has experienced this simultaneously painful and euphoric tearing-in-two over the past few years. We bear witness to the grief of Romero’s gender dysphoria alongside the fresh and emergent joy of his transition. We hear Hahn’s searing pain over losing a friend, alongside her reckonings with the importance of community care. We encounter Austin’s dissonance at realizing she’s let the wrong relationships shape her identity, alongside the reminder that self-acceptance is within reach. These are their hard-earned lessons and Gestures is the gift of their struggles — an encapsulation of the resilience that’s molding their future selves.
Across the album’s 14 tracks, Gal Pal blend jarring time signatures and sharp-tongued guitars with honeyed vocals and swooning synths. On the hypnotic, prog-pop track “Pleasures,” dreamy-toned guitars circle in on themselves, while on pop-punk love note “Angel in the Flesh” we’re gripped by joyful early-aughts nostalgia as Romero and Austin gush over the freedom that comes with letting yourself love. Over the course of the album, vocals build in choral crescendos (“Mirror”) and then arrive as muted screams (“Takes Time”) — each song a masterclass in sonic exploration.
While the songwriting happened in isolation, the recording process for Gestures was collaborative. Touring bassist Cole Brossus and engineers Danny Nogueriras and David Jerkovich helped produce most of the record at Balboa Studios, with additional contributions from Sami Perez (Cherry Glazerr) at her studio Wiggle World. The bandmates swapped instruments frequently, following their natural instincts. Gal Pal thrives in this setting, leaning into the sound and shared musical language they’ve developed over 7 years of living, playing and growing together. Like the healthiest of siblings, they’ve found a sense of unity that allows each of their distinct personalities to shine through.
This sense of collective value is at the heart of this band and this record, which culminates in and closes with the title track. “For everything, for everyone,” Hahn and Austin sing together at the song’s opening, their voices searing over a pulse of thrashing drums and blistering guitars. A dedication as much as an incantation, these words remind us of the transformative power of care. It’s this commitment they’ve made, to themselves and to each other, that’s allowed the members of Gal Pal to arrive where they are today — always in-process, but more self-assured than ever before.