Interview: Gecko, “Light and darkness within the same song makes sense”

We caught up with London-based artist Gecko as he gears up for two headline shows in Bristol and London. His playful lyrics cover the big things in life; think iPhones, Libraries & Guanabana fruit juice while his recent short song Baby Cheetah went viral on TikTok, with over 2 million views.

As well as appearing at Glastonbury, Bestival, BBC Radio 1, 6 Music, BBC Scotland, BBC London & the Edinburgh Fringe, he has shared stages with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Loyle Carner, Tim Minchin & Billy Bragg.

In 2020 Gecko appeared on BAFTA winning Sky TV show ‘Life & Rhymes’ with Benjamin Zephaniah. In 2021 Gecko received over a million views on TikTok causing a stir with his song for ‘Laika’ the dog sent to space & his feminist retelling of ‘Rapunzel’.

Q&A with Gecko

Hi Gecko, thanks for taking some time to talk to us. Tell us a little bit about your ‘story-song’ approach to songwriting?

I’ve always been excited by the huge range of themes and subjects that you can approach as a songwriter -and taking that a step further I’ve really enjoyed writing some songs in character. I’m surprised it’s not more common to be honest – it just really opens up the options available to you. So in one song I might be a character in the ignored painting opposite the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and in another I might be a pig that’s on the run from the slaughterhouse. You know, obvious stuff!

Your songs playful balance humour and seriousness, perhaps best demonstrated in your ode to the Soviet space dog Laika – how hard is it to get that balance right?

I think life always has a mix of emotions, so having light and darkness within the same song makes sense to me. But it can definitely catch an audience off guard. If they’ve been laughing then suddenly a more poignant moment can hit harder. If you’re not aware of the story of Laika, essentially she was sent into space without any intention of her coming back. I tell the story through her eyes, so as a dog she doesn’t really understand what is going on, but she reluctantly accepts the idea that she’s going to space but clings on to the fact that it’ll be over soon and then she’ll come home. The audience know something she doesn’t and it’s brutal. I definitely feel obliged to play something happier after that song ends!

Your most recent release Baby Cheetah has hit over two million views on Tiktok. Did you expect the song to take off in the way it has?

Definitely not! Although I did know that the fact the song is based around is something that ever since I learnt it I have wanted to share -so I thought there was something in it. The mini song is based around the idea that baby cheetahs have evolved to look like the extremely vicious honey badgers so that eagles are put off attempting to eat them! The potential exponential power of TikTok is mind-blowing.

You played a whopping ten shows across Glastonbury 2022, as well as a run at Edinburgh Fringe, what were those experiences like?

Both Glastonbury and Edinburgh Fringe were particularly special last year because they were the first back since covid so were a really long time coming. Glastonbury in particular feels like a spiritual lizard home for me. I’ve been playing it for years and so it feels like I’ve really built up an audience and I love playing all over site each time.

You’re playing headline shows in Bristol and London in April this year, what can we expect from the shows?

London and Bristol both feel like hometown shows for me, I live in London but have lots of family in Bristol. Both venues are intimate spaces with great atmospheres. I’m excited to play extensive sets across my catalogue, new songs, old songs, sing alongs and even some guest performances. Expect laughter and maybe a few tears! It would be a pleasure to have you there.

Gecko plays Bristol on 12 April and London on 13 April, with tickets on sale now.