Twenty Top 5s with Luke McGowan

HEY! Welcome to Twenty Top 5s. I (Tyler) have been sending out questionnaires to some of my favorite musicians and asking for their top 5 in every category. I’ll be publishing them every Thursday for the foreseeable future. Hopefully this lets you get to know some of your favorite musicians a little bit better, and I hope it distracts you in these trying times.

Today's Twenty Top 5s participant is Luke McGowan. Luke is a prolific songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from right here in Pittsburgh whose work spans many genres and styles. Most recently Luke has been getting a band called the Original Citrus together before Covid ruined all of our musical plans, but in classic Luke fashion, he used this time to release an entire album, Ode to Monotony. Ode to Monotony is a fuzzy, psychedelic pop album reminiscent of some of the earlier Flaming Lips albums, and boy, does it bop. Luke played all of the instruments and produced it himself, an amazing feat anytime, but especially when so many of us artists are sapped of creative energy.

Luke was also the original drummer/singer/guitarist of the Zells, whom I currently play with. We are all thrilled to have him back in Pittsburgh creating again, and we eagerly await the live and recording debut of the Original Citrus. Until then, keep checking back on Luke's bandcamp, as the man simply cannot be stopped when it comes to writing and recording everything from fuzz-rock bangers to introspective electronic music.

recording artists when you were in high school

Bruce Springsteen

The Clash

Conor Oberst

The Avett Brothers

Neutral Milk Hotel

Instrument influences

Piano: Daniel Johnston (His modernist ragtime on Songs of Pain is where I aspire to be)

Bass: Gary Tallent (Any time I sit down to write a bass line it ends up sounding like either the intro to Born to Run or Fire)

Guitar: Kevin Shields (I’ve never been too technical on the guitar, so I like to make big, droning, yet somehow melodic sounds whenever applicable)

Synth: Al P (girlsareshort really knew how to turn a subtle synth melody into something really memorable)

Guitar: Stephen Malkmus (Again with talk of melody, but the guy is an expert on drawing structure from the absurd. Melodies cut through noise like light in a crack in the foundation of my basement.)

Songwriting influences

Robert Pollard

Stephen Malkmus

Jeff Mangum

Bruce Springsteen

David Berman

Karaoke songs

Margaritaville (the one, true redemption song)- James Buffett

Hungry Heart- Bruce Springsteen

Tiptoe Through the Tulips- Tiny Tim

Surrender- Cheap Trick

Death or Glory- The Clash

Junk foods

Smoked oysters on Chicken in a Biskit crackers

Bite sized round tortilla chips with roasted red pepper hummus

Crab chips

Popcorn with an inordinate amount of butter

Olives at the bottom of my martini

Places to eat in Pittsburgh

Merchant Oysters

Muddy Waters (really anywhere that has oysters on the halfie)

Thai n’ Noodle Outlet (they deliver to my house in under 20 minutes and they have insane goons and dumplings)

Park Pizza and Cream

Franktuary (probably not actually, but I’m craving hotdogs right now and also most of the time)


Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The Royal Tenenbaums/ The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou/ The Darjeeling Limited

Shrek (I don’t fuck with the sequels)

The Wind Rises

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Role models

Grandpa Phil

Howard Hays

Bruce Springsteen

Abe Lincoln

Franz Kafka

songs you’ve written

Zero Gravity and Other Drugs

High in Dupont Circle Listening to "Heroes" by David Bowie

Sleepless, Silent Nights

Drip Me a River

Beach Things

Pittsburgh bands

Panther Hollow

String Machine

The Zells

Rave Ami

One Hundred Year Ocean

Productive ways to pass time during corona

Write music

Hack some ramen

Teach your roomba some cool tricks

Learn how to draw hands

Work on sock puppet movie

Unproductive ways to pass time during corona

Pick up a good book. Set it down before you finish your first page

Pacing (I’m glad to have a long, skinny house)

Buy into virtual capitalism via Animal Crossing

Ask yourself, “what is that smell?” in 5 minute intervals and then realize the smell is still you.

Consider whether or not we are living in a simulation (it really doesn’t matter if we are, but we almost certainly are unless this is truly the end times, in which case it is a crapshoot)

Songs right now

The Boy- Shannon and the Clams

Good Bad Times- Hinds

Hair- Porches

As You Are- Onodera (FFO of Mr. Rogers-induced nostalgia)

Volver, Volver- Vicente Fernandez

80s pop jams

Come on Eileen- Dexy’s Midnight Runners

You Make My Dreams- Hall and Oates

99 Luftballons- Nena

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun- Cyndi Lauper

Karma Chameleon- Wham!

Bruce Springsteen albums


Born to Run


The Wild, The Innocent, The E Street Shuffle

The River

Albums that changed your life 

The Monitor- Titus Andronicus

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea- Neutral Milk Hotel

Yellow Submarine Movie Soundtrack- The Beatles, George Martin

The Clash- London Calling

Guided by Voices- Bee Thousand

Pizza toppings



Roasted Red Peppers

A fuck ton of cheese

Big Mac ingredients (it was a thing at my high school)

Cities you’ve visited

San Juan



New York





Chik-Fil-A Sauce


Garlic Aioli

Fictional characters


Jimmy Neutron

Nute Gunray (Star Wars)

Grimace (McDonalds)

Violet Baudelaire

Written by Tyler Gallagher (@TylerGallagher8)