Session 182: GGOOLLDD // Dusk<- Back
May 31, 2018 | SOLDOUT!
This is going to be a LOUD show!
The day after GGOOLLDD frontwoman Margaret Butler graduated from art school in Baton Rouge she packed a Uhaul and headed west. I was like, yeah, Im not going to live here anymore, she recalls, laughing. Her first stop was Portland, Oregon, where she subsisted mostly on ramen noodles and pumpkins people stole for me from Home Depot, she remembers. You sauté them down and add lots of black pepper and curry powder and soy sauce. Its actually pretty good!
Butler was riding high on that particular sense of freedom that comes when youve decided your life plan is to just say yes to pretty much everything. So you dont really care that youre broke and subsisting on stolen jack-o-lanterns, because youre not in your suburban high school anymore, hiding your disdain for the cheerleaders. Youre in a weird and cool new town, hanging out with musicians and designers and artists. Youre free to mess around. Explore. And just when youre starting to get a little over living four people deep, as Butler puts it, in your tiny apartment, another friend says, hey, come out to Wisconsin for a while. So you do. (Because: say yes!) And a while later, when, boozy in a bar one night, you hear some beats you think youd like to write lyrics to, even though youve never so much as held a microphone in your life, you go for it. (Say. Yes.) And the next thing you know, youre fronting a dynamic, dirty, synth-pop carnival of a band, hearing your single on the radio, and touring the country.
Thats Margaret Butlers story. And thats the story of her band, a group as inspired by the shimmery decadence of Queen as they are by the primal yowl of Black Sabbath as they are by the madcap joy of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. GGOOLLDD is one of the most resolutely celebratory rock acts to emerge in years.
Its not hard to understand how someone like Butler, a woman with seemingly limitless natural charisma and an obsession with dressing up in outrageous costumes (Halloween is her favorite holiday) would eventually find her way onstage, but the singer insists that rock stardom was never part of her plan. I never even considered being a musician, I always wanted to be a clothing designer, or a chef, she says. Ive always created with my hands. Butlers father is jeweler, and technically thats what she was studying to be as well. But she learned all her really important college-years lessons bartending at the Spanish Moon, a legendary venue in Baton Rouge. It was the only cool place to go and watch music in the city, she says. I got to see every amazing band as they were coming up, from TV On the Radio to Of Montreal to Dirty Projectors.
Even though Butlers always loved music (shes an obsessive of the first order) aside from the one time she got really stoned and watched a John Bonham documentary then went right out and bought a pair of blue 1970s Ludwigs, she never tried to become a serious musician. I have great internal rhythm, Im just too A.D.D. to sit down and actually play, she says. I own eight different instruments and Ive gotten as far as like a week on each of them. But her culture, her people, her tribe has always been connected to music. The people she met in and around the Spanish Moon were the ones she moved to Portland with, and it was through that world that she wound up, one random early fall afternoon in 2013, recording vocals, in the foyer of her house in Milwaukee, to what would become GGOOLLDDs breakthrough debut single. It was the first song we ever wrote and it was called Gold, she recalls of the soulfully grimy track, on which bassist Nick Ziemann, guitarist Thomas Gilbert also played. (They added drummer Mark Stewart and synth player Nick Schubert soon after). We were like, Oh we need a name for the band - I guess it should be the same thing as the song title. A quick Google search revealed eight other bands named Gold, but they were all basically unsearchable because the word is so widely used, so we just decided to double letter it.
Thinking nothing of it, they threw the song up on Bandcamp, planning to go back to their day jobs, but thats when the serendipity hurricane began. Somehow college radio picks it up, Butler recalls. And it starts getting really good responses. And then its on their list of top-ten-plays list, which is just insane. So they figured, why not keep this going for a while? We were like, this is fun! Lets write like three more songs, do a cover, and throw a party for Halloween where we can all wear gold costumes! The Halloween party is now the stuff of GGOOLLDD legend. I was Santigold, but instead of dressing up like the singer, I made an all gold Santa costume, Butler recalls, laughing. We played a terrible show to eight-some people crammed into our attic and it was one of the funnest nights ever! After that, people just kept asking us to play.
Butler, who had by this time opened a vintage clothing business with her friends, initially thought of the band mostly as a good excuse to express her most playful sartorial impulses. We had our next show two weeks later so I made this weird tassled vinyl gold overlay on top of a crushed velvet gold romper, she remembers, but it wasnt long before they all realized this band had become more than an excuse to dress up. After that second show, CMJ picked up Gold, from the local Milwaukee radio station, 91.7, and from there, other college radio stations around the country began playing the track as well. The same un-mixed, un-mastered version they had made on Garage Band. After about a year I was like, people like this a lot better and they want to pay me a lot more than they do for vintage clothing, so I think Im just going to do this instead, Butler recalls. Its been three years and we have ten songs that are out right now, and were working on the next album.
GGOOLLDD isnt like other bands. They formed on whim, decided to play their first show mostly as an excuse to host a killer party, and they eschew the traditional gotta-get-a-record-deal game in favor of playing a lot of shows and releasing their own material. That sense of whimsy blended with resolute autonomy is all part of the signature GGOOLLDD aesthetic. And it feeds into their sound, especially lately. Secrets, their new single, is a soaring banger that conjures wind-in-your-hair glittery romanticism. Co-produced and mixed by Ben H. Allen (MIA, Animal Collective) it reflects that core tension in GGOOLLDD between winging it and great artistry. Im not going to lie, Im great at writing a hook, Butler says, and is quick to point out that her bandmates are amazing, musicians. But if you ask me what I do, Im going to tell you that Im a performer before I tell you that Im a musician. She pauses and cracks up. Unless you dont know me at all, she continues. Then Im going to say Im a musician, because if I say Im a performer, youre going to automatically think that Im a stripper, which is totally ok too but not my current profession.
Dusk is a group that walks the shadowed path. It's well known in the rural pastures of Wisconsin, where all of the members of this group were raised, that the traditional music of the common people is Polka, but the most respected form of musical expression is Country and Western. Dusk walks cleanly between these two worlds; pulling influence from both but most strongly associating with Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues. They bring with them a strong, informed, melodic statement that draws a line between themselves and the recent trend of bubble gum pop and country-influenced mall schlock.
The group consists of vocalist Julia Blair on Wurlitzer electric piano, Colin "Wild Man" Wilde on drums and percussion, Amos Pitsch on bass guitar and vocal duties, Tyler Ditter on lead guitar, and Ryley Crowe on rhythm guitar, pedal steel, and vocals. Amos also doubles as a member of Appleton, Wisconsin punk band Tenement. The group is often compared to 60's garage and R&B groups like NRBQ and THE LOVIN SPOONFUL, early 70's country rock pioneers THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS, and at times the primitive rock and roll sound of a group like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND.
They hint at all these things, even as something in their music seems to breathe modern air. It's a feeling that few musicians that attempt to nod to prior generations can capture without bastardising the very music that they intended to salute. Dusk have done it well, and in their music and their message, you'll find this plain truth among many exciting secrets.