In The Attic With GGOOLLDD [Interview]
GGOOLLDD (simply pronounced “gold”) is a Milwaukee band that I’ve spent some time trying to get a hold of over the past few months. Their busy schedule had them bouncing from show to show. Last month, they went as far as taking a trip to Austin, playing several shows at SXSW. With their incredibly catchy tunes and infectious danceable beats, their songs carry a unique resonance in Milwaukee. I had a chance to sit down with most of the band during one of their first band practices upon their return from the iconic fest.
GGOOLLDD’s practice space looks a little like the scene of a creepy psychological thriller, a place where things go bump in the night and echo on hardwood floors. A Victorian-style brick building on the South side of Milwaukee, the attic is where the magic happens. Half dormant vintage shop, half practice space, I was amazed at the sheer size of the attic in comparison to the rest of the house. A curtain separated the two spaces and probably helped with acoustics. They had their set-up down packed, resembling their own stage positions when they play live. Everyone seemed to be in that stage after a trip where you’ve finally gotten enough sleep, but your mind is still fighting “reality.” We all sat in a circle with our drinks and I told the group to introduce themselves.
Somehow the group got side tracked and the planning of a West Side Story style dueling keyboard act began, but after talk of someone snagging some snacks the group got back on track.
Thomas Gilbert – Synth, “electronic programmer,” aspiring choreographer
Mark Stewart – All the drums
Nicholas Stuart – Making eggs, bass
Margaret Butler – Pazzaz (lead vocals, dancing)
Nicholas Schubert – synth, and also loves puppies.
How many puppies is too many puppies?
N. Schubert: None…or a million. That would be too many puppies
You guys are a pretty large group, how did you all get together?
Margaret: Me and Tony started hanging out around last summer or the summer before last. We randomly started the band, we wrote one song thought “Hey that was fun, we should start a band, we should invite other people to start this.” And Nick [Stuart] is my boyfriend so that was easy.
N. Stuart: And I helped record it. So I was there from the beginning but not part of the original thing.
Margaret: Then Thomas I met at Nick’s bar [Tonic] and I met his girlfriend Ann and she said “my boyfriend is a musician, he plays synthesizer.” And I said “Ahh I need someone to play synthesizer! Thomas, you wanna be my friend?”
N. Stuart: My bar is the meeting place for everything.
Thomas: And we talked about me playing synth the very first night we met. And to be completely honest I had had that conversation so many times over the years, and it would always be that it seemed cool and that they were rad but I never expected anything so I totally forgot about it. Then, we were here and we listened to “Gold” and I thought it was great so I said “I’m in.” And then I even forgot again after that, then Margaret invited me to play a show with them on Halloween and that was it. I remember playing here [in the attic] and someone yelled “Turn the tracks up!” and we were like “…they’re not tracks, we’re actually playing.”
Margaret: We didn’t even have a drummer. Well, we did, he came in and auditioned and then he told us, “Hey guys, while I was hanging out with my friend yesterday, his dog came up to me and kept humping me and wouldn’t get off so I pushed the dog off and tore my shoulder out of place and I’m really not supposed to be drumming but I really want to be in this band so I kept playing but I think I fucked it up really bad.” So he couldn’t play for our first show, we had no drummer, then he left on a motorcycle and we needed to find a new drummer. We looked around and found Mark and he’s awesome so we kept him.
Mark: It was definitely very fast, because I joined the band and auditioned and they asked me to play a couple shows that next week. So, I went home and learned the songs over a weekend and we rehearsed over the week and I played with them at Yield bar and then at the radio that following week. It was stressful but it was awesome. It was great because I feel like I did a lot of the legwork to learn the songs well right away and after that I was good. Nicky [Schubert] was the last addition.
N. Schubert: I just kind of popped in. I’m in a different band and I was more active at that time and I had to miss 4 or 5 shows over the course of the summer and Nick took over my part on keyboard instead of playing bass and then after I came back we thought we can’t do without this. So now we all have our roles. We don’t need any more, but we can’t cut it to any less.
Note: No more people are allowed in this band!
So you guys just got back from SXSW. How many shows did you play?
Margaret: 7 shows in 6 days.
Are you tired?
Margaret: No man…wait I don’t know why I said that I got really excited. We were exhausted. I fell asleep in a photo booth at 4:30 in the daytime.
N. Stuart: The best moment was when we were playing our last show and I turned to Margaret and asked “are you OK?” and she was smiling and just shaking her head like “Noooo.”
What was your favorite venue you played?
Thomas: Venue as opposed to show I think would be different.
Mark: My favorite venue we played was Spider House. [The band collectively agreed.]
Margaret: This place was huge, it had three different stages and a courtyard with food trucks in the middle of it. Built in.
Awesome, so what was the best show?
Margaret: The first show for sure. [Again, collective agreement among the band] When we got to Austin we had two hours to be at the venue. We set up at our friend’s house. I’m like, “Hi, nice to meet you, where can I put in my hair extensions?” We went to the show and we didn’t even have time to think about it. We did vocal warm ups in the car, we were all exhausted, but we got up there and there was about five people in front of the stage when we started. By the time we finished, the whole bar was packed. The doors were open and people were walking up and down the street and people were just hearing what was going on inside and pivoting. And there had been tons of bands on and tons had played and no one was paying attention, everyone was on their phone and we thought it was going to be the same ordeal, none of these people know us. But the bar was packed, shoulder to shoulder jumping up and down chanting our band name.
Mark: I was playing drums and looked out the window and there were about a dozen people right up against the window and behind them another 30 people crammed behind them outside, it was crazy.
Thomas: And the sound guy loved it!
Margaret: The bartender bought all our merch.
N. Stuart: It was an amazing start to a daunting week.
Margaret: It set the pace for such a great week. Super positive.
So what’s on the agenda next?
Margaret: Just…working on a record. Recovering.
So, many of our readers are on the East Coast, so what is the best part of the Milwaukee music scene for those who may not be familiar with this city?
N. Stuart: I think the scene is actually becoming strangely healthy. Milwaukeeans really love to support Milwaukee things and for a long time music wasn’t really included. It was more T-shirt shops and who has the best coffee and whatnot. But, I think there were a bunch of people with money like the Pabst/Turner Hall/Riverside people that started a good thing when they started bringing in acts that were much bigger than Milwaukee and probably threw them little extra for making the trip over and now its become a favorite for a lot of people to come to because they’re cool venues, they’re well taken care of. In turn, you have all these bands that 10 years ago didn’t have that national level recognition, except for Summerfest, so they have this inspiration, this new standard. And now, the bigger bands that are coming through, the standard of Milwaukee musicians I think has risen and risen. And now you start to see a new quality of bands. 20 years ago there was a really big push and I think again there’s a solid push for really good bands. You’ve got one good band and you’ve got this standard of what you need to do to get out of this city. I think it’s become really supportive. Less bitchy than I think it used to be.
Margaret whispers: It’s still kind of bitchy.
N. Stuart: Every scene is a little bitchy, when you can’t get out you’re pissed at somebody who does and you find excuses why it’s that way. But I think its the healthiest it’s been since we moved here which was about six years ago. It’s a city of drinkers, so there are a lot of people where three years will go by and they’ll be like “How did that band get here?!” and you realize that all you do is get stoned and get drunk at the practice phase and you get nothing done. You have to work [the band clinks their beer bottles in a cheers]. But, this is a Friday night, and we don’t have anything else on the agenda, we’re taking it pretty casual but we try to keep the two separate, especially in the practice department. You show up and you do your part and there’s no excuse. We still love music above all else.
The band and I started talking about Summerfest this summer in Milwaukee and who they’re most excited for. The general consensus was that they were most excited to play themselves. They landed an opening spot for The Kooks, a huge slot.
One last question: What is your definition of selling out?
N. Schubert: Nice, great way to end it.
Mark: For us, that’s kind of a hard question because we’re all really huge fans of pop music, and I think we set out to make something that we really like. I think a lot of bands like us sometimes are accused of being on a mission to [sell out] for playing the type of music that we play. But we already talk about pop production and pop songwriting and it’s stuff that we genuinely love. But I think for selling out, if its compromising what your vision is to begin with…something like “We want to do this, but this would be more successful.”
N. Stuart: I’d say something close to what Mark said I think it’s a matter of being proud of yourself at the end of the day. I rarely see the longevity in taking the short route. We do love pop, we’re not modifying our music or our genre for other people. This is the band that we want, this is the stuff we want to do. We still love it. We want people to walk away with a feeling and we’ve agreed that we all want people to feel better after our sets. I think right now we’re making ourselves proud and that’s the thing that makes it worth it to drive all the way down there [SXSW].
Margaret: I’m on the same page as these guys. I think selling out would be compromising ourselves. We. Love. This. We all love this so much, we love the music we make, we love listening to our own records. And we’re not going to let someone else write our music for us.
And from what we hear so far, we wouldn’t want them to do any different! GGOOLLDD’s infectious tunes and catchy vibes has everyone dancing. At the end of our talk, I had the band grab my camera and snag a selfie (note to self: Delete photos 1 through 5 on that camera). Their overall chemistry and love for each other is a formula for a band that is on the up. We’re excited about their upcoming shows, especially Summerfest, and can’t wait to see what’s next.