BLONDE AMBITION Gold Motel

As the saying goes, you can check in,
but you won’t be checking out anytime soon.

 

 

BY
MICHAEL VERITY

 

 

The
first thought that comes to mind when Gold Motel’s “Brand New Kind Of
Blue” jumps from the stereo speakers is that great pop music is still
alive and well (and living with a quintet of youngsters in suburban Chicago).

 

Opening
with a spiffy guitar riff, boasting lyrics that are intelligent without being
self-conscious and sporting just the right blend of harmonies, “Brand New
Kind of Blue” is the sound of Chris Difford’s wit mixed with Blondie’s
energy and a touch of Zombies lushness.

It
effectively smashes to pieces the unenlightened proclamations of many of
today’s pop bands who claim the mantle of their melodic forerunners but
actually don’t know Smokey Robinson from Smokey The Bear. These kids, Gold
Motel, are the real thing: a band that’s actually studied the pop idiom, a
group that brings more than an oldies station knowledge of the genre to the
stage and studio.

 

 

The
story of Gold Motel dates back to 2004, the year when 15-year old Greta Morgan
paired with her 19-year old friend, Bob Morris, to form The Hush Sound. In
short order, the band became a local, then regional, then national favorite,
logging endless touring miles and delivering three respectable albums on the
Fueled By Ramen imprint. But three years of living in close confines proved to
be a strain on human relations and, by 2007, The Hush Sound found the need to
go quiet.

“It was time for everybody to have some experiments and play with some new
people,” Morgan says of the band’s permanent hiatus. “The fact was that we were
burning the candle at both ends. In 2008 alone, we toured for 10 months, which
was a lot for kids who are barely twenty years old. Things started to fall
apart emotionally for us.”

For
Morgan, freedom from the rigors of band life translated into an extended
vacation in L.A. where she immersed herself in
the Southern California music scene. “I just
went to a lot of local shows,” she says. “One of my favorite artists is John
Brian, so I’d go and see him play at Largo
every Friday. And he would always have really cool special guests like Jackson
Browne or Fiona Apple or Rickie Lee Jones. They’d just show up on stage, do
their hit, then walk away. I also started studying The Beach Boys. I took piano
lessons from a teacher who had scored arrangements for their band in the late ‘60s
and early ‘70s, so he taught me a lot of the original voicings for their
songs.”

Studying
The Beach Boys in the late 2000’s drew a dotted line back to Morgan’s
childhood, when her “tone deaf” music loving Dad brought home a Wurlitzer
jukebox full of ‘60s pop and folk, from Joni Mitchell to Motown to the Zombies.
“When I wasn’t dancing on my Dad’s feet, like little girls do,” she says, “I
was being educated in the music of the theater, listening to soundtracks like Les
Miserables
.”

When
it came time to write some more songs of her own, all her many influences came
together and planted the seed of what would become Gold Motel (albeit not
immediately). “I had written all these songs so I went to a studio in Santa Fe to start
recording them,” she remembers, “but I didn’t really like how they came out.

“So,
in 2009, I brought them to my friend (producer, guitarist and now fellow band
member) Dan Duszynski, whom I’d known for a handful of years. We recorded two songs
— ‘Perfect In My Mind’ and ‘Make Me Stay’ — over the course of two or three
days; they came out exactly how I wanted to bring the songs to life.”

With
momentum in their favor, Morgan and Duszynski recorded several more cuts,
committed five of them to an EP and scheduled a release party, a crazy notion
at the time, she says. “It was kind of a silly thing to do since there wasn’t
really a band. That was an exciting challenge that forced us to reach out to
people right away. So we got in touch with Eric (Hehr, the band’s guitarist),
then we invited (bassist) Matt Minx and (drummer) Adam Coldhouse to play at the
show. We had so much fun playing that we decided to form a band.”

In
2010, Gold Motel — the name that trumped “Rabbit Punch” when pulled from a hat
— combined the cuts from their EP with five new songs to create their debut
album, Summer House, followed by a 7″ released later that year called Talking
Fiction
.

Their
second long player (released on July 3rd on the Good As Gold label) Gold
Motel
is actually the first record to be written and conceived as a band.
Along with Morgan, it was Duszynski and Hehr, in particular, who were
instrumental in bringing tunes to the band’s rehearsal sessions.

 

 

Some,
like the easy West Coast groove of Hehr’s “Sore Eyes” and Morgan’s “Brand New
Kind of Blue,” arrived mostly finished. Others, like the jaunty Talking
Heads-like “Your Own Ghost,” were inspired by in-studio conversations. In all,
however, the album is most definitely a group effort, inspired by everyone from
Vetiver to Fleetwood Mac to the woman with whom Morgan’s voice draws the most
parallels: Debbie Harry.

When
asked if she’d ever heard the comparison, she laughs and admits it has come up
a time or two: “One journalist said we sound a meeting of Blondie and The
Supremes.” Safe to say, they’re just two of the many influences that underpin a
sound that, when all is said and done, is uniquely Gold Motel.

———

Eliminate the middle man, put more dough
in the pockets of the band. Get their album here (
http://goldmotel.bandcamp.com/) then go see them there:

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Matt Wignall]

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