Golden Silvers are proving difficult to pigeonhole with their eclectic sound. Lead singer, Gwilym Gold, talks to Sam Richards about comparisons, and to stress they are not 80s wannabes.
The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bowie, Blur, The Blockheads, Dexys, Wham!, Roxy Music, Prince, T-Rex, LCD Soundsystem. Just a sample of the bewildering variety of acts cited by reviewers attempting to bottle the mercurial essence of guitar-free North London trio Golden Silvers. Like a musical Mona Lisa smile, every listener seems to hear something different.
“I take that as a compliment,” grins gangly frontman Gwilym Gold, perching on the end of his bed in his Highgate digs. “Especially when we get compared to bands who haven’t been conscious influences – it feels like we’ve created something new. The only thing that annoys me is that people seem to have latched onto some ’80s thing with us. We’ve been compared to Wham! or Spandau Ballet and I’m not getting where that’s coming from because I don’t like any ‘80s pop whatsoever.”
Arguably, there is an unintentional hint of ‘Wham! Rap’ to Golden Silvers’ catchy radio hit True No9 Blues (True Romance), but that’s about as far as it goes. The best comparisons are with the likes of Super Furry Animals and Mystery Jets – bands who pilfer gaily from five decades of pop history, too engaged with sunny song-craft to get bogged down in one particular sonic furrow.
“Maybe it makes it harder for people to know exactly what we’re about,” says Gwil, “but hopefully in the long run it means there’s more dimensions to our music.”
Gwil’s clearly a rock’n’roll scholar. His room is decorated with classic posters of Hendrix, Dylan, William Burroughs and Jameses Dean and Brown. A black and gold Prince tambourine takes pride of place above the stack of vinyl LPs piled next to his Fender Rhodes piano, while current bedtime reading is Aldous Huxley’s narcotic odyssey, The Doors Of Perception. He’s as happy talking about Tom Waits as he is the latest hip-hop or experimental releases – “new stuff’s always got that vitality to it, even if it’s not something that will stand the test of time” – before revealing that he’s a former teenage jazz piano prodigy who’s jammed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis.
Does having chops – awful muso word that it is – help when it comes to pop song writing? “Maybe it enables you to do more. Take someone like David Bowie; he’s obviously got ‘chops’, so that allowed him to reinvent himself on every album. A lot of bands just don’t have anything to work with. You look at the groups who’ve stood the test of time, they’ve got more than good ideas, they’re really dedicated to craftsmanship as well.”
And yet, Gwil agrees, technically gifted musicians are often viewed with suspicion on the indie circuit. “Even people who can play act like they don’t know what this chord or that chord is because of the whole punk thing. I’m down with the energy of punk, but there’s something really tired about the whole idea that, if you can play, you’re not cool. All the rock’n’rollers could play their asses off… and so could a lot of the punk bands.”
Still, Golden Silvers’ latent muso tendencies haven’t prevented them from accruing a keen female following. A simple post on their MySpace page was all it took to fill a studio with Mary Quant-clad beauties for their “True No9 Blues” video shoot. Bassist Ben Moorehouse, with his crushed velvets and roguish ’tache, has the look of a ’60s Monte Carlo playboy about him, while drummer Alexis Nunez’s effusive Hendrix ’fro contrasts nicely with Gwil’s boyish quiff (dye it orange and he could be mistaken for La Roux).
Despite being the bandleader, Gwil’s the most reserved of the three. “I don’t always feel like a confident performer,” he admits, fingering his piano-shaped pendant. “With jazz, you’re inside the music, and people are looking in. It’s a weird step to go from that to being at the front of the stage with a mic. I do want to connect with the audience but that’s hard when you don’t feel natural doing loads of bantering or shouting ‘Make some noise!’”
Up until now, Golden Silvers have circumvented their unease at playing in front of unfamiliar audiences by hosting their own monthly Bronze Club at the Macbeth in Hoxton, with musical mates such as Micachu, The Invisible and Man Like Me often joining them on stage. “It normally gets pretty rowdy down there – in a good way.”
The spirit of the jam sessions in which Golden Silvers were forged is what keeps it exciting for Gwil, who’s already cooking up ideas for a second album to follow True Romance released over the summer. “The first album blasted the door open, but the second one’s where we’ll really come through. I’ve got more of a specific vision of the overall sound. I want it to be bigger and heavier… the bigness of Phil Spector and the groove of J Dilla.” He blushes while saying it, embarrassed by the scale of his own ambition. But if anyone can pull off an abstract hip-hop wall-of-sound low-slung girl-group fantasia, it’s Golden Silvers.
Photography: Ben Rayner
Words: Sam Richards
A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #19, Sep/Oct 2009