BNBTV Spotlight: Gold Motel, “Safe in LA”

In the wake of featuring The Goondas on BNBTV Spotlight, I stumbled easily from link to link on to a ton of bands playing on the Minneapolis/Minnesota music scene.  One of these bands was the glowing Gold Motel (actually from Chicago), who in this video prove their knowledge and mastery of a perfect pop sound.   If anything, talking with this band and hearing this song, “Safe in LA”, has helped me gain a much clearer perspective on the building blocks of pop.  First, you can definitely hear the pop influences of The Beach Boys, and the song has a honey-sweet melody with enough hook to reel in the most cold-blooded of music sharks.  When I first heard this song, I immediately had a dorky grin slapped on my face, was head-bobbing like it was the Night at the Roxbury, and was flapping my elbows and snapping like I had just heard “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” for the first time.  And if that’s not a good enough visual for you, take a listen, and you’ll see what I mean (However, even if it is a good enough visual, you still should to listen.).

Claire Gallagher: Alrighty, who’s who? What are your names, what instruments do you play, etc?

Greta Morgan – keys / vocals

Eric Hehr – Guitar

Adam Coldhouse – drums

Matt Minx – Bass

Dan  D – Guitars / Vocals

CG: Where are you from? Did you grow up there? Did you all meet there? How long have you known each other? If you didn’t meet there, where did you all meet? How did the band come together?

GM: We all grew up in the Western suburbs of Chicago and met through the local music scene while playing in various bands over the years. I have been fans of all of the boys and their prior bands. Last year, I had moved to Los Angeles and started demo-ing songs for a new band. Eventually, I came right back to Dan to record, knowing how much I trusted him as an engineer and producer. We recorded “Perfect In My Mind” and “Make Me Stay” in the first few days and I knew then how great of a team we’d make as band mates. We soon recruited the other three boys and have been a very happy little family since.

EH: I grew up in Elmhurst, IL, which is a northwest suburb or Chicago. With the exception of our drummer, Adam Coldhouse (who is from Minnesota), we all grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Our bassist, Matt Minx, and other guitarist, Dan Duzsynski, both went to the same high school as Greta, which is how they all originally met.  Before Greta was in bands she would host suburban house-shows in her basement. I met Greta through playing one of these shows when I was drumming in a punk band – I must have been 14 or 15 years old? Dan, Matt, and Adam all play in another band called This Is Me Smiling, which has been a staple in the Chicago music scene for years and years. Growing up and playing music, I always looked to This Is Me Smiling as a source of inspiration and motivation. I was fortunate enough to play a handful of shows with both This Is Me Smiling and The Hush Sound in my old band, The Villains of Verona, and in the process of playing shows together we all became acquainted and kept in touch over the years. The band’s formation was more or less the result of perfect timing and happy coincidences. At the time, all of our former projects were either immobile or in ruins. Since we were all in Chicago – and available – we took the opportunity to join forces and see what come of it. The result is Gold Motel.

CG: Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Any influences besides music–people, art, literature, film, etc? Are there any particular eras or places or both that have influenced your work?

GM: We have been especially influenced by the Motown collection, The Beatles, The Zombies, Jon Brion, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Costello, The Thrills, and all the great Southern California pop songs by bands like The Mamas and The Papas, Beach Boys. Also, we collectively love the television show MadMen. My favorite authors are John Irving, Frank O’Hara, Anne Sexton, Joan Didion, John Cheever, Jonathan Franzen.

EH: I grew up playing drums, so it’s hard for me not to cite The Who as a huge musical influence. Besides looking up to Keith Moon, I loved how The Who approached music from a sensationalist standpoint. It was more about the raw energy and that sneering, delinquent attitude than it was compositional merits or musical technicalities. They were punk rock before there was punk rock. When I was in high school, “Is This It?” by The Strokes had a tremendous impact on me, as well as “The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths, “Get The Knack” by The Knack, and “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. Outside of music, I have a vast amount of influences in film, literature and art: James Dean, Edward Hopper, Piet Mondrian, Helmut Newton, Stanley Kubrick, Russ Meyer, Blade Runner, Rod Serling, Ayn Rand, Jean-Luc Godard, and a whole bunch more. In terms of specific eras, I love the counter-cultures spawned out of America in the 1950’s, and the whole sociological aspect of the nuclear family and the cocktail generation. The music, literature, and art from the fifties has always struck a deep chord with me for whatever reason. 1955 is my favorite year for art and film. In regards to Gold Motel, I think ‘60’s pop has a big impact on our sound and aesthetic, and the romanticizing of California and the West Coast influenced much of our first album, Summer House.

CG: Did growing up where you did influence your music at all? Do you feel a kinship with your hometown?

GM: My specific house had much to do with my musical influence, but the town didn’t affect me much. My mom enrolled me in piano lessons at a very young age and my dad has this great juke box filled with Bob Dylan, The Temptations, Fleetwood Mac, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, etc. In recent years though, someone accidentally broke the juke box and now it only plays “We Are The World”.

EH: I think location plays a huge part in art and creativity. It’s very easy to trace an artist’s reoccurring motifs or thematic messages back to their childhood and upbringing. Chicago is engrained within me, and no matter where I go or what I do I will always take Chicago with. In regards to growing up in the suburbs of Chicago and playing in bands, I think I always felt a sense of inferiority. All the bands I idolized and loved were always breaking out of New York or Los Angeles, and I felt as though trying to pursue a musical career in Chicago was a dead end – I mean, it’s called “The Second City” for a reason. However, this made me work harder to get my own projects off the ground. I was competitive and determined to do whatever it took to pursue music. That Midwestern work ethic is hard to come by in other areas of the country.

CG: What bands do you think you sound like, if any? What bands have others told you you sound like? Any strange or incongruent comparisons? What bands would you like to sound like?

GM: Our common comparisons are to She and Him and Rilo Kiley, which are flattering comparisons though maybe not completely accurate. Beyond that, I’ve heard everything from Fleetwood Mac to The Pretenders to The Cars. All comparisons have been flattering so far, so we’ll take ‘em!

EH: I’m not sure whom we sound like. Hopefully we sound cool. Gold Motel is like a sonic collage art project to me. We reference so many different types of music and bands that it’s hard to narrow it down to a few. Other people have told me that we sound like She & Him, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, and Rilo Kiley, which, like Greta said, are all very flattering comparisons.

CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician? What did you want to be as a kid?

GM: Trying to become a musician! Or a chef. I love food.  [When I was a kid I wanted to be] a musician.

EH: Before joining Gold Motel, I was a film student at Columbia College, so I would most likely be finishing up my degree and working on scripts. When I was a kid, I also wanted to be a musician. Still do. Someday when I grow up, I’ll be one!

CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?

GM: Some of the highest points for me have been: Our “Summer House” record release show at Lincoln Hall in our hometown of Chicago because there was so much love and support from our audience, friends, and family. Our tour dates with Fun. (read Lauren Novik’s review of Fun.’s LA concert here)/ Steel Train were a blast, playing with Kate Nash was exciting, and playing Santa Cruz for the first time was a HOOT.  As fun as 2010 was for us, we are even more excited for what 2011 holds.  As for low points, we were scheduled to play this gigantic county fair in our hometown (the DuPage County Fair), which has been a really huge fun event in years prior. Normally, there are tons of rides, food, and the bands perform in a 4,000 capacity outdoor rodeo stage. Our bass player, Matt, was out of town then, so we flew in our friend Michael Runion to fill in. After an insane amount of preparation for this huge hometown spectacle, the event was rained out.  The worst part was that the few hundred people had waited in the rain all day to see us play had to be sent home at the last minute because of lightning.  Another low point was when Dan had to miss our residency with Butch Walker at Schuba’s in Chicago because he had to have his appendix taken out. Basically, only disasters of nature or terrible sickness are low points. Otherwise, we feel very stable and things have been great.

EH: A personal highpoint was Gold Motel’s first show in Los Angeles. It was a very surreal night for me. I grew up with a rose-tinted perspective of touring and the lifestyle that came along with it, and to really experience it first hand felt like a dream: doing interviews before the show, playing The Bootleg Theater, going to an after-party up in the Hollywood Hills, brushing up against celebrities and copious amounts of alcohol and drugs – the whole shabang! I kept waiting for some phantom director to yell, “CUT!” and everything would go back to reality and I would be in Chicago sitting in my bedroom, but there I was. It was a very dreamlike, fantastic evening. Personal low point? I’d have to agree with Greta—probably playing the DuPage County Fair this year. It was beyond depressing; not good for morale at all. The first night got cancelled due to thunderstorms, and we rescheduled for the following afternoon and played to what looked like a deserted swampland. I walked away from that experience wondering what the hell I was doing with my life, which is never a good thing to contemplate, especially after playing the f***ing DuPage County Fair.

CG: So what’s the story behind your band name? How did it come about?

GM: It was pulled out of a hat. No joke!

EH: Greta tells everyone that we drew the name out of the hat, which is partially true. We actually were all sitting around one Tuesday night -performing magic tricks for each other like we do every Tuesday night – and Greta pulled a rabbit out of a top hat, and before the rabbit vanished into thin air, it said, “…GOLD MOTEL!” And from that moment on, we knew what we had to name the band.

CG: What is next for the band?

GM: We have a fabulous support tour in Jan/Feb 2011 that we’ll be announcing later this week (check our twitter for more details as they happen!), then we’ll be performing at SXSW in March. Also, we’re planning to make another album next year, so we’ve been writing and demo-ing quite a bit. At the base of all Gold Motel music is this: we love melody, we love pop music, we love honest and great songwriting. No matter how the sound of the band shifts sonically, our listeners will hopefully always be able to connect with and appreciate what we make.

EH: Greta and I also have to finish scoring a short-film we acted in this past summer called “The Ghosts,” so we’ll be working on that as well. In terms of the next album, I can’t quite say what route we will take or what it will sound like. The majority of Summer House was recorded in a really fragmented way because the band was simultaneously coming together as the album was being recorded. With the new material, every member will have more of a presence in the writing and recording, and in the process the different personalities will soak into the songs more, which to me will make it ten times stronger than anything off Summer House. I think it will have a bit more edge to it. I actually hope it has a bit more edge to it. Roll the dice in a precarious way, hopefully surprise ourselves, and surprise the audience. At the end of the day, I think we’ll always be a pop band, though. No matter what direction we take stylistically, there will always be a solid hook and a catchy melody.


Are you smiling yet? Is your neck sore from rockin’?  Are your fingers red from snappin’? Good. Gold Motel has done their job.