Exclusive Interview With Golden Bloom

Golden Bloom is one of my favorite bands working today. Their new record, No Day Like Today, is available now. It’s a glorious piece of work that I hope you make time to check out. The guys in the band also happen to be super cool guys who I like to think will attain the success they deserve.

MD-I think people who haven’t seen the group live have a kind of assumption about the band that it’s just Shawn Fogel with a backup band when he’s touring. So when working on No Day Like Today, were you concerned at all that the overall sound of the band would be wildly different than your previous releases?

Shawn – I wasn’t concerned at all, in fact that’s what I was aiming for!  Songs that appear on Fan the Flames or March to the Drums sound very different when we play them live than they do on the record.  If anything, No Day Like Today is the best representation of who we are as a band right now.

MD-No Day Like Today marks the first time Golden Bloom has started from scratch as a group on a record. Why was it important to have everyone equally involved on this one?

Shawn – It was time, plain and simple.  Golden Bloom may have started as the name for my solo project, but over the years we have evolved into a band.  I think this is an example of the sum being greater than it’s parts.  Since the release of March to the Drums I’ve become less and less interested in making music in a bubble and more and more interested in making music in a community.

MD-To write and rehearse the EP you went up to a cabin and closed yourselves off from the rest of the world for a little bit. How did the change in environment aid everyone’s creativity?

Josh – It put everyone in a good headspace. There are very little distractions where we were, so it was easier to focus on the music, but it was such a beautiful setting that we didn’t feel like we were working. There were days that we’d wake up, cook breakfast, go on a hike, then come back with a song.

MD-You guys produced this album as a group instead of bringing in someone from the outside. Did you run into any issues that made you wish you had hired someone?

Shawn – I think it’s important to note that we did in fact have an engineer who played just as big a role as we did.  Greg Giorgio was our fifth Beatle on No Day Like Today.  Having spent many years working along side Peter Katis on albums by The National, Mates of State, and many more, Greg had a huge part in making the songs sound the way they do.  There are countless stories of bands and producers clashing over the direction of an album and fighting over how a song should sound, but this wasn’t one of those stories.  We wouldn’t have been able to use Tarquin Studios as the amazing creative instrument it is without Greg’s assistance.

Josh – As Shawn mentioned, having Greg was key. If we came up with a crazy idea, he’d help bring it to life. If we were searching for a sound, he would give great recommendations. Beyond that, however, I think we’re really lucky in that we all have similar ideas of the direction we want to music to go. While our aesthetics may be different, they compliment each other. It also helps that everyone plays a bit of everything, so if someone had an idea, rather than spend a lot of time trying to explain it, they could pick up an instrument and play it.

MD-A while ago I referred to your band as the Gin Blossoms of this generation (which I meant in a completely complimentary way). On the new record I hear influences of more contemporary stuff like Band Of Horses and The Shins. But I can’t nail down one band that you guys really sound like. Is there stuff you guys were listening to around the time of the recording that helped fashion the sound?

Shawn – I’m not shy about my love of the Gin Blossoms, and I took that as one hell of a compliment!  I actually make it a point not to listen to music when in the writing, recording, or mixing process.  It’s so easy to subconsciously “borrow” a melody or a riff.  While we were in the cabin in Maine, Josh and I came up with a cool chord progression, and as soon as I thought I came up with a great vocal melody Jeff chimed in “That’s ‘With Arms Outstretched’ by Rilo Kiley”.  You be amazed how many times I think I just wrote a killer hook and then I realize it’s already another song.  Not reminiscent of another song, I mean dead-on exactly another song.  I don’t need to increase the likelihood of that happening by having someone else’s song fresh in my head while we’re trying to make new music.  I also think you not being able to nail down a band that we really sound like is a great compliment as well.  I don’t really give any thought to what our band sounds like.  My concern is what each song sounds like.  I like being able to put out an album where no two songs sound alike.  I like to try and serve each song as best as we can, and sometimes that makes it harder to summarize our all around sound.

MD-. There’s something about No Day Like Today that reminds me, for some reason, of Raising Arizona. That movie is a comedy, but it’s not like any comedy that came before it. This EP is a pop record, but it doesn’t sound like every other pop record (maybe that doesn’t make sense). Is there a conscious effort on the part of the band to avoid mimicking other groups?

Josh – That’s very flattering! I don’t think it was a conscious decision to not sound like other bands. We all come from the school of “do what’s best for the song”. ‘Deliver It For Me’ started out sounding more like a Tom Petty or Byrds song, with 12-string guitars and all, but when we played it on piano, we all liked the sound better so we went that route. In the end we just wanted to make music we would want to listen to ourselves.

MD-I’m on record as being a big fan of Golden Bloom’s guitarist, Jeff Patlingrao. Every time I see him play I’m wildly impressed with his creativity. I think I saw him playing with some kitchen utensils at Schubas a few months ago. Were there any odd devices or out of the ordinary things that you used to create some of the music on the record?

Jeff – No knives on the record!  Hardly any pedals too!  In the live show, I have to be able to go from playing a delicate pretty chime to a speaker ripping freakout on the fly – which necessitates a bunch of dirt pedals and other toys.  In the studio, where we were approaching each part individually, we really tailored each moment to how it fit into the song – usually changing guitars and switching or tweaking amps – but the majority of it is just that – guitar + amp + the specific part played. Greg, our engineer, was really good at coaxing HUGE sounds out of small amps…

MD-On March To The Drums, and again for this record, you decided to use Pledge Music to raise funds through fan donations. There’s a lot of controversy around that method. Why have you chosen to go that route? Do you think you’ll continue to use crowd sourcing to fund your recording?

Shawn – Two years ago I used Kickstarter to raise funds in order to make a music video for one of the songs off March to the Drums.  This is the first time we’ve used crowdsourced fundraising to release an album. (Editor’s Note: My mistake.)  Typically, a band will use a platform like PledgeMusic to raise the money they need to make their album first, and then go into the studio.  We did it backwards I guess.  The EP was finished before we launched the campaign.  We set a goal amount significantly lower than what we actually spent to make the album because we didn’t want it to come across like we just made an album and now we want our fans to pay the bill.  The money we raised through our PledgeMusic campaign helped us pay for the stuff that a record label might do like the pressing the CDs and publicity campaigns for web, print media, and radio.  I think these crowdsourced fundraising campaigns can be a great way for fans to be part of process and more than just a consumer of a product.  I don’t know that we’ll necessarily do it again when it comes time to make our next album, but I think it’s a great tool for bands and is changing the face of independent music making.

MD-5% of all the proceeds received on your Pledge Music drive are going toward the National Brain Tumor Society. What made you decide to donate a portion of your funds, and why this charity in particular?

Shawn – I think if people are willing to give you money for doing something you love, that’s not to be taken for granted.  One of the reasons we chose to partner with PledgeMusic was because they encourage bands to incorporate a charitable donation into their campaign.

MD-For $250 Golden Bloom will come to my house, make guacamole, and watch Back To The Future (and Back To The Future II) with me. If the band gets burned out playing music, have you considered starting a kind of mercenary rolling road show?

Jeff – I’ve run my own rent-a-friend business since 1996.  It’s my day job!

Shawn – We’d be happy touring the country making guacamole and watching Back to the Future.  We’d also have Jeff challenge people at Tetris for money.