If you can dig your way through the latest saturation of dubstep-inspired pop tunes around every corner, you might just find a touch of creative genius shining through beyond the familiar. Gold & Youth is one of these gems of a band. The four-piece recently released their debut full length, Beyond Wilderness, which is a modern sounding record with vintage sounding synth melodies. A mix of male and female vocals compliments the eleven tracks of dreamy soundscapes so seamlessly, it’s hard to believe the group was only learning how to incorporate electronic sounds into their music throughout the course of creating this record. Influenced by 80’s sounding instruments, it’s no surprise that Matthew Lyall, Murray McKenzie, Jeff Mitchelmore, and Louise Burns of Gold & Youth are all kids of the 80’s.
Releasing a debut full length is a landmark achievement for a band. Did you have a specific vision going in to make the album?
Matt: We definitely had a vision. We came up with a bunch of adjectives – not necessarily musical ones, but ideas of landscape, of desert, futuristic, neo-noir, vintage, a lot of juxtaposition. It’s a very urban sounding record and we wanted the sounds to be very synthetic, but at the same time we bring a very organic sound. It was definitely deliberate. We didn’t start making a record and this all accidently happened. The songs and tones and ideas were thought out in advance.
Now that you have the final product, is it pretty close to what you had in mind when you began planning out the record?
Jeff: Yeah, I would say pretty close. If you listen to our first demos, sonically they are very similar.
The song titles on the album and the album title for that matter evoke a lot of imagery. Was that on purpose too?
Matt: Definitely. We really wanted to make [the album] evocative of places and times and not necessarily super specific with what those references are, but just feelings more than anything else.
What sort of experimentation did you go through as a band to develop your sound, especially the use of a lot of synth melodies?
Murray: To some extent the synth sound being 80’s sounding has to do with the technological limitations and in our case it was our own ability to use the technology that was the limitation. We were learning how to make electronic music as we were making electronic music. On the other hand, it was also meant to be a nostalgic record. It was a natural choice.
Are you all kids of the 80’s?
Matt: We are. I was just about to say that.
Louise: I think the idea with synth music mixed in to rock music is something that became popular in the 70’s and the 80’s. It’s not necessarily an 80’s record. It is influenced by it, by default because it includes a lot of vintage sounding keyboards, but I don’t think it’s necessarily purely an 80’s throw back record. It’s a very modern record. We all used very modern equipment.
When you encounter something inspirational, how do you hone that into your music?
Louise: I got kind of obsessed with this a year ago. I had what people call writer’s block, which is really just laziness. I was thinking about why I am sometimes creative and sometimes have no ideas. I think it’s a process of getting inspired, you incubate what you’re inspired by, and you create something out of this incubation period. There’s a way you store ideas and it comes out of your subconscious. Then you have to work at it too.
Matt: Our writing process is very collaborative. The writing of a song is very broken down. We all have our specialties within the band, not that they don’t overlap.
Louise: There’s a lot of cross-inspiration too. Like, Matt would send me a track and I’ll be really inspired by it and write part two, and then send it back to him. He’ll send it to Jeff and to Murray and we’ll feel the same vibe from a track, which will inspire us to keep writing it.
You guys are headed to Toronto next to play a festival. Is there a festival you’ve always dreamed of playing at?
Louise: Glastonbury, Primavera.
Matt: Coachella. For Jeff, Murray and myself, we’ve gone consistently a lot of years in a row. Murray has gone almost every year in his life. Palm Springs in general helped inform some of the songwriting on the album. So it holds a very special place. We have a weird connection with that festival, but I realize that might not be the coolest thing to say.
Touring in general is one of the toughest and most rewarding things for any artist. How are you guys enjoying it?
Louise: We love it. We absolutely love it. Every chance we get to go on the road, we do. We did a tour last year in the dead of winter with Diamond Rings. It was terrifying, but really fun. We’re going out to the east coast in June. We like to go overseas a lot.
Matt: We want to be as much a working band as possible. Our live shows are as strong and as interesting as the record, personally I feel that way. It’s different.
A lot of artist have different personas on and off stage – a musical alter ego if you will, sort of like your tour mate Diamond Rings. Do you feel that you have that separation between yourself and your performer self?
Matt: I think that’s something we’d probably like to increase a little bit more. We really have started to embrace the cinematic element of the music, the fictional side of it. That’s a lot of fun and it’s a lot of fun playing with people’s perception of what your music is. Playing a character is really fun. It’s a pretty fine line though for a lot of bands. You can have two bands with similar looks and for whatever reason, one will annoy you and be crass. And then you see somebody else – Diamond Rings is a perfect example of it working. A lot of my favourite performers are exaggerated versions of qualities they probably already have.
Jeff: We’re working on funky stage names because that’s where you start [laughs].
Even with the ease of downloading music, vinyl has made a huge comeback. For you guys, you put “Time To Kill” and “City of Quartz” on 7 inch. Why is it important for you to have music available in this format?
Louise: Vinyl is just, for music lovers, a necessity. I’m a vinyl DJ and I collect it. When a new band comes out, I’ll buy it on vinyl and have the download card. CDs are almost ironic at this point. They’re almost to cassette tape ironic because nobody buys them, but they might in ten years. With vinyl there’s this solidness to it. It sounds better. It feels more accomplished when you hold a giant piece.
Matt: It’s also brought back album art in a big way. It was an afterthought for a while. So many of my favourite album, it’s like, what does the record face look like? [Vinyl] is undeniably better.
From your earliest memory of listening to music, is there an artist that sticks out in your mind that convinced you, you want to become a musician?
Louise: The Beatles. Green Day. Ace of Base
Matt: I was really into Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals as a kid. I loved Phantom of the Opera a lot. I don’t know how I got it, but I had a Culture Club tape when I was really young.
Murray: Paula Abdul was the first tape I borrowed.