Blue & Gold is a relatively new band I've been digging. Their first EP came out yesterday, the play their first proper show tonight at Piano's, and I recently had a chance to talk with members Chloe and Alex.
Blue & Gold have just released a collection of four blues rock songs that hit right to the bone. Probably my biggest takeaway from talking with members Chloe and Alex – both guitarists and songwriters – is how much they absolutely love the blues and music in general. Their enthusiasm, appreciation, and love feel almost unmatched. They've played from a young age, they listen constantly, and it's not hard to find them at shows around town supporting their numerous friends in other bands. To crib from Ira Glass, sometimes when you have great taste and are so steeped in a creative field, it can be debilitating when you try to make your own art. Not so with Blue & Gold. They have tapped into a primal, emotional sound that flows freely and exhilarates you upon listening.
The four tracks on their EP are all strong, a debut to be proud of in this moment while also making clear this band has a lot more growth and great music in them. I like how Alex and Chloe take turns singing, and though I can't distinguish who plays which part, the guitars seem complementary. I wasn't able to meet GG the drummer, but she is evidently a key part of the formula as well. It's instinctual music with timeless themes, powerful riffs, and a clear aesthetic. I am very much looking forward to hearing them live when they take the stage at 9:00 PM at Piano's. This $8 show also includes Judy, You're Not Yourself Tonight, Wake Island, Ghost Fields, and M-S-N-R-A.
I had a fun conversation with Chloe and Alex, you can read a slightly condensed version of our talk below. They are thoughtful and passionate, and very much looking forward to unveiling Blue & Gold in broader ways by releasing music and playing live. We talked about how their sound developed, the blues musicians they dig, the importance of a great live show, a lot about guitars and solos, and more. You can hear the full EP on Soundcloud, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. And I hope to see you at Piano's tonight!
A: I used to be a runner, and whenever you work out for a long time and then you don't, you just feel a little bit off. You're more lethargic, you get a little bit fatter, obviously. But it's just the fact that you're not doing something you've been doing for awhile, it kind of throws you off. Music, it's less of a physical reaction and more of an emotional thing. I had been in bands since I was 14, and then after college…I actually was playing music after college but it wasn't my own music. Now that we're getting back into it in a real way again, practicing at least once a week, writing music every day, doing all that stuff, it feels really good.
C: Yeah, it's very fulfilling. It's hard to be away, to not do something that you really love to do.
S: Of the songs that you each sing, are they the songs that you each wrote?
S: Ok. And you're both playing guitar. You sound like you're very good guitarists.
C: Thank you.
S: Who solos? Does it alternate?
C: Alex definitely solos more than I do. I do solo from time to time, we affectionately call it a Chlo-lo (laughter).
A: It's not, "Well, I wrote this song so I want to solo on it." I was going to say I think all of your solos are on my songs, but it's not true.
C: It's not true, there's one on one of mine. But for the most part, yeah. Ultimately, the solo just depends on the song. Another thing that's great about having two guitarists is if there's a riff that Alex doesn't want to sing over, I'll play the lead riff, and then vice versa, if I don't want to sing over it, he'll play it. We also can do more complex arrangements with the guitars. And we both really love soloing.
A: And that being said, the person singing may be the person who wrote it, but I'll bring something to Chloe and she'll add to it. We'll workshop it. It's not like I have a song that's 100% done. We both help with each other's songs.
C: GG too.
A: Yeah. I can't tell you how many times I've told GG, "I know exactly what I want, do this, this, and this," only to have her be like "Well, what if we did this?" And I'm like "Oh yeah, that's a lot better."
C: It's definitely collaborative.
S: I think that's good. I was wondering, why blues? I haven't seen a lot of bands around here like that. What is it about the format that speaks to you and do you gravitate towards?
C: I think when we were starting off, we had played a bunch of different styles together, but the songwriting just went in that direction pretty naturally. Right?
A: Yeah. Originally, we had both written songs that were less bluesy and either more rocky or more poppy. But then, as we were writing and trying to collaborate on stuff, we just moved more towards the middle with each other and this is what came out.
S: Are you big blues fans?
A: Yeah. I love blues. I guess the way that I got into it was through bands like the Allman Brothers and those jam bands or the British Invasion bands like Cream. Eventually I got into like BB King. Really all the Kings: Albert, Freddy. It's those guitarists that got me. And as someone who wasn't really good at guitar as I was just starting out, as no one is, it's easy to play 12 bar blues with a minor pentatonic scale. It's easy to pretend that I was the guitarist I was listening to. That's my not succinct explanation (laughter).
C: For me, it was actually a more recent thing in my life, getting into blues rock or whatever we may call it. I started playing guitar because I listened to a Nirvana song and was like "I want to do that." I was more alternative rock.
More recently, I got into the Black Keys and started listening more to the White Stripes and Jack White. That guitar playing is just so sexy and it speaks to me in some way that I don't understand. It allowed me to dig deeper into older stuff and where they're coming from. Definitely Alex was very helpful suggesting stuff for me to listen to. Then, Alabama Shakes came out and I saw a woman onstage shredding it and thought, "You know, I can do that. Why I don't get back into this?" It just naturally worked out that way.
I think those bands that sort of brought this genre back, a lot of people are critical of them because they think they're stealing or copying or whatever. But I think they just did such a good job making something relevant again and doing it well.
S: Right. Blues is kind of charged in a sense because, aside from racial connotations, it's been around for so long. It’s got a lot of authenticity issues with it. Like, how much do you feel it and where is it coming from? But on the other side, if you love doing it, that's what blues is.
C: Right. Exactly.
A: Like we said before, this is the music that ended up coming out of us. We're not trying to write this stuff in order to sound a certain way.
S: When you think about the lyric content in blues, do you find that it's easy to place yourselves in that? All of these songs are about relationships.
C: Yep, you got that right.
S: And it goes in a direction of infidelity and really the bad side of relationships, which is a classic blues notion.
A: It is really infidelity. Both of the singles are about that.
S: I was thinking they're kind of pairings in a way or responses to each other. Not intentionally, but you can look at them like two sides of something.
C: I like that interpretation.
A: We totally meant that (laughs).
C: Right, we totally meant that (laughs).
S: "Ghost Man" is the man who's not there and "It's Only You" is this guy, maybe he did something, and now he's trying to get back. Not that they're same characters, but I thought that was interesting. And even the other two "Anything For Love" and "Your Love," one the guy is kind of desperate and the other, the woman's like "This is bad, but I kind of like it."
C: Yeah (laughs).
S: Again, not that it's the same, or that it's necessarily autobiographical. Just interesting.
C: I like that you bring that up. It is kind of unique and different with our band that we have these two songwriters and one's male and one's female. So you get these two different perspectives and it's not one-sided. I feel like in a way that that's bound to happen because we have both sides. Not that the issues are gender specific. But yeah, I like that perspective.
A: Not only do I think they are not gender specific, I think they kind of break gender stereotypes. Chloe's characters are strong characters. Mine have kind of a subtext of insecurity to them I think. Going back to the blues thing, back then, you had a lot of songs that are like "Well, a man's going to be a man.” “That's how it is, a man's going to cheat." Whereas now, in Chloe's writing, as opposed to the stereotype of being a woman who's kind of a waif, the woman is definitely not a waif.
C: I think "Ghost Man" and also with "Your Love," it's more about being ok with whatever the situation is.
A: My song are not necessarily about any situation that I've had. I've never cheated on my girlfriend. I don't have a girlfriend right now. (Leans closer to recorder) I don't have a girlfriend right now (laughter). But I've never cheated on a girlfriend.
S: "Dust My Broom," is not about housekeeping.
A: Oh is that a double entendre? (Laughter) He's gender-bending even back then with the housekeeping references. You know what, actually? Elmore James was the first blues person that I listened to. I don't know why I thought of this reference, but did you ever see Mr. Holland's Opus? You know that part where he's talking about how someone gave him a John Coltrane album? He couldn't understand it and he listened to it over and over and over again, until finally he was like "Oh…that's what it is." That was like me and Elmore James, essentially. At first I was like, "This is slow, this is boring. It's not really that electric." And then I kept being "Well, I should try." Eventually, "Oh, this is actually pretty fucking good."
C: I'm obsessed with Jack White. People might think he's not old enough or hasn't been around long enough to be a great, and that's fine. But my feeling about him is I love that how the way he solos and the way he plays is just so raw. It's almost painful to listen to. His solos have been compared to dying animals (laughs). And I just love it. I get so enraptured. It's so amazing to listen to.
A: We're going to get PETA on us now.
C: (laughs) Sorry. Whatever it is, it's a really rough way to play the guitar. And a lot of times in the recordings, you can hear mistakes, you can hear things he didn't cut out. He's not chopping it up in Pro Tools and making it perfect. And I just love that rawness and the way that it doesn't sound conventionally beautiful, but it sounds beautiful in another way. That's my man for guitar.
A: In general, having an amazing live show is the paramount thing for me. Obviously writing a great song is also paramount, but coming from a tradition of blues players – I was lucky enough to see BB King when I was young, that was amazing; the Allman Brothers I've seen probably 14 times. Having a great live show that builds and is energetic, compelling, and brings a new kind of an interpretation to what you might hear on the album, that is something that I really take to heart. We actually have both put as a paramount thing, the band performing and having a great live show. We think that we've done a pretty good job with that so far.
C: Yeah, we want to get up there and make sure everyone has a good time, including us. We don't want to just stand there and look down at our feet and sway back and forth the whole time. We want to have fun.
S: And not necessarily be utterly faithful to the recordings? Add something to it that you would get out of a live setting?
C: Something else, yeah. We're excited. We really love the band Haim and they're like that. They're recordings sound great, they've got great songs, but the live show blows you away. They do things you can't hear on the record. They're just so good at their instruments and so good at what they do. It's so energetic. We love going to see them. We hope to be as energetic as they are live. (Laughs) Someday.
A: Yeah, they're really great.
S: You're playing more than 4 songs though, right?
A: Yeah, we have, what, like a ten song set?
C: Yes, a ten song set.
A: One of them is a cover that has a completely new arrangement which shall remain nameless for now. We want to surprise people. But we're really happy with how they've all turned out.
S: Jumping back to soloing…
A: Yeah, I'm always happy to talk about soloing.
C: We love it.
S: What are your strategies or goals? Is it like a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where you know Point A, you know Point B, and getting there is just going to happen however? Or is it more planned out? Is it different each time?
A: It’s different each time, but I definitely write solos. For the album, I wrote all those solos for the most part. That's like my fallback. I'll usually start the same way but maybe I'll end differently. Or I'll go back to the lick I played four bars earlier. I don't know, I have a set bank and I get up there and it's "And here we go!" and I don't try to think. Which is kind of how you're supposed to do it. But other songs, like for "Your Love," that solo I always play that exactly how it is on the recording because I really like the way that turned out.
S: One thing I really like about your soloing is how they begin. They all start in really attention grabbing ways. I think it's the first one, it just fades in. It's looming.
C: In the "Ghost Man" solo? The one that sounds all vibey?
S: Yeah, it's like a wave coming or something.
C: Yeah. Love that. I'm obsessed with that solo, I think it's amazing.
S: "It's Only You" is a great solo. Different feeling, but also starts off, it's that bend, right? Is writing a solo just jamming for awhile and seeing what sounds right? Just playing with music over and over? Or is it actually thinking about it?
A: Yeah, it depends. I do both. Most of the time on the subway, I'm thinking, either writing a song or singing a melody to myself weirdly or writing a solo or something. With the "Ghost Man" solo, that was Chloe being like "I want this, this, this, and this," and I was like "Uh, alright" and just threw a bunch of shit against the wall and saw what stuck. That's how that happened. "It's Only You," I don't even know. I don't even remember how that happened. Oh yeah, that took forever to figure it out.
C: For me, I solo on one of Alex's, one of mine, and the cover. What I do, I play the chords into Logic and put it on a loop and play over and over and over. Eventually, I'll be like "Ok, I want to do this riff towards the end, this towards the beginning, maybe this riff in the middle." It's fun. I'll do that for hours, I love playing.
S: What kind of guitars do you have?
C: Include the names.
A: My main guitar is Aphrodite. She is a Gibson ES335 copy that I got the summer after my sophomore year in college. I worked at a guitar repair shop. That guy made guitars and also takes bodies and improves them. He got this really solid, really nice ES335 hollowbody body, with a nice neck. He replaced the tuning heads, replaced the pickups, put some really nice pickups in there. That's pretty much it, but it just sounds really, really nice. It's a Fusion Blues, I don't even know if it has a model name. That's my main guitar. My other guitar is Jessica, an Epiphone Les Paul. Then my acoustic guitar is named Miley.
C: Obviously. My main guitar is Loch Ness, she is a sea monster green. It is an American Standard Tele. Love Teles. Then my backup guitar, White Lightning, that was my first electric guitar that my parents ever got me. I was 11. It's very broken down, I think it was one of the first Mexis they ever produced. At least that's what the guy at one guitar shop told me when I brought it in. I have another really weird guitar, it is a Pantera by Westone, a Japanese company. We call that one Red Thunder. It is completely unusable at this moment. But we're going to get it set up. It looks like a real metal shredder guitar. We also love pedals in this band, by the way.
A: Especially Chloe.
S: Who would you love to play with?
C: Jack White. Right? Is that right?
A: No, it's wrong (laughter). Try again. I'd love to go on tour with Haim, that would be my dream band right now. I would love to jam with them. Yeah, Jack White. Dan Auerbach.
C: Yeah. I'd play with Deap Vally. Alabama Shakes – Brittany Howard, I'd jam with her. She'd be awesome.
A: I'd like to sit in a room with Dr. Luke or Max Martin, one of those really big pop producers. That would be really fun. I'd like to jam with Dr. Luke by sitting in a room and watching him move knobs.