Solid Gold's fantastic voyage: From Twin Cities band to national treasure

After a whirlwind trip to New York, the successful dream-pop band returns to First Avenue

While the new songs leave two different impressions on the listener, they still fall under the general canopy of Solid Gold's aesthetic: crystalline synth parts, danceable yet chilled-out electro beats, and tight pop hooks with memorable melodies. According to members of the band, it's an aesthetic they've been honing for the better part of the last decade, and one they had in mind from the very beginning—but it's taken them several years, a few lineup changes, and a couple of scrapped records to arrive at the distinct sound they now so masterfully employ.

"We started in the fall of 2001," Locher begins.

"Matt and I met in Madison through a mutual friend [Jesse Cohen, who now drums with Tanlines], and we started as a three-piece," Coulter says. "It was kind of our mutual friend's idea. He wanted to start a band. He came up with the name. I wasn't much of a singer at all—I still don't think I'm much of a singer. We were playing disco-punk, grunge. We made a little EP; it was kind of just dirty. We were all learning to do new stuff."

Hurlburt recalls seeing the first incarnation of the band around the same time. "The first time I saw Solid Gold, I thought it was the worst band I had ever seen in my life," he recalls. "To me, it sounded like really bad early-'90s Seattle grunge rock. The drummer was terrible and kept dropping his sticks. I didn't like them, and I didn't want to be friends with them. But I think Matt and I started off on the wrong foot." He laughs, brushing a lock of unkempt, shaggy hair out of eyes. "I don't even remember—they were vague times, because everyone was partying so much."

The band's original drummer left town shortly after recording their first EP in 2002, and Coulter and Locher carried on as a two-piece, incorporating multiple organs and acoustic guitars into an evolving, trance-influenced sound (their previous recordings are kept under lock and key, so we'll have to take their word for it). They tracked a full-length album in the summer of 2003, which was never released, and recorded another EP, Out of Your Mind, in 2004 with guitarist Paulie Heenan.

"We had a good recording process with Paul," says Coulter. "He worked at this studio, and we were all learning together. And that's when I think we fell in love with recording. There's something about experimenting and finding something new, or something you had no idea could happen. I could do it for 20 hours a day."

Heenan moved to New York, and Coulter and Locher were left alone again. Around the same time, Hurlburt showed a renewed interest in the band, whose sound had changed drastically since the first time he had seen them play live. "I liked the record, and I had ideas—I could tell where they were going, and that we would definitely be on the same wavelength," he says. "I was living with Matt, and Zach was always over, and I knew that we clicked on a level, and I could feel that click even before trying to play with them. Even the first time I heard their EP, I was like, 'I need to be in this band.'"

The three musicians formed a tight bond—forged over successful gigs in Madison, late-night parties, and a series of failed romantic relationships—that carried them through a relocation to Minneapolis and a second full-length recording project that was ultimately doomed. It's that bond that kept them together until they could finally make a full-length record they were happy with, and that bond that kept them pushing forward despite the fact that it took them over six years to arrive at their official debut, Bodies of Water.

  

THE DAY AFTER THEIR SHOW AT the Brooklyn Bowl, Solid Gold finally have a little free time to wander around New York. They have another show that night back in Brooklyn, but for the afternoon the only item on the itinerary is a game of ping-pong, two large pizzas, and a case of Budweiser on the 17th floor of a friend's swanky office building.

In between rounds, Coulter and Locher are telling me about their not-so-smooth transition from Madison to Minneapolis.

"We were all in really volatile situations in our personal lives," Locher says. "Our lives were just falling apart. We had all kinds of relationships and baggage from Madison, and finally shit hit the wall and we were just at a breaking point in our lives.... It was three people's lives in a total state of flux."

"We got an offer to go record at a really nice studio for free," Coulter says. "And that ended up being a pretty painful process."

"These other two clowns at IPR [the Institute of Production and Recording] were just ruining our lives," Locher adds. "There was one bad night in the studio where we all just told everyone, 'Fuck you.'"

"The relationship didn't work out," Coulter says politely. "Certain relationships in our life were falling apart at the time, we had moved, things weren't working out, we were broke. It was a hard point, and we made a record that we scrapped. We didn't use any of it. It was so frustrating, because we put so many hours into recording, writing, and we're not using any of it. So after that we just had to regroup. In that time, I'd started writing songs. All this crazy shit was going on in my life, and I just continued writing. We'd get together and write. So we had this whole other batch of songs that just seemed better. So we scrapped the record, and we were just like, let's record these. Let's do it completely different. Let's do it with friends, let's do it in our basement, let's do it in our bathroom, let's do it in my mom's living room, let's do it at Adam's cabin."

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