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

With one recording project down the tubes, Solid Gold recruited their friend Ryan Olcott (Mystery Palace) to helm the new project, and the resulting album, Bodies of Water, is a masterpiece of songwriting and recording. There's a pent-up frustration that finds its release amid throbbing bass lines, tremolos of synth effects, and lyrics about resentment and rebirth. Even the titles of the tracks ("Get Over It," "Calm Down," "Who You Gonna Run To?") speak to the band's collective experience, both personal and professional, with Coulter sighing and singing lines like "I don't think its wrong/Getting a little revenge in a song" and "It wasn't like you loved me anyhow."

Bodies of Water isn't an angry record—it's a far cry from the angst of dirty grunge or the agony of hyperemotive emo—but between the dance beats and dreamscape sequences there is a sincerity that is rare in their style of electro-pop music. At a show where the crowd is singing along to Solid Gold's songs, there's a palpable feeling of camaraderie among even the strangers in the audience. Everyone feels the same pain, and everyone just wants to forget about it and dance their cares away to a pop song.

Since the record came out at the end of last year, Solid Gold's lives have been something of a whirlwind. They've been to Europe and back, networking their way through London and Reykjavik, which led them to a manager in London and then one in New York. They've become the most-played local band on the Current, and were handpicked to open this year's Rock the Garden with the Decemberists, Calexico, and Yeasayer. Their two latest headlining hometown gigs, at First Avenue (where they'll return this weekend) and the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, sold out or came close to selling out. And if their most recent venture to New York is any indication, their upcoming plans to tour the U.S. will be met with similar success.

The night after their Brooklyn Bowl show, the band is scheduled to play Littlefield, a small community-arts space in Park Slope. The club is a step down from the expansive Brooklyn Bowl—the performance room is cramped and boomy, with concrete walls and a small stage—but it's still a big gig. New music site Noisevox.org, spearheaded by former MTV News anchor John Norris, is filming the evening as part of a lengthy profile of the band, and Norris himself is conducting an in-depth interview with the three core members of the group before they play.

While Coulter, Locher, and Hurlburt are whisked to a side room for their interview, I sit down with drummer Adam Peterson (who the band calls "Sticks") and slide guitarist Shon Troth.

"The first time I played with them, it was a sold-out show at the Varsity," says Troth. "We played at midnight. So right away I was thinking, 'This is going to be a wild ride.'"

Both Peterson and Troth have been playing with Solid Gold for over a year now, and each adds a unique element to the live show. Troth sits in the back, hunched over a slide guitar in his lap, his long black hair and beard covering most of his face, while Peterson adds a visual aspect with his live drumming, accompanying the prerecorded, computerized drumbeats with snare hits and arm flails.

"It's like they turn on the Adam and Shon machines and say, 'more' or 'less,'" Peterson jokes.

"It's really neat. There's a lot of trust," says Troth. He grins, shaking his head. "I'm looking forward to what happens next."

  

BACK IN MINNEAPOLIS, THE group's three core members are chatting over coffee at the restaurant where Coulter works as a line cook. Despite the frills of their new Green Label Sound partnership and the fact that they just played a high-profile gig at one of the biggest music-industry feeding frenzies of the year, the three seem remarkably down-to-earth, honest, and realistic about their place in the music circus.

"I think all of our unreasonable expectations were beaten out of our heads by the machinations of the music industry," Locher says. "We've been shit on, lied to, taken advantage of...."

"So much smoke in our ass," Coulter adds.

"We've scrapped two whole records," Locher says. "That's enough to make a lot of bands throw in the towel. We've had fights where we've said we'd never talk to each other again. On the other side of the token, we've spent a week in Reykjavik, and gone to London three times, and Sweden and Denmark, and New York four times a year for the past three years."

"You start to realize the music industry has no fucking idea—blogs or no blogs. It's just a crapshoot. It's like, you start to find major flaws in certain things. The way things move through this weird maze, it doesn't seem like there's any logic behind it. So we just try to step aside and keep going."

"None of us ever set out to be this month's buzz band," adds Hurlburt.

"Who knows?" Coulter laughs. "We might scrap everything in three years and just be a three-piece harp trio or something."

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