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Los Angeles-based, alternative, electronic/post-rock duo Native Gold strikes it rich on its debut EP, the atmospheric, anxious, agitated – and accomplished – A Man We All Admire. The 3-track oeuvre blends the best elements of restless electronic music and post-rock moodiness. Michael Weeks and Lee Young self-released the EP on July 5th. Michael kindly took some time out to reply to the following questions.
Hello Michael! I’m over the moon about your recent debut EP, A Man We All Admire, and I can’t wait to hear what you produce next. I’ve been trying to find out more about you guys online, but you seem as mysterious as your music. I’m not even sure which of you is the vocalist and which of you is the instrumentalist in the band! Can you go over the basics first, like who plays what, if you both share songwriting duties, and if you mind your music being compared to the electronic side of Radiohead many times (at least by me)?
MICHAEL: Hey Jen, thanks so much! We’re really glad you enjoyed the EP. Mysterious is a good thing, right? I do the singing, but aside from that, Lee and I share nearly every other aspect of creating the music. We do each have our fortes, but it’s truly a collaboration. It’s a hard thing to describe, it’s like we share the same brain when it comes to the music.
We don’t mind the comparison at all. We love Radiohead. We grew up on Radiohead, so it’s a compliment, but we do want to be our own thing. It will be our job with future material to separate ourselves from that a bit. We are still figuring out our sound and evolving as artists. We want to hear new sounds that don’t remind us of other things immediately. So far, that’s been a real challenge. The new music we are working on right now, we hope will take people to a new and different place. Our goal is to make things that both for us and other people seem alien, but draw you in.
You dropped A Man We All Admire on July 5th as a self-release. What has the reception to it been like and are you satisfied with delivering it to the world yourselves?
MICHAEL: The response so far has been very positive. The choice to self-release was a pretty simple one. The tools available for indie musicians these days make it easy to get your music out there. It’s sort of a blessing and a curse though. Everyone and their grandma can release music at any time with ease, which is exciting because there is a lot of great music being released without any sort of label or representation. The unfortunate flip side is there is so much music out there, so cutting above the noise is probably harder than ever. We’d like to think that good music will always find its way to people sooner or later.
I noticed in the EP credits that for epic EP ender “Begun to Begin” someone named Rollin Hunt is listed as a co-writer/performer/producer. Is Rollin a part-time member of the band or is his contribution a one-off?
MICHAEL: Rollin is a friend of ours and a very talented musician in his own right. It was just a one-off, but we would gladly collaborate with him again. We had a lot of fun with that tune. We were actually working on another song that didn’t make the cut. Out of that track we stumbled upon this gritty bass loop and from that, “Begun to Begin” was born.
You actually did enlist a few other musicians to add their specialties to the mix, with Matthew DeRubertis adding bass to “Fake the Smile” and Julio Tavarez on additional guitar and Eric Urban on saxophone for lead single “Fickle”. How did you connect with these artists?
MICHAEL: Most of our collaboration is with friends. We have a very unique process that requires a certain level of trust. We will send out a track in any given stage of production to one of our friends and have them track whatever they feel in the moment. We will then surgically rip apart their performance and then reconstruct it into something that oftentimes does not reflect the original performance. We then cross our fingers and pray that our friends don’t hate us.
Speaking of friendship, You and Lee have been friends for a long time and from what I understand you were already creating music when you were both in high school in Ohio. Were you just messing around with music at that point or did you try to refine your sound and put audio samples online?
MICHAEL: We’ve been friends longer than we care to admit and a majority of that time has been spent making music together. We’ve always taken the music very seriously and released a few EPs with the band we were in at the time. It’s great to be able to look back at that stuff and see how we have progressed as artists.
What sparked you mutual decision to move to L.A. and form Native Gold?
MICHAEL: We actually moved to LA at separate times. We had both put music on the back burner to pursue other things. Lee moved out here to attend film school and I moved here after audio school to work in a studio. Through a serious of events that are too long to list out here, we rekindled the musical flame.
Why did you choose L.A. as your base and not other U.S. musical hotspots like NYC, Athens, Austin, Portland, Seattle, or Nashville?
MICHAEL: Both of the industries we desired to work in were prominently in Southern California. It’s also quite beautiful here. Although we do both miss the clouds and rain, for better or worse, it’s home for now.
I totally dig your moody sonics and brooding vocals and the precarious balance you achieve between melody and dissonance on your tunes. There’s a feeling of unrest – sonically and psychologically – that runs through your music. Where does this disequilibrium come from?
MICHAEL: Thank you! I love melodies and the way you can squeeze out different emotions by coloring it with harmony. I love that interplay, that teetering on the edge of destruction sort of feeling. The right amount of dissonance can have an emotionally stirring effect. Lee and I are always exploring that. We’ve always been interested in experimental music, but have also been very interested in pop music. I think one of our goals was to use some of the palettes you find in experimental music, but use the human voice and a strong sense of melody with that. A lot of times we were trying to find the melody in real-life sounds or in the sounds we stumbled upon while using our synthesizers.
Would you say A Man We All Admire is a reflection of the socio-politico-economic climate in the U.S., or are your songs aimed at the more personal level of the individual and the psyche?
MICHAEL: I would say the latter, but some larger picture stuff inherently seeps in there. We like to leave just enough ambiguity for the listener to develop their own interpretation.
Your presence in the online world is very spectral, with little info about yourselves posted at your Facebook page. Is this intentional on your part? Do you wish for the music to speak for itself… so to speak?
MICHAEL: We do want the music to speak for itself, especially at first. It seems incredibly vain to assume people want to know every detail about you before hearing your music. There is not a band photo or bio in the world that can turn shit music into good music, so we tend to spend less time on those things and more time on the music. We probably need to get better at marketing ourselves in the future, but no point in putting the carriage before the horse.
Out of curiosity, which decade/era of music that you grew up in has affected you the most as a fan and/or artist?
MICHAEL: That we grew up in? That doesn’t leave us very many decades to choose from. We were 90s children, but that’s definitely not our favorite decade. Frankly, there is a lot exciting music being made right now.
Have you performed in a live setting yet? If so, what was the experience like?
MICHAEL: The focus has been on producing the music, so we have not yet shifted gears into the live stuff just yet. Unless there becomes an immediate demand for it, I think we’ll produce more music first.
Besides Native Gold, what other stuff do you have going on? Do you go your separate ways and only meet up when it’s about the band?
MICHAEL: We do both work full-time jobs, so we set a schedule for the music. We have been meeting on a consistent basis for about 3 years now in our nasty, little studio in North Hollywood. The goal for the future would be to devote more and more time to the music.
What can we expect from you next? Are you currently crafting your next EP or maybe album? I hope so!
MICHAEL: We are currently in the process of working on more music. We may release a single in the near future, followed by another EP. We’ll make sure you know about it when it happens.
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