Gold Motel Interview
Interview by: Dennis M. Kelly / Photo by Matt Wignall
DK: Thanks for taking the time with us, Eric! It is great to catch up with you from our last interview with you at Lollapalooza. How has everyone been since then?
ERIC: Since Lollapalooza, we’ve been working on finishing our second album in Chicago. We did a handful of shows with They Might Be Giants in between tracking sessions, which were incredible; beautiful theaters and incredibly attentive fans. Currently, we’re putting the finishing touches on the album before we head into the mixing stages. We’re hoping for a late March release date.
DK: How was the Lollapalooza experience for you and the band?
ERIC: In terms of performance, Lollapalooza was probably one of our better sets. I don’t know if that was due to the level of excitement, or being able to look out from the stage and see this gorgeous view of the South Loop skyline, but there was a lot of synergy on stage. Being able to play a festival of that size in our hometown was a bit surreal.
We spent a lot of our time in the press tent, so we weren’t able to catch all the acts we wanted to see, but we got to meet a lot of great industry folk, as well as other rad musicians we look up to and respect. I spent a lot of time awkwardly staring at Grace Potter. She’s a gorgeous gal.
DK: LOL, indeed! Did you make any new connections and friends while you were there?
ERIC: We met a lot of great contacts while we were there, but we also saw a lot of old faces. A few photographers and writers that I grew up with in Chicago we’re all hanging out backstage doing photo shoots and interviews, which was so rad to see.
These are kids that I use to hang out with at suburban house parties when I was in high school, and fast forward a few years and we’re all at Lollapalooza, still pursuing our passions and actively working towards a career in them. It was very moving to see everyone finally getting to the places they’ve been working towards.
DK: Tell me about it, we were among some good friends out there too and it was definitely a great time! Tell me a little bit more about the They Might Be Giants tour…
ERIC: They Might Be Giants have the most supportive fans out of any band we’ve ever toured with. We’ve never done a tour playing to an audience primarily made up of a middle-aged demographic, so we weren’t sure how the crowd would respond to us, but every show was a positive experience. We met a lot of fans at the merch table, and everyone told us they had seen They Might Be Giants upwards of five times.
Some fans had seen them somewhere between fifteen and twenty times over the past twenty-five years. Its difficult to find a fan base that is that dedicated, especially in the current musical climate.
In terms of the band, They Might Be Giants are prodigious musicians. I think they’re skill and talent is often overshadowed by the novelty of their songs, but those guys can really rip, even when they are singing about superheroes and going to the grocery store. Very inspiring and knowledgeable people to be around. Hopefully we cross paths with them again in the near future!
DK: Now you’re playing an all ages show at Lincoln Hall on the 23rd with Deserters and Chaperone, is this your first Chicago show since Lollapalooza?
ERIC: The December 23rd show at Lincoln Hall will be our first show in Chicago since Lollapalooza. We try not to overplay here because it’s our hometown. We’re very excited to be playing with other Chicago-based bands, and we’re big fans of both Deserters and Chaperone.
Deserters are a band to keep on your radar. I recently saw them at The Beat Kitchen, and they’re a great sounding live band; really well crafted power-pop tunes. I expect to hear their name a lot in the future.
DK: We’ll have to schedule an interview with them sometime soon then too! Do you have anything special lined up for this Lincoln Hall show?
ERIC: We’ll be debuting a few new tunes that we’ve never played before. It’ll be interesting to see how the audience will react to them in comparison to the material from Summer House.
Other than that, maybe we’ll throw in a cover, or a mid-set psyched-out laser light show, or Greta will rip up a picture of the pope, or I’ll light my guitar on fire…. We’ve been so busy with recording the album that we haven’t had a lot of time to focus on the Lincoln Hall show, but we’ll have some something ostentatious planned come showtime.
DK: We very much look forward to it, it’s been too long and we’re excited to have you back! Now, going way back to your personal history, where are you from?
ERIC: I was born and raised in Elmhurst, IL.
DK: What was your childhood like growing up?
ERIC: I was fortunate to discover my passion for music early on in life. I grew up playing the drums, and I started playing in bands when I was in middle school. My home life was often unsettling, and music supplied me with both a productive purpose and an escape.
For the most part, I can’t complain. I had a lot of obstacles and personal issues to overcome, but who doesn’t? I always had a roof over my head and enough money to go to the movies on the weekends and buy records and such.
DK: When did each of you start playing guitar?
ERIC: I started playing guitar when I was sixteen. At the time, I was drumming in a band, and I wanted to be a bigger part of the songwriting process. So I started messing around on the guitar and learning a few basic chord positions, watching videos of The Strokes and trying to follow Albert Hammond Jr.’s hands – that kind of thing.
I eventually learned enough chords where I could form progressions, and from there I started writing songs, which was a much more gratifying process compared to playing drums. I still consider the guitar a songwriting tool before I consider it my instrument. I’m still figuring out how to play the damn thing.
DK: Did you take any lessons?
ERIC: I took a few guitar lessons from my cousin’s uncle when I first started playing. Luckily, we both shared a strong love for The Romantics, The Knack, Off Broadway, Big Star – lot’s of great Americana power-pop music.
Most of those lessons consisted of figuring out how to play powerpop tunes from the 70’s instead of learning scales and such. I still don’t know the name of most of the chords I play, and I only know two scales. Can’t read sheet music either. My motto is “If it sounds good, it sounds good, and if it sounds bad, it sounds bad.” You don’t have to have a formal technical background to know the difference; you just have to have taste.
DK: What have been some of the proudest achievements that each of you have accomplished in your musical career?
ERIC: I played The Metro for the first time when I was like 16 or 17, which was a huge deal for me. Playing The Metro was a goal I had been working towards since I was in middle school; so to play it as a junior in high school was a huge accomplishment for me.
I also always wanted to play the UK, and we recently went overseas on tour with Hellogoodbye and got to play everywhere from Glasgow to Manchester. Our show in London was sold out, which was pretty incredible. Other accomplishments include Lollapalooza, playing with artists like Kate Nash and They Might Be Giants.
The hardest thing about being in a band (besides picking the band name and deciding on covers) is keeping a band together, so the fact that we’re still writing and playing music together is the biggest accomplishment to me.
DK: Is there an “official” philosophy for Gold Motel and if so, what would that be?
ERIC: Greta and I have talked about how the band should be like a shark. If a shark stops swimming, it dies. We always want the band to be moving and progressing forward. So far, we’ve had a really active two years, so hopefully the bands career continues to develop and evolve.
DK: And I am sure it will the way the band is going, keep it up! What has been the best communication tool that the band has used in keeping in touch with your fan base?
ERIC: Twitter and Facebook seem to be our most powerful and accessible tools. We try to utilize as much social media as possible in order to keep in contact with our fans, and generate as much media content as we can.
I think artists today take social media for granted. If you told a band in 1976 that one day there would be a way for them to develop a fan base and expose their music to thousands of people without having to leave their home, they would be blown away. Without having to tour around the country in a bus or sign shifty contracts with major labels, you can reach a gigantic audience and launch your band. The fact that you can do that all from your desk is pretty outrageous.
DK: No kidding. I would have to say the tools out there make it easy, but now it is more about being able to get heard with so many bands out there and I think that is where street teams can definitely help. How much help has your street team been for you? Has it helped more locally or more with out of state or out of the country gigs?
ERIC: We have some great street team members who are always pushing for the band and promoting our shows. The fact that fans are taking time out of their day to hang up posters and pass out flyers for us is so humbling, and I am endlessly grateful for all their help.
DK: How often are you able to keep in touch with everyone?
ERIC: We try to interact with everyone as much as possible on a weekly basis. Depending on what the band is doing, our interaction fluctuates. If we’re on tour, we tend to post more photo/video updates than we would if we were at home, simply because we’re excited to be encountering new places and people.
Currently, we’re back home in Chicago working on the album, so we’ve been posting video updates on our TwitVid account (http://www.twitvid.com/videos/goldmotel) so fans can watch the tracking progress straight from the studio.
DK: I think that is very important and healthy for a band’s relationship with their fans to keep them in the loop and the video updates really accomplish so much more in so much less time. How have your music videos helped the band? Have they helped further define the focus of the song? Have they allowed you all to deepen the expression and overall feel of the songs?
ERIC: The director of all of our music videos, Eddie O’Keefe, is my cousin. He’s an incredibly talented writer and director who should have been a musician. He can’t play an instrument, but he understands music on a guttural level, which is more than I can say for most people who do play an instrument.
His ability to relate sonic quality to aesthetic quality is awe-inspiring. The music videos that he has directed for Gold Motel have helped shape the visual diagram for the material off of “Summer House” – that bittersweet sense of nostalgia and youthful vitality.
DK: With 2012 on the way, what are some of your New Years Resolutions? Did you manage to keep this years resolutions?
ERIC: We accomplished much more in 2011 than I expected. At the beginning of the year, our focus was landing a great national tour as a support slot, which we were able to do with Hellogoodbye.
But we also were able to tour the UK, play with artists like OK GO and Cold War Kids, play a bunch of awesome festivals including Lollapalooza, and write some of our strongest material yet. 2011 has been a whirlwind of activity for us, and I hope that level of energy continues into 2012. We’ve got to be like a shark! Got to keep moving!
DK: With 2011 being such a great year for the band, do you think you’ll be able to top it next year?
ERIC: There’s no way to know, but I think a lot rides on how people respond to the new album. We spent all of 2011 supporting “Summer House,” and we’ll most likely spend most of 2012 supporting the new album.
This time around, we have our infrastructure in place and have already developed a core fanbase. “Summer House” was finished before we really had a game plan: we have no management, no publicity, and no fanbase. We kind of put everything together after the fact. This time around, we have all the necessary pieces in place, so I think the release will be more effective. I just hope people dig the tunes.
DK: How could they not? You’ve got a great sound! What are some of the immediate plans for the band and what do you have planned for long-term goals too?
ERIC: Short Term Plans: Finish the album and start gearing up for SXSW 2012. Long Term Plans: Stay a band.
DK: Once again, let’s plug the Lincoln Hall show and remind everyone to bring a toy to donate to the Toys for Tots organization and save $5.00 at the door. Anything else you want to mention?
ERIC: To keep up with the band and all of our endeavors, check out:
DK: Thank you so much for your time, it’s really great to see your band’s accomplishments and I hope for even bigger accomplishments to come! Take care!
ERIC: Thank you!
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Gold Motel Biography
The Chicago-based quintet originated in warmer climates, Los Angeles in the summer of 2009. Greta Morgan (The Hush Sound) returned from a year in Southern California to her hometown of Chicago, bringing with her what would become the five-song self-titled Gold Motel EP.
Collaborating with her friend Dan Duzsynzski (This Is Me Smiling), recording began on a set of sharp, sunny pop songs with a decidedly West Coast outlook. Working with Duzsynski, Morgan realized that her pre-conceived solo project could grow into a full band effort.
Through the fall of 2009, Gold Motel transformed into a full-fledged band, adding Chicago music veterans Matt “Minx” Schuessler, Adam Kaltenhauser (both of This is Me Smiling) and Eric Hehr (The Yearbooks).
The Chicago super group played together live for the first time in December of 2009 with a sold out headlining debut at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen, coinciding with the release of the Gold Motel EP. Since then, Gold Motel has headlined shows from Los Angeles toNew York (and many between) in support of their debut full-length studio album Summer House.