Interview by Catherine Rolwes
The feel-good indie pop band Gold Motel, which played The Firebird last weekend, has perfected a sun-drenched California sound that’s surprising from a group originating in “the windy city.” What originally started as a solo project by Greta Morgan (previously of the The Hush Sound) became a full-fledged band with the addition of Eric Hehr, Dan Duszynski, Matt Minx and Adam Coldhouse. ALIVE chatted with Greta and Eric before the show about their music, the band’s new self-titled album and their Midwestern roots.
ALIVE: What was the original intention, Greta, for the start of this solo project?
Greta Morgan: I guess I just wanted a new musical adventure. I started The Hush Sound back when I was in high school, and it was the only musical experience I ever had, so I wanted to try something new. We’ve all played in different bands so Gold Motel is essentially made up of three different bands from Chicago. Every experience is different, but I think making our album together is easy because we work well together and we’ve known each other a long time. So, in that sense, it’s a good fit.
ALIVE: Do you have any plans to check out the sights while you’re here in St. Louis?
GM: Hopefully. Some of our friends have been telling us non-stop about the City Museum so I think we should go!
ALIVE: The new album is a little more melancholy than the first. Was that the original objective, or just a natural happening?
GM: With “Summer House,” I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to make this album feel like how summer feels when you are a kid; have it be really bright and joyful. With this album, we didn’t have a specific vision so much. We didn’t want to carve it out ahead of time. We wanted to just let the songs create the album.
ALIVE: How does a Midwestern band achieve such a sunny, coastal sound?
Eric Hehr: The original source material for Gold Motel, which was on the EP that came out before the “Summer House” album, was experienced being away in L.A. for a year. That was kind of the common vision for the project and for the sound and everything. So going into it, instead of just writing whatever types of songs we wanted to write, there was this overarching West Coast, Southern California vibe to everything. Even the song “Safe In L.A.” still had to be changed and reworked. We call it “Gold Motelifying” it so it fits within that sound.
ALIVE: Do you think your Midwest roots influence your music at all?
GM: I think being from Chicago just affects the way that we work together. We’re Midwesterners in the sense that we’re super respectful and we’re willing to do a lot of hard work and we don’t complain when things get tough. I think we’re more Midwestern in the sense that that is how we approach everything we do, especially music.
EH: I think that in a musical sense, too, it helps us out because there are so many bands from Los Angeles who break out of L.A. and don’t get this peg as being a sunny, West Coast pop band. But us, as a band rooted in Chicago, we do get that peg and I think that’s because it’s an outside-looking-in thing. I’m sure if there was a band who was trying to capture the Chicago sound, they would be much better at doing it apart from Chicago than they would actually being in Chicago. So, we’re able to soak up all these stereotypes on a musical level of genres that are associated with that area, because we are not necessarily there—we just have reference material to work with.
ALIVE: What song is your favorite on the new album?
GM: I think my favorite song is “Counter Clockwise.” I love Eric’s guitar playing and I love the production Dan did. It was a song I was about to toss out until Dan was like, “No, this is a good idea. We need to use it.” And it just happened in a really, really natural way.
EH: I can’t say I have a favorite song, but there is a song on the album called “Always One Step Ahead.” I’m happy with the way it turned out because that was the one that I did not like at all when we were working on it. And now, listening to all the songs on the album, that one is the one that sticks out as being one of the more solid tracks.
ALIVE: Speaking from the home of the Cardinals, I must ask: Cubs or White Sox?
GM: Cubs. It’s so superficial, though, because I just like their uniforms and stadium better.
ALIVE: So you have just released your second album. What’s next?
GM: We’re playing some shows right now, and beyond that, we’re hoping to be on tour opening for somebody we are fans of. That’s kind of the big dream for every artist our size.
Check out goldmotel.com for some sample tracks, videos and to see where the band is headed next.