Eric Ronick and Than Luu’s experience coming together as Black Gold and putting out a debut album probably falls along the lines of the atypical. There were no bowling alley gigs or free house concerts; no obscure or non-existent musical background; and no uninterrupted, yearlong writing/recording session. Instead, Black Gold’s first tour was in support of Panic At The Disco at stadium-sized venues. As for their credits, Ronick has frequently played on tour with Panic as well as with the band Ambulance Ltd., while Luu has worked with artists like M. Ward and Rachel Yamagata. And their debut album, Rush, was largely written and recorded between touring stints and collaborations with other artists.
That atypical beginning brought forth an atypical release and a generous supply of buzz for the young band. The Aquarian spoke to Ronick and Luu about Black Gold’s new album, live shows and future plans.
So about Rush, your debut album—it’s coming out in February. Can you describe its sound a little?
Eric: I think it’s hard for anybody really to describe their sound, but the thing that makes that question a little bit tricky for Black Gold is that our taste is really, really broad. We like so many different styles of music from all sorts of different time periods, and I really think we incorporate that a lot into our music. Whereas I don’t really think of us as genre-hopping, it’s sort of an all-inclusive style of music, and there are no limits and no rules to what we can bring into the music stylistically. Ultimately you end up with a really eclectic mix of a bunch of different styles that Than and I are just really into.
Than: I mean, ultimately, I think the album starts out more produced with a lot of interesting synthesizer sounds and a little bit of program drums in conjunction with a live band playing with that. But then it moves towards the more organic and then you start to lose all the little bells and whistles from the synths and the drum machines, and then it becomes more of just a straight-up band. Occasionally you hear strings still peeking in and organic sounds, and eventually, by the end of the record, it’s just piano and voice.
So it starts off more dense with production, and then it just devolves into just piano and voice, which is actually how we write the songs: Piano and voice, and guitar and voice. That’s how I like to see it—like an arc that devolves into just pure voice and piano.
So as you guys were saying before, you’ve both worked with a variety of other artists. Do you think listeners who know your background or are fans of other artists you’ve worked with will be surprised by what they hear, or see where it’s coming from?
Eric: That’s a good question. I don’t know if they would be surprised, per se. I think that the bands that we’ve both worked with are kind of eclectic as is, but I do think our sound is very, very different than any of the bands we’ve ever played with. In that sense, I guess it could be a bit of a surprise, but I think if anybody knew who we were or what we did, I don’t think it would surprise them at all.
Than: I would like to answer that by saying that, for me on my end, like for example, M. Ward fans, depending on how open they are, they might not be into a song like ‘Detroit.’ It’s the first song on the album, and it’s more produced with modern elements in it like drum machines and synth; but ostensibly, I think M. Ward fans are a little bit more savvy than most pop music fans because they’re really into the song itself and the lyrics themselves so they might be into that.
I think at the very outset, they might be more into a song like ‘Silver,’ which is one of the more organic songs just with acoustic guitars, drums and regular instruments, but it’s really all about the songs. If you took ‘Detroit,’ which we actually do, and strip it down to voice, guitar and piano, it works, at least for us in our heads (sorry about the traffic sounds). I feel like maybe some of them will be turned off by the production, but if they really listened, they would hear the song come through, and when we do ‘Detroit’ or a song that is more produced on the album (we’ll sometimes do radio shows or little T.V. shows where we do stripped down versions of the songs), I think they’d be into that. They would definitely see, ‘Oh okay, wait a minute, it’s not just glitzy production, there’s a real song behind all that stuff.’