With its blend of innovative sounds and production techniques, combined with uncommon lyrical depth, Goldtop’s full-length debut album You Possess Me formally introduces Canada’s newest dynamic musical duo.
Although Alice Kos and Everett LaRoi have had notable music careers on their own, their long-standing friendship became a full-blown collaboration by the time they officially joined forces in late 2012.
They quickly laid the foundation for Goldtop’s avant folk-rock sound from there, shifting between shadowy dream-pop, crunchy distorted rock and acoustic reverie. The vicious guitar-driven “Rip It Off” and the Laurel Canyon-esque ballad “Even Tonight” illustrate these extremes.
Goldtop was created in the wake of Kos’s solo album. You Missed It All (produced by LaRoi) when, after a run of duo shows, the pair decided to explore writing songs together with the wide array of tools at their disposal.
Kos and LaRoi acknowledge the influence of L.A.-based singer/songwriter/producer Marvin Etzioni (Lone Justice, Thee Holy Brothers) during these early stages of Goldtop. It was while touring eastern Canada with Etzioni that the pair saw the potential of what they could on their own, in large measure because of Etzioni’s unfailingly gripping performances. “Goldtop” was also Etzioni’s nickname for Kos, which they ultimately decided would make a great band name.
Goldtop plays the Calgary Folk Festival on Sunday, July 30 and launches You Possess Me in Edmonton on Sunday, Aug. 6 at the Needle Vinyl Tavern. For more info go to goldtop.ca
What makes You Possess Me different from other records you've made?
Kos: The use of drum machines and synths, heavier doses of electronics, way more harmonies and—probably most notably—a sharing of the songwriting and band-fronting.
LaRoi: I’ve never been in a duo like this before so on a personal level it’s fresh and new for me. There is a rich tradition of duos in popular music so there are plenty of ideas to draw on, but it is also a very contemporary format with new frontiers to explore.
We love using drum machines live, but producing the music from within the frame of an analog drum machine loop presents different challenges than playing with a drummer (which is usually how I’ve worked in the past).
There is a certain lean quality to the duo with the drum machine/sampler format that Alice and I find really appealing. As it turns out, we did end up getting the exquisite Mike Silverman of Kacy and Clayton and Old Reliable to play drums on a few tracks as well.
What song(s) best capture your overall vision for the album?
Kos: I think the first single, “The Flood,” helped us to develop and “define” our sound.
LaRoi: Yes, “The Flood” was one of the first arrangements that we finished for the album but it ended up informing us as to a possible sonic direction we could take as a group. I was messing around with an iPad based drum machine app called the DM-1 that has samples of different iconic drum machines and found a beat that worked well with the tremolo guitar chords and Alice’s vocal melody. Alice had started to collect some different keyboards and used an Italian-made Elka electronic piano to lay down an arpeggiated rhythm figure. Then she added a Micro-Korg for a sine wave-like bass line. All of a sudden we had this sonic tapestry going that sounded really great but also sounded distinctive, at least to our ears. The fact that it was all doable at live shows was really important to us.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
Kos: Saturday mornings with my mother in my elementary school days. My dad and older siblings worked on Saturdays, and it was the one day where it was just my mom and I at home. She'd made a mixtape of 50s and 60s hits—I can clearly recall her handwriting on the label: “OLDIES.” We'd dance and sing into makeshift microphones while the aroma of her baking filled the house. It was a hugely cathartic and bonding weekly tradition.
Also, I am not ashamed to say that my first concert was Yanni. I was 14 and it was one of the best nights of my teenage life. I was really into classical music at the time and thought Yanni was, like, really progressive. I worked at McDonalds and couldn't afford to go, but a boy I worked with who had a crush on me said his uncle had two tickets and couldn't go. I agreed to go with him so long as he knew it wasn't a date. I think I largely ignored him all night. I was too enthralled with Yanni. When he took to the stage in his white suit, all glorious Greek god, I recall thinking, “I AM BREATHING THE SAME AIR AS YANNI.”
What do you recall about your first time performing in public?
Kos: It was in church, age 9 or 10. I was to play a song on the piano while the offering plate was being passed around, which usually happened about 30 minutes into the service. Waiting for it to happen was like an eternity in purgatory. My heart was beating so hard and so fast that it was making my whole body rock back and forth against the pew and I was convinced the whole row could feel it. By the time I went up to the piano I thought I was going to pass out. I can't remember whether my performance was any good.
LaRoi: As a kid I sang in the school choir, and played in the school band and so on over the years, but my first real live performance with a band occurred in the early Eighties with my first group Route 66 while I was still in high school. We played songs like “I Can’t Explain,” “For Your Love,” “Brand New Cadillac,”—The Clash version—“In The City” by The Jam, “’Til the End of the Day” by The Kinks and a handful of originals. I was terrified, and I remember it seemed like our 60 minute sets lasted about five seconds!
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
Kos: This changes regularly, but currently it’s “Sing Sing” by Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle.
LaRoi: I’d be okay with having written “The Ship Song” by Nick Cave.