I’ll get this out of the way before I get too deep into this review: I was a huge fan of the band Bear Vs. Shark. I think they’re criminally underrated, and when they broke up we lost a band that had immense potential not only in the “aggressive” genre of music they played, but in independent scene as well. They left two great records behind them, and the members all seemed (for the most part) to drop off my personal radar. So, when I heard that singer Marc Paffi and drummer Brandon Moss had a new band that leaned a bit more towards indie-rock than post-hardcore, naturally I got excited.
The band’s debut record Of Gold proves to be a balancing act for Paffi, Moss and company. They aren’t completely shedding their post-hardcore roots but they’ve really focused more on the elements of indie rock experimentation that BVS touched on. Some of the songs rock just as hard as BVS’s “Terrorhawk” (“Heaven Has A Heater”) and some show the band trying out the banjo (“The Hustle,” which has been garnering Modest Mouse comparisons all over the web). The uninitiated listener might think the record is uneven and scatter-shot — which to some extent it is — but that’s all in Bars Of Gold’s modus operandi. The songs as a whole work, in my opinion, thanks to Marc Paffi’s unique vocal style. He’s all over the map with yelps, screams, and rapid-fire vocals. It’s an acquired taste for sure, but I love it. Of course Brandon Moss’s drumming is as tight and complex as ever, too.
Of Gold‘s songs aren’t perfect (“Birds” doesn’t really get great in my opinion until the halfway mark) but taken as a band stretching out their legs, and as a teaser of things to come from a promising new band, it works and is a blast to listen to. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if we see a flat-out brilliant record from Bars of Gold in the coming years. For now, I’m going to listen to the hell out of Of Gold.
Drummer Brandon Moss was kind enough to answer a few quick questions I had via. e-mail, and here’s what he had to say about their new record, the band’s influences, and more:
For anyone who doesn’t know, how did Bars Of Gold originally come to formation?
Everyone, sans Marc, were in a band together called Wildcatting. Marc was around, but not in the band at all. Marc & I were jamming for a few years (after he was done with BVS) & I was also in Wildcatting. Slowly, we began to coalesce both projects in late 2008. We all made a decision to put the other things aside and start something new, and voilà! – Bars of Gold.
Most people (myself included) have used Bear Vs. Shark as a jumping off point when they write about Bars of Gold. Do you feel like you want to get out of the shadow of BVS, or do you see it as a good thing that brings more attention to the new band?
It’s a bit of both.
We’re totally fine with the initial attraction, for some, being that a few of us were in BVS, and that is a good thing. Although, I would hope those same people would realize and be satisfied that this is a different band altogether. People probably aren’t going to like it if they’re looking for BVS part 2, but it’s OK if they don’t. We hope people dig it, but it doesn’t really matter because we definitely do.
The Hustle has been getting a lot of Modest Mouse comparisons on the internet, because of the stomp-along beat and anthemic nature of the track. How do you guys feel about that?
Just fine. People are always going to compare things to what they generally know and that’s cool. Personally we were going more for a funky-Tom Waitsy feel – which, I’m pretty sure Modest Mouse have been doing for awhile now.
What was the recording process like for the debut?
All in all, great. We did much of it ourselves, and much of the recording went fairly quickly. Mixing & life in general slowed the process a bit, but it turned out great in the end.
In the past with BVS, it was stated that bands like The Clash, Fugazi, etc. were influences. What bands would you say were an influence on the Bars Of Gold record?
A lot of those same influences are there for all of us, but there’s been a lot of time between then & now, and all of our record collections have drastically grown since then. I should say that if you asked anyone else in that band this question, the specifics would be pretty different.
I’d say generally speaking, some the last couple Tom Waits records & The Talking Heads. There’s definitely a Can/Faust/krautrock influence in there as well. Some of the songs started kind of Spoon -like, but quickly morphed as we added ideas. A couple of us were really into the Harry Smith Anthology, which no doubt informed some of our ideas to change things up with instruments and type of songs.
Similarly, was it a specific choice to introduce some more eclectic instrumentation — like the banjo on The Hustle — with Bars of Gold, or was it a fairly natural progression?
Yes to both. We did make a conscious effort to get as many sounds as possible with what we have, and Scotty & Ben just happen to have a Mandolin and Banjo. Although, it was a pretty natural progression on the writing end of things.
Scotty & Ben, out of all of us especially, try and play anything they can get their hands on. They are always getting together and coming up with fun little dittys. The Hustle, specifically, was an outgrowth of those guys just messing around with loops.
Finally, any plans for some Canadian tour dates, or is it too far off to tell?
It’s not too far off, but we don’t have anything specific yet planned. But it’s most definitely on the list of things to do.
Thanks a million to Brandon Moss for taking the time to answer these questions for TWM, and be sure to go check out Bars of Gold’s debut Of Gold out now!