I interviewed My Gold Mask for innovative pop culture site FruitFlyLife. Click the link to read the article over on FFL and to browse this amazing site. Full interview below.
My Gold Mask has captured the hearts of both the fashion and music world with their fashion noir style and eerie pop strains. Their music has accompanied models on the runways of Fashion Week, and the lovebirds (their married) are ready to electrify stages all over the US with a summer tour that includes a stop at Millennium Park where they will share a bill with Blonde Redhead. After that? My Gold Mask has their sights on touring the UK.
The Chicago based pair, singer / drummer Gretta Rochelle and guitarist Jack Armondo, were kind enough to talk with FruitFlyLife on everything from Italian horror films to becoming Phillip Lim’s muse.
FruitFlyLife: You describe your sound as “extrinsic pop.” Do you feel that creating music is an outer body experience?
Gretta Rochelle: Writing is kind of an outer body experience.
Jack Armondo: For us it means outside of the realm of official pop. We’re looking from a different perspective. We love pop but we’re not interested in making typical pop, we want it to be interesting on other levels.
Gretta: We don’t want to sacrifice our own ideas of art.
What are some extrinsic influences or elements that came into play when recording your EP 1000 Voices?
Jack: It comes from all over: our moods at that point in time, movies, emotions, anything. You’ve got to be open to influence, ready to accept it in — but it’s about inspiration more than influence. We wanted the record to have a lush sound. We were inspired by older groups during the recording process and the record has a thick, murky, feel to it.
Jack, you mentioned inspiration coming from everywhere including movies. Gretta, you grew up on Hindi films and Japanese literature. Do you have any favorite writers and filmmakers?
Gretta: Deepa Mehta is one of my favorite filmmakers. Her films are extremely emotional, and they’re more Hindu than Bollywood. She’s amazing, I watch her whenever possible.
How did you get into watching these films?
Gretta: I used to have a small analog TV with no antenna and the only station we got was this international station that came in and out. They’d play Bollywood all night long including music videos and I would sit there and watch it.
Jack: The reception wasn’t great was it?
Gretta: It was otherworldly, there were no subtitles either, so I would watch it and become completely enthralled. Then I started Netflixing more movies and crossed over to watching more Hindu stuff.
Jack: When you’re seeing the same crap in your country again and again it’s refreshing to dip into different cultures.
Jack you had an interesting childhood growing up both in California and New York City, listening to metal out west and hip-hop on the east coast. How did that experience influence you?
Jack: It influenced me in the way that I keep my mind open; I don’t limit myself to listening to a certain genre. What my friends in LA were listening to was completely different from what my friends in New York were listening to and they probably would have hated each other’s music. So I would go in between different worlds. Growing up I think it made me more open-minded. I listen to everything. I know people always say that, but I really do. I don’t think consciously about my background when I start playing. Stuff seeps out and I don’t realize until later. Someone will say that guitar riff is so metal, and I’ll think yeah I guess it kind of is.
Are there any other cultural sources you find inspiring right now?
Gretta: Giallo — he makes these old Italian horror movies.
Jack: Yeah and Mario Barva, Dario Argento — Suspiria is probably the best well known of his work.
Gretta: I find misery more inspiring and these films are heavily saturated with imagery and colors.
Jack: In terms of music right now I’m excited to hear the new Santigold.
Where did the name My Gold Mask come from? Does this tie into the extrinsic nature of your sound?
Jack: It popped out in random conversation and we liked the ideas of identity and anonymity associated with it. When you’re in the mindset of thinking up a band name, everything becomes a band name for a while until a phrase pops out.
I think the name ties in well with the way you describe your music, because a mask is something that’s outer and like you said it can let you take on a different persona or create a sense of anonymity.
Jack: Wow yeah we hadn’t really thought of it like that. I like that — we’ll use that.
I saw you perform at Phillip Lim’s store in Soho last year for Fashion’s Night Out and Lim also used one of your songs in his runway show. Can you tell me more about that relationship?
Jack: We discovered that Phillip Lim had used our song in his runway show — we came across it on YouTube and when we saw it Gretta got really excited. Then later they contacted us and asked to meet us and everyone was really nice, really gracious. The two songs they used in the runway show were Violet Eyes and Your Coo Ka Choo. Our songs really matched with what they were doing, so it was a matter of serendipity and the right time, right place sorta thing. After meeting us they asked us about doing the Fashion Night Out show which was really fun and really different from a club show. Fashion is a completely different world from music but crosses over tremendously. The two are closely linked together so it was a nice cross over of different worlds. To experience that is something we won’t forget any time soon.
Gretta: Phillip Lam‘s line at the time had a lot of hard angles in his clothes and it really appealed to me. They were asymmetrical lines and soft clothes.
Jack: It was textural…
Gretta: …and flowy. We used some of the clothing to play certain shows.
Jack: There was an edge and a softness to them.
Gretta: It went really well with the music.
How would you describe the band’s personal style?
Gretta: My personal style changes a lot because I like so many different things and mix so many different things together at one time. I could wear something saturated with lots of color or something with Jamaican influences —
Jack: or cold and hard. It depends on the mood.
Gretta: It depends how I feel when a show comes up.
Jack: When Gretta gets dressed watch out, stay away because it’s just a flurry of clothes everywhere. To watch her put stuff together is really interesting. I enjoy clothing but Gretta has this ability to put clothes on and make it her own. Whereas I just throw on a t-shirt.
Gretta: You’re a t-shirt guy.
Jack: It’s not a conscious thing. It’s about feeling and mood.
Gretta: With live shows you might get a different feel each time depending on what mood or emotion we saturate ourselves in. Whether we play more aggressive rock versus soaring, smooth melodies. That ties into the wardrobe.
You’re touring all over the east coast and part of the Midwest this summer. Any venue you are most excited about playing?
Jack: That’s easy.
Jack: We’re playing with Blonde Redhead at Millennium Park. That will be a highlight for us. As well as just playing that venue and being outside.
Are there plans to tour Europe?
Jack: When the time is right, we’ll know. We’re moving at an organic pace, at our own agenda, but we might be in the UK later this year.
You two live in Chicago — what’s the music scene like there?
Jack: I’d say it’s like how a lot of music scenes are in big cities, but what makes it different is there’s a lot of talent in Chicago. There’s a lot of good musicians out here. There are the people who help each other out, and the people who don’t want help and want to do their own thing, but what sets Chicago apart is the quality of music out here.
Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Gretta: We have a healthy amount of material, and we’re working toward releasing a full-length album. We’ve added three new songs to our live set that aren’t recorded yet.
Jack: We like to play in front of people before recording. When we get back from touring we’re gonna start demoing and start the recording process from there. We’ve been writing tons. We’re always onto the next thing writing wise. Once we’re done we move on.
Who are you listening to right now?
Jack: I don’t like bands. I don’t know…I like to shuffle my iPod.
Gretta: Like we mentioned before the new Santigold.
Jack: Yeah that’s rad. My two favorites right now are Hooray For Earth — they are amazing. Also Zambri. they’re friends of ours and we listen to them a lot. They are nice people too. When you play in a band and listen to music all the time you’re exposed to so much. What makes a difference is when you meet someone or see them live, it’s a different experience than discovering a band through a blog, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
So which place in Chicago has the best deep dish?
Gretta: Lou Malnati’s.
Jack: Yeah Lou Malnati’s.
Gretta: We eat it when friends come in out of town.
Jack: Since I’m from New York it’s always an internal struggle which place has the best pizza, but I think there’s room for all kinds.
For more information on My Gold Mask and their upcoming tour dates, please visit: www.mygoldmask.com
Photo credit: Jim Newberry