Interview • Gold Star
We are here at Hotel Grand Amour, which is kinda logical since your username on Twitter is GoldstarLovesU!
(laughing) Yeah, it’s fitting! A friend recommended the place.
What does Paris represent to you?
It’s an interesting question because I don’t have any answer! (laughing) I haven’t really spent enough time here to really see it but I wish I knew it better. I’ll come back in October, hopefully I’ll have more down time to enjoy it!
You will release Uppers & Downers in September and it’s your third record under this moniker though you’ve previously released music with The Sister Ruby Band. Morrisey said “I never imagined I’d be a solo artist. And now I couldn’t imagine being part of a group.” What do you think of it?
I think that’s pretty accurate. In his case, he had this band and they were so successful together. If you grow apart, it becomes really hard to keep that kind of cohesion. Having a cohesive band is like catching lightning in a bottle, it’s just this moment. It’s really rare that it goes on for ever, like the Rolling Stones. There are a few exceptions but generally it’s just fleeting. When you’re on your own it’s great because you have maybe more freedom, you can make more mistakes and try thing out with less pressure maybe.
Talking about pressure, this record is a quite a bet for different reasons. First, you deliberately explored a new direction.
Yeah, for me it was important to try a new direction and grow as a songwriter, almost to do something that was the opposite of the last record. The last one is very much the same kind of sound throughout. It was the same four people in a room, in a house. This one was studio more time, more dynamic songs to try to get the whole spectrum of highs and lows and different kinds of sounds and feelings. It was important for me to do a big departure.
That’s a bit frightening I guess!
(laughing) Oh yeah! But I mean it’s always frightening, every time you pull yourself out there. I think the more honestly you try to do it, you try to take your guard down, that’s when music is special. When it is honest and scary. If you aren’t comfortable, maybe it’s a good thing.
There was another challenge with the idea of working in a studio since you decided to record this album in the Valentine Studio. Time is money!
(laughing) Time is money and not just that but also the way that people made records then, on tape, without shifting things around on a computer. I wanted to work like that, the way that records were made in the 60s like the Beach Boys recorded there. You either get it right or you don’t. You can’t really cut it up so much. It’s also a good kind of pressure because it forces you to get to the core of it.
You said that on your previous record you had this simple mood, this simple type of music whereas for this record it’s more like a collage. Which one is the most difficult to achieve, creating a single atmosphere or having different moods?
That’s challenging as well, to do something that has continuity and keep it interesting. It’s just as challenging as to have very big tempo changes and arrangements. I wanted to explore that in studio, that’s my favourite thing about making music.
Talking about this collage, I guess it’s not random. How did you decide on the sequence of this record?
Sequencing is always very hard and it’s important when you put on a record. As a listener, you rarely think about how it’s all sequenced. Depending on the order, the songs tell a different story. That was challenging but it’s also very fun because you just try every single way of doing it. Initially, I wanted to have all the fast songs on one side but there’s no journey.
You worked with Nicolas Jodoin who is a French-Canadian producer. It’s not the first you’ve collaborated together.
I’ve worked with them before but the circumstances were different, he didn’t have the Valentine Studio. Since then, I think I’ve grown a lot as a songwriter and him as well as a producer so it was good. Initially, I wanted to make a collage, almost like Kanye West made that one record with different producers and collaborators but to organize that was a nightmare.
We’re going to talk about Los Angeles. You were born in Austria, you lived in London, in New York and now in L.A. Why is this city so special for you and how does it influence your writing?
Los Angeles right now seems to be like the perfect place to play rock ’n’ roll. There’s an energy there that we don’t have in NY. Something is going on, I don’t know what it is and I don’t think anyone does but there is something happening and it’s an exciting feeling.
That sounds like a very positive description of L.A but I guess there’s always a darker side. What gets you down in L.A?
Los Angeles is funny because it’s all of the things that people make fun of it for, being shallow, depressing, fake but the city is pretty direct about it. It can be pretty self-obsessed and disheartening in that sense.
You’re not yet 30 but there’s something timeless in your music. Do you consider yourself an old soul?
Err… no! (laughing) But I’ve always been drawn to the music from the 60s and the 70s. This era has always inspired me.
I could see that from your moniker, Gold Star, which is a reference to Phil Spector’s studio. You said that your real name was too difficult to pronounce.
Rabenreither is not the easiest! (laughing) When my mother moved to America and she worked as a stylist, her agency changed her name to Sylvia Ryder cause Winona Ryder was big at the time.
Hamilton Leithauser uses his real name!
That’s a tricky one too, but he was already in this band [The Walkmen] that was very successful. If you’re a new artist and people can’t remember your name that’s difficult!
Let’s end this interview with a game. I’m going to give you beginnings of famous songs and you’ll have to finish the sentence with your own words.
When I find myself in times of trouble … I listen to the Beatles!
if you wanna be my lover you gotta … have bangs!
I’m up all night to … see the morning.
I can’t live if living is without … music, without rock’n’roll.
I see no changes, wake up in the morning and I ask myself… just that, no more!
You gotta fight for your right to … keep fighting!