If you ask Gwilym Gold to nail Golden Silvers’ colours to a musical mast, the London trio’s frontman and songwriter will attempt to find one flamboyant enough for his band’s dashing synth-pop only to give up, sighing that “this whole genre thing really does annoy me.” It’s hardly surprising he gives such a circumventing answer given the broad set of influences that Golden Silvers have laid claim to, or had foisted up them, from Squeeze and Dr Dre to ’80s dancehall and Ian Dury. But what Gwil says about the band’s overarching vision is rather more revealing.
“I really love old blues, folk and soul,” he says, explaining his desire to write simple songs that mainline straight to the heart and mind like a rush of endorphins. “There’s something inherent in those old songs that says they were done for the purpose of releasing part of the soul. It can still be popular and a song can still be melodic and have the same sort of structure as pop but there’s a real soulful, emotional element in them.”
And that’s probably the best way to understand Golden Silvers’ magical first album “True Romance”: it’s a properly soulful liberation. Lovelorn, charmingly eccentric, literate, starry-eyed, earthy and glowing warm with empathy, the ten sun-dappled songs within – built from an unfussy bed of sweet three-part harmonies, keys, bass and drums – are infectious without ever nagging, clever rather than arch and completely their own. “Queen of the 21st Century”, a skewed psychedelic terrace stomp, sits happily with the swaggering, Prince-ly funk of the title track, a trippy, mystical and mediaeval-sounding “The Seed” and the rinky-dink but raucously anthemic “Magic Touch”, all corralled into a giddy, excitable line by a kind of futuristic doo-wop.
“I know it doesn’t describe much me going, ‘Yeah, we wanted to make it so it sounded great,’” says Gwil, “but that’s what we did. We wanted to approach each song differently, which means people will go, ‘Oh, that’s bonkers.’ But listen to The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’. Every song is different and yet it’s a classic. I don’t see why we’ve gone so far backwards that we now just get the same type of song, the same sound all the time.”
Following last years two rapturously-received independent singles (‘Arrows Of Eros’ and ‘Magic Touch / Another Universe’), enthusiastic critics have already compared Golden Silvers to the likes of The Beach Boys, Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Coral, Super Furry Animals and Prince to conjure a description for their brassy, keys-driven psychedelia. Meanwhile, Gwil himself says he always wanted to play piano like Hendrix played guitar (just listen to Golden Silvers’ darkly wiggy “Shakes”) and that when he was learning how to write he studied Dylan like a man possessed. “It’d be beautiful if you could open your mouth and sing like Marvin Gaye but that’s what put me off for so long, the thought I could never do that. But when I started singing Bob I was like, actually...”
But for all the talk of brilliant, instinctive songwriting and classic influences, Golden Silvers are a very modern outfit, as familiar with Metronomy as they are Mystery Jets. They were bred on Erol Alkan’s indie-electro crossover, which the feted DJ began to beckon from his decks at Trash, Golden Silvers’ regular Monday night haunt. They’ve also employed the help of latest producer wunderkind Lexx (Esser, Crystal Castles) to produce their debut album and the band run their own night, The Bronze Club at Hoxton’s Macbeth, where they call on their fellow purveyors of weird, wonderful music to come and play, like The Invisible and Micachu And The Shapes.
In large part, Golden Silvers have London to thank for their flitting, curiosity-driven DNA. It’s a place, says Gwil, where indie kids try different things and where competition means one thing rarely ever dominates. He and band mates Ben Moorhouse and Alexis Nunez are on equally friendly terms with hip hop and grime – “I was always more into rappers because I thought they were more lyrical how they told their story,” says Gwil – as well as funk and freewheeling jazz. In fact, from the age of 15, Gwil was a jobbing pianist, playing with the likes of Gary Crosby’s Brit-jazz ensembles Tomorrow’s Warriors and Jazz Jamaica.
He’s not the only one with a distinctly non-indie history. He and Alexis – GS drummer, fellow North Londoner and Gwil’s “musical brother” – met at school aged 12. “Gwil was playing boogie woogie,” recalls Nunez, “like, he was really digging in. There was a crowd of kids checking him out and I was like, wow, this guy’s alright and we basically just hit it off. Any spare minute we had we’d go to the music department, bunking off PE and stuff.” Bassist Ben, who met Alexis at music college and was introduced to Gwyl at famous weekly jam session The Asylum, has been in different funk and blues bands himself. It’s an education that’s essential to their make-up.
“During the period when I was playing funk, jazz, rock, whatever, it got to the point where you begin to understand the feel of music and what’s necessary and what’s not,” says Alexis. “It means we’ve acquired a certain musicianship, so when Golden Silvers play live it’s not just us skimming over songs, we’re really trying to dig in and get everything out of it.”
“It was definitely important,” adds Ben, “but there’s this mentality with jazz that it’s about virtuosity, but people who are really good on their instruments can get it totally wrong with their music tastes. But it does mean we’re coming from a place where we played a lot of grooves and dance music.”
Another band who would’ve been nowhere without London or their own fondness for funk, jazz and danceable grooves or their well-read leader’s diverse tastes are The Blockheads, a musical and theoretical touchstone for Golden Silvers, especially so on title track “True Romance”. “There’s a lot of character to what Ian Dury did,” says Gwil, whose own literary inspiration takes in the likes of Ovid and the rogue-ish Lord Byron. “It’s soulful, you know? It’s like it’s his folk music. He’s doing it for himself and it’s not stylised at all.”
Ah, yes. Style. If there’s one more thing that can tell us a bit about Golden Silvers, it’s the trio’s sartorial rebellion, expressed in big hair, tall heels and brave, dazzling collaborations between colours, eras and styles (“Yeah man, I’m totally into freakiness!” says Zappa and Beefheart fan Alexis). Golden Silvers dress like they want their music to sound – fun, vivid, all-encompassing and straight from the heart. And if they look and sound a bit out of place, well, they’re not worried. Like Gwil says, “time has told us that great things don’t always fit in with fashion but they do find a way.”
If you ask Gwilym Gold to nail Golden Silvers’ colours to a musical mast, the London trio’s frontman and songwriter will attempt to find one flamboyant enough for his band’s dashing synth-pop only to...
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