From the infectious analog synth strut of “Detroit” to the soaring, alluring charge of “Run,” New York City’s Black Gold have crafted what may be the warmest and most charming indie pop offerings in recent memory with Rush, their debut album due out February 2009. At the helm of this duo are Eric Ronick and Than Luu, the two Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalists who first met on the set of the Craig Kilborn Show while working with different bands. From there, they quickly forged the allegiance that reaped the sonic riches that are now in your clutches.
The keenly constructed and superbly delivered “Plans & Reveries” and the glistening “Shine” both assert that Ronick and Luu’s collective strength comes from an eagerness to draw on an array of styles and eras. If Rush is an affirmation of that notion, its unique sonic outlook was alive early on. “It was like a secret jam,” Luu says of Black Gold’s first interaction. “Very secret,” Ronick agrees. “I had a Wurlitzer set up, and Than was on the kit, and it was great.”
If that sounds like a bold and unusual starting point, it should be noted that Eric and Than are veteran performers who have tested their respective wares by logging significant stage time with acts like Panic! At The Disco, Ambulance LTD, M. Ward, Rachael Yamagata and Adam Franklin of Swervedriver. During intermittent breaks from their other musical commitments, the pair wrote and recorded the bulk of Rush in Ronick’s Brooklyn studio. The rest was recorded in the Venice, CA studio of the album’s co-producer and mixer Vincenzo LoRusso who has also done studio work for such varied artists as Tricky, Cypress Hill, System of a Down and Joan Osborne.
“The recording process was totally organic,” Luu says. “Whenever we had some time off, whether it was a few days or a couple of weeks, we would just write, and we just built the record that way, song by song, track by track.”
Despite busy road and session schedules, Black Gold’s principals were quick to recognize and prioritize their special chemistry. “The very first time that we went into Eric’s studio together, we ended up writing and recording ‘Run’ in just a few hours,” Luu recalls. “We listened back to what we’d done at the end of the night and realized, ‘This really works!’” Ronick adds, “Writing that song with Than was a defining moment.’”
That experience was the impetus for what Ronick describes as, “the essential principle behind how we write our songs.” Working with just their voices, a piano and an acoustic guitar, Eric says they’ve determined that “each song must be the best song, at its core, before we’ll bring in the production and the orchestration and the instrumentation.”
That outlook helped the duo arrive at keepers like the stripped-down vintage-Kinks-meets-Spoon vibe of “Silver,” the melodic punch of “Idols,” and the evocative, soulful feel of “The Comedown.” Acknowledging that Rushis a unique listening experience by design, Luu says, “It starts off more produced and dance-y, but it devolves into a more organic sound, just a band playing drums, guitar, piano and singing. The last song, ‘After the Flood,’ is just Eric on the piano, nothing else.”
Citing inspiration from rock’s early days, the psychedelic era of the 1960’s and 70’s, not to mention contemporaries like Hot Chip, Ronick says, “No style or genre is off limits. We get a real kick out of taking from different artists, different periods, and putting our spin on it. Somehow we ended up with something cohesive and that sounds, undeniably, like us.” A prime example of this is the duo’s first track “Detroit” which launched as an iTunes ‘Single of the Week’ in October. URB.com describes the song, “…with its bouncy rhythm section and effervescent vocals, displays their talent for reaching great emotional depths as well as their devotion to creating tuneful, catchy indie pop.”
Black Gold’s lyrics aren’t overly specific – the band’s goal with Rush is to have the listener invent his or her own narrative. Or as Luu explains, “Each song has a story to it. ‘After the Flood’ speaks to relationships in general, while ‘Shine’ is more about faith and love.” Meanwhile, Eric says “Plans And Reveries” is, “…about the moment when you come to and realize what you’ve lost, what you had, and what you don’t have any more.”
Although Black Gold is still a relatively young as a touring band, the group – which finds Luu and Ronick joined onstage by a guitarist and bassist – will strengthen its live presence out on the road in 2009. Leading up to the release of Rush, the pair are currently touring in support of their debut EP Tragedy & Legacy. Remarkably, the group’s first tour was as a supporting band for Panic At the Disco in arenas. “The third show that we ever played was in front of 10,000 people. It was crazy,” Luu says. Ronick quickly corrects him. “What was really crazy,” he insists, “was that it was 10,000 people who didn’t know anything about us, and we had no experience playing live together, and we still rocked it. We rocked the shit out of it.”