Gold & Youth is making it up as they go

Gold & Youth is still figuring out how to make electronic music, but the learning process has yielded a killer LP
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Gold & Youth’s Louise Burns and Matt Lyall sound off on the things that enquiring minds want to know.

Burns on band dignity: “Did you see that Patti Smith lecture that was just circling around? She was talking about William S. Burroughs and she said the most important thing you’ve got to do as an artist is protect your name. I think that speaks volumes. It’s easy to cheapen yourself by playing any show for exposure or whatever. You have to have some dignity, and that is how you get your fans and keep them.”

Lyall on expectations: “We realize how niche and small we are, even in this small world of the kind of music we make. You can have one or two passionate fans in every city everywhere. If you are actually good at something, you can have a nice little career.”

Burns on playing acoustic sets: “It is like being at the dentist. Acoustic sets make me so self-conscious.”

It’s a rainy Sunday evening and the members of Vancouver electronic outfit Gold & Youth are sitting in Gastown’s antique-looking Six Acres bar preparing for their debut LP Beyond Wilderness listening party. As Matt Lyall, Murray Mckenzie, and Louise Burns set up for the private event—drummer Jeff Mitchelmore is on his way back from a trip to Palm Springs—they debate about what exactly a listening party entails. Are they going to blast the record and make people listen? Point out all the best bass lines and shush their guests?

Obviously not.

Mckenzie suggests they just play it on a loop in the background and let people drink. The whole concept of the event feels very, well, mature.

“We are old now,” Lyall says. “That’s all. We got our mortgages paid off.” He laughs.

“Sent the kids to college,” adds Burns, smiling.

In a way, Gold & Youth is a weirdly mature band for a group of 20-somethings. They have all been around the block, woven through the music industry and then some, none more than Burns. The bassist is a seasoned pop veteran, having grown up on MTV and MuchMusic with her previous band Lillix before charting a high-profile solo career.

Gold & Youth began as the Raccoons, a garage-rock outfit with Lyall, Mckenzie, Mitchelmore, and two other men. Born in the Victoria basement of Mckenzie’s parents, the group nearly got a break after videos from a tour it did in China were sent back to the influential Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts. The feedback was positive and the band was offered a deal. Although the Raccoons disbanded not long after that, Arts & Crafts remained supportive.

“They were like, “Well, if you guys decide to do anything else…” explains Lyall. “I don’t know why they let us do that.”

The Raccoons had a full batch of material written, but soon scrapped the songs. “We were insanely frustrated with what we were doing,” admits Mckenzie.

“We were down to three members,” says Lyall. “We needed to fill out our sound, so we started making cheap electronic noises, and we kind of liked it.”

The three changed the band’s name with the sound, eventually settling on Gold & Youth, and added Burns, whom they had all played with before. Lyall admits that moving toward the electronic genre made them all feel like rookies, but it felt good.

“None of us are very strong electronic artists,” he says. “Our record does not sound like it was made by fucking Justice or something. It still sounds like the work of people who are figuring out what to do.”

Recorded with Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, New Pornographers) and mixed by Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Interpol, Grizzly Bear), Beyond Wilderness is gothic, airy, and mysteriously heavy in all the right places. It jumps between hooky pop loops and drawn-out synth clouds, all the while retaining the feel of a calming soundtrack to a cinematic credit roll. “Young Blood” and “Little Wild Love” feel like straight-up ’80s dance tracks, while “Come to Admire” and the first single “Jewel” (both written by Burns) are ethereal and slightly playful. At its core, Beyond Wilderness is a record about feeling out of place.

“It’s named after a book about Canadian identity and art, about how the wilderness mythology dominates Canadian artistic integrity,” Murray says, explaining the album’s title. “We were thinking about parallels about being a Vancouver band today and while also being urban people. It’s about feeling like you don’t fit in.”

Even “Jewel” is about not belonging.

“It is sort of toying with the idea of vulnerability and displacement,” Burns said. “I moved to Toronto and I felt confused, divided, and it’s kind of about that.”

She wrote the song in Toronto, but sent sound files back and forth with her bandmates for months before she considered it finished. After moving back to Vancouver, she recorded the final vocal tracks. Even though Gold & Youth’s members are now all living in the same city, they still prefer to write as though they are spread out across the country.

“We don’t jam,” Lyall says. “We write compartmentalized. We write the songs like electronic music, and of course it is partly, but it’s not.”

Burns credits the Apple recording program Logic Pro with shaping the album, noting that it makes it easy for band members to work on songs without having to meet up. “God forbid that we have to sit in the same room together and work out a song,” she says. “It’s just more efficient.”

“It’s a very cold way of making music,” adds Lyall, who is responsible for most of Gold & Youth’s primary production. “It’s very unromantic, but it works for us.”

Riding high on glowing reviews from both the Guardian and NME—you heard it here first: Gold & Youth is going to be big in Britain—the band is ready to start touring again. Eastern shows have been booked for June, including NXNE in Toronto and Field Trip, the Arts & Crafts label’s 10th-anniversary party.

“We are hungry to tour now,” says Burns. “We are overprepared.”

As the crowd for the listening party starts to trickle into the bar, someone turns up the music and the band eases into the room, greeting friends and celebrating.

“We started this record two-and-a-half years ago,” Lyall says. “There were multiple delays… Here we are, a year and a half later.” He smiles.

Six Acres starts to fill up with bodies as the band’s members walk around the room, hugging friends and accepting congratulatory handshakes. Judged on its reception, Beyond Wilderness was well worth the wait.

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