Evidentially, for Nanaimo-based alternative rock band Gold & Shadow, friendship and creativity are the catalysts that result in a stimulating musical reaction.
The group has been around since 2008, when founding member Dane Letourneau (vocals, guitar, keyboard) got together with current member Jesse Janzen (vocals, bass, drums) and a few other friends to experiment with tracks Letourneau had written.
“I had been coming up with some instrumental ditties on my laptop and recording them to eventually form most of what would be 2008’s Castles Will Burn. I brought some other friends on board to make these things come to life with real instruments; what resulted was more than I had expected, and we began to craft something unique, melodic, and out-of-the-box in a basement below our favourite local coffee shop,” Letourneau says in an interview via email on Feb. 7. Since Castles Will Burn, Gold & Shadow has released two five-track albums and an EP—2010’s a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and a tempest and 2011’s Onero, and most recently in Summer 2012 Valeur.
Gold & Shadow’s current line up consists of a diverse bunch of dudes—Letourneau is “a self-professed Radiohead fanatic,” who is studying environmental chemistry. Janzen “may just love playing bass more than anyone you know; he also harbours a deep love for the ocean and heavy music of just about any sort.” Brandon Clarke (electric and acoustic guitars) “is known to make a killer breakfast and recently bought a wonderful-sounding hollowbody Gretsch,” and Wesley Holmes (drums) “always wears really nice shoes… co-runs a media business (the Flav’r Shop) with Clarke, and is Nanaimo’s best kept rhythm section secret,” says Letourneau.
Throughout contributions from the various members who have added to the band’s discography over the years, Gold & Shadow has maintained and built upon a thoughtful, slightly dark, smooth sound introduced in Castles Will Burn. Citing influences such as Radiohead, Isis, and Bon Iver, the group harnesses a control of tempo and fullness of sound that streamlined across both of their five-track albums, and is at its peak in the group’s latest EP.
“What’s kind of exciting about our group is the remarkable consistency of vision that has existed over the past four years; the music we make today is not that far removed from what that original first grouping of people did in a basement, trying to discover how we interacted on a musical level whilst super jazzed on excellent local coffee,” Letourneau says.
The experimental element in Gold & Shadow’s 2008 release is noticeably developed and sharpened through a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and a tempest and Onero. Some of the best moments include 2010’s “Wrathtrevor,” a mild, pensive track, no doubt inspired by Parksville’s Rathtrevor Beach, and reminiscent, in its inky-moodiness, of Vancouver-based alt-rock group Black Mountain. Onero’s “Station” picks up the pace, channeling Gold & Shadow’s sound in an indie-rock direction that is caught and mixed with art-alt in the turbulent and tight “A Friend, A Frame.” Valeur encompasses all of these elements and goes beyond to touch on new terrain. “Fortuna” seems to represent a combination of all the right sounds from Gold & Shadow’s previous releases while “Thaliana” introduces an unexpected and exceptional element of folk-rock to the group’s already established tone. “Melody (For the Macal River)” closes the three-track EP with a mainly instrumental piece that layers texture of sound to subtly build, and break, tension.
“Of course we’ve since developed as players, as people, and as songwriters—we don’t noodle around as much in rehearsals—and we’re a tad more focused when it comes to going after the sound we really love,” Letourneau says of the progression of the group’s movement from their first releases to now.
Unlike previous releases, which Letourneau had recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered himself, another musical catalyst was introduced for the production of Valeur. The EP was produced, mixed, and mastered by Evan Matthiesen, a member of Victoria-based indie-rock band Fall Fair Car. “He did a pretty bang-up job, and we had some great times recording drums in my parents’ living room (occasionally sans clothing) and at Evan’s in Victoria,” Letourneau says. “Some vocals were recorded in a closet—some in Evan’s bedroom. It was pretty organic and a bit hectic, but we love the result.”
The next collaborative journey for Gold & Shadow is not far off—the group has teamed up with Vancouver-based musician David Ward for a tour across the Island, from Duncan to Port Alberni (see sidebar for dates and venues). Mysterious musical undercurrents worked to bring the groups together in what is sure to be a fantastic tour. “I heard David Ward a year ago when my friend passed on his EP trilogy, The Arrival. I was actually in Calgary at a chemistry conference, wanted to go out to see some live music one night, flipped through the listings and came across Ward’s show at the Ironwood—wild times and a very cool aligning of circumstance,” Letourneau says. He and Ward met after the show and “bonded over similar musical tastes and influences like Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. Four tours, internationally sold-out dates and hundreds of thousands of miles later, we were able to make our plans for an Island tour a reality!” Letourneau says the group is grateful for the opportunity to tour with Ward, and that they are looking forward to the experience. “We find ourselves very excited to play with Ward, reconnect with our fan base after half a year off the stage, and see how this new Gold & Shadow lineup feels as the wheels begin to hit the road,” Letourneau says. He also hinted that there might be some dual bonus material on the tour, “you can expect a special surprise onstage collaboration if you come out to our Nanaimo or Port Alberni dates (it may or may not involve a certain Jeff Buckley tune).”
After the tour, Gold & Shadow has definite plans to keep their musical chemistry productive. “We are looking to put some serious time and effort into making a full-length record with this new lineup, something we can proudly present to both our community and the world at large as our finest work yet,” Letourneau says. In the meantime, the group intends to keep developing and sharing their music by playing gigs on the mainland and performing at festivals in the summertime.
When asked to share his advice for up-and-coming musicians looking to work their way onto the stage, Letourneau preserves the mindset that has propelled Gold & Shadow on their successful musical course: “Do it because you love it, because you love connecting with people, and certainly not because you expect people to dig your 10-minute guitar solo while you stare at your feet. The most rewarding music I’ve ever played has been for rooms full of people I love and love connecting with; the most rewarding band to play in is one where you are first friends, and second, musical partners in crime. In the end, it’s about people and creating art that is meaningful to you and others, not cash in your pocket or large crowds or anything else, really.”
Valeur is available to download for free at <www.goldandshadow.bandcamp.com>. For more info on Gold & Shadow, visit <www.goldandshadow.com>, like their facebook page <www.facebook.com/goldandshadow>, and follow them at <www.twitter.com/goldandshadow>.
Material for Sidebar:
Gold & Shadow Upcoming Shows
Feb. 21: Duncan (With David Ward) – Duncan Garage, 8 p.m., tickets $12 advance $15 door
Feb. 22: Victoria (With David Ward) – Discovery Coffee James Bay, 8 p.m., tickets $10
Feb. 23: Nanaimo (With David Ward) – The Cambie, 10 p.m., tickets $7
Feb. 24: Port Alberni (With David Ward) – Char’s Landing, 7 p.m., tickets $10
Apr. 5: Nanaimo (With Atlas Collapses and The Body Politic) – Nanaimo Centre Stage, info TBA