We chatted with Sydney alt-pop duo Goldfynch about the release of their highly anticipated, award winning self-titled debut album. We sat down with Goldfynch’s Niyati Libotte to talk a little about the upcoming album release.
I love the arrangement of each song, the vibrant strings, combined with those elongated/sustained vocals, as well as the underlying accompaniment, what was the creative process and inspiration behind the album?
It was quite a journey. It began as a creative exercise really, between Gavin and myself. We were off on a long-overdue break. We had a very young child and we were expecting another one and we just needed a holiday so we went on this what we call a “babymoon” and whilst we were on it we just found that it was finally quiet enough and there was enough space to kind of be creative and to band a few ideas. And then we had this catalyst moment because we were supposed to be on holiday and relaxing and Gavin got a phone call from his mother saying that his father was really ill, in fact, he might not make it. And he’d been struggling for a while, he had an illness for a while but the timing was terrible, so she was basically saying be on standby, be on alert, you might just have to jump on a plane and come over, but I’ll let you know. They were over in Perth and we were down in Victoria at the time.
So we kind of didn’t know what to do with ourselves, and it kind of felt necessary to do something to kind of process and manage our feelings somehow. So we started writing some music and it kind of organically went from there. And then the arrangements, we really saw this as a creative project, we didn’t have any particular outcome in mind, we didn’t have any sort of goal that we were hitting, we weren’t beholden to anybody either, we weren’t signed to a label or anything like that.
So we have the most wonderful friends that are in high places and one of them had a really great studio which he kind of gave to us for mate’s rates, so we had the ability to go in there and just play and experiment and be creative and try things. We started pulling in our colleagues and people in the industry we knew. It was specializing in certain things. Jonathan Zwarz is the most incredible bassist. He has a bass that’s 100 years old which he brought in for this and also did the electric bass on a couple of tracks. When we found out that he was available we were like we got to have him. And then he brought in James Hauptmann the drummer who did the kettle drums and all the other things that you hear on some of those tracks.
And it kind of happened from there, through that group of people, Damian De Boos Smith had the studio. We started pulling in all these wonderful performers who just specialized in improvisation, which was important to us, in their respective instruments. So we had Ben Adler who’s a young kind of, he’s a monster. I think he was under thirty at the time when he came in with his violin, and, we had ideas in mind, so we had lines in mind that we wanted to hear but we’d kind of say, well, before we tell you what we hear, we’d like to know what you hear. So let’s try… why don’t you have a listen and improvise and see what comes up for you. And we did that with every performer. So it kind of developed into this beautifully layered, textured sound journey, we can put it that way. And it was entirely creative.
You mentioned the album started as a writing exercise, did you ever find any of the songs start to take on new meaning as the writing process progressed?
Yeah, it’s actually really interesting how when you have an idea you don’t know where it comes from. It just comes right. The creative process is so mysterious. You just sort of find yourself humming something, or, something occurs to you, and it just sticks and you can’t get it out of your system, and then it sort of develops. It’s really weird, it’s like this album is kind of like a child, you know, we had a child, we’re about to have another child and this was like the third child, except its process of growing and becoming was slower.
But, when you get an idea, it may just come as say a melody, or it might come as some kind of thematic. For example, with ‘Little Bird’ I actually just really wanted at that point to write a song about our environmental problems, and Gavin kind of came to me with this riff, and I didn’t really care what he was writing, I just wanted to write a song about ecology, and the relationship between man and nature, and the strange conundrum we’re in where they’re free. I mean they’re so vulnerable, but they’re free, and we are so privileged, and we’re sort of the top species, whatever you want to call it, but we’re so bound. And if only we could somehow learn from nature, maybe we’d be happier as a species. So anyway, the process of the song really depended on the song. So in some cases I had an idea and I’d take it to Gavin and I’d say, I’ve got this melody, and in fact, I’ve got the words and I just need you to bring it to life. And in some cases, he’d come to me with the melody or a riff or something and he’d say, I’ve got this idea.
For ‘Opus’, Opus is the lead track of the album which we’ll be releasing next Friday, he came to me with this kinda riff, this piece of music, and he said, can you put words on that? Can you come up with a melody for that? And I just listened to it and I said there’s no way I can do that, this song is not speaking to me at all, I don’t feel like it’s a vocal song, I have no idea what it would be about, it doesn’t feel comfortable, maybe make it into an instrumental song, cause he writes loads and loads of original instrumental pieces as well, that’s his background, in guitar. But he kinda persisted, he kept coming back to me, he was being really annoying, and he was like, no, no I think this is a song, you’ve gotta do something with this, and so he kinda forced me to sit there with it, and I really had to think about it.
And then this sort of nebulous idea came about, so the song kinda does that, the song’s kinda this nebulous little.. it starts very quietly, almost like a seed, and then it slowly kinda begins to kinda grow, and in fact, I talk about seeds growing, and things like that, and then it becomes this sort of forest, and then it explodes into this world. It’s so mysterious. How do you write a song? I mean, I think everybody would give you different answers and each song would have a different story
The entire album is amazing by the way, some of my favourites are ‘Sunbeam’ and ‘Brighter Day’. What song or songs on the album resonates the most with you and why?
It’s like trying to pick a child, which one’s your favourite child. I would say… ‘Brighter Day’ was the first song we wrote. I love that song because it was kinda the beginning of our journey, and as I say, it was processing a lot of really heavy and big feelings at a very specific moment in time. So I have a soft spot for that song. I personally think it rocks. I don’t know about other people, for me it just has everything, it’s got the grit and it’s got the sweetness, and it’s got the hopefulness, it’s got the bittersweetness of human experience, to me it just has everything in one song. So that one I would say is one of my favourites.
I mentioned before ‘Opus’… it’s a very weird song, it’s a very unusual song, it’s kinda slightly musical theatre, slightly classical, slightly operatic. If it had more electronic instruments you could’ve almost said it was like rock opera, I kinda think of bands like Queen with that song. And I wouldn’t have thought to put that as a lead song, except that it actually won silver at the Global music awards in the art-pop gallery, and so we thought, well, I guess now we’re obliged to headline this song, but Gavin loves that, that’s his favourite song on the track, cause he likes weird, he’s into Kate Bush, all of that kinda alternative arty pop.
And I mean, my song, ‘Sunbeam’, ‘Sunbeam’ is my song, I just came to him and it was fully formed and I just said to him, right, we’re making this song. That’s kinda more my vibe. So you probably feel that a little bit on the album that there’s kinda this sweetness and there’s this kinda wackiness, and there’s a bit of grit and then there’s this almost very smooth, very elevated jazz moments as well. So it’s a real chameleon I guess.
But yeah, ‘Sunbeam’ has a place in my heart. Cause to me that’s kinda the essence. When we’re here on this planet, and we can do everything, and things are pulling us 50 bazillion different ways, what’s important? Maybe it’s just taking a beat, and maybe it’s just enjoying the sunshine for a moment and recognizing that the world is just amazing and gorgeous and everything’s perfect just as it is, and we don’t have to be any particular thing or we don’t have to be any particular place, we don’t have to strive so hard just to be happy
How long did it take you to figure out the direction and vibe of the album?
I mean, that’s a really contentious question, because I’m not sure it has a direction (laughs). I think it goes in quite a few directions. It’s quite stalwart as to telling us what it is, which I think will be one of the- I don’t know if that would be an asset or if it would be a problem when people listen to the album, whether they’ll go, I don’t get this, this one’s more like a groovy funk track, and this one over here a little bit more like rock, and this one in the middle here’s a little bit more like almost folky and world. I think the songs, they were themselves, they were complete in themselves, they had to be what they were, and then placing them in the album in terms of a particular journey we just felt our way through it, and the process took way longer than it should’ve.
Because we recorded half of the album in 2015, which was just before my daughter was about to be born, well I better go and record my vocals, done and everything, because I won’t have time after baby’s born for a while, and Gavin can go and finish it off, which didn’t happen, cause we both got really busy. So then we kind of let it sit on a shelf for about three years, and then in 2018 we went, we’ve really got to do something with this music that’s been sitting there.
And so we did a Kickstarter, and we kinda got some interest going in it, and we finished off a lot of the recording through 2019 basically, and we were about to release it in 2020, and then covid hit. And it made it impossible because if you’re a new artist, it’s a very hard thing to get out there without having any live shows or having any sort of- we didn’t have the ability to showcase online at that point. So that’s why it’s actually been about 5 years, it’s been a 5-year process from start to finish
Speaking of Covid, the year that’s just passed hasn’t been easy for a lot of us. Has Covid changed the way you make music and how you collaborate?
Um yes definitely. So we recorded this album in a studio. At a time when you could go into a studio and everybody could get in there and sit down and cross-pollinate ideas. We were all in this one space, in this happy innocent sort of world pre-virus. Now we found that we’ve had to kind of do things more in-house, and so we’ve actually set up a studio, and now we record our bits and pieces here, and we actually collaborate with people who’ll record their bits there.
So oftentimes people are just tracking in their own spaces and then we’ll pull all of that in and make the mix at our end. And we just finished that song, and we just finished that process with a song that we did in collaboration with a really well-known artist in New York where we wrote the song together, kind of over zoom, and then I recorded my bits, and Gavin recorded his bits, and then we sent it to her, and she recorded her bits. And then we got this like drummer to do his bits, you know it’s been around the world and back, and that’s the difference.
It’s actually in a way opened up so many doors, but the process is very different, it’s not as organic, you can’t be in the same space vibing together, hopefully, that won’t be the case forever, hopefully, we’ll go back to being able to do that. But for the moment anyway, you just have to be flexible and find other ways to do what you have to do. I don’t think it’s stopped anybody, it’s just changed the nature of how we do it.
Speaking of collaborations, who would be your dream artist to work with, and who are you currently listening to?
Oooh, dream artist. Far out. We absolutely love Radiohead and Coldplay and I’ve always thought it would be bloody awesome if I could get together with the dudes at Coldplay and write a song together cause we’ve actually written a whole new album’s worth of songs to record, and we actually got invited to do a song-writing residency at a recording studio where Queen originally recorded their album Bohemian Rhapsody, you know the one in Wales, Rockfield Studios, which is on the farm.
So we got invited to go there, it was meant to be March this year, but Covid put a spanner in the works. And we were going to be with Stew Jackson who’s the producer of Massive Attack and various other producers to help us create this new album, and I just think a collaboration like that would be amazing. There are so many artists, it’s very difficult to pinpoint one.
On a lighter note, what part of making this album did you enjoy the most?
I think all the parts of it are enjoyable but being in the studio and watching something come to life with all of these different energies and these people kinda vibing, these very incredible musicians vibing off the music and finding something that they love and making that happen, tracking that whole thing, and experience being in that studio and experiencing it happen has to be the highlight. Yeah, I think there’s nothing quite like it in the whole wide world, never done it before, it was a first for me. Gavin has recorded six instrumental albums so he was very used to the process. So to me that was just gold, it was amazing.
Are there any future plans in the works or upcoming shows that you can let us in on?
Absolutely, yeah. So I can’t believe we managed to wrangle it, given how things are at the moment, and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Melbourne’s Covid thing doesn’t become a New South Wales Covid thing, cause that would suck, but in July we have a couple of headline shows.
So we’re doing an album launch concert on the 23rd of July at Foundry 616, and that will be the entire band, everyone you hear on the album is performing there. It’s gonna be masses of rehearsals. Because as I said, we track this, this was not all done together as a band thing so we actually have to now adapt all those layers to something that’s gonna work in the live environment. Which will be awesome, so yeah, that’s happening on the 23rd of July at Foundry 616 which is Sydney CBD in Ultimo on Harris street.
And then we’re following up the next week with a show which will be a smaller lineup at Manly Fig which is kinda like a monthly concert showcase thing that use to happen at Manly but it’s actually been shifted to Seaforth Bowling Club (30th of July). So that’s July. And then a little bit later in the year, we’re going to be doing Manly Jazz Festival and we’ll also be doing Northern Beaches Music Festival (1st Weekend of November). So that’s what we know for now. Cause things are changing all the time there’ll be more I’m sure.
Before we wrap up, is there anything you want to tell your fans or any words you wish to impart upon aspiring musicians?
Yeah, I would say… explore. Explore music, and support your local musicians because there are so much amazing music coming out of this environment. But unfortunately, we also live in this kind of strange world where people are not connecting in person and they’re not going out and hearing people in their own locale very often. They don’t even know what’s happening right there. I kind of feel sad that the whole streaming junket has essentially re-highlighted all the people that you hear on commercial radio. It’s sorta thrown in your face and it kinda part of the whole marketing strategy of that.
And I think it’s really sad because we have so much talent here and it deserves to be showcased and it deserves to be supported. And we deserve to be viable musicians, even if we’re not in L.A., signed up to universal or whatever. So if it’s good music, if other people overseas are giving you awards like that then I think Australians should be getting behind it. And if they’re not, then there’s something wrong with the system, that’s what I’d say. Get behind your own.
Want to know more? Check out: goldfynchmusic.com
And get tickets to their Album Launch Party right here.
‘GOLDFYNCH’ WILL BE RELEASED ON THE 11th OF JUNE, 2021
Subscribe to FIB’s Weekly Alchemy Report for your weekly dose of music, fashion and pop culture news!