My Gold Mask
By Harriet Kaplan
My Gold Mask is Chicago-based indie electronic trio that includes founding members Jack Armondo (guitar, vocals) and Gretta Rochelle (vocals and percussion) and James Andrew (drums). Their latest album, “Anxious Utopia,” came out on Moon Sounds Records in March. “Anxious Utopia” is the band’s first release since 2013’s Leave Me Midnight. This album has been described as “exhilarating pop songs with dazzling guitar riffs, pulsing synths and a driving beat all wrapped up in Gretta Rochelle’s sparkling vocals that will have you nostalgic for the days when kids used to actually dance at indie rock shows.” The LP revolves around “the struggles and anxiety that come along with being an artist or creative in an era of socially advocated technological interconnectedness.” Vocalist Gretta Rochelle touches on her panic disorder when discussing how she feels touring liberates and frees her emotionally and as an artist with BoC. Gretta and Jack also spoke about the deeper symbolism and significance behind the group name. Jack reflected on how Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Cocteau Twins “are in their DNA as musicians.” They also briefly describe the experience performing at SXSW where they have appear numerous times. Also talked how they both love remixes “creating a musical community” and more.
How was it performing at SXSW? What was the experience like for the band?
Gretta: We’ve played SXSW a good number of times now. We’ve had all kinds of experiences
both awesome and not so awesome, but this may have been our favorite so far.
Jack: The official showcase we got to play with Mr. Kitty and Pastel Ghost at The Iron Bear was just one of our favorite shows of the tour. It was such a fun night and the vibe was great the whole time.
How did the band come up with name the My Gold Mask? What does it mean? Is there symbolism there?
J: When Gretta and I started this band we were reinventing our musical identity and exploring what it means for us to be artists. We were thinking a lot about identity and the significance masks have in culture.
G: It was a phrase that sort of popped out in conversation and we just thought that it fit what we were creating at the time.
Can you tell me how the band’s music got used in fashion shows and TV? Which ones? Was the band approached about the music? Did you feel it was a good and proper fit? Is it part of a marketing strategy?
J: Our songs Violet Eyes and Your Coo Ka Choo were used in a Phillip Lim 3.1 Fall fashion show. After that we were approached by more people about our songs. We just feel our music tends to create imagery in people’s minds. It’s flattering to us when people envision our music as a soundtrack to a project they’re working on.
G: Sometimes a song will wind up being used in a way that we might not have pictured, but that’s part of the beauty of music, that everyone takes away something different from it.
Is the band influenced by Siouxsie and The Cocteau Twins? Did they grow up listening to the music?
J: Bands like Siouxsie and The Cocteau Twins are definitely in our DNA as musicians. We both listen to a lot of 80’s goth, shoegaze, pop, electronic, etc. But we’re always listening to new stuff too and not just what we already know. We’re still very much music fans and get excited when we hear artists combining genres together in a new way that inspires us.
What inspires the band lyrically to write songs?
G: I write from personal experiences, both emotionally and physically. What happens is when Jack writes a melody, if I have an emotional response, I will pull from that. Said melody evokes the sung story.
J: Sometimes songs start with a phrase or a few words that sort of pop out in a stream of consciousness sort of way. Once that happens we kind of look at that and say “well what does that mean? What is this trying to say.” It all originates from the feelings the music and melody are generating in us.
Do you all collaborate together?
J: I usually start the song and write the core melody with an idea for the rhythm. From there we all tweak the ideas and enhance them. James will refine the beat. Gretta writes a lot of the lyrics and perfects the vocal delivery. Once we all have a pretty good grasp on the idea then we open it up to producers like Balthazar de Ley and Sanford Parker to add their input, so it really becomes a group effort. But all the songs start in a simple way and in the end we all have to be feeling it or it never goes anywhere. Occasionally a song like ‘Insomnia’ will be written all together in the room at the same time. There’s no right way to write a song and we are always open to inspiration.
I read the band is focusing on releasing singles and making remixes. Is that the best approach to get the music out there? How do you select who you work with on those projects and what’s the criteria?
J: We love remixes because like we said, we’re music fans and it’s exciting to hear a new perspective on something you created.
G: It may be totally different than our version and that’s awesome. We like to work with artists that we enjoy listening to ourselves. Sometimes people reach out to us. It does help new people hear both artists when a remix is made. It can be another way of creating a musical community.
How is the tour going so far? Does the band prefer touring versus recording and is there a preference and why?
G: I love both touring and recording and for different reasons. Though if I had a single wish granted, I would choose to tour all the time. The constant change of space and pace ignites me. It frees my mind up in a way that allows my panic disorder to virtually disappear. As for recording, I love the assemblage of a body of work in an environment where you are so hyper focused on every cell of the sonic canvas you’ve spent the last however long composing. And watching it come to completion is a pretty rad experience. Really, we like all aspects of music. We want to do this all the time.
Photo by Jason Creps