Late last year Milwaukee synth pop band GGOOLLDD released their third EP, titled Teeth, which featured the SubModern single "Secrets." Our "Wisconsin Correspondent" Matt McGrath recently hosted the band for a SubModern Session at Solid Air Music in Madison, WI and conducted an interview with frontwoman Margaret Butler. Read that below and listen to their performance here.
FMQB: A couple years ago I was driving around Milwaukee and I heard this band GGOOLLDD come on the radio and thought it was really cool. That was a couple years ago, but you guys have been a band for even longer than that?
Margaret Butler: Four years now. We just made four years.
FMQB: So how did you guys come together or get your start?
MB: Well I was living in Milwaukee and I was bored and cold. I love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday. I’ve always been a clothing designer so for that reason alone, it’s a really fun holiday for me. But I was kind of sad because I couldn’t go home for it. So was like, y’know what, I’m gonna throw my own party at my house. It’s gonna be great, I’m gonna get a band. But I don’t know any bands and I can’t afford to pay a band. I’m gonna start my own band!
FMQB: There you go.
MB: So I wrote some songs with some friends. We wrote like three songs and did a cover song. The party was really fun! The band was really bad, but the party was so fun that people just started asking us to play. And then people there would have a lot of fun and other venues would ask us to play. It just got to a point where we had to get better because people were paying us to do this, so we were like we should try a little harder. Still have a ton of fun, but also try to work for our money a little bit, I suppose.
FMQB: And was that the band lineup as it is now?
MB: I hadn’t yet met Mark at this point, our drummer. We were using a drum machine. It started with a bunch of other guys too that have since moved to different cities and states and y’know, had to do their jobs that they went to college for and pay off debt and stuff like that. It’s actually rotated a lot since then. Half the band I didn’t even know when I started it.
FMQB: What was the turning point for you guys where you were like, "Alright, let’s really go for it?"
MB: It just kept growing. I don’t think there was a turning point. It was like, well this is more fun than my job so… I was struggling. Being a clothing designer is not an easy thing. I gave all of my money and all of my time to it. I was about to open a store. I probably spent ten grand that year or two years before starting the band, just trying to get this business running. And now all of a sudden it’s like I’m making money doing something that takes less time and is more fun to do! I love designing and I love sewing, but it’s back-breaking work, and this isn’t that. It’s a lot more fun and I feel like there’s a lot more appreciation from people too. It’s immediate gratification when you write a song and people like it and people like dancing to it with you. It’s not something that any of us wanted to let go of, so we did everything that we could to make music happen instead of what else we were doing as far as work.
FMQB: Speaking of dancing, you have a very synth-pop kind of sound. Was that a direction that you wanted to go from the very beginning?
MB: Ah, yeah. I love dance music. We all love pop music. We all love rock music. We all love 80’s and 90’s, just everything – rock, grunge, electro, dance, pop.
FMQB: Yeah, and it’s all kind of thrown together in this band.
FMQB: You like to call yourself a performer rather than a musician. Why is that?
MB: Yeah, that’s the part of the show that I get excited about. I just like making the costumes for myself, and the hair and the make-up, and the over-lined lips and the fake lashes, and the very drag queen-esque vibe that I like to give off. It’s just a different part of my personality that doesn’t get to come out in any other natural part of my life. So, for me it just the most exciting part. When I’m performing, it feels like I’m putting on a play more than it feels like I’m just singing.
FMQB: It all goes really well together – the performance and the music and the stage show. What is the song writing process like for you guys? Is it just you writing or is it a group effort?
MB: It goes a lot of different ways. It depends. We just get in a room together sometimes and we’ll all write together. I feel like it essentially starts as two people sitting down, starting an idea, starting eight ideas, liking two of them, bringing those ideas to the rest of the band, and finishing them as a band. Everyone is very much equally involved.
FMQB: Are there any particular topics that you guys like to write about?
MB: Well, I write the lyrics and the vocal melodies. But as no one’s like, "you write bass, you write guitar, you drums." Everyone’s very multi-talented in this band. I’m not great at instruments, but they’re very good at listening if I’m like, "Oh I hear this part on this instrument," they will listen and figure out how to play it for me. The whole dynamic of the band is very caring and very understanding and leads to a very great working environment as far as songwriting goes.
FMQB: This is your third EP. How do you think it’s different from the others?
MB: I think we’ve evolved a lot. This album is the first that it’s just us four now. We’ve gone through like eight different members or something and we’re only writing together. It took us about a year. We didn’t release anything or write anything for a while because we were actually learning about each other and how to best work together in writing and living and everything. I think that was the best thing we could’ve done for each other was to take the time to get to know each other and care about each other and agree on how to write. There was a lot of trial and error for a long time, but we did figure it out and we’re better for it in every way. The songs are better. The band is better. The friendships are wonderful. We are better as people. We’re a little family.
FMQB: What’s next for GGOOLLDD?
MB: The focus of this year is travel and writing. We have three different places where we can write and record around the country. So it’s nice that when we end a group of shows, we always have a place that’s kind of close enough to go and write songs while we have the time off. That’s kind of the focus of this year is to actually, finally write an LP. Maybe. We’ll see.
By Matt McGrath and Josh T. Landow