Goldroom released a two-part LP, titled Plunge/\Surface at the beginning of November. Led by Josh Legg, Goldroom builds graceful arrangements alongside electronic peaks. We had the opportunity to discuss the inspirations that separate the two halves of the album and how a near-fatal accident for the lifelong sailing enthusiast influenced his music.
TYF: The first half of the album, Plunge, is very soothing; meanwhile, the second half, Surface, pumps up the listener. Was this preplanned, or after creating twelve songs did you discover this way to organize it all?
Goldroom: Plunge was written first, in the wake of… breaking my neck in 2017. I was on a lot of painkillers and a bit of a darker place that is reflective in the music. It’s slower and a little bit more psychedelic. One of the things that I realized as I was starting to play DJ sets was, “Man, all of this music that I made I can’t DJ.” So what I set about to do was to make alternative versions of all the Plunge songs in a format that I could DJ. So I sampled myself and kind of followed in the footsteps of the people that got me into dance music in the first place, which were mostly French artists from Nantes and Paris that were making French house in the late ’90s and early 2000s. So I kind of took inspiration from their style and sampled myself and turned every song from Plunge into an alternative version, which became the last six songs, for Surface. I did that for a couple of songs and found that I loved it, so every song on Plunge has a sister song on Surface that is a reinterpretation for the dance floor.
TYF: How is your neck and how did you break it?
Goldroom: My band and I were in Tulum, Mexico, to play at Corona Sunset Festival. We had a day off before and we were at the beach. We were frolicking in the water and I got tossed by a wave and dropped on my head in the sand.
TYF: I’m very sorry to hear that. I was reading that you are very inspired by the ocean. Was this a hard moment for you, that this thing you love whipped you out?
Goldroom: Definitely an interesting life moment for me that that happened because I grew up on boats. I sail competitively. I’ve sailed across oceans before. I’m a water person, I still am. It’s my other love besides music. So it was weird that that happened for sure, but I was really lucky that it wasn’t a lot worse. I could have easily been paralyzed or even killed by it, so I got really lucky. The recovery was, difficult, but I’m through and feeling healthy now. All is good and I was ready to get back in the water as soon as I could. It wasn’t something I was fearful of.
TYF: When most people hear the EDM genre, they might assume a solo act. Could you tell us more about the team that makes up Goldroom?
Goldroom: On the recording side, it’s pretty much me. As I’m writing songs I do like to collaborate with people, but I’m collaborating with people outside of the band that I play with when we play live. It’s a pretty large and diverse group of people. It’s changing every record, but I love collaborating with people in the writing process. Because I do operate within the dance music world, there’s sort of an assumption that it’s very electronic, but so much of my music involves a lot of elaborate instrumentation and recording, that the recording process tends to be a little bit longer and a lot more collaborative, which is something that I love. When we tour live, which is where I am currently, I’m in a small bus with my whole band and the crew. We played in Santa Barbara last night and we’re on our way up to play in San Francisco tonight. When we play live, we’re playing as a five-piece right now, which has drums, a hand percussionist, a bassist, some keyboards and guitar and me. We’re playing dance music, but I care a lot about it being live and authentic.
TYF: Is that your voice on the first and last song of the album? Did you always love to sing or did you learn to compliment your production?
Goldroom: Yep, “Cocaine Girl” and “Everybody’s Lonely,” that’s me. I don’t know if, “loved to sing” is the right word. I’ve always hated my voice, but I’ve been writing songs mostly as a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar for pretty much as long as I can remember. I started to incorporate my voice into my productions when I started Goldroom. It’s been a nice part of Goldroom that I’ve gained enough confidence in my voice that I can sing in front of a crowd and feel confident in that. I never felt I had a great voice. That was one of the reasons why I started to collaborate with so many other singers and songwriters at the beginning of Goldroom.
TYF: The lyrics in your music are usually a few statements, more like poetry rather than a full story. How do you choose lyrics to accompany each song?
Goldroom: With all the songs in the second half of the record, Surface, I was trying to reinterpret the Plunge songs. I wanted to take a lyric that might have just been a lyric from a verse and reinterpret it by casting a new light on it. I suppose it’s a form of songwriting, but that was a very different process. When I’m writing songs from my last record or the songs that became Plunge, I’ve never really been a narrative storyteller, although “Cocaine Girl” is a narrative. I like to think of songs as a sort of cinema, that I’m writing a soundtrack to something that’s happening in your life. I don’t want to say that I like my lyrics to be vague, but I like them to be universal so that somebody can take anything out of it. When I write songs, it’s almost always a very escapist thing for me. So I’m always imagining being somewhere else, the music taking me to somewhere nicer or calmer or better. I’m trying to paint that picture, so it’s often more about vibe and emotion, more than me trying to tell a story.
TYF: What is the vibe like at your shows? EDM tends to be a little faster-paced, and your music is very soothing and relaxing, so I wonder how that meshes with the crowd?
Goldroom: I like to hope that I’m the breath of fresh air. I think there are people that are used to seeing bands that come and see us, and we have some peaks in our set that are probably a bit bigger than they’re used to seeing. And I think there are other people who go to see DJs all the time, and we have moments in our set when we’re doing acapella harmony. I like to think that we give a little something for everybody. For people seeing DJs all the time, I still want to have some big moments for everyone to jump around and have a good time, but at the same time, I want to highlight our musicality and hopefully provide a breath of fresh air. There are lots and lots and lots of DJs out there. You can go out and have a DJ play a whole bunch of house music for you every night. I like to try and do something a little different.
TYF: When planning for a show, in terms of equipment, what do you always bring to shows and what can you expect the venue to provide?
Goldroom: What a practical question. Interestingly on this run of shows, it varies incredibly differently. When we flew to the Pacific Northwest we basically brought all our instruments, but then through a friend of mine, we rented our amps and stands and stuff like that. On this run of shows in California, we have all of our own gear. We bring everything. When we’re flying to the East Coast we’ll bring just our instruments and then we are backlining some of our gear from the individual venues. So it really depends. We’re also playing the Dusk Music Festival on this run where pretty much everything is provided by the festival and we just show up.
TYF: How do you adjust the audio files that you bring to a performance? What adjustments are you making live on stage?
Goldroom: When we’re playing live, basically everything you are hearing we’re playing. We’re singing all the songs. I’m generally playing keys and guitar. In that sense, like any band, it’s a reinterpretation of the songs on the record. When I’m Djing, really the majority of my job is great song selection. Maybe a third of the songs are Goldroom songs and two-thirds are probably not. I’m trying to pick a great song selection for the people in the crowd. My job from there is to bridge those songs together and make the transitions beautiful and perfect. That requires some skill, but I think the true skill of a great DJ is picking great songs. Leading the listeners to a place that they didn’t even know that they wanted to go.