Golden Animals aren’t your typical California by way of Brooklyn duo. Tommy Eisner and Linda Beecroft aren’t buddies with TV on the Radio, sound nothing like The Walkmen or The National and reflect more “coyote” than “wolf.” With a blues fascination and a two person setup ala The Black Keys or White Stripes, Golden Animals bring a carnal psychedelic presence and freak folk inklings.
Their retro debut, Free Your Mind and Win a Pony was recorded in the east southern California desert and is a direct reflection of their environment: wild and natural. Cries of Jim Morrison run rampant as the duo holler groovy melodies that are more hippy than hip, but somehow stand as relevant and avoid clichés. Glide recently caught up with Eisner about what makes Golden Animals howl at the moon.
You moved to an area near the Salton Sea in the California desert to record the new album, how did that dry desolate area spark your creativity in comparison to the populated Brooklyn. Any particular inspiring moments or stories out there?
The nature of our surroundings was itself a psychedelic, mind-altering experience. It made us feel like we had escaped from prison and could do anything now. Could play all day, jump in the mineral pool nude, do whatever we wanted and then eat some fruit. Playing rock and roll together, without distraction, in that kind of an environment, you realize this is a way of life. The desert is a pathway to yourself.
If it was archaic to be living this way that was everyone else’s hang up.
What was the first musical meeting between the two of you like? Did it immediately click or was it a work in progress?
I had in a tiny, basement room/studio in Brooklyn. Some people were over, I was playing guitar and Linda just sat down behind a ramshackle kit (pieces found in dumpsters around the city) and began drumming along. At the end of the song, everyone said, “Wow, how long have you 2 been playing together?” We said, “Well, for about 3 minutes, now.”
How did you decide not to have a bass player in the band – do you feel its diminished the “groove” aspect of the music? How do you hope to expand upon your sound in the future?
We kind of realized we had a certain power together as two and we are in the process of exploring it. We feel like we are finding something that feels whole. If you start adding to something that is becoming whole you jeopardize an equilibrium that is difficult to find in music.
Also, we both sensed we wouldn’t be sticking around Brooklyn and that wherever we’d end up, it would only make sense to have the 2 of us there. As it turned out we were right.
The life that we lead in order to do what we wanted to do, sort of demanded it be the two of us alone.
You get a lot of comparisons to The Doors/Jim Morrison – what comparisons drive you nuts?
It seems like some writers try to place this record in a context for their readers. Because we’re a new band, they try to give folks a reference point, something big and simple in order to provide them with a broad comparison.
Also, we feel like people associate The Doors with the desert and the desert had a big influence on the sounds and ideas of this album.
The riff on “Try on Me” sounds very Creedence? Do you feel your sound paying an obvious respect to your influences? What songs on the album do you feel most define your sound?
We were out in the desert listening to older, acoustic blues and finding inspiration between that music and the tropical, desolate desert that surrounded us. We never listened to a Creedence or Doors record out there while making this, but the dudes in those bands may have been finding their own voice through similar pathways as us.
Do you feel as if classic rock has been ignored of late in the indie rock scene in favor of more of the dance rock thing? Whattrends do you feel are tired in music right now?
We never set out to have a classic rock sound or any particular sound. On this album we’d already fallen under the spell of blues and there’s more blues in what is referred to as classic rock than what is referred to as indie rock.
We feel that there’s an art and intelligence behind some of what is referred to as ‘classic rock’ and in the blues. Some music made in the 20’s / 30’s and 60’s / early 70’s has an integrity that extends beyond pop stardom or a dumb, masculine, sex-driven attitude. It is a form created to express things only expressible in that form.
With the success of the Black Keys and White Stripes, did it give you any confidence in churning out a two piece?
A two-piece evolved from our friendship in a natural way, it was a vehicle to be freer together. A larger ensemble would have weighted us down in this period. We have made decisions based on what felt right and this is where it brought us.
Once we were regularly playing together, we learned more about The Keys and The Stripes and realized the 2-piece is a result of a special bond formed between 2 people. In all 3 of examples it was the relationship that came first and then an unthinking moment when music started to be made, it seems like a natural blossom of the relationship itself. We feel like it is the personal connection of the members themselves that creates the foundation of the 2-piece. There is beauty in the simplicity of having only one other person there, but feeling whole.
It’s not what instruments are used, it’s who’s behind them.
How did you first get into prewar blues artists (Skip James, Blind Wille McTell, Blind Willie Johnson)? What modern artists are you most influenced by?
My (Tommy) earliest memory is from being in middle school, maybe 12 years old. It was a snowy day and I was among the only kids dropped off so classes were outside of the normal curriculum. Our music teacher decided to put in a video on the history of blues and I connected with the sound of it and the effect it had. I wasn’t a good music student though and was the worst in the class at the recorder.
We both were also introduced to blues songs from contemporary covers like Beck’s ‘One Foot In The Grave’ and Nirvana’s Unplugged album. Both albums had old blues covers that were amazing. Later, playing and traveling together would lead us further down the blues road. As for modern bands, we don’t really keep up with them at this point.
Why should we go see Golden Animals live?
Because you’re ready to usher in a new dawn.