By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Golden Drugs.
Being in a band is a bit like being in an open relationship–if you don’t have complete honesty chances are it’ll fall apart.
Drew Pearson was vocalist in the Oakland-based group Twin Steps, a trio that paid proper doo-wop homage to ‘60s classics with a helping of experimental rock and roll. The group was successful, but for Pearson the spark was dying out fast. He needed to ignite it again.
It was the love of music that would eventually align his path with drummer Chris Natividad and bassist Tyler Bell to form Golden Drugs.
“It ended up being about finding people who were serious–people who didn’t want to do anything except just play together,” explains Pearson.
He continues, elucidating in a more mischievous tone.
“When you start having a nice sexual relationship with a girl and it just continues and continues, and then suddenly you’re deep in…” he laughs. “It’s kind of like the love of just being around each other and creating, you know?”
That communal joy has a way of transcending even our corporeal planes. Pearson is quite candid about telepathically communicating with his band mates.
Whether they’re in the middle of playing or sitting down for the songwriting process, it’s hardly necessary for anyone to utter a word. Each member in the trio is aware of what the other person likes, what they’re going to do, and so as Pearson explains “the future shoots out” like it’s not even planned.
Given the oddball subject matter of their songs (failed cult leaders, machete murders, and ghosts that adopt the dirty habits of the living are all but a few), telepathy doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.
Songs lull and daze before abruptly careening into discomfited freak outs and swirling incantations. Rhythms lurch and self destruct. Then there are moments of surreal, mantra-inducing meditations.
Suffice it to say, pinpointing a specific and all-encompassing “sound” for Golden Drugs is a bit like throwing your favorite genres into a word blender and rolling around in the goo that comes out.
Pearson’s a good sport, however. He takes a stab at definition.
“Hmmm, let’s see,” he says, stroking the proverbial chin. “I would have to say that it’s a horrifying drug trip that makes you feel really beautiful and calm at the end.”
An apt description, sure, considering it mushrooms from the band’s namesake. But listeners shouldn’t get too carried away with paisley stitching to trippy-hippie drug culture. Pearson explains it’s about being able to get to that chemically-induced “point” and enter the dream state with any substance or any technique, feeling, or artistic expression.
Kind of like tripping on life itself, he reveals with a laugh.
Once you’ve opened those passageways in your brain–albeit through drugs or another medium–Pearson believes you can always return. You don’t even necessarily need to step through the same narcotic gateways that brought you there.
“A lot of people have told us that our music is very nostalgic, and I think memory can be a drug in itself,” he reasons.
That being said, the songwriter also acknowledges that it can sometimes be difficult and awkward to explain the band name to people–especially parents. The trio set out to tell Bell’s father about their creation, nervous that he would be upset, and were surprised when his reaction was anything but precarious.
“We told Tyler’s Dad while we were on tour,” says Pearson, “and he said, ‘Oh, Golden Drugs–like the sun!’ That was definitely one of my favorite interpretations so far.”
All whimsy and bizarre sense of humor cast aside, Golden Drugs isn’t always served sunny-side up. Part of what makes their music so alluring is the casual dance between beauty and horror that emerges time and time again in their songs like a crooked pendulum.
You can hear it for yourself on their debut album, In the Midnight Sun or Stubbornly Persistent Illusion. It’s one hell of a ride, made possible through a series of checks and balances between members of the trio that keep everything threaded while the whole yarn seems to unravel.
When one member starts writing something beautiful, the other two will crush it with dissonance. Vice-versa; if there is a strange, “grimy” sound emerging, then somebody will offer lilting strings, or a beautiful piano line.
“If we wanted to write some Coldplay songs, we could do it!” laughs Pearson. “But odds are if a couple of us are into it, even if it’s the most beautiful, straight-forward pop hit ever, the other person would say, ‘We can’t do this… let’s fuck it up!’”
To hear the rest of our interview with Golden Drugs, tune into this week’s episode of The Discovery Corner.
Or interpret the band for yourself by clicking here.