Soul funksters Gold Standard have the right name name. Since 2004, they’ve been brandishing power-packed, state-of-the-art sounds the likes of which hadn’t been heard since the late ’60s, when The Electric Flag and Al Kooper’s original Blood, Sweat & Tears brought big-band arrangements —albeit briefly—to rock and blues.
Also influenced by the James Brown school of funking things up, founders Dylan Nau (guitar, vocal), Aaron Stoehr (trombone, vocal) and Jason Marks (trumpet) have put together a seven-piece outfit that can punch a hole in concrete. You can see for yourself when they throw down at The Cabooze in Minneapolis, Oct. 20, with the CD release show for their new album “Haircut,” the follow-up to last year’s “Swap Meet.” Nau isn’t necessarily is all that interested in running things, but, when it comes to decision-making, well, somebody has to call the shots, so, he does it. Accordingly, Dwight Hobbes spoke with him about how things are going with Gold Standard.
DWIGHT HOBBES: Why did you guys put Gold Standard together?
DYLAN NAU: To play and record original music with a focus on creativity and musical freedom. I had been living in Michigan for a few years and moved back to Minnesota and Aaron and I knew we wanted to get a band together to play music we wanted to play and hopefully that people wanted to hear. A lot of people are happy to just be playing, whether its a cover band or whatever, we wanted to create something new, a new sound.
DH: You’ve plenty of time live with that first album, “Swap Meet.” Does it still stand up for you?
NAU: You know, we are all pleased with that album. Plus, it was basically free, so it really helped us in that many bands spend all their money trying to pay for a record. Ours cost nothing but time and energy. I think I speak for the whole band by saying that there are a few real gems on that album.
DH: I couldn’t agree more. “Haircut”, what I’ve heard off it, is even tighter. Has a thicker sound. And you’ve got a strong singer in Ellie Lehn sitting in.
NAU: I’m pleased with it. It was a lot of fun to record. With the last album, it took us over a year to do it because we would record different parts whenever we had time. I think that came through in the album and often people would come up to us after a show and they couldn’t believe how much more energetic our live performance was compared to the recording. With Haircut, we spent 2 1/2 days at Two Fish Studios in Mankato and pounded the majority of the album out playing all together live in the studio. So, our live energy is more reflected on this one. We spent way less time on trying to fix mistakes. We said, forget it, leave ’em in there.
DH: The arrangements are Gold Standard’s signature, but they’re even more upfront, more intricate arranging. What’s going on there?
NAU: Yeah, thats interesting. The sound is thicker I believe, because it is more sparse. We don’t have the percussion on this album, yet it still sounds huge. The arrangements were more thought out than the last album. We spent months rehearsing these songs before we went into the studio and we tried to focus on everything to really lock in. We also must give credit to going to a studio with multiple $2000 microphones and preamps that cost more than my car. It’s hard to make anything sound bad with gear like that.
DH: Who’s producing?
NAU: I did all the mixing and post production so I’d have to say I am the producer, I guess. But, we all produced it.
DH: Has gigging helped tighten things up? Lots of times band get tighter from just getting out there and busting their asses at bars and nightclubs.
NAU: Precisely. Some of these songs we have been playing for over a year, so, yeah, we have gotten pretty tight by just being out there and playing and feeling each other out and just knowing where everyone is at.
DH: Thank God, we’ve finally outlived that term “blue-eyed soul”. Or have we?
NAU: Well, maybe the term but not the idea behind it. I don’t feel as though we are in that category personally, mainly because our original music is way too nerdcore to be associated with anything that is soulful. But, I’m on the inside. We can’t pick our own influences, so we all just copy whatever we love, whether it’s black or white or whatever it is.
DH: Is there, in fact, a market left for soul music?
NAU: Yes, a huge market. Soul music is all about the soul and feelin’ good and creatin’ a good vibe, people will always love to feel good.