Monday, July 18, 2011

Chicago band Gold Motel bringing its sunny pop songs to Lollapalooza


Not everyone think that Los Angeles is a music mecca.

Take Greta Morgan, former lead singer of The Hush Sound, who moved back to her hometown of Chicago to start the new project Gold Motel after living in Southern California for a year.

Gold Motel also features the talents of several other Chicago musicians, including Dan Duzsynzski, Matt Schuessler and Adam Kaltenhauser, of the band This Is Me Smiling, and Eric Hehr, of The Yearbooks.

Gold Motel,, is one of several Chicago bands that will perform at next month's Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

The band will perform from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Aug. 7 on the PlayStation stage. Tickets are $90, available at

I had the chance to talk to Morgan and Hehr about the band and its current projects.

Q - You guys were just at the Taste of Chicago, and now the band will perform at Lollapalooza on Aug. 7. Is this just another goal for the band, being part of Lollapalooza?

Greta: It was a big goal, but I kind of didn't think it would happen this early. In the band The Hush Sound, we toured all over with a bunch of really big bands.

But we were never asked to play at Lollapalooza. So the fact that Gold Motel has only been a band a year and a half and has only released one album and we got a personal invitation from one of the lead bookers at Lollapalooza was really, really flattering.

It has been one of my goals for a really long time to play at Lollapalooza, so I just feel really lucky we get the chance to do it.

Q - Have you gone to Lollapalooza before?

Greta: I went last year actually for the first time. It was incredible. I saw Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Metric, The National, and Erykah Badu. 

It's going to be really cool, because we're going to be playing on the same stage where I saw Metric and The National.

Q - There are several Chicago bands that are going to play at Lollapalooza, which to me shows that Chicago has a strong music scene.

Greta: Yeah, definitely. I feel a little out of touch with the Chicago music scene unfortunately because I moved to L.A. for a year. I was touring a lot with The Hush Sound, and in between, I was living in Los Angeles for a year.

Since I've come home, there's been all these new groups, and I don't know any of them. So hopefully Lollapalooza will give me a chance to meet the other Chicago artists.

Q - As far as what happened with The Hush Sound, was it just time for that band to end?

Greta: I don't know. We would break up before we would make every album, and then get back together. 

We had a huge beginner's luck opportunity when we were still in high school. We got signed to a record label, and asked to go on all these tours. I skipped my high school graduation to go on tour in the U.K.

We had all these really big opportunities right away. We were kind of too young to handle them in a way.

I think we really didn't know how to get along and respect each other. I think we just needed a break. Since we've been on this break, everybody is so happy doing their own thing.

I've never been happier in my life, so I feel like I should just keep everything the way it is.

Q - The Gold Motel started out as your solo project but then it evolved into a full band. How did that happen?

Greta: While I was in The Hush Sound, we were friends with a lot of people who were playing in Chicago.

There was one band called This is Me Smiling who we were really close with. The guitar player, Dan Duzsynzski, had co-produced one of our albums, he played guitar on it, and he did some vocal engineering.

This is Me Smiling came out on tour with The Hush Sound, and we became really friendly with them. And then another person who I kind of always had my eye on was Eric Hehr. He played in a group called The Yearbooks.

And it just so happened that all of our groups went on hiatus within a few months of each other. I called Dan to start demoing some songs, which became the Gold Motel EP.

While we were demoing, I kind of kept inviting kept Eric over, and asking him, "What do you think of this, what do you think of that?"

Eventually, we had to get ready to play a live show. We put the band together. We got three of the guys from This Is Me Smiling, and Eric and myself.

We played the show at the Beat Kitchen, and it was sold out. It was just a really exciting thing, to play a new project that was welcomed so warmly in our hometown.

From there, we just kind of decided that we would keep going. We finished the "Summer House" album by working on the songs together. After that, we put out the "Taking Fiction" 7-inch, which are two songs we all kind of developed from the ground up.

It just happened in a really natural way.

Q - Did it feel comfortable right way working with each other? Did things start clicking right away?

Eric: I think everyone had the same sensibility. I'm still figuring out how to play with everyone, so I'm still not quite comfortable.

But I think that all us of have the same mind frame to a certain extent. We are all I think usually aware of what we are going for and what we are trying to accomplish when it comes to getting together and working on songs and how they should be arranged and performed and stuff like that.

The other three guys in the band have played together for years and years and years, and it's hard to walk in and try to jell with three people who are that close knit.

Greta: It was a little bit intimidating, because I really looked up to all the guys in the band.

It was kind of like when a little dream comes true, like, "What do I do now?" But it was fun.

I can definitely feel myself getting better every month we are playing together. As a musician, the way you become a better musician and a better songwriter and singer is to play together with people who are going to challenge you to take it to that next level.

Q - You both have worked on different projects. Do you feel your different projects are reflected in Gold Motel at all?

Greta: If somebody listened to all of our back catalogues and then listened to the band, they would be able to hear a little bit of everyone.

But I definitely think that despite the fact we each carry a little bit of our former projects into this one, it's got a whole new look because it's the combination of all those things.

Eric: A lot of people after listening to the album or after coming to one of the shows will come up and talk about the different styles of guitar playing. They talk about how Dan and I have totally different styles of playing, but that it still somehow works when we are on stage.

Q - And it seems like that in all your bands, the melody is the most important thing. Would you say that's true?

Greta: I think that everyone has agreed on a pop focus. If the song can't be brought down to an acoustic guitar and a melody, then maybe there's not enough melodic key to it.

Eric: I think that rhythm is as important as melody. I think they're interchangeable.

I think you have to have a really solid foundation of both to have a good song.

Q - Are you guys going to be trying out any new songs during your set at Lollapalooza?

Eric: We have two new songs that we played on our last tour. We are recording one of those songs right now that we hope to have done by Lollapalooza.

Those two will probably be included in the set list.

Q - What should people expect from the new album? Is it kind of going to be a continuation of what you've done?

Greta: It's kind of hard to say yet, because we're still in the writing process, but I'm kind of hoping it's stronger pop songwriting and more energy.

I think it will just be a more streamlined, sophisticated pop version of Gold Motel.

Q - You're still operating as an indie band, right?

Greta: We released "Summer House" independently. I think with this album, we may try to shop it. But it would have to be the right partner for us to want to dive in working with a label.

Q - I suppose there are both pros and cons to being an indie artist. Do you think the pros outweigh the cons?

Greta: Well, it's hard to say, because it depends on what label you are working with. The general pro of being an independent artist is that we have total creative control.

The con is that we shoulder all the costs of making an album, all the costs of going on tour. We shoulder the costs of having a publicist and we have to pay for our own radio campaigns.

It's kind of like all of the things a label would normally do in exchange for their royalties from the album. But the pro is that we have total control, over our schedule, over which songs go on the album, over the artwork, all of that is in our control.

So I think that if we could find a really great record label that would be willing to let us keep holding onto the reins and also let us continue to own our masters, then I would be super optimistic about doing that.

Q - I've heard from other Chicago musicians who say that Chicago is still a great place to make music, but it's not necessarily a great place to get exposure for your music compared to L.A. Do you think that it is harder to get your music out there now you're back in Chicago?

Greta: I think it's easier in Chicago. Los Angeles is so oversaturated with new acts. It's almost like it's hard to catch someone's attention.

It kind of seems like bands are getting more attention in Brooklyn in the tastemaker scene, like in the Pitchfork world.

I still think that Chicago is a great place. I see Chicago as having a very loyal and supportive audience. 

People go and see their friends play. People want to see a band succeed from Chicago. I think it's a great place to be.