Gold Star

Gold Star

by EVE BARLOW

Uppers and Downers out September 7, 2018 via Autumn Tone Records

There is a wall stacked with amps where there might be a TV or a dining table in Marlon Rabenreither's living room. The bookcases contain a library of music autobiographies and historic tomes, alongside reams of old vinyl records. The set-up could be from the '60s, ‘70s, or '80s, but the year is 2018 and when recording as Gold Star, the Austria-born and LA-bred Rabenreither makes music that’s similarly timeless and unable to pin to one context.

Formerly of The Sister Ruby Band, Rabenreither began his solo project in 2013 and is readying the release of his third album,Uppers And Downers. “What artists do is reactionary to what they did before,” he reasons. “I wanted to do the opposite of my previous LP, Big Blue, and make this record a collection of songs.” Hence the title, which isn't a strictly literal reference to different mental states, or even medication, but rather to the diversity of song styles.“The idea was to achieve a deeper scope, a more dynamic range: slow songs, fast songs, less genre specific, capturing all the moods.”

Indeed, Uppers And Downers is a collage that winks at classic eras, but with a modern bite and twist. It starts with the searching drawl and sadness of “Crooked Teeth,” while on “Baby Face” Rabenreither channels a more modern jauntiness. “This Is The Year,” on the other hand, is a freewheeling rock number that could’ve been masterminded in the late ‘90s, and features Cameron Avery of Tame Impala on piano.

The process began at LA's historic Valentine Studios, a space recently renovated by Rabenreither's producer friend Nicolas Jodoin (who had collaborated with him on his 2012 debut LP). Valentine hadn't been touched for decades but captured some of the greatest artists ever, including The Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, and Jackson Browne. (It's most recently famous for being where Paul Thomas Anderson filmed Haim in 2017). Jodoin was key in ensuring the songs formed a seamless soundtrack via lush arrangements and vintage-sounding keys and chords. For Rabenreither, it was an experience unlike any he'd had before.“It was the first time making my own work in a large, professional environment,” he says. “Old studios are these rare sacred spaces, like churches. It forces you to meet these expectations that you wouldn't push yourself to under less pressure. Time is valued there, and you know the people who were in there before did it right, so what are you doing?”

He went in with 25 song ideas but left the door open to further inspiration, responding to the grandiose environs when the moment served him. “Songwriting is like setting the dinner table,” Rabenreither explains. “You never know when the guests are gonna show up. A large part of my songwriting is staying out of my own way and not overthinking it.” The oldest ideas are from four years ago; the newest from four months. They usually stem from conversations with friends, everyday chatter.

While cagey about the songs' meanings, Rabenreither does allude to the notion that they span both the deeply personal and the observational. “The record talks about drug use and stuff but to me it's about the highs and lows of life,” he says. On “Half The Time” – the album's most autobiographical tune – he makes a remark about “kicking the junk,” which he admits is a literal reference, but it’s also about growing up in LA, a city that's constantly changing and has a deep-rooted underbelly despite its outward beauty. “I don't intend to romanticize sorrow or depression,” he says. “Why would anyone do that?” On "Where I’ll Be,’” he expresses guilt about making music a lifestyle choice, conscious of the judgments of others. “These people tell you who you should and shouldn't be working with and none of that has to do with art. Music can be a sacred thing. All the other stuff is mysterious. You feel guilty because you're selling a product. It's weird, right?” he laughs.

The one thing connecting the songs is Los Angeles, which remains his home. Now residing in MacArthur Park, Rabenreither feels the wave of excitement following the mass exodus of creative types from the more expensively priced San Francisco and New York City. His friends are similarly minded musicians and artists; they all believe in the everlasting power of rock'n'roll. For once in his life, he's starting to feel less like a lone wolf, more part of a collective movement. Uppers And Downers contains many vignettes of the city's neighborhoods, almost like a notebook of everyday images set to classic tunes. References to St. Andrews Square and The Marquis (“Beneath The Wheels”), Echo Park (“Half The Time”), and “Chinatown” give the album a roaming feel. The latter features Cole Alexander and Zumi Rosow of Black Lips, and is “written from a ghost's perspective about a friend of mine that passed,” he offers. “The idea that there's this presence after death.” Approaching his late twenties, Rabenreither's thoughts have become heavier and more searching.

Of the future, he notes that he doesn't feel like the finished article. “It doesn't matter if you've written a hundred songs, there's still so much to learn.” For Gold Star, the education is a lifelong endeavor. “It's like being blindfolded,” Rabenreither says of walking his path. “A lot of it is just working in the dark. You just try to evolve and be honest. I can justify writing from a small personal perspective. Any kind of simple small gesture is radical. When everything is about consumption and violence, if you can do something that is just sincere and well intentioned then that's something, at least.”

Zachary Cale is a songwriter originally hailing from the small town of Enon, Louisiana. His music ranges from lyrical folk balladry and American primitive inspired guitar instrumentals to experiments in popular song forms.

Over the span of 6 years he has released four full length albums, Outlander Sessions (2005), Walking Papers (2008), a full band rock record See-Saw (2008) under the name Illuminations, and most recently the critically acclaimed Noise of Welcome (2011). He has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and in Europe, often performing alone with only an acoustic guitar, but has been known to perform with a revolving cast of musicians whom he calls The Rain Band.

Upon the release of his sophomore album Walking Papers Cale was described by New Jersey's, WFMU as a "songwriter's songwriter" with a writing style comparable to the greats like Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, and Leonard Cohen. In concert his melodically complex guitar playing has been compared to Neil Young and Bert Jansch with nods to pre-war Piedmont and Ragtime players such as Blind Willie McTell and Mississippi John Hurt. In a full band setting Cale has been known to strap on an electric, adopting a style and delivery that flies closer to country-tinged rock songwriters such as Alex Chilton, Ray Davies and Tom Petty.

Since the release of Noise of Welcome Cale has toured the U.S., completed his first European tour including performances at the No Mean City Festival (Glasgow), the Incubate Festival (Netherlands), Festival de Pilar (Spain) and Reeperbahn Festival (Germany), released a new 7″ single on Dull Knife Records, performed at the End of the Road Festival in the UK sharing stages with artists like Robyn Hitchcock, Justin Townes Earle and Deer Tick, and completed another successful European tour sharing dates with The Black Swans and Six Organs of Admittance.

Belle Mare is a collaboration between songwriters Amelia Bushell and Thomas Servidone. The duo met at an open mic in Brooklyn during the winter of 2012, and recorded an EP that was released the following year.

With the addition of Tara Rook (Keyboards), Rob Walbourne (Drums) and Gary Atturio (Bass), Belle Mare performed a live video session at Manhattan’s Electric Lady Studio, at which they caught the attention of Grammy-winner Tom Elmhirst and Ben Baptie.

Elmhirst offered the band his studio at Electric Lady to record an EP with Baptie at the helm as producer. The band entered the studio shortly thereafter, beginning with two songs recorded in the course of a weekend. Eventually, they would go on to record a full-length album, with sessions dispersed months apart, spanning the better part of two years. Though each of these songs began as a bedroom demo by Bushell and Servidone, they evolved into more expressive, dynamic arrangements, with Baptie and the band adding their respective talents to the material.

While preserving the foundations of their songwriting and maintaining the stark minimalism of their previous work, Belle Mare’s first full-length album is new territory for the band. Compositionally diverse arrangements, and instrumentation more in line with their live performances, resulted in a far more expansive sound. This was not happenstance, as Baptie insisted they record each song together in the live room of Studio C with minimal overdubs. Although the results are dramatically different, the sincerity and fragility of Bushell’s voice resonates distinctly throughout the album, as do the themes of longing and the passage of time.

Prior to recording at Electric Lady, Belle Mare released the aforementioned EP, The Boat of the Fragile Mind in April of 2013. A collection of eight songs described as “spaciously eerie” by Spin, the EP was written and recorded by the duo in just four months in the modest confines of Servidone’s Brooklyn apartment. It is a strikingly different experience from the Electric Lady recordings, conjuring “a sense of timeless unbeholden to a specific time” (Eric Danton, Listen Dammit). Hoping to fill out the lineup for their shows, the duo quickly sought out a backing band to supplement the production on the EP and reimagine the songs for a live audience. The first addition was songwriter Tara Rook on keyboards. Quickly following that, Rob Walbourne (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) joined as drummer, and Gary Atturio (Savoir Adore) came on as bassist.

The band are set to self-release their first single, “Cicada,” in February, with the full album to be released in 2015. The song bears all the hallmarks of the EP, and both highlights Bushell’s heartfelt voice and showcases the band’s newly-evolved sound.
​​
Belle Mare currently perform in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

$12.00 - $14.00

Tickets

Upcoming Events
Baby's All Right