2012 was a very busy year for Austrailian electro indie act Gold Fields, and 2013 promises to even be a busier year for them. With the release of their debut album, Black Sun, on the horizen and a relentless touring schedule it’ll literally be impossible for you to not hear murmers about their infectious tunes and unforgettable live shows. The band just finished touring with St. Lucia and prior to their gig at the Music Hall of Williamsburg I got to sit down with Vin Andanar (guitars) and Ryan D’Sylva (drums) about touring, recording, how the band came about, and why Gold Fields are a band that will be on your radar in the new year.
How did you guys make your live shows what they are now?
Ryan: It pretty much started with a bunch of kids thrashing about in a room hahaha.
Vin: Me, Ryan, and Mark all grew up playing rock and pop punk music, we kind of grew up in the emo scene so I think that’s where we got our energy because that’s how we used to play when we were younger.
Ryan: And when we were younger and we’d see American bands play, like The Used or Brand New we decided that’s how we wanted to play and it’s kind of stuck with us. It’s just fun.
Vin: I think even before that, when you watch early footage of Nirvana their shows were just always so energetic.
Some would ever say shambolic but at the end of the day they always worked.
Vin: Yeah, like that we just go out and have fun. I think everyone has their own different world when they play and even though it can be chaotic I think it works.
Ryan: Mark and Vin used to play in a band together when they were younger, we’ve always all kind of known each other from seeing our other bands play as well, so I’m sure some of that stage chemistry carried over, as well as our musical views.
Vin: Yeah that’s mostly how it came together because we were always hanging out and going to the same music festivals.
Have you ever been inspired by a live act and what do you think you took away from that show?
Ryan: Maybe when we were younger and more impressionable we were, though a few nights ago we went to this Rolling Stone party we got into last minute where The Flaming Lips were playing.
Vin: It was fucking crazy!
Ryan: There were lasers, gigantic hands, a man in a massive bubble.
Vin: That was a fucking show! As soon as they came on he (Wayne Coyne) said that they were going to start with a song that they normally finish with and immediately after that the venue was filled with confetti. That was seriously next level type of shit in terms of shows.
Ryan: They were main stage festival confetti cannons in a room of two hundred people.
Vin: The confetti was going into everyone’s hair and drinks, I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Did you guys do any festivals this year and what were some of the stand out one’s for you?
Vin: We did South by earlier this year and in Australia we did this festival tour called Groove In The Moon. It goes to all the regional cities outside of the main cities.
Ryan: Yeah it’s great because they go to the places most tours usually skip but there still only about twenty minutes out of the main cities so the crowds tend to be twenty thousand people or so. It’s pretty much the only touring festival in Australia.
Vin: It’s great because it gives a lot of the country kids a chance to go to a music festival as well as the city people. They get big acts as well, I remember they got Run DMC, Digitalism…
Ryan: No mate it was Public Enemy not Run DMC.
Vin: Shit you’re right hahaha.
I got to hear the album and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I heard a lot of things in there that takes most bands years to get to. What was the recording process like for the album and how did it come together?
Vin: You heard it? Nice one!
Prefix: Yeah, it’s insane because I’ve been with bands in studios while they were making records and it’s always blown my mind seeing how many things it takes to create just one song, in our debut each song is like that and almost feels as though there’s fifty things happening at once, yet it’s all very cohesive. The mastering sounds fucking fantastic as well, all the layers achieve what they were meant to.
Vin: Aw thanks man. That’s really great to hear because we did all of that ourselves.
Ryan: Yep in our garage. We recorded, produced it, engineered it, and got our friend to master it.
Vin: The process started in LA, august of last year. We were there for about six weeks and we were recording it at Capitol studios, Oceans Way, and at the producer’s house. We spent every day for six weeks recording this album.
Ryan: We really didn’t know what we were getting into really.
Vin: We didn’t, but the opportunity came and we couldn’t say no, especially getting to work with all that equipment and a renowned producer. You look at an equation like that and just assume everything is going to work but when we went back to Australia we realized that we weren’t exactly happy with the album. It wasn’t even half finish, whatever we did. We didn’t even have the time to go about it quickly because we then released an EP and had to tour for that.
When we had time to revisit what we did in LA we went to this mansion in the middle of nowhere just to get away and write songs, and play into whatever hour we wanted during the night. We got three more songs from that and basically re-wrote a lot of the other stuff and scrapped a lot of stuff. We then re-recorded the album in Sydney. And then we got it mixed and it was all done February of this year, it still didn’t feel right and by that time the budget was completely exhausted. The only other option at that point was to do it ourselves, which would have been our first preference. We knew that if we had the opportunity to do it ourselves that we could produce it ourselves and that it’d be better hen the first two times.
So we set aside time back at around June or July, about three weeks, because everything we’ve done before that started out at my house, in my bedroom, but this time we figured we’d upgrade from a bedroom to a bigger room, pretty much our singers garage hahaha. Well it’s a double garage.
Ryan: To us that’s a big step! Hahaha.
Vin: We re-decorated the garage and made it into our own little world. We had early artwork for the album that we put all over the room, we had lights all over the place, and Mark’s brother, who’s a sign maker, made us this big neon sign that said Gold Fields on it. It changed colours hahaha.
Ryan: It’s like our own little home where we can retreat to and try different things, even if we feel like they’d be dumb, it’s important to experiment like that. It beats being in a studio because there you’re always worried about time constraints. In our garage we can just try anything that isn’t by the book. When we started the band we made a rule that there wasn’t any rules for us and that if there was something to us that we felt wasn’t recorded perfectly that we’d go back and record it again, we also got into the habit of trying to find organic sounds first before resorting to a synthesized sound.
Vin: We pretty much put ourselves into the head space we had originally when starting the band. There was no goal or restrictions when we started the band, we felt it was important that after we wrote a song that there’d be no agenda and that the songs could do whatever. There’s no stupid idea, no restrictions; we can just do whatever. So we spent three weeks recording, pretty much from 10am to 11PM working. We got really creative.
Ryan: And now we’re really fucking excited and stoked about it.
Vin: Yep totally. The guy who mixed it is the same guy who’s mixed all our previous releases, early demos.
Ryan: He’s pretty much the only person we felt comfortable letting into what we were doing, it was nice seeing him just kind of let us do what we wanted while being in the back and even during the mixing process he took a lot of notes from us on how we wanted the album to sound. It was a team effort really.
Vin: It’s funny because we know how to mic things up…
Ryan: Well we “think” we know how to mic things up hahaha
Vin: Well we mic up guitars pretty well haha but when it comes to things like hand claps or vocal distance we didn’t know any of that shit, being in a proper studio the first go kind of taught us some of that stuff for sure. It was great learning as we went along, and with our friend Mal (who mixed our album) he came to the start of every instrument and was there for the whole thing. And even for Malcolm, when he was mixing the album he learned a lot himself, An example would be that Ryan would need a kick-drum that sounded a certain way but right off the bat Malcolm wouldn’t know how to get that sound so we’d spend an hour or so figuring it out hahaha.
That’s really interesting because I noticed with most acts, when a producer becomes involved, it’s almost as though they become relieved in terms of having to deal with all of that. I feel a lot of bands do that because when you record an album you’re met with the thoughts of what your band even is about and why you’re in it and it seems a lot of bands avoid that, but with you guys it seems you pushed yourselves right into that.
Vin: Totally, and that’s exactly how we looked at it as well.
Ryan: It’s great to record a song and care so much about the little things. Especially if I listen back to the album now, I’ll remember how hard it was for us to get that kick drum sound and it’s almost as if we literally made every little piece of that album what it is. That’s a really cool thing.
Vin: I can even remember now that if there was ever a moment when we were recording where we got a bit lazy that we’d feel the need to get it better, even if it was one percent off.
Ryan: That was our thought process; we could never go with “aw well that’s good enough”
What would you say was the biggest challenge you guys dealt with when it came to make the album?
Ryan: I think our biggest challenge was that after we had the album done, after the second re-recordings at the mansion and such, I think the hardest thing was admitting that all the work that we had done, all the sleepless nights, blood, tears, and sweat just at the end of the day wasn’t good enough. And that if we were to release it as it was; knowing that we could have done better, that we wouldn’t be able to deal with that.
I still remember the first call we had where we discussed the idea of scrapping what we had and doing it again.
Was it a mutual decision or did some people need convincing?
Ryan: It was like a thing that was so far out of anything we thought we could do that you could tell that some of us were thinking about it but would just never even bother to say it out loud, it just seemed too crazy of an idea. Especially all the budget we spent.
It kind of makes you wonder how many other bands in the past have felt the same way but just decided against re-recording.
Vin: Yeah and for us it’s our first album and for us it’s the most important thing that the five of us are happy with our music. Anything else doesn’t matter to us. When we started the band we knew we had to have fun and enjoy what we were doing. If people loved what we were doing, seeing us live, and buying our music then that’d be great but that’s just an added bonus and secondary.
Ryan: And now I believe that if the album doesn’t do as well as we’d like, or how well or record label would like, I know that we’ll be totally happy and just not give a fuck. It just feels great to know that we have an album we’ll always be able to look back on and never think ill of.
Vin: To me this is the type of album that if I heard (and wasn’t in the band) I’d go; fuck yeah, this is sick.
That’s quite refreshing, you rarely hear people say that about their own albums haha.
Vin: I think it’s good to, especially after working so hard to get it to that point. I dunno if other bands write songs for them just to do well but I know that we write music because we want to go “Fuck yeah! This is really good”
When it comes to creating music do you guys feel it’s important to enjoy the music that you’re creating and if so why?
Ryan: I think the taste in music we have aren’t so far obscure that you might have, so we think that if we create music that we’ll enjoy then it won’t be that hard to attract people, it’s hard to say that about your own music and to separate ourselves from it but I think enjoying it really is important and makes it easier for others to just understand what you’re doing.
When you guys record do you also have the live show in mind, how much do the recorded tracks translate to your live performances?
Vin: I think it’s just that after show after show, and touring as much as have that it’s mostly been about seeing how other bands perform and wanting to get onto that level. Just to be better performers. We want people to either go “Ugh I fucking hated that band” or to go “Fuck me I fucking loved that band”
Ryan: We only deal in extreme emotions hahaha. Just something that’s not mutual.
Vin: I think that’s the worst; for someone to leave a performance and go “eh, that was alright” I want people to either hate it or love it.
Ryan: Either way, they’ll probably remember it.
Vin: It’s great because I feel every band we’ve toured with has made us want to play better. Even watching St. Lucia, they’re fucking fantastic live, seeing them live will just push us to be better.
Ryan: It reminds me of the first band we toured with in Australia, after seeing them perform we all kind of collectively went “ok so we’ll be better during the next tour, time to step it up” so within that two month gap we revamped our set, and I think it was after touring with Miami Horror that we noticed how different songs can be from their recorded versions, pretty much making a show of your music instead of playing it routinely.
I remember though, in terms of the love/hate thing, when we toured with Metric recently there was a show where a fan got there super early to be at the front for Metric and he was at the front of the stage trying to hold his hands in his ears because we were so loud hahaha he looked quite uncomfortable.
Vin: I remember seeing him and thinking “Fuck, let’s just play louder”
There goes the strong reaction you guys wanted hahha.
Ryan: Yeah he definitely won’t be forgetting us.
Vin: At least now he’ll know the band that he hated hahaha “Damn you Gold Fields!”
It’s insane seeing how big Metric are. I remember when they would just be on stage but now it’s like they’re live shows get bigger and bigger.
Ryan: I suppose that’s how it is when a band gets to a certain level, it’s really important to change the sets as much as possible. We’ve been playing our current set most of the year and we’re trying to think about now how to make our shows different next year.
Vin: After the album is released we really want to incorporate more album tracks into the set and use that as a means to try different things.
Ryan: So when you see us again in a couple of months you can tell us if we stepped it up or not hahaha.
I was actually at the Bowery gig a few nights back. I was photographing the show and something interesting that happened is that usually with a show like the one you guys are playing I’d take out my flash, due to the low lighting (or more of a lack of lighting), but with you guys the way you had your lights set up…I didn’t want to do that. I actually felt that I would have been ruining the mood of the show. It was brilliant seeing how the lights went with the music.
Ryan: I think the thing with us is that we like silhouettes.
Vin: It suits our music better, it’s not about seeing our faces, just seeing movement and taking in our music.
Ryan: I’ve always liked that with our lights it’s like you can make out that they’re people on stage but not really. I think with us when it comes to seeing us at our shows you really get all you need to get, if that makes any sense. I feel our faces feel kind of irrelevant hahaha.
Hahaha I can just imagine seeing someone trying to pitch that to a label and the label going “What the fuck?….”
Ryan: It’s funny because we’ve done a lot of radio performances lately as well and they’re awesome opportunities but they’re always trying to shine lights on our faces and we can’t stand it hahaha.
Vin: It’s an awkward way of seeing the band, or any band, being presented. I mean I’ve seen videos where the footage of our shows is dark but I’ve found myself just thinking “fuck yeah, that’s how it was”
Ryan: What we’re trying o say is that we’re glad that you liked it hahaha.
It was really cool hahaha challenging but cool. I think when it comes to photography, especially when working with bands, that it’s very important to just capture the gig in its most authentic form of how it was.
Vin: Thanks man, wish everyone was like you haha.
What are some things you learned in the studio that’s made Gold Fields better at recording and playing live?
Ryan: I don’t think we sound too far off from the record (when we play live) but some people do. We do play the songs a bit different and have the structures different but I think we always bring out what the studio tracks are trying to get across.
Vin: We do treat them as two different projects though, the studio and live performances. The studio is a place where we can be perfectionist and somewhat polished, to our live shows we want people to hear something different then what they heard on the record, we want them to be different experience that will keep people coming to our live shows more.
Ryan: For us as well it feels like everything builds up to the show. We really do write/record songs so we can play the shows. I don’t think it’s ever the other way around, maybe for other bands it is but for us everything builds up to the live show. A few people have said to me that when they heard our EP that our live show ruined the EP hahaha, that our EP can’t match up to our show and that our EP can’t match up to it hahaha.
You guys got to do CMJ this year, any fond memories from that? You guys played a lot of shows.
Ryan: We did about eight shows in four or five days.
Vin: We did two shows a day for however long we were here in New York.
Ryan: It was an awesome experience. It’d be hard to pinpoint a highlight since the whole thing was such a massive highlight.
Vin: I really enjoyed Spike Hill in Williamsburg. That was a sick show. It was a Friday night and everyone was ready to party. Also the Aussie BBQ was nice. It was great but we played super fucking late.
Ryan: We were supposed to go on at two but ended up going on at three, some people did end up leaving since it was so late but it did become really sweaty for those who stayed haha.
Vin: CMJ was fun; it was intense and tiring trying to keep up. At SXSW everything is quite a bit closer.
Ryan: I think SXSW was a bit more hectic since everything is so close you just always have to be on, but with CMJ things were mostly in the night so even though venues are spread out you do get to rest more.
Vin: Yeah, SXSW was all about networking as with CMJ people are more about just going to the shows and taking them for what they are.
Did you guys bump into any bands that you’re friends with at CMJ or at SXSW?
Ran: We bumped into some fellow Australian bands. At these festivals though it’s quite hard to build something from scratch but tours like the one we’re doing with St. Lucia you do become really close with the bands you’re touring with.
What do you want people to hear in the album while listening to it for the first time?
Ryan: I suppose just to like the album really.
Vin: I love it when music lovers comment on our music. Like people who are in their forties, or fifties or not even that old, just people like yourself who love music and everything about it. When they comment on your music I always take it on board. Whenever I hear people say this reminds them or something or even that it’s something they’ve never heard before, all of that sounds special to me.
Ryan: And even to go back about what you said about there being layers to the music, it’s cool to hear you say that and to see people noticing that because when after recording an album and hearing that you feel as though all the time you spent has been recognized and appreciated. I suppose I just want people to like our record for the right reason.
Vin: Yeah, I guess when it comes to the album…like I’m a bit nervous, not that I’m afraid of how it’ll do, especially since of how we talked about that before but it’s going to be interesting to see what people say about it.
Ryan: Yeah, even though I don’t think people will dislike it I still find it odd whenever people say that they do like it, I suppose I’m just not expecting that hahaha. I just have no idea.
A friend of mine described it once that an album is like a baby and that when you’re recording it for so long that when it comes time to release it it’s almost like setting your baby lose onto the world.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.
Vin: Yeah I agree, and also when it comes to 2013 I just want to play more shows and see more of the world with my friends. Especially Europe, South America, and Asia…I just want to play more shows.
Ryan: I really hope this record brings us to places that we’ve never been.
Have you guys ever been to the UK? I imagine you’d do really well there.
Ryan: That was actually the first place we ever went. Like our seventh show or something was in the UK.
Vin: We were doing some shows and got a single put out there, we toured with The Naked And The Famous. We were such a green band though and had no idea what the fuck we were doing hahaha.
Ryan: Two of our members had never played instruments before and were still just getting the hang of it all. So we were still just learning how to play together while touring.
Vin: We just got thrown into the deep end.
Ryan: And kinda of drowned a, but hahaha I don’t think we really made an impact.
Aw, well something I’ve noticed with Europeans is that first impressions don’t seem to matter as much as they do here in the states.
Ryan: It’ll be great to go back there and make a better impression; it all depends on how well the album does.
Vin: I think our focus will mainly be America and Australia.
Last question, what are some differences between touring the United States and Australia?
Ryan; The food. The landscapes as well look like it’s another planet here. There are literally no similarities.
Vin: We’ve seen a small few. The closest things that come to home are Seattle and Portland, just because there’s more greenery around. You notice more cafés and healthy options for food there as well.
Ryan: The driving/distances seem the same because things are so spread out in Australia, though there we have five cities and you guys have two hundreds hahaha. Actually just on this tour alone we’ve driven so much that we could have driven around the circumference of the earth at least once.
Vin: Fuck hahahaha. That’s fucked up.
It’s funny because most Americans wouldn’t assume that there’d be green in Australia, people just think of outbacks and mountains.
Ryan: I’ve actually never even seen the outback hahaha it’s quite deep into the middle of Australia. Over there though there’s a massive rock yeah and the funny thing is that rock is considered to be massive there but here it’d be the size of your normal rocks pretty much. It’s mostly because there’s not a lot of rocks haha we have a lot of flat land and green hills.
Vin: You’ve probably seen everything you could see in Australia in films and such.
What was it like seeing so much of the states that was different from New York and California?
Ryan: Fucking weird hahaha.
Vin: Everything in the United States is massive, your sodas, burgers, and fucking hell just look at this venue hahaha.