Chicago duo My Gold Mask furnishes a trippy journey into resplendent darkness and emotionality. Dramatic, layered songs awash in goth splendor. Unique experimentation and textured melodies orchestrated with merely guitar, drums and vocals that present as a rich aural tapestry– bit of 60s and 70s psychedelia. Gretta Rochelle’s impressive vocal range —from vulnerable to intense— equates the music to Siouxsie and the Banshees. My Gold Mask released its second full length album Leave Me Midnight on February 19th.
I interviewed vocalist/drummer Gretta Rochelle and guitarist Jack Armondo by email.
Amy Steele: My Gold Mask’s been together since 2009. How did you get together?
Gretta Rochelle: Jack and I met at a party years ago. Right off, we started talking about music. Like two days later, we were writing together.
Jack Armondo : It was like serendipity in a way. Because almost immediately I knew we would be making music together. As far as My Gold Mask goes, it really started off with us just experimenting and playing around with new sounds. Pushing ourselves artistically.
Amy Steele: What makes you work well together?
Gretta Rochelle: haha, history I guess. We’ve been working together for a while. We both know what the other person is trying to do even before they do it at this point. We share similar aesthetic views and have similar writing styles.
Jack Armondo: We are on the same page creatively speaking. Even when we argue we come to an understanding fairly quickly. There isn’t a lot of disagreement about the overall direction of things. That’s not to say we don’t fight, because oh yeah we do.
Amy Steele: What challenges you about being in a two-piece band?
Gretta Rochelle: The fact that I couldn’t focus on one particular thing was challenging for me. I was splintered between vox and beats. I really like to give attention to what needs to be nourished and for me, the vocals were where I wanted to grow and spend more time. Now that we have a live drummer, I can focus more on the delivery that the songs demand.
Jack Armondo: For me, it was a challenge to fill the sound out. In the beginning we were more minimal and inspired by bands like Young Marble Giants. It taught us that taking something away can work just as well as adding something, if arranged properly. For “Leave Me Midnight” we wanted a bigger sound. I love synths but they’re not really my forte, so I try out different sounds with the guitar and make it almost otherworldly. But as we fill things out we also try not to forget the things you learn playing in a minimal band. Limitations can be inspiring.
Amy Steele: How did you get the name My Gold Mask?
Jack Armondo: We like masks. We like the idea of dual identity. We also just like how it sounds. It sort of popped out in a conversation we were having about luche libre masks.
Amy Steele: What do you like best about making music?
Gretta Rochelle: It’s gratifying to be able to convert raw emotion into something audible. It’s magic to me to be able to pull out the clutter from my head and make it into something musical.
Jack Armondo: I guess if I had to pick my favorite thing, it’d be performing live. There is an energy you don’t get in the studio. But really we love every aspect of making music and try and focus on what we are doing at the time. It’s exciting when something you’ve been creating really starts to come to life.
Amy Steele: Gretta, you have such an amazing vocal range. Haunting, powerful, delicate. . . what type of vocal training have you had? How do you protect your voice when you’re on tour?
Gretta Rochelle: Thank you, you’re sweet. I’ve had no formal training…just singing along to awesome vocalists like Bruce Dickinson, Kathleen Hanna, Robert Smith, Billy Holiday and Ma Rainey…yeah. I actually have a super sensitive voice. I’m allergic to everything and lose my voice from just talking too much. On tour, I keep quiet and drink a lot of water….in between some Patron and yummy beers, of course. Carrot juice, Slippery Elm and Throat Coat are my best friends on tour.
Amy Steele: Let’s talk about the song “Some Secrets.” Synth beats, precious vocals. What inspired this song?
Jack Armondo: It’s just about when someone is telling you too much. Either about themselves or people you know. Rumours, secrets, things like that. Whether truthful or not, it can be destructive. Sometimes you don’t want to know everything. Sometimes the mystery is more attractive.
Amy Steele: I also really like the song “I, Animal.” What is this about?
Gretta Rochelle: Thank you, I really like singing it. To me “I, Animal” is a primal seduction song. I play around with my voice a little bit more on this one. There’s an unpredictability about it that mimics a sort of crazy love affair that may even be more one-sided if anything. Then at the chorus, it’s asking for the lover to just roll with it, regardless of the danger or threat of anything insane happening.
Amy Steele: “Without” is a beautiful, slower song where you both sing. What do you like
about this song?
Gretta Rochelle: Everything. It’s so sad. Jack wrote this song. I love harmonizing with him. He has an incredible voice and I think our vocals really lay lovely over each other.
Jack Armondo: I literally dreamt this song up. I woke up from a very sad dream and it was in my head and I immediately recorded it on my phone. The lyrics are simple, it’s about the feeling of the melody. At one point we tried adding more to it but it just seemed to take something away, so we left it simple. Gretta liked it and decided to make it a duet , which gave it that something extra I think. Sanford [Parker– engineer/producer] told us it was one of his favorite songs while he was mixing it, which was pretty cool to hear. He mixed it perfectly, it sounds haunting to me like it was in my dream.
Amy Steele: On “Lost in My Head” at times it’s almost as if you get into another character, Gretta. Is that your intent or do you feel that certain emotions must be sung in certain keys?
Gretta Rochelle: This song is probably the most “me” song on the record. I suffer from major panic disorder and have incredible panic attacks daily. The song isn’t sung in different keys, but the voices are different from verse to bridge to chorus to translate the roller coaster effect as accurately as I can via song.
Amy Steele: What makes a good song?
Jack Armondo: There’s not really one particular formula. There are so many different types of songs that can work for so many different reasons. I like songs with hooks, but that has to be accompanied by some real emotion. We like songs that feel immediate but pull you in deeper the more you listen and can challenge artistically as well. It’s not easy to write a song that encompasses all of that. But when it does come together, it’s a great feeling.
Gretta Rochelle: Hitting that sweet spot. Usually a dark, sweet spot for me. A good song is one that stays for life. I become obsessed with the feeling it gives me. Wherever I am in life, if that song comes on, I stop what I’m doing and let myself remember why I fell in love with it, what was going on when I found it.
purchase at Amazon: Leave Me Midnight
March 2nd – Milwaukee, WI – Mad Planet
March 9th – Chicago, IL – Schubas
March 16th @ Midnight – Austin, TX – SXSW (Hickory Street)
March 19th – Hot Springs, AR – Low Key Arts
April 13th – Cincinnati, OH – MOTR
April 26th – Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
Apr 6th – Kansas City – Middle Of The Map Fest
June 25 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
June 26 – Cambridge, MA – The Middle East
June 27 – Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory