“All of us are on the same page on achieving a common goal,” drummer Tony Kuchma says at the Over-the-Rhine apartment he shares with guitarist/vocalist Archie Neibuhr. “When we started, we were in the band for different reasons and we got to jump on some cool bills where most local bands wouldn’t have the opportunity, and it was, ‘Wow, we really have talent, let’s take this to the next level.’ ”
Gold Shoes’ organic mindset dates to the band’s 2009 formation. Local Hip Hop scenester Buggs Tha Rocka wanted recording assistance and, being a fan of Neibuhr and Kuchma’s work in Madeline’s Day Off, contacted Neibuhr through MySpace. The trio produced the track “Back and Forth” and the result inspired them to form Gold Shoes.
“I was doing solo music around that time and I went to see these guys at the Blue Bar (in Covington). I thought they was tight,” Buggs says. “They was going in and I liked it. We’ve been a band ever since.”
Gold Shoes solidified with the addition of original guitarist Brian Kittrell, bassist Kevin Johnson and keyboardist Mike Weigand, debuting at Urban Outfitters in April and releasing The Gold Shoes EP that fall. Gig offers poured in and fans showed up in increasingly large numbers.
“We dove right in,” Neibuhr says. “We started practicing immediately, two days a week. When we dropped our EP, we thought we were going to be famous. We’re done, said that, let it ride. We dropped the ball. We got handed a lot of stuff and when that stopped, we realized it’s time to work.”
The rigors of routine band maintenance became readily apparent. Gold Shoes remained productive but was largely inactive in a public sense for most of 2010; the year ended with Kittrell’s departure to study overseas.
Buggs says, succinctly, “2010 was a rough year.”
The band’s fortunes improved in January 2011 when former Where They Landed/Young Heirlooms guitarist Steven Shaefer fit into the group dynamic like a missing puzzle piece.
Gigs resumed and work accelerated on The Gold Shoes LP, the release of which was celebrated with a capacity crowd last month at The Drinkery in Over-the-Rhine.
Gold Shoes’ most distinctive characteristic is the sextet’s malleable sonic profile, represented on the new album by the Steely Dan/Indie Rock swing of “Stylin’ on ’Em,” the Santanaesque sway of “Complex Love” and the Radiohead-meets-Fleetwood Mac blip-and-burn of “Trade Your Wings,” all of it tinted with Buggs’ considerable Hip Hop genius.
“We got together as a band and as friends who love good music to make music that feels good,” Buggs says. “From the first song to the last song, every song is different. I think that’s what people appreciate about Gold Shoes. They might not like everything, but they’re gonna like something and that’s better than not liking anything.”
The band’s growth since the EP has been remarkable given the shift in guitarists was the only structural change. The significant difference might be the organic way Gold Shoes’ members seamlessly lock into each other’s grooves.
“Somebody brings in the basic element of the song; if you think in terms of spices, whatever the strongest spice is goes in first, then everybody else is like, ‘Here’s what I have to offer,’ ” Shaefer says. “Everybody plugs in. It’s like Tetris.”
“All the Autobots get together and make Megatron, you feel me?” Buggs says with a smile. “That’s how it is with us.”
“I think the songwriting is way above the EP,” Weigand adds. “Every aspect — how well we play the instruments, the quality of recording, form, structure — is beyond what it was.”
Part of Gold Shoes’ methodology is the band’s willingness to identify a song that isn’t working, then explore new sonic avenues to salvage it.
“We weren’t afraid to try new stuff,” Shaefer says. “We don’t set out to write a specific type of song, we focus on melodies we like and bring them together and move them around. We’re not making music history, but we’d like to get there eventually.”
Versatility is perhaps Gold Shoes’ most potent weapon. Weigand’s operatic training and guitar shredding ability are powerful additions, Shaefer plays a mean alto sax and Neibuhr is a multi-instrumental threat.
“We’re only going to get better,” Neibuhr says, “The stuff we’re starting to write now is more structured and we’re working well together.”
“We’re just a bunch of guys who love all genres and we’re rebels,” Buggs says. “We do what we like and we really don’t look outside. People connect to things we like to do, so we’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing.”
Gold Shoes’ social networking prowess connected them with a loyal fan base and their booking connections resulted in extraordinary opening gigs — John Mayer, Wiz Khalifa, The Black Keys, Big Sean, Kings of Leon and Walk the Moon’s album release show among them. The band is shopping The Gold Shoes LP to labels and they’re planning an imminent regional tour.
Regardless of the path, they’re ready for a ride to the top.
“It’s exciting how widely spread we’re getting,” Neibuhr says. “A girl I work with was jamming to our CD in a gas station and this random guy says, ‘Who is that?’ And she said, ‘Gold Shoes, they’re a local band.’ And he was like, ‘Where can I get an album? I’m buying that tonight.’ That’s really cool.”
“You can’t put our kind of music in a box,” Buggs says. “If a big Hip Hop act came, or Jazz or Hard Rock, Gold Shoes can get up and rock. We can play with anybody. Good music is good music. That’s the only guideline there should be.
“It’s Pop music because it’s poppin’ so let’s pop up and make five million dollars.” ©
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