Discovery: Dirty Gold
Published April 14, 2011
When we scheduled a phone call with Dirty Gold at 7 AM PST, we felt a little guilty—and a little suspicious whether said interview would actually take place at the scheduled hour. But brothers Lincoln and John Ballif and friend Grant Nassif called right on time, and we apologized for waking them so early—to which they replied, “We had to get up and go to school anyway.” The fresh-faced threesome made their entrance onto the music scene with the release of their single “California Sunrise,” a lilting tune that took the blog world by storm and leaves you yearning for warm summer days (especially now, when winter just doesn’t seem to want to end). Though their songs certainly possess a youthful cheer, their music sensibility belies their age and life experience—Lincoln and Grant will be heading to college next year, BYU-Idaho and Vanderbilt, respectively, while John will spend another year in high school. Following a brief stint of live shows in NYC, their debut EP, Roar, was released Tuesday on Autumn Tone.
HOMETOWN: Carlsbad, CA
STARTING OUT: Grant and I have been best friends since the beginning of high school; we always played together, I played bass in the school jazz band and Grant played drums. We’d always just jam out and try new stuff. John and I always played music together because we’re brothers. Once we started writing new music and generating our own sound, we just collaborated more until we developed into an actual band.ON “CALIFORNIA SUNRISE”: It was towards the end of summer that I started writing it. Other than surfing and just messing around, music was the main focus that summer. I recorded the foundation of “California Sunrise,” but then my family went to Utah for a vacation for a week. I just remember being there and thinking how much I missed the California summer while I was there and got so many ideas and recorded them. When I got back I just put it all together, and it became a song.
BEST PARTS OF GROWING UP IN CALIFORNIA: Always knowing which way is north; the people, I love the feeling that people are excited to be outside [John]. People in general are nice here, and if they’re not nice, they don’t usually express it. It’s easy weather here, easy people, it’s a laid-back way to grow up [Grant]. The beach [Lincoln].
YOUR SOUND: It’s a combination of a lot of things—Afro-beats, dreamy guitar lines. One thing that we’ve noticed about our music is that it has a pop sensibility; it’s kind of hooky and accessible to a lot of different music listeners. Someone called us Afro-dream-pop.
ON PLAYING LIVE: When we played Mercury Lounge, we were really kind of vibing. That was a really cool step. The more you play your songs live, the better you understand them, which is kind of a funny phenomenon. It’s really hard to come together live, and you add little things to make it sound better and you really hear your songs better. When you’re playing for other people and you see how they react to the music you feel a different kind of energy. When you’re practicing, it’s easy to get stuck in one tempo and lose energy. But when you’re in front of an audience and people start reacting, you feel the songs in different ways and it comes out a little better.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: My general music knowledge and my love for music and songwriting ability comes from listening to a bunch of classic rock and older pop, what my dad played growing up, Beach Boys, B-52s. Recently, I guess the main inspiration came from the whole indie scene; when I was in the 8th or 9th grade, my brother started getting into it, I started listening to all these new artists that were doing new and different things I’d never heard before-that really inspired me to just try and explore my own sound [Lincoln]. Recently, a friend of mine turned me onto some ’70s soul stuff: James Brown, Sam Cooke. But I’ve always loved Afro-pop stuff, like Hallelujah Chicken Run, some Zimbabwe deep-cut stuff and, more recently, some Ivory Coast soul [John].
CAREER VS SCHOOL: It’s cool, ’cause kids at school know that we’re in a band but I don’t really think that they know that it’s anything bigger than a garage band at this point. It’s cool to come home when people aren’t treating you differently. Our good friends are really proud of us and they love the music [John]. We go to a grade 7-12 school and it’s funny to see some of the seventh—and eighth-graders awkwardly walk up to us and say hi and then freak out when we say “hi” back [Lincoln].
THE BAND’S POST-HIGH SCHOOL FATE: We’re really not sure what we’re going to do as far as that goes. We’re pretty set on going to college, but depending on what opens up,we might do a bit of touring this summer. We’ll go to college either way; I mean, John is going to be in high school, so it’s not like we can drop everything and tour. We’ll see what happens.
UP NEXT: An album is the goal at this point, but everything’s up in the air. We’re constantly writing, at least to add stuff to our live set, so in the next few weeks we’ll have at least three or four new songs done. We’re going to try to record them as we go so we can put them together if we want to.
ROAR IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, CHECK OUT DIRTY GOLD’S WEBSITE.