In the 2000s, drum-and-guitar duos like The Black Keys and White Stripes found their niche as the 21st Century messengers of cold, hard, sacred rock n’ roll. To a lost generation of kids sporting Led Zeppelin “Zosa” shirts and Epiphone SG guitars, the modern-but-anti-modern rock band offered solace that rock was still alive in the form of fuzzy pentatonic riffs and blues-based power chord rhythms.
Now it’s 2014, and the times they are a-changin’. The Black Keys, with each release it puts out, solidifies its relationship with producer Danger Mouse, a skilled and influential modern music figure whose current production style embodies commercialized neo-hipsterdom to the T (think American Apparel: the musical). Indeed, the Keys found for itself a mighty comfortable spot within the mainstream transcript, and they’ve brought the kids with them too. Such is the face of rock n’ roll today: power chords, analog synthesizers and ironic purple hoodies, all of which coexist in a happy family of soft counterculture when seen through the sepia-tinged instagram filter.
My Goodness, a Seattle based rock duo/trio, knows what’s hip. The band released its self-titled LP in 2011, a guttural and freewheeling drum-and-guitar record that underscored the group’s knack for catchy and refreshingly angular songwriting. This year, the band released on iTunes its single “Check Your Bones”. The single, which features polished and expansive production, showcases My Goodness adding life and grit to the modern face of Danger Mouse-ified rock n’ roll. I had the opportunity to speak with guitarist and vocalist Joel Schneider of the band, where we discussed musical growth, influences, and social media.
Jeff Howard (JH): When I was listening to your music, I heard influences from both the past and present. Obviously, you guys are rooted in the Seattle grunge sound. However, with other songs like “Lost In the Soul”, I heard a Mumford and Sons influence. Even with “Cold Feet Killer”, the vocals had a Chris Martin thing going on. From your viewpoint, what influences from the past and present does My Goodness bring together?
Joel Schneider (JS): Growing up, I listened to heavier music. But at the same time, my music taste is across the board. I’m a huge fan of soul and blues, even some folk. I have tons of songs recorded on my phone of all different styles, I kind of blend them all together. With My Goodness, to me, it’s a mash up of what I listen to a lot now and what I listened to when I was a little younger.
JH: You’re talking about having these song ideas – does that mean that as the vocalist and guitar player you’re the chief songwriter for the band?
JS: I’ll usually write parts of songs at home, but they don’t necessarily have a definitive structure. I have a song done that I’ll have – you know, a verse, a chorus, a breakdown – and it’s like a general structure, but it’s not something that I would want to keep. I’ll wait to bring it in to (drummer) Andy (Lum), then we’ll work through the song and put it together – put the structure of the song together. I prefer to do it that way because a lot of times you bring the song in to that environment, the practice space, and new ideas will come up – new ideas for breakdowns or transitions. I have a library of ideas, which sometimes I even go back to if I’m stumped on a part of a song. I’ll say, “Wow, that works perfectly for this song that I’m writing.”
JH: You released an iTunes single, “Check your Bones”, this past month. This was off the heels of a few other singles from 2013. Is this a sign of an EP or an LP to come from you guys?
JS: Yes. We’re actually going to be releasing a record, and right now the release date is Jun. 24. It’s on Votiv music label. Yeah, we’re pretty excited about it. We just got it mastered a few days ago, so we listened to it as a band. “Check Your Bones” will be on it and it’s been remixed – that was kind of a preliminary mix that we put on iTunes. The record has been remixed and remastered, and we’re pretty excited about the way it’s sounding. I really look forward to getting it out.
JH: I’m looking forward to hearing it. Now, you guys have a self-titled EP that came out in 2011. Is the production style more refined on the new LP? I know the self-titled had a pretty bare bones sound. Are you guys going for a more polished production style on this one?
JS: Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely a little more polished. I think a lot of that had to do with, not so much the style of production but also playing with Andy – there was a different drummer before the record came out. We were also pretty short on time before. I think with Andy in the band, the meter is better. Just from that alone, the sound is going to be way more spot on and less garage-y. But definitely, we had more time and I think that was pretty cool, to be able to experiment a little bit more.
JH: You guys are a drum and guitar duo – I’m sure people bring up the Black Keys and the White Stripes as comparisons all the time. With this new album, which you’re telling me is going to have more tracks on it, how is that going to play out in the live setting? Will you guys have side musicians on keyboards or other instruments to flesh out the sound?
JS: We’re actually touring with bass right now. Our friend Cody (Votolato) is with us, so we’re turning into a three-piece band. I think we got a lot of comparisons to (the Black Keys and the White Stripes) from the first record, a.) because we’re a two-piece band and b.) because we also recorded in a similar style, I guess you could say, as the early Black Keys and White Stripes records – Black Keys now is kind of a full production. But definitely, when I wrote the songs for the first record, I was re-learning guitar and it was very new to me. I wasn’t able to really experiment a lot and hone my own sound. I feel like I was able to do that more on this new record – find myself, and develop our sound and make it more of our own.
JH: I was exploring the web and I noticed you guys have the “Live at Chase Jarvis” EP on Bandcamp, a sampler on SoundCloud, the singles on iTunes and a self-titled LP on Spotify. It seems like you guys really embrace social media as a form of promoting your music.
JS: I think (social media) is an extremely important tool for any band right now. If you’re not able to keep up on social media then you can kind of get lost in it all – there’s so many bands. I think it’s important, also, to connect with your fans. I think that, in music these days, the people have a much shorter attention span than they did before. A lot of the mystique in music is lost, which is a bummer to me. In that way, I think (social media) takes away from the music a little, but I do know that it is an important thing for bands. The fans appreciate it.
JH: You guys are going to be playing Rochester’s Water Street Music Hall. Have you guys played this before? What are your expectations for Water Street?
JS: This is our first tour getting off the West Coast, so everything after San Diego is new to us. I’m looking forward to it. Every show is a new experience on the tour and every place is a new place for us, for the most part. I’m excited for Rochester. I’ve actually never been to upstate New York before. I have some friends that live up there, so I’m excited to see it.
JH: Is there anything else you want to promote or put out to the public?
JS: I’m looking forward to getting up there and playing for people. Every show has been a show for people who’ve never heard us before, which is exciting for us. We’re just really looking forward to it.
My Goodness is on tour with AUGUSTINES and will be performing in Rochester’s Water Street Music Hall on March 7. For more information on My Goodness tour dates, visit mygoodnessmusic.com.
Howard is a member of
the class of 2017.