On a sunny Friday afternoon, we sat nestled in a corner of Grit Cafe, a quaint coffee shop not too far from the University of Virginia Grounds, to chat with Will Marsh, frontman for Gold Connections. Gold Connections is an up-and-coming band based out of Charlottesville, Virginia, giving off a nice, Ryan Adams-like vibe. Their debut EP, set to be released on March 31, was produced with the help of Will Toledo, frontman for another Virginia-based band, Car Seat Headrest. During Car Seat Headrest’s fall tour, the Gold Connections crew trekked alongside them for a few dates in the Southeast, including a “hometown” show in Richmond back in September.
Hours before Marsh was slated to open for Lowland Hum at their album release show at The Southern, he told us about the Will Toledo connection, the joy of used bookstores, and what it’s like being a part of a DIY scene in a way most people don’t think about when they hear the term, “DIY.”
Modern Vinyl: To start out, what’s the story behind Gold Connections? How did you get your start?
Will Marsh: I’ve been writing songs since I was about 12. It’s always been a part of my life. I played in bands in high school, and I actually recorded a solo folk EP my senior year of high school. I had the chance to work in the studio for the first time at a pretty young age, and work on my own songs. That was encouraging. I went to school at William and Mary, and I knew I wanted to start my own band; a rock band. Expand from the folk thing that I was doing. That was my plan right when I got into school. I was playing solo shows as a freshman and happened to play a show with this band called Bodies. That was essentially Car Seat Headrest. It was a collective. That was kind of the idea; all these different songwriters working together. They asked me to join, so I did. We started playing more and more Car Seat Headrest shows instead of Bodies shows. I basically was in that band and playing in house shows around Virginia mostly. One time we played at the Richmond Marathon. We played on this median. I feel like it was on Boulevard.
I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, and I had to remind myself of that. I stopped playing with Car Seat and started Gold Connections with my neighbor at this apartment complex off-campus of William and Mary. That’s kind of how it started for a vehicle for the songs that I was writing.
MV: Speaking of Car Seat Headrest, you had help from Will Toledo producing your debut EP. How exactly did you get acquainted with him?
WM: Through the college radio station. It’s just a really small community, a very tight-knit community. Not everyone gets along all the time, but it’s a small population of people interested in playing music, and more alternative people. I met him within a couple weeks of being on campus. I was in Car Seat, and even after I split from that band, we were still friends who hung out all the time. He would be at our shows, and he was very enthusiastic about Gold Connections’ music, which was very encouraging to me. He kept on asking to be in the band (laughs). The first time he asked to play drums. I tentatively said yes, but that was because I thought our drummer was going to go to Brown. He ended up not leaving, and we ended up keeping him. I think Will was a little bit upset about that. That dude eventually left, and we didn’t just want Will because he could drum and fill a gap, but we have a really good chemistry, creatively. We both care about the same kind of music and seem to understand pop music, as well as basic structures of songs. I guess not everybody is totally attuned to [that]. We basically just have this chemistry. He was about to graduate, and he went to Seattle and became a rockstar. But before leaving, he wanted to record all of the songs that I had. We went into my basement, and in the course of a week, we recorded this EP.
MV: This EP is coming out on Fat Possum Records. How did you guys get hooked up with them?
WM: Basically, they just heard the songs that were floating around. We had some help from Mark Keefe [the general manager and program director] at WNRN and Ronda Chollock from Insubordinate Media. I got recordings into the right hands. Fat Possum was very enthusiastic [right] off the bat about Gold Connections. I responded well to that; to a label that seemed to really care about it.
MV: With your EP, where did the inspiration stem from for it, other than recording in the basement of your house?
WM: The music itself?
WM: Experiences from my own life. Sonically, the influences are the kind of music that I had listened to my whole life. But also, being a freshman, being exposed to all these new sounds and ways of expressing pop music. This sudden exposure to Spacemen 3, Sonic Youth. In high school, I started listening to Velvet Underground. I was a huge Wilco fan. I saw Wilco when I was 17 in L.A., and that was actually a really powerful experience for me. I became obsessed with them for a little bit.
There’s a musical inspiration, with music being a part of my life, but the songs themselves are mostly about romantic relationships. Every song on the EP…well, most of my songs are like that. The EP is really about a sense of loss that comes with — I don’t want to say falling in love for the first time because that sounds kind of cheesy — but that intense period when you’re experiencing things for the first time, and immediately dealing with implications of that experience, and how it can affect your life.
MV: One of the songs you’ve already released, “Icarus,” is about taking risks. I gathered that it had to deal with the state of your mental health? Is this something you’d like to address in future songs?
WM: Mental health? I guess so. In a way, my songs are very introspective and I guess they deal with mental health implicitly. My songwriting style isn’t yet in the Will Toledo vein where he says “I’m so fucking depressed,” or something, [where it] like literally says that. A lot of the musicians I’m influenced by have struggled with all sorts of mental health issues. It’s just part of the music.
MV: I’m going to bounce back to the Car Seat Headrest connection here. Would you ever consider putting out a split with them in the future? Or even jump on the whole Smashmouth collaboration?
WM: I would consider it. That’s not planned out to happen, but I definitely would be excited to collaborate with him. I think we have a special relationship, and have similar values as far as music is concerned.
MV: I could see that being a cool split. Or even if that whole “Car Seat Headrest x Smashmouth” thing ever happens.
WM: Oh, yeah. They’re covering each other, right? That’s pretty awesome.
MV: I’m not sure. I’ve seen it floating around, and I said “This is cool! I would listen.” But anyway, going off that, are there any plans to release a full-length this year after your EP?
WM: Right now, we’re just focusing on the EP. Music is something that I’m going at with no reservations. I’m going to keep working, but there aren’t any plans for a full-length that are set in stone.
MV: Let’s talk about Charlottesville for a little bit here. It’s a great city, so why do you enjoy calling it “home?”
WM: (laughs) Who said I enjoy that? I’m just kidding. Why do I like Charlottesville? What do I like about it? It’s a good place to be right now for the EP. “Faith In Anyone” is explicitly about Charlottesville and basically the urban landscape of Charlottesville. It’s an explicit part of the lyrics, talking about the Downtown Mall. Those same lyrics could also refer to any urban center in America, or probably the U.K. too, where there’s a highway that goes to the mall. I think it’s more about a feeling than Charlottesville itself. I don’t want to say that it’s “just” Charlottesville.
It’s where I grew up. It’s where I learned to write songs. I guess I have a spiritual connection here with this place. It’s different than when I actually lived here. Now my friends aren’t here, and I don’t feel the same way about it. It seems like an appropriate place to be for these first recordings.
MV: And then tonight you’ll be at The Southern doing a solo set before the Lowland Hum show.
WM: Since coming back after college, I have found a really cool community here, with Lowland Hum. I’ve always been friends with Sam Bush, who’s in The Hill and Wood. He runs this place called The Garage. I’ve been his go-to guy for opening since I was 15. There’s a lot of good venues here, and a lot of people who care about music. There’s also a lot of good used bookstores. That’s one thing that keeps me here, other than economic factors.
MV: Oh, like the store with the corgi?
WM: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I got fired from that place. Speaking of bookstores, I shop at Heartwood. It’s right down the street [from Grit].
MV: Speaking of the music scene here, in a sense, you’re part of the DIY scene, but in a different way than what most people would consider “DIY.” What’s your take on the state of the DIY scene today, and what do you like most about it?
WM: It gives a platform for people to play their music. Honestly, DIY venues are getting harder to book. When I was booking my own shows last year, it was still a huge deal for me to get a show at Magnolia House. That was very exciting and I didn’t know if that was going to happen or not. It’s kind of funny, because it’s still pretty competitive to get a house show. That being said, it’s still much easier than getting a show at The Southern or The Jefferson. I like that it’s accessible to people who want to play music and don’t have many fans. I also like the intimacy of it. I think that’s what keeps people going. You’re in a room with people, with very little barriers. That’s awesome in itself for different reasons.
MV: When I think of the term “DIY band,” I tend to think about the gritty, grungy punks. You’re a little more put together, which does make you a bit of an anomaly within the DIY scene itself.
WM: That’s true. That’s definitely been my experience, even in college. Gold Connections has always been more…not refined, but the sound is more like classic pop. Sometimes it doesn’t translate well with punks. It’s this weird thing where this is just me as a person. Me and my friends, something that’s funny is when we’ll be at a bar like Miller’s or something, and people will think we’re [super] preppy kids. We’ll hang out with people in the Greek scene, and people think we’re hipsters. That kind of exemplifies where Gold Connections stands right now. People do tend to get caught up in identity though, in a superficial way. We’ll play at Strange Matter, and maybe not make all the punks happy, but then we’ll play at The Southern, and people will think we’re grungy hipsters. It’s kind of funny.
MV: And then there’s The National.
WM: That’s all normal.
MV: Where do you see the future of the music scene headed? Do you see good things? Bad things?
WM: People are going to keep on playing music and buying into the survive ideology of rock music. That sounds kind of cynical, but people still invest in that tradition. That’s going to keep happening, with people wanting to do that. It’s hard to say if people will keep making money, and will be able to do that.
MV: There’s been an interesting debate between the digital and the physical lately, where vinyl is coming back, but then there’s the rise of Apple Music and Spotify.
WM: I hope people keep buying records. I think people are still buying vinyl. I actually work part-time at a record store here, and people spend a lot of money of records.
Will and the Gold Connections crew will be supporting The Districts on a few dates in the Midwest before they play down at SXSW in Austin this year. Details on those shows can be found here. “Faith In Anyone” is featured on Spotify’s SXSW Roots Rising playlist, as well. The band will also be playing their own release show in Charlottesville in support of the new EP on March 30th at The Southern, supported by Winstons and AngelicaGarcia.
Their self-titled EP will be released on March 31 via Fat Possum Records. Information about pre-ordering it can be found here, and it will be available on a variety of digital services.
Photo Credit: Rich Tarbell