Monday, March 7, 2011

Sugar & Gold's Philipp Minnig talks about flying your freak flag

Posted by on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 6:30 AM


Synthy disco freaks Sugar & Gold play this Friday, March 11, at Crosstown Station. The San Francisco act features members from Of Montreal's touring band, as does their tourmates Yip Deciever, with whom Sugar & Gold also shares members. Confused? So were we. Thankfully, Sugar & Gold's Philipp Minnig spoke to us by phone last week and cleared up any questions we might've had.

The Pitch: How are Sugar & Gold and Yip Deciever connected?

Philipp Minnig: Well, we both share members from Of Montreal. Sugar & Gold went on tour with Of Montreal last year sometime, and we all just got along really well - the whole crew. And, it's kind of like a family thing right now. Nick [Dobbratz], my songwriting partner, plays synth in the live configuration of Of Montreal.

You know, Of Montreal is basically just Kevin Barnes writing all the songs, and then he's got a bunch of musicians. So, he plays synth with the live outfit. And Yip Deciever is Davey Pierce, who plays bass for Of Montreal. Basically, at this point, Clayton, who plays drums in Of Montreal, plays drums in Sugar & Gold and Yip Deciever, Nick -- my songwriting partner -- plays in Yip Deciever (and, obviously, in Sugar & Gold), and we're all cruising in the same van. We basically all practice in A Pollinaire Rave, which is the Of Montreal studio. We've got a bunch of the gear. We're pretty -- interchangeable?

Difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins?

Live, probably not so much. But, obviously, on paper? Yeah.

What are the influences that give you that big disco sound?

We pretty much self-produce all that stuff. We don't really go for a sound. We each have our little samplers and stuff, and we gather our sounds. When we write songs and stuff, the influences are pretty much what we're listening to. Anything from like, you know, childhood stuff: '80s, '90s dance music to, like, more modern stuff like Jeans Team, LCD Soundsystem. We like a lot of the DFA stuff. We obviously like a lot of classic '80s things.

Ultimately, the sounds probably have their influences, which you can hear more than the lyrics, which tend to be more personal. We shy away from irony or being too ironic, like a Chromeo kind of band. I love Chromeo, don't get me wrong. We're trying not to be too sentimental, but we touch on melancholy themes. Like, "Bodyaches" is a song that is unabashedly unironic and obviously has a darker theme to it, you know?

What are you aiming for when you play live? Are you just trying to get the crowd moving, or are you trying to get them to pay attention to what's going on lyrically?

We don't try to shove that down people's throats. We address things with, I think, humor. Live, the main aim is for people to let go. We're not trying to lock people into an intellectual understanding of our music. We're really trying to open people up and let go, you know. That's sort of the main emphasis live. If people sit down at home with headphone and pick things apart -- which some fans do -- that's wonderful, but that's not the aim live.

What is the live show like? Is it a stripped-down affair, or more like the Of Montreal craziness?

Sugar & Gold used to have a lot more members and a lot more crazy outfits, a lot more in the vein of Of Montreal, whereas right now, we're really stripped down. Three-piece, no frills, and I'm really, really digging it. Yip Deciever's probably along those lines, too. We probably dress up a little more than Yip Deciever, but it's pretty stripped down. Very counter to Of Montreal, at this point.

What's been the reception on this tour so far? Are you getting people out on the dance floor?

Yeah, actually, generally we do. Generally, people come out and have a really, really good time. We played a pretty small place last night, but we had people in the front row doing high kicks. What we communicate is, "Don't take yourself too seriously -- or, at least, not too seriously to have fun and dance." We generally get a pretty good reception, as far as that's concerned. People usually think our music is good for dancing.

What sort of crowd comes out?

We get all kinds of folks. We do really well with all ages and kids. Like, the Of Montreal tours we've done in the past, and we've toured with Gravy Train in the past -- bands that do really well with all ages. That helped our all-ages following a lot. But we just get a lot of weirdos, too. We obviously do really well in the gay community, too. But, you know, we just get a lot of nerdy weirdo people. We get a lot of e-mails from people that are younger or on the fringe that through our music, they've been able to get in touch with -- I don't know, a softer side of themselves? A more feminine side of themselves. A lot of guys. It's interesting. People that don't normally dance or don't normally walk into clubs come to our shows. I get a lot of that.

When you talk about that more artistic side -- do people dress up?

Yeah. Like, when we were in Dallas, there was a whole crew of guys that dressed up in gold. And, I was like, "You guys must be really weird," and they were like, "No, we have office jobs." And they were like, "No, seriously, we live in Dallas, and it's boring. We love you guys, and this makes us feel free. This makes us feel we want to live it up or something." I love that 'cause, like, you know -- the freaky scenes that people belong to aren't that freaky. They're kind of accepted. They're kind of mainstream now.

We live in a world where Lady Gaga and those sorts of folks are calling the shots. These weird things and sex in the streets really isn't a taboo anymore. It's not really that weird. I think that the weirdos are those guys that don't go out and don't feel kinship with any sort of scene, and feel sort of ostracized by club culture. I think we provide a dance party for people that are ostracized from club culture.

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