THE INTERVIEW: Black Gold
At the Red Bull Snowscrapers event, I had the pleasure of interviewing the dynamic frontmen of the band Black Gold, Eric Ronick (keys/lead vocals) and Than Luu (drums/vocals). After chowing on the backstage buffet of Chipotle and other Mexican treats (Dos Equis and pico de gallo), I cornered Eric and Than to ask some questions
So I noticed that in addition to being a full-time musician, you also run your own studio in DUMBO, right?
Eric: Actually, that studio basically got trashed like last year when there were tornadoes in Brooklyn and it rained for days. The studio flooded and that was it—it was gone! But it was a good thing, you know, because it forced me to get my ass in gear and really focus on [Black Gold]. It forced me to just make it happen.
Yeah, I guess there’s nothing like a sign, or a flood, to make you realize what you are meant to do. Congratulations on a great show tonight and on the release of your album Rush this past Tuesday. From a linguistic standpoint, Rush has a very strong lyrical foundation. What are your influences for writing and from what or from whom do you draw material?
Than: We worked really hard to create an album that works on more than one level; something both deeply personal and universal at the same time. You know, we both came out of five-year relationships that ended pretty poorly and so we draw from our lives: the joys, the sadness, the pain, and then the renewal and the growth.
Eric: We also draw from the lives of those around us. We listen to our friends and their stories about their lives and we incorporate that into our writing.
Like “After the Flood,” the last track on your album. I listened to that and thought, “Holy shit, I know what you mean!”
Than: Exactly, “After the Flood” is a great example of how our lives make it into our music.
The sequence and progression of your songs are refreshingly organic. For example, in “The Comedown” you start in a calm place then end up belting it out. When you’re writing a song, do you know at the outset just how the song is going to build?
Eric: Yes and no. Sometimes we already know what the song is going to look like as a whole and other times we don’t—it’ll just happen as we’re writing.
Than: With “The Comedown,” it’s all about that painful reality check. So the song starts out serene and then gets all agitated. You ‘wake up to the morning sun’ in your eyes and it’s like, “Awwww man!” (laughs)
So when the morning sun isn’t in your eyes, where do you do most of your writing?
Than: Anywhere really. Eric lives in a canyon and it’s so peaceful and quiet but then we’re also in these big cities like New York and Los Angeles. You’ve got both worlds that bring so much diversity to what we’re doing.
So you guys started out in Brooklyn but now are in L.A.?
Than: We’re kind of bicoastal now. We’re spending more and more time in L.A.
Eric: Yeah, I was born in Long Island and I used to live in Brooklyn but I just bought a house in L.A. I’m working on opening a studio with one of the members of Panic [at the Disco] so we’ll be in L.A. a lot more now.
Than: I was born in Vietnam but I grew up in California. Where were you born?
I was born and raised in Hawaii.
Than: No way! I lived in Hawaii for a year in Kailua and Manoa. I lived right up the hill from Punahou [School].
That’s crazy because I went to Punahou!
Than: That IS crazy. You must be freezing!
Not as much as you guys must’ve been during this show! How did you deal with that?
Eric: It was REALLY cold but I think we rocked it. You know, the instruments don’t want to stay tuned and your muscles tense up but we knew what we had to do to get it done.
Welcome back to the cold! Now when you come back to New York, are there any Brooklyn spots that you check out or remember fondly?
Eric: I like to play ping pong at this place that is on 5th Ave. and 15th or something. It’s fun. Oh, and Buttermilk. I used to live right near Buttermilk.
Than: There are so many places.
One last question since I know you got a lot of people here for you: If you could live the rest of your lives in any era, which would it be and why?
Eric: Oh wow.
Than: I already know mine. (turns to Eric) You should go first.
Eric: I would probably live in the Sixties. Music was so good across the board: jazz, rock, R&B. Everyone was coming out with great music.
Than: (to Eric) And I’d join you there. I’d definitely live in the Sixties except— if only it was not so fuckin’ racist! It was a time of such racial conflict. That’s the only thing about it that sucks.
But maybe that’s what made the music so good?
Eric: Music was a unifying force that brought people together saying, “Fuck all this bullshit. This is ridiculous.” It made people realize so much. I feel like the same thing is kind of happening now.
Than: Yeah a lot of things seem to be turning around for the best.
Eric: I mean, in my lifetime, this is the first time that people are looking beyond the bullshit and coming together to make a change. A real change.