Watford-based Gold Key have made a massive impression despite having only been a band for a matter of weeks. This should come as no surprise when you learn that lead singer and guitarist Steve Sears is the producer behind fellow Hertfordshire band Gallows’ second and third albums.
The quartet, which is completed by Laurent (Lags) Barnard (guitar), James Leach (bass) and Jack Kenny (drums), have been involved in various bands in the Watford area for several years, but only came together as a band, played their first show and released their first track a few weeks ago.
We spoke to Steve this week to get the lowdown on the newly-formed band, and asked him to summarise what he admits could be seen as a confusing mess of bands coming together to form Gold Key.
Steve explained: “I’ve known Lags and James since I was a teenager through the bands we’ve been in. We all started playing shows together around Watford and I met Jack the same way more recently.
“Lags and I have worked together on loads of music over the last few years, especially whilst I was recording the last two Gallows albums. We share the same creative vision a lot of the time, so we’d send ideas to each other. Those ideas became this band and we’ve been writing relentlessly since.
“James and I met through his band Sikth, but he also played shows for my old band Spy Catcher and other stuff. He is another familiar face at my studio because Krokodil recorded their album at Titan. Jack has been involved in loads of awesome bands around Watford too and works at Titan. We met when he was recording here too.”
Given Steve’s producer background it’s unsurprising that recording plays a key role in Gold Key’s approach. He said: “As a producer involved at every stage of the songs, I inevitably end up playing around a lot with recording process. A big part of this band is the recording – trying to present things in a totally different way. Again, we enjoy the uncertainty – sometimes we’re recording instruments we’ve never picked up before.
“The songs themselves are written very quickly. Lags and I are strong believers that if an idea doesn’t grab you enough to steam through it and demo the whole thing in one night then it probably isn’t that good.”
Steve lists the likes of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and David Bowie among his strongest musical influences, which comes across in the music we’ve heard so far from Gold Key. Sneaker does as the name suggests, building slowly from an almost haunting verse with a repeated riff underneath drawn-out vocals. It then bursts into life with a big, chunky guitar riff to add depth to a repeated verse. There’s a whole load of Radiohead about this atmospheric, engaging track.
But Gold Key are at their finest in the incredible Mess. It begins with a quick repeated riff with funky synthy sounds floating around, then a delicious, laid-back opening vocal part followed by a drawn out, funky guitar riff. A sudden crash of drums sees the song explode into a big, long shouty chorus that feeds into a busier rendition of the opening lyrics.
The track has an unusual structure, in that there’s the opening two laid-back vocal sections – let’s call them verses – before the quicker, heavier middle blitz of vocals, and ends with the previous verses that are this time supported by heavier musical accompaniment. It’s unusual but it works really well and it’s impossible not to love this song and the brooding sound of Gold Key. Check out the video for Mess below:
Steve expanded further on their musical approach: “A running topic throughout our songs is space and our place within it. Some tracks look at how insignificant the vastness of the universe can make us feel whilst others celebrate the freedom it allows you. That push and pull is at the crux of everything I write. I think my lyrics can be seen as negative or positive, depending on your mindset.
“We try to keep everything spontaneous and uncertain. We are absolutely not interested in where we’ll fit in. I know plenty of bands say that, but we’re not. The bands we’ve done have achieved some success from not giving a fuck so we don’t know any other way.
The difference is that we’re not playing ‘heavy’ music so the gate is flung open even wider creatively.”
Given Steve’s involvement with Gallows and other bands, combined with how new Gold Key are as an act, it seemed apt to ask him about the current state of the music industry.
He said: “Music is always changing, everyone needs to adapt. It is very hard to know how musicians will make money from their music going forward but it will get sorted before too long. It will have to.
“There are way more opportunities to reach huge audiences now than when I first started playing music. But monetising that exposure is tricky. In a lot of cases bands have to run a bit more like a business machine, which is sad.
“I still fully believe that humans want to make connections to art and spend money on things they love. If you don’t feel that way then you should give up music and go get a nine to five.”
Gold Key are concentrating on finishing an album’s worth of material, which is very exciting news and hopefully we’ll have much more music to bring you soon. They’re currently in Tenerife for a gig tonight and are playing at Boston Music Rooms in Tufnell Park, London, on November 30th. Tickets for the London show are here, and they’re only £6.60 so get yourself down there.