Misadventures isn’t just the title of Rochester, New York-based melodic hardcore band Such Gold’s debut full-length—as Nate Derby explains, it’s a way of life.
“Everything we do is a misadventure,” admits the guitarist, songwriter and founder of Such Gold. “Nothing ever goes right.” Derby cites such an experience in the fall of 2009 as being particularly important to Such Gold. “We had just started touring, and we had booked a couple shows in Massachusetts,” he begins. “We had this huge, ’80s Dodge RV van, and it was a total piece of shit. It broke down at this gas station in Canaan, New York, which we now believe to be cursed. But we had people pick us up, we get to the show and it was wild. I think it was the first time we had really seen kids go crazy for us.”
After that point, the band was so blown away by the crowd response that they immediately began discussing the band’s future and how to best pursue it. “I quit school; I moved out of my parents’ house and into downtown Rochester; we took a lot of big steps all at once,” Derby, now 23, says. His bandmates—vocalist Ben Kotin, 23, guitarist Skylar Sarkis, 22, and drummer Devan Bently, 24—each made similar commitments to Such Gold, focusing their efforts on making the band succeed by any means necessary.
Having met gigging in the local music scene for a few years the guys shared a common plan, “We all came together and collectively agreed on what we wanted to do musically. The idea to play fast, old sounding music, like the kind we grew up listening to. Playing an older style nostalgic sound, that to us was "Such Gold,” explains Bentley.
That sound evolved into melodic hardcore—the kind that features dizzying guitar lines, throat-searing vocals with intensely personal lyrics and a near-complete absence of easy-to-swallow pop choruses—means making it in the music business wasn’t going to be as easy as it would be for some of the band’s peers. But Such Gold stood their ground. “We didn’t have anything else to lose,” Derby says. “We’ve all wanted to be in bands that people actually cared about for years, so we were all ready to take the next step.”
The next step? In the words of Henry Rollins, get in the van. Such Gold spread their gospel the old-fashioned way, by gigging across the U.S. with the likes of the Wonder Years, Transit and A Loss For Words and winning over hundreds of fans (and breaking vans - many) in the process. One-off EPs with hardcore labels Mightier Than Sword and 6131 followed, all of which increased Such Gold's online buzz, eventually landing them in Alternative Press' “100 Bands You Need To Know In 2012” special and to a record contract with Razor & Tie. The band fielded interest from a number of labels, but as Derby says, “Razor & Tie gave us what we really felt like we needed to make it actually worth signing to a label. It also help that they have staff there that knows what they’re doing.”
Bentley adds, “Hooking up with Razor and Tie has really opened the doors for opportunity for us. There was no pressure to fit any kind of click, for these songs to be singles, for any of that pressure that might have come from other labels. They get the type of band we are. Essentially, we're a punk band, playing a less popular sound that not everyone is going to get.”
With the support of their label, the band were able to record their highly anticipated debut full-length earlier this year with legendary producer Steve Evetts, responsible for classic works on both sides of the aisle: punk (Saves The Day, Lifetime, Kid Dynamite) and hardcore (Every Time I Die, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Snapcase). “Working with him was a real privilege,” says Derby. “Steve helped us a lot with our song structure. We had songs with more chorus-y parts, and Steve would say, ‘Let’s take that out and see how it does.’ The lack of choruses sets us apart from most bands. I think that is the easy way out, to write verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-outro.”
The result, Misadventures, is 28 minutes of pure aggression that will quicken your pulse and make you think. Derby and Bentley write much of the music, while frontman Ben Kotin and guitarist Skylar pen much of the lyrics. It’s that collaborative mindset that allows the band to take risks together, even if it means agonizing over each and every song. “We’re not a band that can just sit down and bang out a record in a week,” Derby admits. “It takes me forever to write a song even to a point where I can bring it to our drummer Devan and write stuff with him.”
“Our producer was all about capturing the band for it's live energy, too. We mapped out the tempos, so it really feels like you're listening to us live,” explains drummer Bentley. He continues “I'm really happy that we were able to capture my own drum sounds on this record. No samples replacing all the hits, no crazy amounts of editing. It's me hitting those drums. Same goes with everyone's playing, especially Ben.”
The album's closing track, “You Are Your Greatest Threat (The Doctor Will Serve You Now),” was one of the more challenging numbers for the band. “I started writing that song in February 2011 and it literally took forever to get it right,” Derby says. “I think honestly, that's my favorite song on the record. I think it represents the direction we're going for: super-melodic and heavy.”
Another of Misadventures' most memorable tracks, the über-heavy “Locked Out Of The Magic Theater,” is one of the band’s finer technical numbers. The song was written (instrumentally) by Ben and was made into a demo by recording drums first (with guitar just playing in his head). “This song is one of the heavier songs. It’s very fast paced and doesn't repeat many of its parts. This song has some of my favorite guitar and drum work on the record,” adds Kotin.
The song “Keyhole m.o.,” showcases a surprisingly dancey rhythm, a perfect balancing act of punk and pop without sacrificing the intensity of the former or the catchiness of the latter. And Misadventures' first single, the raging, off-kilter “Storyteller,” finds Kotin angrily addressing himself, screaming, “I'm hooked; I'm overwhelmed... What's happened to me?” as his band thrashes behind him.
Hooked, overwhelmed and on a journey, Such Gold continues with their DIY life of broken vans, malfunctioning equipment, member dis-function, no money, show cancellations and yet they somehow manage to make it work. “Our career thus far has been a bit of a Misadventure, but yet, we're continuing it because we still love it even if in the end it doesn't leave us on top. The experience itself is worth it,” Bentley explains.
Kotin adds, “Many things in life seem like they're caused by bad fortune but if you look deep enough you can see the reasons why things are the way they are. This is our life, our adventure.”