Strange as it sounds, Goldfinger lead singer Jon Feldman got his first big break in music selling shoes.
No more than 18 months ago, the struggling musician worked at a NANA store in Santa Barbara, Calif., fitting loafers and the like on hundreds of feet. Then one day, he made the most important sale of his career. A&R rep Pat McDowell had come in for a pair of creepers, and Feldman, well aware who McDowell was, threw a copy of the band's demo into his customer's shoebox.
The rest, as they say, is musical history.
Not long after, he was calling to tell his parents that "Here In Your Bedroom" had been played on their local radio station KROQ. Now, 365 days, two albums and many, many live performances later, Feldman and Goldfinger are celebrating some measure of success with their second release, Hang Ups.
"It's like word of mouth that the new record is out -- people see us at shows and in local papers," Feldman said, calling from his Los Angeles home. "It's a street-level kind of thing. We're not 311 or nothing like that -- but people are digging the new record."
Goldfinger's timing has been just right. The band's self-titled debut came out last year, allowing them to ride on the underground ska wave that has been building over the past few years. They now sit comfortably alongside veteran acts such as the Mighty Mighty
Bosstones and other newcomers such as Reel Big Fish.
While Feldman feels ska is finally getting its day, he likens the new wave to the resurgence of punk rock two years ago. "The Bosstones paved the road for bands like us -- they created this kind of scene. It's a wonderful thing that they're doing as well as they're doing. These bands are good bands, and they deserve it," he said. "But none of us are like a No Doubt or a Spice Girls, taking over the whole world. I'm just happy to hear good music on the radio, and to hear good bands do well. Because I'm sick of seeing bands that just suck getting really famous."
Still, getting famous plays on Feldman's mind as he pushes Goldfinger forward. Though the band is booked to perform through January, Feldman's expecting a
longer haul. Their new single "This Lonely Place," which last week hit #21 on the industry weekly Radio & Record's alternative rock chart (based on airplay, not sales), was the most added song at modern rock radio four weeks ago. The video for the song has recently made the rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes. Despite it all, Feldman said he's the same kind of person. The only difference is his appearance.
"Yes, I'm dressing a lot nicer," he chuckled. "But we have our own
horn section now, we're playing some new covers and we're doing a lot
of new stuff. The energy's still there, but there's different songs, different clothes. We got to go to London twice. And that's the best place by far to go shopping."
And Goldfinger has their debut, featuring the hit single "Here In Your Bedroom," to thank for it. The album launched the band, carrying them into this year's explosion of ska. What started off as a clip on L. A. modern rock trendsetter KROQ's local music show turned the band into an overnight success, which, in turn, kept Goldfinger on the road for more than a year.
But it hasn't been all that easy, Feldman said.
"... I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about the pressure of it all," he said. "There were moments when people were thinking about whether there was another 'Here In Your Bedroom' on this record, and whether or not we were just going to redo the old record. It's a bit scary putting out a new record, because, well, it's not the old record."
Hang Ups, Feldman said, was inspired by the band's experiences on the road. There's a lot of relationship songs on the record. Even the title, Feldman explained, has more to do with telephone calls back home than anything else. "Most of the record was written on the road, so we had to deal with a lot of long distance relationships, phone calls, calling cards, caller IDs... You know, all that stupid shit," he said. "A lot of the songs were written about phone-type relationships and being apart from someone and only knowing them through telephone conversations.
"We wanted to come up with some kind of phone vibe kind of thing," he continued. "And then we realized that most of the record was written about insecurities and about quirks in my personality, so it had a double meaning."
And though Feldman kept in touch with his family and friends during the tour, it was Goldfinger's hectic touring schedule which landed him in the arms of his current girlfriend. While traveling with No Doubt, the tour made a stop at Asbury Park, N. J.'s Convention Hall. However, when that band's lead singer Gwen Stefani lost her voice and the show was canceled, Feldman and the band walked a few blocks to the legendary Stone Pony club to perform a show for free.
"After the show, I came up to her and asked her what there was to do in
Asbury Park. We were supposed to meet at my hotel to go to a reggae
club, but she shined me and didn't stop up," Feldman said. "She went to the club anyway, got wasted, and ended up showing up at our hotel later... Half of the record was written about getting to know her." She has since left New Jersey to live with Feldman in Los Angeles, he added.
The rest of the record, Feldman said, focused on getting to know
the music each member of the band grew up on. Members of the Skeletones,
Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher from Fishbone and Gabe from No Doubt all
appear on the record. Meanwhile, Feldman said he spent a lot of time listening to other people's records to help pave the way for the songs on Hang Ups.
"For the first record, I listened to a tremendous amount of Bad Religion, and that came through," Feldman said. "I grew up on Madness and the Police and English Beat, and that comes through on just a few songs on the first record. But it was more of a punk-rock feel the first time around."
Before working on this record, Feldman also sat down and listened to "a ton of the Beatles and another ton of Elvis Costello." It carries through, he added, but so does the punk sound that so inspired him as a child. "There's more experimenting with different guitar tones, different bass sounds, and a bit more ska songs as well." [Tues., Sept. 30, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]