By: Michael R. Martino
For the first time in six months, I was going home to Chicago. A few days before my flight, I noticed that my friends in the band The Gold Web had just released an album, Natural Born Mystic. I texted the band’s leader, Max Perenchio, about meeting up for an interview. I wouldn’t be in town for long and had family commitments, and he was working that weekend, but we were able to find some time to get together on a hot late June Sunday afternoon for lunch in Wicker Park.
Luckily, Max isn’t the type of person to let formalities hold his warm personality back, and I quickly slipped into the familiarity of speaking with an old friend. All four members of The Gold Web have an ability to inject their fun, passionate, vibrant and positive personal energy into everything they do, and The Gold Web is where those energies are given space to breathe, let loose, then engulf everything around them. College parties with them were brief, bright, ebullient explosions of color and noise amongst the bleak flatness of central Illinois. The Gold Web is a logical continuation of that. Their live shows are as raucous and mesmerizing as the drug-hazed, dance-heavy, wall-graffiting, rental home-destroying parties they would throw back then, if only a bit more contained and almost 100% legal.
I met Max at a small, wood-filled ramen shop and we sat down for a quick meal. I was disappointed to spend the little time we had together with the glass wall of an interview between us, but then, weren’t we trying to be professionals these days?
Publik / Private: I haven’t seen one of your live shows since the early days of the band. How has the live show evolved and how has your aesthetic tied into that?
MP: It was a process of repetition. The small concept we started with just kept growing. What started with just some glitter and feathers eventually evolved into giant balloons and glow sticks and synchronized videos, multimedia–which eventually met up with drag queens and more like a gonzo spectacle.
P/P: So with the multimedia and all that going on at your live shows, do you have a full supporting cast or are you doing this all by yourselves?
MP: Oh, it’s all done by ourselves. Right now, the thing that makes the Gold Web exciting for us is that the entire thing is in-house. The recordings are done completely by us from start to finish. It’s sort of a self-contained demon.
P/P: What was the original vision or core idea like for Gold Web?
P/P: Obviously there was never a moment in time where I was like, “Ah ha!” but certainly it was my old band (Bad City) touring with KISS and seeing them night after night. I think it kind of almost corrupted my sense of taste, where it seemed kind of boring to go back to just wearing, like, a ripped-up flannel shirt on stage again. There is an element of theater inside of rock music that I found very appealing.
P/P: The production on Natural Born Mystic sounds really good. I kind of assumed the production for Natural Born Mystic was done in studio, but you did that yourselves?
MP: We have a studio basement in the space under my apartment that we converted into “The Web.” It’s called the “Drake Motel.” It’s just kind of like our little warehouse. Everything was recorded down there. I’m kind of proud of [Natural Born Mystic] because it’s done on a rudimentary interface with pretty rudimentary mics and plugins. So everything that I wanted weird I kind of had to make weird myself, instead of relying on fancy sequencing and pre-bundled stuff.
P/P: The mix sounds so layered, too. Are there a lot of tracks on the recordings or is it mostly complex patches and stuff? Because a lot of those synths sound layered.
MP: Yeah! So, I guess one of the cool things to talk about here is that there’s really not a lot of synths on the album. It’s all guitars.
I was legitimately surprised here. The sound textures on NBM really seem to sparkle, crackle and fizzle the way synth patches do. The album sounds kind of like it’s swirling around you, though the album is devoid of cheap stereo gimmicks.
P/P: Oh, really?
MP: It’s mostly guitars, MIDI guitars. Essentially, I’m triggering synths with the guitar, but I’m still using guitar signal and playing through guitar amps and pedals, and it’s all triggered with guitar playing, so a lot of what sounds like keyboards is actually guitars that have been affected somehow.
P/P: I thought this album was a lot prettier than anything I’ve heard from you before. Are you going soft or are these just the sounds you’re into right now?
MP: (Laughs.) This album, to me… the last two years of the band have been almost primarily a live vehicle, that’s it. To me, it’s dance music, electronic heavy pulse music, and isn’t necessarily what I go to as a headphone album, you know what I mean?
I do know what he means, but to me the album definitely sounds nice coming through headphones. I like the swirling feeling of it. I dazed out as I sat on the Metra, going from Hickory Creek to LaSalle like I had so many years before working temp jobs at the McCormick Place. I was drifting into Chicago on a train I had probably sat in before, listening to the latest release from friends I haven’t seen much of since then. The album sounds like something we could have been into back then, all strange sounds and driving, pulsing beats. We might have cued it up for a house party rager in 2008, amongst tracks by Of Montreal and Cut Copy. Or we might have listened to it the morning after, dazed out and trying to recover from whatever we put into our bodies the night before.
P/P: There’s a lot more ear candy.
MP: Yeaaahh! Some ear candy. I also think this album is a lot more psychedelic. [Natural Born Mystic] is a lot better as a listening album. We will see, though, how it translates live into the pounding dance concept, though.
P/P: You need a hype man.
MP: That’s Dr. Weed! He’s the Flava Flav of the Gold Web!
P/P: I’m digging the tarot imagery for the album. What can Natural Born Mystic tell me about my future?
MP: There are two wolves fighting within you. One is a wolf consumed in light and one is a wolf consumed in darkness. Which wolf will win? Whichever one you feed, Mike! Yeah, I would say a lot of it, to be perfectly honest, is sort of tongue-in-cheek. Right now there’s a lot of self-professed tarot experts in the city, a lot of self-professed witches, a lot of esoteric, hermetic kind of people who fancy themselves to be mystics. So I think a lot of the lyrical content in this album is paying homage to them, but it’s certainly sort of tongue-in-cheek, because there is sort of a comical element to it. Like, three years ago you had a full-blown emo phase, and now you’re a sorceress. There’s a lot of that in the city. I like it, because it adds culture and a sense of something different, but it also humors me a little.
P/P: So, speaking of the city, how do you feel The Gold Web fits into the soundscape of Chicago, or the scene here?
MP: Yeah, let’s have a few things, maybe, that sound a little controversial. A lot of the city plays bullshit garage rock. To me it’s one of the lowest points of indie rock right now because indie rock has always been the center of the intelligentsia sect of society, I think, and it’s also predicated on the idea that you’re going to be innovative sometimes. So even when we were in college and somebody like, I don’t know, Devendra Banhart was doing freak folk… it was innovative in that time period, kind of a cool twist on something that had been done before. Now it’s truly almost like a post-modern retro experiment, where there’s so many bands that, I don’t know if they believe they exist in 1972 New York and they are The Stooges… I don’t know if they think that, or if they’re just so obsessed with that that they’re trying to relive it, but some of the energy, it’s not even artistic enough to be considered post-modern, and there’s no tweak, there’s no change. I don’t mean to be a hater, because it’s good live music, but for me it’s sort of a stale artistic landscape. The Gold Web has always been welcome in those scenes. I never really get an attitude, and generally the crowds like us pretty much at any show we play, but there’s not a lot of bands that we comfortably fit with [stylistically].
P/P: I wanna put you on the record. How many “posts” would you put before “ironic?” Where are we at now?
He’s confused about my question and I explain that it sounded like he was saying we were post-post irony or something like that.
MP: I actually think about this all the time. There’s no irony anymore, which I like. I mean, I think the male white hipster irony that’s permeated the last ten years is sort of boring and it makes me feel weird, too, because it makes me feel like everybody’s really awkward on the inside and so obsessed with irony. So, I would say even around here (hipster stronghold of Chicago, Wicker Park), the bands that are super garage punk, they’re not ironically doing it.
P/P: At the same time, especially with how much music is out there, people can really just get themselves into a category and just do that one thing, because there’s going to be some other people out there who also love it and are just as crazy about it. There are all these mini “scenes” everywhere.
MP: Yeah. Our realities are curatorial now. You create your own world. Like, I wish I didn’t unfriend all my conservative relatives because sometimes I want that now. Because I created this reality for myself (Laughs). I’m living in my own hyper-liberal bubble.
P/P: What’s the ideal listening environment for Natural Born Mystic?
MP: Ooo, you wanna have some mineral water; you wanna have, probably a lava lamp; and some sort of marijuana smoking device… That’s it.
P/P: Empty room, just those things.
MP: Yeah, I think so. And a good speaker system.
P/P: What’s been the fuel for you lyrically lately?
MP: One of the influences on [NBM], I think, would probably have to be early Syd Barrett Pink Floyd. Not even when he went crazy, just like when he was a little more whimsical. There really aren’t underlying meanings, but it’s sort of a deliberately-constructed fun house mirror. I read some Allister Crowley, not gonna lie. I reference some magic, some tarot-inspired things. There are a few songs that are kind of about the place we all go to when we need to be inspired, the place in your mind that when you’re writing and you’re kind of blocked.
P/P: Has crafting lyrics been more of a focus for you lately? Or is it more something that happens more as a result of the song?
MP: Yes! I’d say very rarely do I write lyrics first. I’m always kind of melody and song first, and then the lyrics kinda come. Hopefully they flow. Most of the time the melodies come out of what I call bullshit lyrics. Like
He does some mushmouth lyrics that sound like a drunk guy at a bar singing “Sittin’ down to have a time, gotta get a ride.”
MP: Then you record the demo of it and you’re like “Oh, well at least phonetically I was kind of matching the vibe,” so you kinda fill in.
He goes into what sounds like a drunk tough guy karaoke version of the chorus from Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian.”
MP: My theory is that “Sister Christian” is a song where the bullshit lyrics they came up with were actually the final lyrics. I believe that whoever wrote “Sister Christian” was showing his buddies, and he was like “Dude, I got this song. I don’t know what it’s gonna be but I’m thinkin’ it’s gonna be like ‘Motorin! What’s your price for flight?’ I mean, we’ll change those words later,” and they’re like “Don’t change those lyrics! ‘What’s your price for flight?’ That’s stayin’. That’s stayin’!”
P/P: “I will quit this band if you change those lyrics!”
MP: “Night Ranger is done!”
P/P: Well, thanks for coming out, man. That’s all I really planned out.
MP: Yeah, well as far as an angle, I don’t know if there’s, like… Because I was thinking about this, we’re trying to do some press releases and I’m just like, “what’s a good angle for this that’s not ‘Oh! Four white dudes who dress up like birds have released a psychedelic rock album?’”
P/P: That’ll just be the name of the article.
MP: Yeah. “Four Grown Men Dress Up as Birds, Release Psychedelic Rock Album.”
P/P: Subtitle: “Who Cares?”
MP: Maybe You.
The Gold Web’s new album, Natural Born Mystic, is out now via Bandcamp. They are throwing magic-fueled psychedelic parties and they see in their tarot cards a future for indie rock without irony, and they’re poised to be at the forefront of the wave of pure joy they envision.