Interview by Eric Montanez • July 24th 2014
SBG and Mike Golden go back. In fact, in 2011, Mike was our very first interview. While we've stayed close with the MG&F family since then, doing things like filming shows, holding contests and sitting in on listening sessions, a new interview is something that's been long overdue. With the band's new album on shelves, a big show coming up this Friday and a placement in the new video game Watch Dogs, we felt it was the perfect time to sit back down with the Mike Golden & Friends frontman and get something on the record...
Let's start off by discussing your latest album, Utopia...
Utopia was really the first time that I got to sit with a record while it was actually being mixed. I was able to really take my time with this one. I got to work with more people than my normal producer too, which was cool just to go outside the box with everything - working with Gift (of The Cartoonz) and going to classick studios, and being in that Chicago atmosphere. While we were mixing Utopia every other day someone who’s been making moves musically in the Chi would be dropping in for their respective sessions, and I think that movement and progression helped guide Utopia. I was trying to progress the sound, and not so much change it from Groceries, just make it a little more interesting. Trying to boost the musicianship, the production and hone together a project with an overall more dynamic sound. Utopia has been awesome for us. People seem to be digging it, which as a bonus makes us happy campers.
Which tracks have been getting the best response?
It seems like “Every morning Love” has caught the most attention so far. Since EML is the only song from Utopia to have a video it’s pretty much the most accessible. A lot of people are liking “Best Part” and “Cash Is King.” “Hey Jane” with Vic Mensa and Donnie Trumpet as well, they definitely blessed me on that one, and I think I served them up a good one to nail it on, so that one is doing great of course. But yeah still some of our older songs are just getting attention now, so it’s interesting to see which songs could possibly grow into something bigger still.
Talk to us about the evolution of Mike Golden & Friends - when we first started going to your shows years ago it was a packed stage full of your friends with beer bottles and stomp boxes, and now it’s something a bit more traditional...
True, I had to slowly condense it. How do you pay fourteen people to bang beer bottles on stage (laughs). I wanted to show what I can do with different shit, bring different elements into it and not just be stuck to one thing. I feel like its all about progression to me. Once we got a groove going we found out who we were. I like to make music with drums, guitar, bass and everything. Not to exclude the industrial sounds, I didn't want to totally stop but I had to incorporate more of a system. I didn’t want to just pull out my computer and press play and make the music like that. I could probably do that and get away with it nowadays. I like jamming with other people up there and feeling it, feeling the music. That is the shit that inspires me. We've gone through changes, but James (bassist) and Jason (drummer) have been playing with me for ten years now, so we get along and gel well together on stage. One of our guitarists moved to Indianapolis, and so we got another one and he just so happens to be fucking awesome and I’m really excited about him and the direction where he's taking us too. I think every lineup, anything I've tried to bring into the equation has only been positive. I'm just trying to increase the progression.
You guys just got your song “No Number” featured in the video game Watch Dogs, how did that come about?
I got lucky as hell (laughs). Nah, but they were looking for Chicago music, and I got hit up by a buddy that they wanted to hear some of the stuff from Groceries and they picked “No Number.” They actually picked a couple other artists from Chicago that I know. They were looking for a couple local acts to throw in to make the environment a little more realistic, which was pretty cool. They also happen to get major label artists that made it really cool for us to be on the in game playlist. It’s opened some crazy doors for us as far as just new listeners and new audience. Now “No Number” is the track people want to hear the most. You know, “Stay Here” was that for us for a long time, but it’s a different story when 8 million people buy a video game which has your song on it. I've been waiting to have a song on a video game since I was like fucking 12 when Blink-182 had “Action” on Madden. But yeah, we actually got to play a GameStop event for the release of Watch Dogs and people loved it. Watch Dogs has def been a blessing, hopefully theres a Watch Dogs 2 and they hit me up (laughs).
Additionally, you’re set to be appear on OnCue’s new album right?
Yeah I was introduced to Cue through Mike Waxx like four years ago because he thought we would make some good music together. We got along musically right away, and since then we’ve always tossed ideas back and forth about working together. He's seemed super into other genres of music like indie rock and I’m into rap shit as well so we have a lot of the same tastes. We tried to get a song together a while back but it just didn’t happen, then more recently he told me he was working on a real big project for him and Just Blaze was doing it, and I was like “damn dude if you need any vocals on there at all just background, harmonies, octaves, whatever, I got you just send me the track.” So he literally sent me like five songs and was just like do you, whatever you want, and I did. Then like 6 months later he hit me up and was like “hey dude did I tell you, you made the album.” I was super pumped, Just Blaze is a legend to me and Cue has a fucking the brightest future ahead of him, so I’m excited to be a part of that Angry Young Man shit, cause I am one myself (laughs).
Let’s talk visuals - really like how you added the “Pancakes & Beer” reference into the “Every Morning Love” video.
You know what that was funny because that was extra. We came back the next day to add more stuff to make it more me, instead of just this fairytale guy in a romance video. A lot of the guy fans are just like “What is that?,” but I don’t just make dark grunge rock, I like to go all over the place. Everyone I knew said we needed to make a visual for that song and I agreed. It might not have been the best way to market me, like you have a song about one night stands and then you're next album you have a lead single about being in love, but thats how I write. I want to have a song for every mood. I think the visual for “Every Morning Love” really brought the song together, brought the lyrics out and everything, it was awesome. We dropped it on Valentine's day, after a two day shoot. Elijah (Alvarado) was great, when I saw his treatment I thought it was so insane, but had no idea how he was going to pull it off. Sure enough I showed up at his crib and everything was set up. Him and his assitants spent hours putting it all together and the work showed man. I’m super happy how that came out. Austin Vesley is doing my next video, but I can’t talk about that one just yet.
You’re playing the House of Blues on Friday - a venue you guys have had some pretty monumental shows at in recent memory - what can you tell us about the show and the importance of that venue?
The HOB has been awesome to me, we played there once about a year and a half ago, and now like every six months they ask us to headline another show. At first they were booking the opening bands for me, but now they trust me to book my own bands. It’s the biggest stage we've played in Chicago, and this will be our third time. I try to do a different show and set every time. Last time we had the banner and confetti, this time we’re gonna have some crazy visuals and a new guitarist. It’s a milestone show for us everytime, we can show fans what we’ve been working on these past six months, this is what we learned and this is what we can do now. We’re going to show you how much we've stepped it up, and the kind of show we put on is well worth a $10 ticket price.
Looking forward, what can we expect to from Mike Golden & Friends?
Got a new track called “Filthy” that should be coming soon. I’m really just trying to make new music, not looking to make a new album as a whole right now, just going song by song. We’re gonna keep tracking new ones, and keep progressing the sound. I feel like most fans really like one certain album because they’re all very different. Trees is the lo-fi, almost acoustic-electronic album, then Groceries is the garage pop type of album, and then Utopia is a mixture of both with a hi-fi sound. Going forward we’re taking bits and pieces of the past and trying to get better, adding whatever is right for for whatever we are doing. The music is happening, and I want everyone to hear it.