GGOOLLDD's 'Here We Are' takes you on a wild, 'dungeon disco' ride
All December, Radio Milwaukee is paying tribute to our favorite Milwaukee releases of 2020 and speaking with the musicians who made them. This is Milwaukee Music’s 20 of 2020, presented by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and sponsored by Badger Liquor.
If you’ve seen the band GGOOLLDD perform, you know they bring a full out spectacle on stage, especially in the wardrobe department. Peek into Margaret Butler's closet (which I had the unique opportunity to do during our video call), and you'll see lots of sequins, bodysuits and capes.
But those shimmering costumes stayed on their hangers this year, unilluminated by stage lights, as she and bandmates Nick Ziemann and Nick Schubert have had to cancel their tour and reschedule their album release show multiple times, due to the pandemic.
Despite the challenges, however, the band remains optimistic. They hope to play songs from their album "Here We Are" at their upcoming Milwaukee concert -- although date is still in flux -- and they're planning to hit the studio in January to begin recording new music.
"Here We Are" is the band's first full-length album, and it's their most dynamic release yet. The album takes you to incredible, fist-pumping highs in the first third, then swirls around dreamy interludes in the middle and ends in an almost dirge-like fashion, with a dissonant piano chord fading into silence. It's a powerful collection of songs that has a distinct narrative while simultaneously compelling you to dance.
Listen to our conversation below about the album, the quarantine and achieving a "dungeon disco" sound. And be sure to check out the band's official site for links to purchase the album, including a limited edition vinyl.
Nate Imig: I got to say the album "Here We Are" is a really great album. There are some real bangers on there. It had the highs and the lows; it really had everything you wanted. And I'm bummed that I can't see it live. And I imagine this has been such a difficult year. How are you guys doing with this? Like being on pause right now? How's this lockdown treating you?
Margaret Butler: I mean, it was just like it's been a bummer, but after you get your release show pushed back so many times, you're just like, "All right, well, we have to focus on other things." We're actually excited because after this interview we're going to stay on and start start on some singles. We haven't really written music together since COVID started, because we've just been waiting and waiting and waiting. And finally, we're getting that February <2021> show moved again. That was supposed to be our album release party in February <2020>. It's supposed to be the day, the day that the album actually got released this year, but next year, and then that got moved again. So we're like, we gotta do something. We can't just sit and wait for this album release show, like it's just too much. So we're actually getting together to try to put out some more, just put out some more singles because we're tired of waiting. We want to write music.
Nick Ziemann: Even though the album didn't get it in the sun, it got time in the shade, whatever --
MB: Kind of a bummer because that was our very first full length. Now we're like, maybe that's a bad omen.
NI: I hope you don't forget about these songs.
MB: No, no, no. We're still gonna, I mean, we're still practicing them. Like we're very excited for when we do have a show it's going to be awesome. We're still going forward. The same plan. It's still gonna be an awesome show, but I think like we just miss writing music together. So that's important.
NI: Let's talk about this album in particular. It has just such a fun energy and especially some of those early songs like "Money" and "Success" that we play 88Nine. They take you to these fist-pumping places that are just so fun. But then the album goes through some lows, as well. And by the end it kind of ends on this definitive, like "dunn" sound, almost funeral-like. How did that structure of the album kind of, how was that informed by what you're trying to accomplish and state with this album?
MB: Very thoughtfully. I mean, I think that I went over that list of songs in my head over a hundred times before landing on it. Cause it is sort of a story album. And then there's a lot of angst in there which is very, very different than any of our other records, because we've always just been like "dance, pop, dance." Since we were doing a whole full length record, it's important to like have a story and putting those ups and downs. And I mean, I think that I would get really bored listening to a dance pop album that was nine, 10 songs long, personally. But unless it's Robyn, of course, unless it's Robyn.
NI: And Robyn fans would probably love a few tracks on this album, as well. And I'm thinking about your whole catalog, and I think you hit right on it, that this is the first full-length release from you. And I felt like each, each slot on the album truly did feel intentional and like you were listening to that story. And that definitely came through the few times I listened to it.
I mean, we, we discussed it a lot, but she had an idea in her head.
NI: Where does that put artists right now, where you're in this position where you want to do these more complete works, and where does that put you when you're formulating formulating? You want to put out singles, but you want to put out albums and everything's all screwed up right now --
MB: I think lucky for us is that we did put out a full-length album. I mean, COVID shut everything down like a week later, but you know, we did get that out. So like we've been writing we wrote a bunch of songs cause we just, you know, we were playing. So we have all these songs that we're sitting on and because we had such a heartfelt record and they were those low points and then were those dark songs. We, you know, we learned a lot about writing more emotionally and just what we want out of a dance pop song. And so we have a lot of really fun songs in the works that I'm really, really excited about. And now that I've had that release of putting out that full album, of getting out those concerns and getting out of that angst, like the next chapter is just really exciting for us. So we have been on hold for a really long time. And I think the only, like the only thing I can say is as an artist, like you don't have to play live shows. We can keep putting out music. It's not the same payoff, but I think I can't, we can't just sit here and not, you know, if you don't use you lose it.
NZ: But we did, we did get the "car" back, you know, like we wanted to ride it out and we wanted to write a longer story and, and create those highs and lows. And yeah, like you were just adding to what you're saying, because we did that. It's it's party time, but the party is just delayed a year. So we just kind of it's it's waiting, but we have, we've got a full tank, so we're just trying to not get too hard on ourselves and not overthink it.
NI: You talk about having the tank being full, maybe that was one of the kind of unintended bright spots of this year, as it maybe gave you that chance to get back into some writing. And while we're talking about new music, can you give us any more info on kind of what's next there?
Honestly we decided like last week, with the show moved again, we're not going to sit on this anymore. Like we gotta do something. So we literally just decided this. I would like to start recording, you know, late January, but that says nothing about when anything will come out, but it does say that we're actually in it again.
NI: That'll be reassuring to Radio Milwaukee fans and listeners that you there's more coming from GGOOLLDD.
NI: I wanted to ask you about the album artwork. This looks like such a fun day that you guys had here. I want to know the story behind the shoot.
Nick Schubert: That was a fricking nuts day.
NI: You're sitting in some bed together and there's like a room service spread, and some '70s looking like Jell-O sculpture. I'm not even sure what, tell me about this photo shoot.
MB: So I got inspiration from this old '70s photo where it was like just these two people in a bed covered in fur. And they're like, you know, half naked and smoking cigarettes. And there's just like just gross, like giant steaks around them.
NZ: I think it was "worst album covers of all time," like a Buzzfeed article or something.
MB: So I was like, man, this could be, this is actually great. I don't know why you think this is bad. This is amazing. So yeah, I just came up with a color scheme and went to the Cermak and just bought everything that was and yellow and green. I made that croquembouche. That'd be cake in the middle.
NI: I'm sorry. You gotta tell me about a croquembouche is. I don't think I'm familiar.
NS: You don't know what that is? Jeez.
MB: It's a pastry tower, these little cream puffs, you know, little pastry balls with the cream inside, and they stack them and you make them to this like Christmas tree looking thing.
NI: Ah yes. A croquembouche. Of course
MB: It was really cute because I was, I was like, obviously eating it and all the photos and I couldn't get through the whole thing. And I, we brought it out of the hotel that I accidentally booked for two nights.
NZ: We got hotel room in Milwaukee so we didn't have to clean up the mess as much.
MB: So I just, I liked the wood headboard. It actually took me a while to find.
NZ: She's pretty particular, but yeah. It was fun.
MB: And then on the way out, all the bellhops are they were really wide-eyed when they saw that croquembouche, and I was so excited that they were so excited, because someone ate it for me. Yeah. So it didn't go to waste.
NI: I'm so glad that you're able to capture this outing because it is definitely not the worst album cover. I know that it's a great album cover.
NZ: Hey, you're a charmer. Thank you.
NI: So as we go on here, if you could just kind of give some listening notes to a Radio Milwaukee listeners, or anybody who's listening to this, who may be listening to the album for the first time, what can you say to get them primed and in the right headspace to listen?
MB: I would say if you've listened to our music and seen our live shows, we we tried really, really hard to make this album sound like we sound live. Basically,because I feel like all of our other albums are quite shimmery, which I'm not against that. I think that they're all great in their own way. They're all my children. But this one is definitely a little bit grittier and it definitely sounds more like we sound live in the live setting.
I think it's got like a, more of a glam rock vibe to it.
MB: It has more emotion.
NS: And down, like you were saying, it feels like you're on a roller coaster at Six Flags Great America.
MB: It really does. It's a lot of fun to dance to it. And that's another reason I'm upset is because I've been practicing all the dance moves for the album for that release show. And you know, it's such a fun album to dance to because it is so up and down and it's just going to be awhile
NZ: We we've used the words "dungeon disco" for this album.
MB: We actually have two ducks. We names them "Dungeon" and "Disco."
NI: Well, congratulations on an excellent album. Here we are from gold. One of Milwaukee's 20 of 2020.
All: Well, thank you. Thanks Nate.