Layered in meaning and doused in heady post-punk atmosphere, It’s You by Gold Class is one of the more thematically striking albums of 2015 thanks in no small part to the bold and powerful observations littered throughout. This album is less a call to arms, more the sound of a band fed up with several of society’s flaws.
Gold Class emerged into the underground last year with a recognisable and unique sound that caught the attention of many. Their debut 7” which featured Gold Class’s first single ‘Michael’ was a taught affair, one that was captivating enough to cement the group as one of the next post-punk bands to watch. The group consists of Mark Hewitt on drums, Evan James Purdey on guitar, Jon Shub gripping the bass and Adam Curley as the sole vocalist. The group came together through mutual interests and shared connections and the four soon decided to jam on songs that would eventually form the basis for Gold Class’s initial sound.
In Gold Class’s more frenetic moments, the songs are fraught with palpaple tension, fuelled by coiling guitar notes and throbbing bass-driven undertones. Perhaps the most recognisable element of the sound is the deep baritone vocals of Adam Curley, whose words prowl around the instrumentation and probe eardrums with smooth, honeyed notes what carry weight, emotion and force.
September 4 marks the release of It’s You, the first full-length album from the group, which follows the releases of preliminary singles ‘Life As A Gun’ and ‘Furlong’. Both songs crackle with pent up energy, threatening to cut loose and rage but never do. The most enthralling element of Gold Class’s music is, in my opinion, their ability to walk the line between controlled aggression and cool n’ collected composure. Nothing gets out of hand, but the music is built in a way that you must keep listening in case it does. The tunes on It’s You are emotionally charged, boasting a social awareness mixed with reflective monologuing. In the lead-up to the album’s release, I spoke to guitarist Evan Purdey on his thoughts on the bands nature, possible role as a tool for speaking on social issues and the creation of It’s You as a cohesive statement.
“It’s a culmination of our set from over a year,” Evan informs me, when pressed about the albums genesis. “It’s not all of our songs – we discarded a few of the earlier ones – but the album was written as we’ve grown as a band over the past year, right up to having a song that we wrote in the studio.”
“It’s You is a reflection of the set – we wrote with a kind of cohesive idea in mind so these songs would fit together on a record. It’s not like this static single wavelength where every song is a fast one. It wasn’t like ‘here is a concept album’ but it’s definitely written as a body of work.”
When I spoke to Evan, I shared with him my thoughts on the bands dual nature, of being a controlled force of nature that threatened to break its shackles if left unattended. I asked him if he saw the band as an aggressive outlet or something else entirely.
“I think there is definitely aggression there, not in any kind of mean way,” admits Evan. “It’s not from a testosterone-fuelled hard-core sort of place at all. It’s frantic and its energised but we are really conscious of dynamic and letting everything have space, letting every sound have space so it’s not an all-out attack. There’s a logic to it, there’s thought behind it; we don’t force anything down your throat.”
Indeed, It’s You sounds like there is a lot happening all at once, but it feels natural. The album has flow and structure and it rewards careful listening. Each taught note or crooned lyric carries substance yet it listens casually as a solid punk record. The band opens the door to the party but doesn’t force you to participate; it all happens in front of you but the choice to play along lies solely with the self.
Should one choose to listen intently, one would notice stories of frustration and anger bubbling away in each song. Adam Curley seems to be casting an eye outward and within, drawing on personal experience to lash out at societal flaws and perhaps his role in the system. ‘Furlong’ seemingly dealt with personal insecurities, not sticking to promises regardless of good intentions and how that caused havoc for the self and for others. I asked Evan to comment on Adam’s lyrical content as much as he could. Did he agree that the album seemed to be socially aware and possibly politically charged?
“I’d say it is,” Evan admits. “It’s balancing on that tightrope. It’s a very reflective album, within a broader social context. Identity is a huge theme in the album. I think the kind of outsider culture and queer culture features prominently in it but not in any kind of overstated way. It’s just Adam making the personal into political as it were. Again, it’s not ramming it down your throat stuff, there are themes there.”
“Gold Class features only Adam’s lyrical input and that was the idea from the start, that we’d be in charge of our own instrument. He’s involvement is all lyrics and any kind of concept behind it is his. We all get behind what he’s singing about and endorse it.”
I wanted to know more about Adam’s mindset when it came to penning words about the album. I was sent a fragment of thoughts from Adam about his headspace and choice of direction when it came to his expression. Casual listeners can pick up the vulnerability, but the dense nature of the music sometimes acts as a barrier to digging deeper, plus Adam’s low end croon is hard to decipher at times. The following is unedited aside from the paragraph spacing:
“I did want to write lyrics that were as personal as they were political, and I wanted it to be an angry album because there’s a lot to be angry about in Australia right now and it isn’t being reflected in a lot of the music that’s played on the radio here. We have one of the most conservative governments in our history; this is a government that is pulling funds away from regional indigenous communities, blocking the reporting systems for abuse in asylum-seeker detention centres, backing away from humanitarian responsibilities and blaming minorities for it, defunding the arts sector… I wanted to make an album that took some of my anger about that and wove it into personal stories, I suppose because I find it difficult to separate the two.”
“I’m also aware of our position as an all-male rock band and I wanted to make a feminist, queer album from that perspective, because that seemed like an interesting and honest idea to me. Even though I get pinned to the same male post-punk influences, most of my vocal influences are female or at least not cis-male, people like Nina Simone, Siouxsie Sioux, Antony Hegarty. I don’t know if any of that helps, but that’s where I’m coming from lyrically and vocally at this point.”
Through this honest appraisal of his own intentions and feelings, Adam has revealed the underlying depth inherent in Gold Class. His approach to putting himself in the shoes of the marginalised in order to convey the most realistic and affecting emotion is unique, or at least unheard of in most of Australia’s musical culture. Upon reading this reflection my desire to go back and unpack the album piece by piece grew and I hope that it encourages others to at least listen to the album, even once. Whether or not the band intended the album to have such an emotional charge is beside the point; wittingly or unwittingly, Gold Class might have created one of the more layered albums of the year and have set a high standard for musicians who desire to craft their own socially conscious, intelligent and striking rock. Conceptually the album is strong and musically it packs enough muscle and groove to grip and hold, bolstering the increasingly strong scene of Australian post-punk mavericks. Before I let Evan go, I asked him if he had any idea that the album would turn out this way, or if the group had planned to come forth with something this strong for a full-length debut.
“It’s not something that’s something that’s been explicitly discussed,” admits Evan. “I think it would have been far too earnest to sit down and say we’d be a militant political band. We’re not Fugazi or Refused although I would count Fugazi as an influence. It’s more about being able to stand by Adam and whatever he sing and say, ‘Yeah we endorse this’. Our music is not concept precious, but we want to have our morals in the right place.”
It’s You does seem to have its morals in the right place thanks to Adam’s ability to convey thoughts with the full support of his band mates. A unified stance on a product is critical to a band’s authenticity when presenting such material and all four members can rest easy knowing that, in this writer’s mind, they’ve come forth with something memorable, current and musically fascinating.