This month we chat with Marlon Rabenreither of Gold Star. A current staple in the Los Angeles music scene and coming to a city near you this fall. Check out his new album, Uppers and Downers, just released September 7th on Autumn Tone in the US and ANTI- in Europe.
By Stephanie Nicole Smith
Where did you grow up? Do you think that had an influence on becoming a musician?
I grew up in Los Angeles, I’d definitely say the city influenced my writing, my feel for music, etc. But I wouldn’t say that it compelled me to become a musician, I’ll credit my parents for that.
Have you been in Los Angeles this whole time?
I lived in NYC for a spell but spent my early 20’s in London. London is a really special place for me and I met a lot of inspiring people out there. They turned me onto a whole world of music I never encountered in LA.
What instrument did you first pick up?
I first started playing on an acoustic guitar, and thats still primarily what I play, even now. Over the years, I learned how to play a bit of drums or keys but I have never had any formal training. Honestly I’m still learning how to play. My first real guitar was a Fender Mustang, it was amazing but it had a pretty small neck that made it tricky to play as I got older. I play a 1971 Martin D-18 for acoustic and either a Custom Telecaster or a black Gibson 355 from the 70’s.
Photo by Cameron McCool
Which artists were your main early influences and does that affect your writing process?
The Beatles & The Velvet Underground have definitely informed what I do, but influence can be a bit mischievous—I don’t know that you would necessarily hear it in my music, but those bands have strongly influenced how I approach my life, let alone my songwriting process. I really don’t have a codified writing process. I think every song feels different to me. It seems like every time I sit down to write, I have to relearn how to do it. Inspiration comes from my friends, and the cities I’m in, conversations I overhear—anything, really.
What is your favorite recording setup like?
I think it really depends on the sound you’re going for. I have used my old Princeton on every record I have ever recorded. Really fond of Vibrolux’s and Ampeg Gemini’s these days as well. On my last record, Uppers & Downers, we used primarily a vintage 47 for vocals, those just sound so nice. On the other hand, the record I made before Uppers & Downers, I recorded in a living room on a laptop with a Shure Sm7 for vocals and using mostly Sm57’s for the rest.
Do you have an opinion regarding analog vs. digital recording?
I love the workflow and the sound that tape provides, but I don’t think its necessary. It’s certainly not practical, financially or otherwise. I think people can make great art on GarageBand with a USB microphone, or whatever. At the end of the day it's the vision that matters, or the songs. Though, I will say it is amazing not staring at a fucking screen when you’re doing a record all analog.
Photo by Jenna Putnam
What is your favorite studio in LA?
I’ve been working at Valentine Studios in Los Angeles a lot lately. It’s great because they have a bunch of odd vintage gear and it’s a very creative space. It feels a bit like home to me.
You have a new album that was just released this month..
My most recent record Uppers & Downers just came out September 7th on Autumn Tone in the US and Anti- in Europe. We’re playing a record release show in LA September 13, then heading to Brooklyn on Oct. 24 for some east coast dates, then on to London on Oct. 29th, followed by France and the Netherlands.
What is in your record player today?
The Clash - Sandinista! It’s a brilliant album, totally underrated.
Photo by Cameron McCool
Catch Gold Star in your city. Find the tour dates, here.
This interview is brought to you by Original Fuzz Magazine. Find more articles from this month's issue, here.