The term ‘prog’ gets chucked around like a car-sick ragdoll these days and seems to apply to any band doing anything complicated. Watford four-piece Gold Key, however, are testament to the fact that you don’t need to be playing a million notes a second to be pushing boundaries.
“When I think of prog, I literally think of bands that have made their own sound like Pink Floyd or Mastodon,” says vocalist and co-founder Steve Sears. “It doesn’t need to be complicated either. If something needs to be simple, we’ll play it simple. We’re not trying to be arty-farty for the sake of it.”
The brainchild of Steve and Gallows guitarist Laurent Barnard, Gold Key are an irresistible underground collaboration. With James Leach of Sikth on bass and drummer Jack Kenny of Nervus as well as Steve, who fronts Spy Catcher, you know your mind is in for a messy time.
“The one thing we wanted to do was make people feel uneasy without necessarily being ‘heavy’,” Steve explains when talking about their debut album, Hello Phantom, which he also produced at his own Titan Studios in Watford. “It’s not necessarily the heaviest parts that make you feel the most uneasy. There’s a sinister undertone to our sound, and for reasons unknown I gravitate to darker material.
“I connect with the surreal and I think music should be an escape. There’s a running theme throughout the album where anxiety, dread and panic are personified. Everything is represented by a demon or a phantom. It’s the idea that all these negative things you feel are haunting you and follow you around wherever you go. But I didn’t want it to be too negative; it’s as much about overcoming fear as it is embracing it.”
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Blending fuzzed-out bass tones of 70s rock with unsettling countertenor vocals, the music is a menacing presence disguising itself within songs like Creep In Slowly and Sneaker. A complete contrast to what you would expect from these guys, Steve couldn’t care less about what people might think of this new venture.
“I actually recorded the last two Gallows albums with Laurent. I think doing those records and spending that much time together brought out some of the weirder stuff in us. We were on the same page and wanted to do something less conventional. We’ve all been in straight-up heavy bands before and this was a real chance to do something that has nothing to do with any of that.
“We’re a punk band in the purest sense of the term in the respect that we literally don’t give a fuck,” states the frontman. “We haven’t thought about our target audience or what Gallows fans are going to think or what Sikth fans are going to think. Everyone’s individual success in their own respective bands was because they didn’t give a fuck in the first place. It’s all or nothing and we’re not going to change now. We’re not too fussed about who’s going to like it – we just want to make music.”
Hello Phantom is out now via Venn