Goldenboy's Shon Sullivan Talks Phoenix and Elliott Smith
The New Familiar is more than just the name of the forthcoming album from L.A.-based Goldenboy. It's an aesthetic, says songwriter Shon Sulllivan, whose resume includes work with Elliott Smith, Spain, The Eels, The Watson Twins, The Rentals, and more.
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"People always ask us, what do you sound like? The only way you can describe it is to name a bunch of bands and hope they get it," Sullivan says, prepping for a short tour that finds the band bringing its literate, understated pop to the Lost Leaf on Saturday, September 22. "So we started using the term 'the new familiar,' [drawing influence] from simple songs people understand, but approaching them in different ways."
The approach pays great dividends on the band's records, including 2011's swooning Sleepwalker, and Blue Swan Orchestra, the band's 2003 record is scheduled for re-released by Eenie Meanie Records on Tuesday, October 9, and features vocals from Elliott Smith.
"In school, I studied classical music, and there you've got Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. For us, it's like Beatles, Beach Boys, and Bon Jovi," he laughs.
"We just listened to a the vinyl test pressing [of Blue Swan Orchestra], and it sounds really cool," Sullivan says. "It's going to be such a good album for vinyl, because we actually did it using a 24-track, with 2-inch tape. It's such a trip. It's a sound. I completely missed ever being able to make a vinyl album."
Sullivan's equally excited about The New Familiar, but there's a special connection to Blue Swan Orchestra, due in no part to the involvement of Smith, who sang haunting harmonies on the song "Summertime."
"For me, when I listen to that record, it's totally like a time capsule. It's an emotional wave, but it's a beautiful wave," Sullivan says. "[Elliott's] vocals on that song are the most special thing ever to me. That song was written when we were on tour, when [I] was playing in his band [during the Figure 8 tour]. We were on tour for a couple months together, and music just sorta rubbed off. You'd sit around thumbing chords and learning songs."
When the band returned to Malibu, Smith started work on what would eventually become From a Basement on the Hill, and Goldenboy started work on Blue Swan Orchestra. Smith recorded the vocals while Sullivan was out, and he describes hearing the harmonies for the first time.
"It was the biggest compliment," he says. "I think it's the best song we have to date."