All that glitters is Gold
Local duo My Gold Mask builds buzz with help from fashion designers and the Internet.
“When Gretta starts getting dressed, I have to leave the room,” guitarist Jack Armondo says, smiling. “There's always a flurry of clothes flying all over the place. She puts things together in ways you think won't work, but it actually does. It's kind of like our music.”
As one half of local rock duo My Gold Mask, Armondo creates what he dubs “extrinsic pop” with his wife, vocalist and drummer Gretta Rochelle. (To us, it sounds like a bluesy Yeah Yeah Yeahs.) Dressed in a bright red jacket and oversize gray shirt with layers of jewelry that flash with every movement, Rochelle casts an amused look from behind bleached-blond bangs. “Yeah, Jack’s had to duck a couple of times,” she says with a laugh.
Given their dapper duds and gritty riffs, it’s little surprise the Chicago couple has made waves in the fashion world. Smashing tracks “Your Coo Ka Choo” and “Violet Eyes” provided the soundtrack to 3.1 Phillip Lim’s fall/winter runway show in February, and the twosome played the Lim SoHo store during New York Fashion Week in September. “That show was so surreal,” Armondo says, digging into a massive burrito at the bustling Cuban restaurant in Bucktown where we’ve met. “But I think it went down well.”
Armondo and Rochelle have an approachable, upbeat vibe, and the pair’s closeness—they have a habit of finishing each other’s sentences—plays a vital role in MGM. “Our whole relationship has been based on us creating music together. That was one of the first things we talked about when we met,” says Rochelle, sipping a midafternoon glass of red wine.
“My Gold Mask kind of happened by accident, actually,” Armondo adds. “I was playing an acoustic guitar in our apartment, and Gretta started singing in a way I had never heard her sing before. We began experimenting, which eventually led to her playing drums.” Although they’d played together in previous projects, such as local new-wave outfit Bang! Bang!, bassist Rochelle had never picked up sticks until MGM formed last year. Armondo was impressed: “It was unreal how quickly she picked it up! Gretta’s the kind of person that when she wants to do something, she’ll figure out how to do it.”
Rochelle pulls a face. “I still can’t really call myself a drummer,” she says. “But drummers call you a drummer,” he proudly reassures her.
Since unleashing an eponymous full-length in 2009, the duo has self-released a steady run of singles and EPs. The latest, A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last), features three original tracks and a killer cover of Kim Carnes’s 1981 hit, “Bette Davis Eyes.”
“We’re ADD,” Armondo says with a laugh, swatting a persistent gnat from his guacamole. “We get a new batch of songs and we want to share them. It’s hard for us to sit and wait. I like the idea of smaller, more frequent releases.”
For now, the thirtysomethings, who live in Wicker Park with their pug, Roadie, are happy playing as a duo, but they’re not against the idea of adding to the pack for future live shows. “With only two arms each, there’s a certain limit,” Rochelle says. “But that caused us to be more creative,” says Armondo, who brings out bass tones from his guitar to help round out the sound.
That creativity involves savvy use of the Internet, from Twitter (Rochelle keeps fans updated on the band’s tour exploits and the latest Vosges chocolate bars) to Bandcamp, an online music store that caters to independent artists. “This is a really cool time to be self-distributing your own music,” Armondo says. “Tools like Bandcamp are just so great and easy to use. Plus, there are not 10,000 banner ads in your face trying to sell you penis cream.”
My Gold Mask celebrates the release of A Million Miles at Schubas Saturday 13.