Perhaps the hardest part of grieving is accepting that someone who is lost is never coming back. As Mankato indie pop quartet Good Night Gold Dust put it on their newest single “Waves” off their latest self-titled EP, “I still feel you here.”
Their first studio EP, produced by Brett Bullion (Bad Bad Hats, Caroline Smith), finds the band discovering their sound with a new line-up and dealing with the loss of a close friend, who was in a band Gold Night Gold Dust played with frequently.
“Especially musically, it was a little tough to know where exactly to go,” vocalist and guitarist Laura Schultz said. “We always imagined playing record release shows and touring with them. It was hard to collect ourselves and figure out what was next.”
“You process things how you process them,” lead guitarist Colin Scharf said. “Some people hold that inside, some people make art. Laura and I each have our own tunes that came out of that loss.”
Scharf says songs like “Waves” and “Headlights” are explicitly about death. Both “deal with someone who was there, [but] is no longer” and the very strange place where the survivor is left grappling in the dark. Yet the EP comes to terms with loss in a strange sort of “hopeful acceptance,” as Scharf puts it.
The band began around five and a half years ago when Schultz and Scharf met in graduate school at Minnesota State University in Mankato, specializing in gender and women’s studies and creative writing respectively. Since then, Good Night Gold Dust’s lineup has changed. The current lineup of Michelle Roche on drums and Zachary Arney on synths is only about a year and a half old.
Schultz commands defiant, airy vocals over a pulsing bass and shimmering guitars rooted in dance music. The EP is unified by its nocturnal atmosphere, ranging from dreamier to more folkish leanings. “California” encapsulates the sound of the EP best, starting as a soft ballad before exploding into dazzling electro-pop at its peak. Closing track “Four Letter,” referring to hope, is a clear outlier, with just Schultz’s delicate vocals hovering above the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar.
“We were trying to do a full band arrangement of [‘Four Letter’], and we practiced a bit here and there, but it never felt really good,” Scharf said.
A band’s first experience at a studio can feel particularly nerve-wracking. “Everybody else left to get like salads at Whole Foods,” Schultz said on the song’s recording. “[Bullion] and I stayed in the studio and he lit candles, gave me a glass of wine, and calmed me down.”
Leading up to the EP, the band recorded a studio session for Daytrotter and performed at Minneapolis’s Stone Arch Bridge Festival, which Schultz says was “a huge confidence booster.”
“We spent this past summer trying to make a name for ourselves,” Scharf said. “As this lineup, playing this setlist, with this album, we had to do a lot of work. We’re hoping to continue the momentum to tour a bit regionally this coming summer.”
Good Night Gold Dust’s next show will be at Icehouse on Friday, Jan. 8 at 10:30 p.m. with Bae Tigre and a DJ set by Devata Daun. Tickets are $7.