On Saturday, August 20, the Local Show’s Artists to Watch event will feature 10 of my favorite up-and-coming acts in Minnesota performing across two stages at the Cedar Cultural Center. As we gear up for the showcase, you’ll be hearing from the performers in segments on the Local Show and here on the Local Current Blog.
Mankato quartet Good Night Gold Dust stood out to me immediately. Their debut EP, Good Night Gold Dust, was produced by the highly respected engineer Brett Bullion (who has played a role in countless notable local records, including Bad Bad Hats’ Psychic Reader and Caroline Smith’s Half About Being a Woman), and the songs have an entrancing quality, with big, ambitious melodies and dark harmonies sung by bandleaders Laura Schultz and Colin Scharf.
I was curious to learn more about the band’s relationship with the Mankato music scene, and what is on the horizon for Good Night Gold Dust as they continue to tour the region and gain a stronger foothold in the Twin Cities.
Andrea Swensson: I don’t know very much about the Mankato music scene. Can you start by telling me how you all came together in that city?
Colin Scharf, guitar and vocals: I moved out to Mankato for grad school in 2007, and I graduated in 2010. I was going to move back to New York, but instead Laura and I met in 2010, and then we started the band shortly thereafter. We played as Good Night Gold Dust for a while, and then Michelle joined in 2012, and Zach joined in 2014. So this is really a new band. That’s the sort of abridged version of our band.
Is Mankato a college town? How would you describe the music community there?
Colin: Yes, it is a college town. There’s a big four-year university there, with lots of nice grad programs as well. Laura went to school for —
Laura Schultz, guitar and vocals: Gender and women’s studies.
Colin: I got my master’s in writing. So, yeah. It’s a big college town. And the music scene has seen some roller coasters.
Laura: I think that’s part of being a college town, right? Because it’s primarily college students populating that space, bands get together there, and then they move elsewhere and start new bands in other places. So there is definitely a thriving open mic scene, and there’s a lot of cover bands, and there’s some really great original music happening in Mankato as well.
Colin: And there’s a lot of support for that. Laura and I have been hosting living room shows for the past year and a half. We originally started hosting friends and local musicians, and then Communist Daughter put out a call for living room shows last May, and we said, well ok! They came down, and then we started getting a lot more folks from the Twin Cities. We’ve had Chastity Brown, Fathom Lane, Field Report. And we have batteryboy coming up later this month.
Nice! So I’m getting the sense that Colin and Laura are the core of the group. For Michelle and Zach, what drew you to this project? What made you want to be in this band?
Michelle Roche, drums: Well I actually came to Mankato for music too, but for a different kind of music. I teach band in a town just south of Mankato, and I moved to Mankato to play in the drum corps, the Govenaires, and also the Mankato Symphony. And so I played classical piano, a different genre of music, and they saw me playing one time, and they were like, “Hey! We need this honky-tonk piano solo for this song we’re recording. Would you mind doing it?” And I was like, “Sure!” So that’s how I got involved. Then slowly, I kind of weaseled my way into this group. I used to play piano with them, and now I play drums. And hand claps. And dog shakers.
Zach Arney, bass and synths: I go to school there, and I’m just finishing up my degree. I have been a fan of the band since 2010-ish, and I noticed kind of a void when the last line-up dissolved; I noticed they probably needed a bass player.
So if you guys stay in Mankato, you’ll just keep accumulating band members?
Colin: [laughs] This is a pretty good group right here.
Michelle: Our van is full now. I don’t think we have room for others.
Tell me more about getting outside Mankato. Would you consider yourselves a touring act now?
Colin: It’s really tough, because as soon as the fall starts, we get really busy — I teach, Michelle teaches, Laura teaches and also works full-time at the university, and Zach’s in school. So we try to cram as much as we can into the summer. We’re working on a new album right now, and we have high hopes that that one might help us get to tour, play a little more frequently, and sort of get in the concentric circles of regional touring.