From the silver stack
A retooled Forever Goldrush steps out to play a few tunes off its next magnum opus
Damon Wyckoff stands next to a huge mixing console and thumbs through a silver-edged stack of recordable compact discs. He’s looking for a particular song, one of the near 30 that he and his band, Forever Goldrush, have been busy tracking over the past three months at Retrofit Recordings, a spacious Midtown studio just south of where the light rail crosses 19th Street.
“Here it is!” he exclaims. He drops the disc into the CD player’s tray and hits the play button, then offers an explanation that borders on apology: “This is our Neil Diamond song.”
Well, not quite. The air in the studio control room fills with a bouncy number called “Rodeo Boy,” which sounds like a more darkly hued Creedence Clearwater Revival aiming for the feel of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic,” with swampy guitars replaced by curly synthesizer filigrees, one sounding like a carnival organ, the other like the horn line from an old soul hit. Wyckoff’s dusky tobacco-tinged voice surfs along the upbeat groove, negotiating the chord changes, which shift keys as effortlessly as a Brian Wilson classic. By the time he hits the song’s “wanna be alive again” refrain, which rides downward on a nice descending riff, he and the band have hit pop-music nirvana.
“Whaddaya think?” he asks after the song’s theatrically drawn-out ending. The folks kicking back on couches and chairs in the control room, including bassist Mason DeMusey and new drummer Tony Cale—who also co-owns the studio and has been engineering the tracks—give it the thumb’s up. Wyckoff isn’t sure; he knows the tune’s in the pocket, but its unabashed poppishness may not fit inside the parameters of Forever Goldrush as we know it—the kind of choogling, guitar-driven, bumpy ramble in a pickup bed with your buddies up some foothill washboard road to a place where you can holler, squeeze off rounds and pound a few beers without getting hassled.
It’s a stretch, but that seems to be what the new, retooled version of Forever Goldrush has been after. Wyckoff gets off work at Capitol Garage around 2 p.m., joins DeMusey, Cale and whoever else shows up at the studio. Then they work until early evening, or later if need be. When they’re ready to knock off, they burn a rough mix onto a CD, and it’s from this stack that Wyckoff has pulled “Rodeo Boy.”
The songs on them will form the Forever Goldrush’s third album, which the band is thinking about titling Northern California. When the band began recording, it was Wyckoff, DeMusey and guitarist/steel player Josh Lacey—who grew up together around Amador County—plus a drummer they’d just finished touring with. Lacey, however, opted out after three songs. “He wasn’t really into the direction we were taking the music,” Wyckoff says. “So Mason and I were talking to Tony [Cale, who was running the board], and we were having such a good time recording, we just said, ‘Let’s just try to make the best record we can make at this point.’ ” Cale, who also plays with Baby Grand, got behind the kit. “It’s basically us three doing everything,” Wyckoff says before adding that Rusty Miller and Lee Bob, among others, have stopped by to add parts.
So has Erik Hansen. “We played a pick-up gig in Yuba City,” Wyckoff says. “We ended up stealing three barstools and a table; Mason was getting accosted by some fat chick at the bar. We met this guy Erik there—we were in a bar next door, and he was doing karaoke.” They liked his high vocal harmony so much they invited him to join the tribe.
The band doesn’t have a label deal yet, just a stack of really good songs about the interior California experience and a desire to road test them. This week, you can check them out for yourself on Saturday night, when Forever Goldrush unleashes its newest creations on the Capitol Garage.