“Each Song Has its Own Creation Story”: An Interview With Gold Dime

Sometimes happy accidents are very real. A few years ago, I was at Basilica Soundscape when I happened upon a performance in a smaller space away from the main building. I had absolutely no idea what I was witnessing: something chaotic yet rhythmic, something that felt deeply new in a way I wasn’t expecting. The name of the band was Gold Dime; its founder, Andrya Ambro, had previously played in Talk Normal. Now, Gold Dime’s second album, My House, is out in the world. I talked with Ambro about how it came together, their recent tour, and her approach to songwriting.

My House is the second Gold Dime full-length. How would you say the band has evolved since the recording of Nerves?

We are definitely a more cohesive unit. The sound overall feels more substantial, like we have meat on the bones.

Were there specific goals you had when making My House?

The goal that remains my personal guiding light is to write songs I love and want to hear over and over again. That’s vague, but a must. Like you can have your theories, concepts or tricks for things but at the core it has to move you, the whole you. Not sure I could ever write what people consider a B side. All songs are A sides!

Another goal that transpired perhaps midway through all these songs was to open up the writing process. Initially when I started this band I wanted to write on guitar so I could better understand how to communicate with guitarists. Primarily I am a drummer and vocalist, well not primarily but that is what I am most comfortable playing live, drums and vocals. So basically I wrote and charted out all the parts for people on bass and guitar to a very detailed degree. And a lot of people were into just playing what I wrote. Mind you all the guitar parts are in alternative and made up tunings. So it’s hard for any guitarist to adjust their brain to new tunings. At first I did it for the ease of making the notes and chords I wanted to hear because standard tuning can feel limited and can yield unthoughtful chords (for me). Ok I’m rambling… To cut to it, if you want people to stick around, they have to bring a piece of themselves to the table. In fact for this project,I have always been searching for musicians with whom to collaborate. Just took a while to get there. And even though this process evolved over the songs on “My House” i.e. some were written by just me, some an amalgamation of the band, I do sincerely think that even the songs I wrote alone feel different, more cohesive.

And to be clear I still write some parts for instruments that I’m not playing live, but we just workshop them all a little more together.

What led you to write a sequel to Nerves‘ “Hindsight”?

Actually, I think I wrote Hindsight (version 1) like 14 years ago when I started my first, and thus far only, solo project called Glen Olden (I was obsessed with having a sexless pseudonym/moniker). I played a lot of keyboards in that project. It was by far my favorite song from that era. I loved that it was like a brief and austere haiku. And it wasn’t until I started Gold Dime that I decided to give that song another ride, only this time record it on a Steinway baby grand piano.

As for Hindsight II, that core idea came initially from The Velvet Underground song “Hey Mr. Rain.” Mainly the inspiration was the minimal, almost trance-like beat, some of the guitar sounds and viola droning and the fact that Lou Reed was personifying the rain. So by the time I got some minimal drum beat cooking and strung together a few basic guitar ideas, somehow “Hey Hindsight” came out when I started to improv lyrics. I usually do this to source what the unconscious feeling of the song is. Then I was like, “Yes of course, we need re-visit Hindsight version 1 and take it further!” And to be honest, and I feel so embarrassed to write this, but this might be the closest thing I ever wrote to a break-up song. It is NOT about a break-up, but I will admit I was experiencing a break-up when I wrote it and that inevitably worked it’s way in (perhaps unconsciously). Lyrical, I’d say it’s about confronting yourself, the past, looking it in the eye and moving the fuck on. And for the record, I never ever go into writing lyrics for a song with any concrete themes or personal life experiences. Ideas, words, themes come out unconsciously and then somehow I weave them into what feels like through-line. I find that there is no poetry or dimension to lyrics if you approach it from a solely conscious mindset.

From the very beginning, My House blends memorable melodies with innovative percussion, but not necessarily in ways that listeners might expect. What was your process like for writing and arranging these songs?

Yes! First off, I love arranging songs, I love unorthodox drumming/percussion in a punk context and I love a good melody. Like I really think I could have gone the jingle route with regards to melody. Heh. Gonna digress for a brief bit… it’s funny because sometimes I think that all these aspects of our music (the arrangements, the ornate percussion, melody, the extreme dynamics and how we use them to make things more intimate, the sensitivity in some songs) sometimes get lost on listeners because mostly they are just taking in the abrasiveness or intensity of the music, at least in the live context (And I do realize that most of that specific energy comes from me)…. Or I guess that depends on where you come from on the listening spectrum of things. For the noise world, our melodies are probably a little too saccharine. And for the indie realm, our abrasive intensity is more than they can handle. So we’re a little lost in the in-between. Which maybe can be a good thing?

Back to your question!

Each song has its own creation story. Let’s take “My House,” the song. This was the first song we all wrote together, or rather found a process that worked for us. Initially there was a collection of songs and ideas that were floating around on some playlists between us. Lotta CAN stuff, Chrome songs. Bill Withers. Captain Beefheart. Then we jammed a few ideas. Personally I had a beat I’d been working on in mind. I think from this jam we got the core for three sections of the song, which I then cut up after recording multitrack style and re-arranged, extended sections etc. I love this part – cutting up and arranging things. I could do that for days. Then on my own I threw in a whole middle section where things break down and get a little moody. For that I did write some of the guitar parts, then worked with John to further them. Also had a few bass parts in mind and Ian was into it so that was a win win. And I did deliberately add this section because I felt we needed to de-construct some things. Also I find that when you jam songs altogether sometimes you create an environment where everyone thinks they need to be playing at all times (I am a a part of this problem as well). I actually dislike this very much, if that’s all the song is. Sometimes it creates block-ish arrangements and sections. Personally I like to approach songs like plays. Like each instrument is a character. They don’t always have to be playing at the same time. They can enter and exit to facilitate the whole. This makes things not so linear or block-ish.

Lyrically the inspiration came for “My House” from the The Fall’s song  “My New House,” where Mark E Smith lists all the mundane things in his house. So I think I went in with that mindset, only things get a little more haunted and heavy in our version. Cause you know, the moods are always happening.

For all other songs the process is kinda like this but there are definite variations. Like not all songs begin with a jam, perhaps just a core riff from one of us. And as I mentioned before, I did write a few songs on My House (the album) on my own. I think recently I wrote out a whole song where I had what sounds like a west African drum beat going with all sorts of hi hat flare. I added piano parts, a little guitar and some vocals. I then passed it along to the other two and they basically took my basic ideas, mostly from piano, re-adapted them to guitar and bass and added some other things here and there. I guess we kinda used my demo as a guide then took it further together.

You spent a good amount of October on the road — were there any shows that you were particularly proud of?

Let’s see, definitely our release show in NYC. The amount of love and support that was in the crowd as well as from the other bands was humbling. Like we were amongst our people and you forget what that’s like. So often when you play shows most people are seeing you for the first time. And maybe they are into you or they aren’t. There is a very strong synergy in a room when most of the people there know you, support you and respect you. That’s all I ever wanted. You don’t have to like the music, of course that helps. And also I  think we gave a good show? Oh ya, and we performed a song on the album where play guitar. It’s called Goose. Anyway, I played guitar live. This terrifies me but so glad i did it. Plus my old bandmate Sarah Register joined us on stage for this. Was a treat.

Also Chicago was pretty memorable. First off, I love Chicago. Somehow that town is always good to my bands. They still seem to be a place that cherishes weird, aggressive and other music, or we’re just able to somehow tap into that there. Don’t know. Nevertheless, we played with this legendary avant gospel/industrial band Ono. During our set one of the core gentlemen from Ono was bobbing/dancing throughout. That gave me a deep joy. Afterwards he hugged me wholeheartedly and said, “Such drama! I loved it.” What was even more funny was the other core member of Ono said almost the exact same thing. They both assured me they had not conferred with each other. Ha!

Oh and one more. Northampton was a good one. It was a house show actually. I personally felt off but we had the room. Like everyone there was with us. That is such a beautiful feeling. At one point our guitarist ran out into the crowd, noised it up with vigor, got disconnected and then ran back. Sounds silly but it was all rather invigorating. 


Photo: Jen Dessinger

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