The Golden Filter

Photography by Justin Hollar

Merely saying that 2009 has been quite a year for The Golden Filter would be a massive understatement. It’s rare, if not completely impossible, that an American-based duo with a desire to keep their anonymity, who write songs almost entirely with electronic sounds, and whose personal philosophies are the exact antithesis of the current generation of MySpace doting bands, would accomplish half of what The Golden Filter have achieved.

“It was definitely a whirlwind,” says Penelope, vocalist and front woman for the disco-pop outfit. “You can’t help but being very thankful. Like, ‘Shit! This is good.’”

In the age where new music is discovered almost every hour, submitting one song to a few choice blogs doesn’t guarantee success. It also doesn’t help if you’ve chosen to keep yourselves in a mysterious haze and allow the music to occupy 100 percent of the spotlight. America likes a good face, but The Golden Filter won’t just spoon-feed you their identities.

“You can come see us live and take our picture, but we’re not going to put our pictures all over our Myspace page. We’re not going to give you all those details and play along with the press thing,” elaborates Stephen, the band’s primary producer.

Penelope chimes in, “It’s sort of a balance act isn’t it? You know, to kind of have a philosophy that we stand by to counter affect the elements of society. They’re all very media exposure, ‘here I am’ sort of stuff, but you don’t want to be boxed into like, ‘Oooh, secret band’.”

Despite such a strong belief against the way most acts sell their music, The Golden Filter is one of the most hyped groups as of late, and has been referred to as “the next big thing.” Stephen and Penelope just finished a world tour with Aussie juggernauts The Presets, and prior to that produced what are arguably some of the strongest remixes made for mega-bands like Cut Copy and Peter, Bjorn & John. Surprisingly, they say their immediate rise to success felt natural.

“We said no to a lot of remixes. We said yes to other ones. We’ve said no to a lot of shows and yes to other ones. It’s kind of like, maybe we’re just picking and choosing the right things,” explains Stephen. “Sometimes it happens to bands that sign to a major label, but the funny thing is that we’ve got no label at all. We’re completely unsigned.”

Penelope concurs, “That’s why I use the word ‘thankful.’ This isn’t something that happens all the time. It just so happens that this time, in our case, things are just falling into place one thing after another in sort of a whirlwind fashion.”

Hype and media are one thing, but nothing is warranted without strong musical output to back it up. Not surprisingly, The Golden Filter has that in spades. Dream-like lyrics, analog synths, and vocals breathy enough to touch are at the epicenter of each song they craft, not to mention the backbone of a solid disco beat.

In reference to her lyrics, Penelope says, “It ties into how we try to keep things very visually imaginative. Not being so literal and getting the listener to escape into some other reality. There’s earthiness and mysticism. A little bit of that, thrown in with perhaps more harsher realities that I just want to sugar coat.”

The Golden Filter’s musical style could easily be compared to bands like Hercules & Love Affair or Glass Candy, but they aren’t comfortable being lumped into one genre, and don’t consider themselves revivalists.

“In the realm of taking influences, I guess so, but I guess you could say that any rock bands are ‘60s rock revivalists as well. We just don’t think about it,” Stephen says.

Penelope adds, “There are certain inspirational points in history. If somebody asked us, ‘If you had to choose a year or any decade, what would it be?’ I think I’d have to say 1976. It’s a disco thaaang…”

Unlike average bands, The Golden Filter is adamant about the visual aspect of their music. The band’s online presence is littered with Polaroids of hazy landscapes and windswept hair that Stephen and Penelope believe changes the way people both think of and hear their music.

“As an artist, your art is the music and whatever visual you put to it. Albums are not quite so easy to come by when just starting out, but you can provide visual imagery that you want to go with your music, as opposed to a photograph of us which doesn’t really do it in the same way,” Stephen says.

Their first single “Solid Gold,” a driving dance anthem that plays like the group’s mission statement, was delivered to the world in physical form by U.K. based magazine-gone-label Dummy Records. Stephen and Penelope explain that it was a conscious decision to go with a more visual entity for their first release and remain confident despite the label’s fledgling status:

“In the U.S. I don’t see us getting put on the radio ever. Maybe satellite radio and college radio. All that stuff is great, but not regular radio,” says Stephen. Penelope adds, “I guess the market in America for radio and TV is perhaps more conducive to a Britney Spears and Lady GaGa type energy. I don’t know if that’s really how what we do as artists is going to translate.”

Regardless, The Golden Filter continue to spread their mysterious, shimmering songs throughout the states and across the seas, always remembering why they do what they do. “It’s about seeing things in a more positive realm with that touch of escapism, imagination, and mysticism. Beyond the mundane of life.”

– Patric Fallon