With the vicious guitars on “Rip It Off,” the moody electro-rock of “The Flood” and the Laurel Canyon-esque ballad “Even Tonight,” Goldtop’s full-length debut album You Possess Me formally introduces Canada’s newest dynamic musical duo.
Although Alice Kos and Everett LaRoi have had notable music careers on their own, their longstanding friendship became a full-blown collaboration by the time they officially joined forces in late 2012. It occurred in the wake of Kos’s solo album You Missed It All (produced by LaRoi) when, after a run of duo shows, the pair decided to fully explore writing songs together with the wide array of tools at their disposal. The results quickly laid the foundation for Goldtop’s avant folk-rock sound, which shifts between shadowy dream-pop, crunchy distorted rock and acoustic reverie.
“Formalizing as a duo was artistically very liberating,” Kos says. “My solo album documented a moment in time for me, and after it was released I found myself in a different place musically, wanting to experiment with electronics and rock harder. My husband [Mark Davis, founding member of alt-country heroes Old Reliable], had been amassing a collection of vintage keyboards and drum machines in our basement that Ev and I started experimenting with. Once we began recording, we found ourselves drawn to opposition and contradiction: sweet and aggressive, smooth and distorted, dreamy and threatening. Also reverb, and plenty of it.”
Goldtop released “The Flood” as a single in the fall of 2016, immediately catching the attention of their home province of Alberta, and leading to a live session on CBC Radio’s Key of A and rave reviews in the Edmonton Journal and GigCity. For LaRoi, who cut his musical teeth in the 1980s with indie-pop trailblazers Idyl Tea and also co-fronts alt-country band ManRayGun, the overwhelmingly positive reaction vindicated the pair’s choice to follow their instincts.
“‘The Flood’ was a song that gave us a sense of musical direction because the arrangement ended up being a sort of archetype for Goldtop’s sound,” he explains. “The underpinning is an effected analog drum machine beat and a Micro-Korg bass line. On top of that are crunchy echo-laden electric guitars and ‘new wave’ keyboard arpeggios. In experimenting with different variations on this format we stumbled across a sound that is somehow old and new at the same time and to our ears, distinctly Goldtop-esque.”
For Kos, the key track on You Possess Me is “Rip It Off,” which she describes as somewhat backhandedly inspired by her husband, Mark Davis. “Songs just seem to consistently flow out of him,” she says. “It’s not fair to compare, but observing the ease with which he develops new material makes my own creative output seem laughable. Sometimes I’ll finish writing a song, experience the high for a couple of days, and then immediately freak out and start thinking, what if that was my last good idea? ‘Rip It Off’ ended up being a kind of ode to failure, while simultaneously railing against it. Funnily enough, my husband is convinced I wrote it about him.”
Kos and LaRoi also freely acknowledge the influence of L.A.-based singer/songwriter/producer Marvin Etzioni (Lone Justice, Thee Holy Brothers) during the early stages of Goldtop. It was while touring eastern Canada with Etzioni that the pair saw the potential of what they could do on their own, in large measure because of Etzioni’s unfailingly gripping performances. As Kos says, “Marvin is an extraordinary songwriter and performer, and one of the most unique humans I’ve ever met. Throughout our tour I was floored by his ability to draw rapt attention from crowds at the rowdiest bars and the quietest listening rooms. Marvin is the kind of person you don’t just meet, you experience. And he left an indelible mark on the two of us. ‘Goldtop’ was actually Marvin’s nickname for me, and ‘You Possess Me,’ is a song he wrote. We feel it’s an appropriate homage to a man who played such a significant role in the genesis of our duo.”
You Possess Me marks the beginning of a new chapter for Kos and LaRoi, and one that holds seemingly unlimited potential. Goldtop’s blend of innovative sounds and production techniques, combined with uncommon lyrical depth, has made them one of the most exciting new bands on the Canadian scene.
But as LaRoi maintains, it all comes down to chemistry. “At this point in my career I was really looking for projects where the personalities involved not only got along, but meshed professionally in a synergistic way,” he says. “I wanted to work with people whose strengths are my weaknesses and whose weaknesses are my strengths. This is definitely the case with Alice and myself, and on top of that we just have a lot of laughs hanging out, so it’s been kind of a no-brainer.”