words: Kat Harding
Andrya Ambro, once part of duo Talk Normal, has been busy on a new project: Gold Dime. The noise-rock project’s album came out June 2 on Fire Talk Records and is a tightly-coiled energetic pile of songs. She composes all parts on her own, before teaching her band members the tracks. Recorded and produced Ambro with Justin Frye of PC Worship, mastered by Talk Normals’ Sarah Register, and mixed by Jonny Schenke (credits to his name include Eaters, the Drums, and Fucked Up), the record is a loud, often-jarring self-reflection.
Ambro answered some questions via email in the weeks after the record release. Catch Gold Dime on some shows during the summer and pick up the album on the Bandcamp page.
The Grey Estates: You've put out music as a duo with Talk Normal and are now releasing songs on your own as Gold Dime. How has your songwriting process changed?
Andrya Ambro: I guess the primary difference in the songwriting process between the two projects is the fact that I compose on guitar and bass, in addition to drums, vocals, other, and therein teach those parts to my bandmates. Although within Talk Normal, I can't say there was a standard procedure on how we wrote songs. Sometimes we wrote together in the same room, sometimes we wrote separately and brought the other in later. So there were many TN songs that I wrote on my own (mostly using drums, voice, synths, other noise etc) and Sarah would re-adapt it later using her guitar. Or vice versa, Sarah would write something, and I'd jump in later.
For Gold Dime, once I get the song to a point where I'm satisfied on all instruments, I demo it to a neurotic degree. This demo'ing process, usually within Logic, informs both the arrangement of the song as well as the production down the line. Once content with the demo, I teach the song to the band -- the current band being Jessica Ackerley on guitar and Ian Douglas-Moore on bass. So this teaching process is definitely a new thing for me. Usually Jessica or Ian play something similar to what I demo, as well as chart out, but with much more finesse and their own poignant flare. On certain occasions they add things of their own or there are sometimes more free sections. Also, because I think of Gold Dime as a band I lead, as opposed to a solo project, me teaching Jessica and Ian the song, as well as them playing it live, further informs the song. I like to hear a song in the live context a lot before I would ever even dare record the song for a release, or rather accept that the song as "done." There are exceptions of course. I 100% remain open to this process changing and bringing in collaboration at an earlier point. I will say I do miss the songwriting companionship I had within Talk Normal.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
People, the music of Francis Bebey, discomfort in social scenarios, OMD's album Dazzle Ships, not sleeping, the smile you can hear in Julie Andrew's voice, Werner Herzog's Aguirre The Wrath of God, watching Sergio Leone's movies on mute (and not on mute), the performance art of Martin Creed, chronic anxiety, the music of Lucio Battisti, any Mahalia Jackson recording, the visceral range of emotions I feel when I realize I was only selected to fill some quota, a recent performance by cellist Leila Bordreuil -- she goes inside herself, the dangers of being a charmer, the theater group Half Straddle, the production on most Kanye West albums, my strong reaction to people looking at their reflection in every window or mirror they pass (I say this with love... like culturally when did that become a thing?)
How do you stay focused on music in such turbulent times?
I can't say I feel terribly focused musically considering the current goings of the world. Although recent music deadlines have forced me to shift that focus more towards the music again. Post-election I think I chose too many activist groups with which to align my focus. This got overwhelming once things started to get busier for me with the album coming out. I feel a heavy guilt over this. I do feel confident I will get back on that politically conscious and active path with the little things (like calling your congressmen and just paying attention on a local level.) I do definitely read a whole lot more or listen to more in-depth political podcasts whereas I relied more on singular news sources in the past.
Your album came out June 2! What does that feel like to finally see your project out in the world?
Pretty crazy. I can't say the process of getting this album out in the tangible world has been easy. Although I'm sure most artists say that about their releases. I guess for the majority of the Gold Dime experience, it felt like something was in the way, like it could never get going. Most likely due to the fact that the line-up kept changing, money was unstable (as it is for most artists) or I was distracted. At many points I often asked myself, "Why am I doing this?" I LOVE writing songs but it can be so very hard to maintain whatever lifestyle I/we chose in order to give ourselves the freedom to realize these songs (or whatever) with dedicated focus. With our album Nerves, I knew if I didn't follow through I'd regret it big time. So here we are. I followed through, I'm pretty proud of that, I'm definitely proud of the album, and I'd like to continue.
What do you like to listen to?
I guess I answered this in part in Question 2, but here's a quick re-cap -- Francis Bebey, OMD, Lucio Battisti, any Mahalia Jackson recording...
And here's what I have to add -- Velvet Underground, PC Worship, Run The Jewels, Tall Dwarfs, Body/Head, LEYA, CAN, The Flag, U.S. Girls, Roxy Music, Irma Thompson, Vince Staples, Laurie Spiegel, Phew ... this could get endless. Oh and these podcasts -- Waking Up with Sam Harris and Chapo Trap House.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians and artists?
I have three quick thoughts, all of which I've been a guilty party...
* Just be yourself. Know that self, go inside that self and then reveal that self to others. Sounds cliche, but shit's real.
* Please don't do what is “unnecessary.” Example - sometimes I feel people sing just because they think a song needs to have a voice. Unless that voice is certain on what it needs to emit (whether sonically, lyrically or some combination of the two), just leave the vocals out or use them differently. I do 100% understand you have to try these things for yourself to actually learn them. So me speaking these tips/thoughts aloud feels, dare I say, “unnecessary.” Heh.
*Take your time to write a song... if you like to take your time. Some people write gems in 5 minutes, I take forever and admittedly have felt varying degrees of embarrassment over that fact. I don't like to publicly admit how long it takes me. So the second half of this would be -- don't feel embarrassment (easier said than done.) We're all just making stuff against the indifference of the world. So huge applause for getting out there at all.