If you’ve been following Sound Scene for a while, you know that we’re big fans of local electronic artist Emerson Jay. They haven’t played locally in a minute, but their next Pittsburgh gig is coming up soon: on Thursday, May 25th, they’re opening up for Brooklyn natives Great Good Fine Ok, as the latter kicks off a national headlining tour at Cattivo. Morgxn rounds out the bill between the two bands, and the lineup is a match made in danceable, synth-laden heaven.
I’ve talked about the particulars of Emerson Jay’s appeal before, and both morgxn and GGFO share many of those qualities. Infectious, head-nodding beats pull you through lush layers of synths and often-soaring vocals that expertly walk the line between dreamy and downright funky. Their production is slick and polished without sacrificing passion. Every touch and effect, from hand claps and kick drums to vocal distortion and buzzy guitar strums, feels purposeful. Their exacting attention to detail in song construction results in immersive tracks that ebb and flow intoxicatingly. Catchiness is never abandoned for complexity’s sake, nor the other way around.
Morgxn tends to emphasize more traditional instrumental elements (like the throbbing bassline and insistent kick drum that drives his latest single, the damn good “xx”), for a slightly darker sound that embraces its rock tendencies. GGFO, meanwhile, brings old school rhythms and vocal influences such as Michael Jackson up to the present day with shimmering electronics, resulting in a style their website describes (accurately) as “retrofuturism.” When listening to both, I found myself in equal turns staggered by the sheer talent and swept up in the fun—a very encouraging combination to see live.
This tour, which includes a stop at the Club Stage at Bonnaroo, is in support of the band’s longest EP yet, III, which dropped in January. Its lead single, “Take It or Leave It” has amassed a staggering thirteen million (and counting) plays on Spotify, with several others also showing numbers in the millions. Their list of remixes, features, and co-writing credits is impressive, too. From heavy hitters like The Chainsmokers (with whom they penned and played “Let You Go”) and Twenty One Pilots (whose smash hit “Car Radio” got the GGFO treatment), to fellow talents on the rise such as St. Lucia and Paperwhite, they prove as capable at collaborating as they are at producing original songs. This is especially striking when you consider that their first EP only came out three years ago.
Safe to say, this band’s future looks promising. And the two acts they’ll share the bill with at Cattivo couldn’t be more perfect complements. If you’d like to listen and decide for yourself, “Take It or Leave It” is a good place to start. I also recommend “Everything to Me,” “Carried Away,” “Not Going Home,” and their remix of Paperwhite’s “Human Nature.” (Morgxn’s breakout hit “home” is also worth a listen.)
Sound Scene got the chance to chat with vocalist and founding member of GGFO, Jon Sandler. Read our interview below, and get your tickets now for this show. It’s not one you want to miss, and it will be worth being tired at work on Friday morning.
1) Your new EP, III, is fantastic. How would you say your sound/production has grown since your first release, Body Diamond, in 2014?
Thank you! I think as we evolve as people and musicians our skill sets become more refined. I believe we are overall better at what we do. We still very much write the kind of music we love, but as we get older and our tastes change, so does the sound of our music. In 2014 our songs were a little more dreamy and synthy, and our new EP feels a little more pop and funk.
2) Between the singles, EP’s, and remixes, you’ve been very consistent with your releases. What drives this prolific output?
We are constantly creating new music because it’s what we love to do. Also, we have the best fans ever, who show us so much love – we always want to return the love by releasing new stuff.
3) How would you describe your sound to people who aren’t familiar with it? Any prominent influences you can point to?
We usually point to people like MJ, Prince, and Whitney as some major influences. Indie/pop/synth/r&b all feel correct.
4) This summer tour is pretty extensive. Have you toured this broadly before? What are you most looking forward to about life on the road?
We’ve toured pretty constantly in the three years we’ve been a band. Many of those tours were as long, if not longer than this one coming up, so we are very accustomed to the length. Playing in a different city every night and feeling the energy of the fans in those cities is definitely what I look forward to most. We love getting to meet all the amazing people and hear their stories.
5) We’re stoked to have you guys kick things off in Pittsburgh. Have you played here before? Any memorable experiences with the Steel City (or our sports teams?)
We actually played in Pittsburgh one other time, opening for Vacationer at Cattivo. We had an amazing experience. It was our last show of a long tour, so we let loose. Psyched to be back for our first show of this tour! Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend too much time in the city, but we hope to see more this time!
6) The Pittsburgh music scene has been on the rise in recent years, with several acts looking to make the leap to widespread notoriety. I know things are a little different in NYC, but what advice do you have for local acts who want to take the next step?
Keep working, keeping making music and constantly play shows. I personally played hundreds of shows in NYC before I ever left and played elsewhere. Anyone can release music independently and gain a national/international fan base, and there’s nothing wrong with booking your own tour and hitting the road. Just do it!
The all-ages show on Thursday is an early one, with doors opening at 6:30 PM and the music starting at 7. Tickets can be found here for $12, or at the door/day of show for $14. Check out the Facebook event page for more details. And make sure to stay tuned for my photos and review of the concert in the next week or two.