By Melanie Stangl
Photo by Travis Mitzel
The season might be coming to a close, but for eclectic local rockers Delicious Pastries, Mariage Blanc, Sleep Experiments, and Host Skull, big things are already underway. The four groups have teamed up to form a new record label/music collective called Golden Magnet, through which they plan to release all future projects. Each act will retain its autonomy, but the joint effort will provide opportunities to share resources (such as studio space and varied skill sets), to innovate and collaborate creatively, and to expose each band’s fans to the work of the others. “There seems to be a common undercurrent or sensibility that runs through our four bands, even though our sounds don’t always seem to match up,” says Phil Johnson of Sleep Experiments. “We saw a need for ourselves to work on a bigger scale, and I think working together will allow us to hone that sensibility and share it with Pittsburgh.”
The first project they’re sharing is a brand new, never-performed-live Delicious Pastries song. You haven’t seen Pastries on stage recently, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been hard at work. The skilled psych-rockers (Jonathan Chamberlain on lead vocals and guitar, Jesse Ley on drums, Burr Settles and Steven Gallo on guitar, Dan Styslinger on keys, and Vincent Poprocky on bass) are releasing the single on August 26th. It will be the first new material from them since their second full-length, Aleatoric Delay, dropped in March. “At the release party, I arrogantly proclaimed that Delicious Pastries would have another album out by the end of the year,” recalls Ley. “Fortunately for me, it’s a campaign year, so the public’s tolerance of blatant lies is much higher than usual. It will be nice, however, to deliver something to the people.”
That ‘something,’ titled “Pygmalion Cantations,” delivers a fantastical sense of adventure. It’s reminiscent of cartoons and kids’ shows/movies of the 80’s, while wrapped up in solid, engaging instrumentation that still feels modern. (Picture a ride on Falkor from The Neverending Story meeting Tame Impala and you’ll have the gist of it.) A foot-tapping, head-nodding drumbeat, delightfully fuzzy guitars, dreamy keys, and a groovy bassline provide a well-mixed, textured background to Chamberlain’s soaring vocals. The extended instrumental bridge is a true highlight, where Poprocky’s bass becomes more prominent and layers of distorted guitar riffs blend seamlessly with swoony “ooh’s” and “aaah’s” from Chamberlain. The lyrics are imaginative and appropriately psychedelic: such phrases as “Your arrival through the orange blossom clouds/Heralded in a swath of incandescent sounds” evoke the sense of being in a dreamscape. It’s a lucid dream, though: the listener is the unique, special hero of this amorphous story. “We speak in symbols, move in codes/Talk a language no one knows,” “The four winds are calling out your name,” and “Chroma shows your hidden aura/Glamorous design” all give the heartening sense that you, the listener, are powerful in this world to which they take you. The track ventures into both weirder and more contemporary territory, yet couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as anything other than a Pastries tune. As Ley puts it, it’s “a noticeable progression, but not a great departure.” He continues, “It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that if you enjoy our earlier material, you’ll likely find something to dig about this track.” Once the single drops, it will be available for streaming and free download via the group’s Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages.
“Cantations” is newer than some unreleased songs they have performed live, because the track was commissioned specifically for an upcoming film. “A few months ago, we received an email, out of the blue,” says Ley. “A mysterious filmmaker said that he was a fan of our music and wanted to include original Delicious Pastries material in a future project. Upon confirming the legitimacy of said proposal, we were very excited to be involved!” The excitement was warranted: aside from a bit of backstory and a few references, the director simply let Pastries do their thing. “The creative process was completely unobstructed,” says Ley. “Commissions like this can be stressful, but the director’s belief in us and confidence in our judgement was very encouraging. When you know the client has full faith in your abilities, it creates a pretty relaxing work environment.”
The movie is still early in the production stages, so specifics about it are not yet released. But its recruitment of Pastries and the high quality of this single are both promising signs. The film is set to be released in time for the festival circuit later next year; as that date approaches, more details will be revealed.
This song is just the beginning for Golden Magnet. After years of being familiar with and casually supporting each other’s work, each group felt that the time was right to solidify their artistic goals behind one unifying label. The acts will bring their extensive experience in all aspects of the music-making process to this project: writing, recording, producing, mixing, promoting, compiling/distributing songs and albums, and of course, performing. “We wanted to establish a solid community to promote continued creative music making, to cross-promote our collective efforts to expose more listeners to all of the bands, and to create a fun environment for collaborating and generating new ideas,” explains David Bernabo of Host Skull. It was Mariage Blanc and Sleep Experiments who invited the other two bands to join in on the label, and for the foreseeable future, it will be limited to these four acts. (Though as they grow, Ley jokes, “we may incorporate a full-time staff—personal chef, Swedish masseuse, etc.…we’ll probably be looking for interns by Christmas.”) “In that way,” continues Bernabo, “the collective works like an older-style label, where trust is placed in a band for longer than a one-year album release cycle.”
Unlike old-school labels, however, Golden Magnet is all about flexibility. When it comes to projects, events, collaborations, and digital/physical distribution formats, decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis and nothing is off the table. “The nice thing about this collective is that it can function however we want it to,” says Matt Ceraso of Mariage Blanc. “It doesn’t have to function like a ‘traditional’ label, or a ‘traditional’ anything, for that matter. The purpose of the collective is to be a flexible, central unit of sorts that we can all use as a resource and outlet, while also still operating as independent bands.” Golden Magnet’s current “home base” is Mariage Blanc’s studio in Glenshaw, where vocal tracks for “Cantations” were recorded, but as with nearly every other aspect of this label, Ley says, “When it comes to recording, we don’t like to limit ourselves…It’s best to keep one’s options open!”
Tentative talks regarding future expansion include eventually bringing in not only other bands, but perhaps visual and other kinds of artists as well. Chamberlain’s gift for painting, demonstrated in his creation of all of Delicious Pastries’ album artwork, already provides a step in this direction. Currently, though, the primary focus is on the music. “The plan is to restrict the collective to the current four bands until we really get our footing and have a feel for how we should run things (the first two years or so),” Cesaro says. “We’re just taking things one step at a time for now to get organized.”
Bernabo puts it succinctly: “We are taking this opportunity to rethink what a record label can do and what a release can be…We are setting up an environment where anything can happen and weird ideas are encouraged.” Johnson agrees, elaborating, “If you see a Golden Magnet band, or a Golden Magnet show, you should have a general idea of what to expect, and what level of quality to expect as well.” If “Pygmalion Cantations” is any indication of that level of quality, your expectations will not only be high—they’ll be satisfied.
You can (and should) follow along with Golden Magnet’s future releases, which they have lined up through the end of this year, on their Bandcamp and Soundcloud. The new Delicious Pastries tune will also be available there on August 26th.