It’s not that Gosling sounds like the Beatles. I can hear the influence, yes, but I think they sound more like power pop with Tourette’s: a little jaunty and hooky — with explosive outbursts that suggest real rock ambition. It’s not even that Gosling kind of looks like the Beatles, with their mop-tops, peg-leg pants and fitted jackets.
Gosling reminds me of the Beatles because they act like the Beatles: Their band rapport smacks of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! Remember those early Beatles interviews, where the band take the piss out of journalists and run interviews sort of like a football game, exchanging jokes in a series of passes, interceptions and fumbles? Gosling is a lot like that.
And sure, it doesn’t hurt that their drummer, Isaac Carpenter, smiles throughout their live sets. I met Carpenter, and Gosling singer-songwriter Davey Ingersoll, before a recent show at the Viper Room (sponsored by Indie-103 FM, which has been spinning them of late). We sat in the tiny room at the back of the club that feels like a train compartment. (Seriously, it’s got to be one of the smallest greenrooms in L.A.) I began by asking where they live.
“Davey lives in Echo Park, and the rest of us live in the Valley in the same house,” says Isaac.
Davey interrupts: “I was booted from the house. My shenanigans got me kicked out.”
“He’s crazy,” Isaac pipes back in. “The drugs, and sex and sexual Internet.”
“I don’t try to hide it from the rest of the house,” Davey deadpans, adding, “Oh, and I have a volatile temper.”
“With two wives and a kid around, we couldn’t have him there,” Isaac reasons.
The exchange seems so earnest in the moment, I take it as fact. In the interest of journalistic accuracy, though, I figure I’ll double-check my facts. (Something about “sexual Internet” rings false.)
“So,” I ask. “Is that true?”
Isaac, with a big smile like a wink, asks, “Which part?”
The guys in Gosling do not take themselves seriously (hooray!), but they are serious about their music. Their recent album, Here Is . . . (V2) delivers a mash-up of sounds and styles, dipping its fingers in many genre pots — electro, hard rock, soft metal and pure ’60s British pop. The main thread is the contrast between the sprightly, poppy hooks and Davey’s nasally, high-pitched wails. (To make another comparison: Think Axl Rose fronting the Beach Boys.) Lyrically, the songs run the gamut from the romantic “Stealing Stars,” with its Bonnie-and-Clyde-outrunning-the-cosmic-police references, to the darkly bubbly “Mr. Skeleton Wings,” with its haunting, almost vengeful chorus, “If you want me, I’m at the top of the heap . . . if you climb over all the bodies we’ll meet . . .” Davey admits that they had to edit their list of influences on their MySpace page. “It was getting ridiculously long,” he laughs. Right now, the list stops at 44, ranging from George & Ira Gershwin to T. Rex. (Add Elton John: “The Burnout” features an extended “Bennie & the Jets” breakdown.)
I ask what brought the band to Los Angeles; Isaac responds they “came down for the celebrities, and the palm trees,” and “to live the good life.” I can’t separate the tongue from the cheek.
I kinda knew what to expect beforehand: I had watched Gosling’s video diary on their MySpace page, made during the recording of Here Is . . . . In one entry, Davey is “caught” getting shocked by a rogue wire to comedic effect worthy of Charlie Chaplin. In another, Isaac — a cherub all of 5-foot-2 — claims to have beaten up the 6-foot-3 manager of their studio space. “So much rage and so much anger came out,” Isaac claims, that he kept pounding this man in the head.
The band members, also including guitarist Mark Watrous and bassist Shane Middleton, have all known one another since grade school. Back home, in the Washington area known as Tri-Cities, they were Loudermilk, a hard-rock band. About three years ago, the band changed its name to Gosling and took the whole show on the road to Los Angeles — and that included Isaac’s wife and Shane’s wife and kid. “We didn’t want to be closed off from the rest of the world anymore,” says Davey, settling into quiet-serious mode. (His voice rages onstage — it’s borderline David Banner — but he’s exceptionally soft-spoken in person.) “Anyone who grows up in a small town knows there’s not a ton of outlets or opportunities to be artistic or creative.”
Here in Los Angeles, he found himself being inspired: Trying to find his place in L.A. became trying to find his place in the world. “I got real introspective, and it inspired me to write about what I saw — the sprawling dichotomy of Los Angeles. It’s got the worst of the worst, and this weird, glitzy crust over the top of all the shit. So I wrote about that.”
“He hated life!” Isaac laughs. “I think maybe he was inspired in his songwriting by being uninspired.”
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Davey looks down at his beer bottle. “I found it a hard city to live in. I’m used to my daily life being simple. In L.A., it’s hard just to get from point A to point B. There’s so much to deal with.” He shakes his head as he recalls his drives from Echo Park to his girlfriend’s home in Santa Monica, or out to the Valley to practice and record with his band. Commutes like that can be soul-crushing and maddening, of course — but fortunately, Davey Ingersoll seems to be only vaguely shell-shocked. “I don’t like being trapped in my car half the day. I don’t like that it takes a half-hour to an hour to do a simple task. But I think we’ve adapted, and it just feels like home now.”
Traffic aside, life for a new band in L.A. is flat-out fucking hard. All the members have to have day jobs. Davey works as a part-time production assistant on commercials and photo shoots; Isaac does session work; Mark does “odds and ends”; and Shane owns a children’s clothing line with his wife and cuts hair at Rudy’s Barbershop. To make finances more difficult, earlier this year the band’s label, V2 (which also signed the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, Dave Matthews, local darlings the Adored and many others), recently dissolved. That leaves the band paying for the rest of its tour, covering travel and expenses to play South by Southwest and the recording of its next album.
Gosling had only been with V2 a year, but by last fall, the band felt like things were changing: “People were leaving, money stopped moving, they had been trying to get us a little more money ’cause we’re broke, and then communication became slow,” says Davey, with a “hindsight is 20/20” sigh. “Right before the new year, we heard something was going down there.” Isaac chips in that V2 “was awesome, one of the best labels.” Completely hands-off. Nothing but super supportive. Well, shit.
But this isn’t Gosling’s first time at the proverbial barbecue. Back in ’98, as Loudermilk, the band released its own independent album, Man With Gun Kills 3! American Recordings discovered it and signed them, and despite successful tours with Mötley Crüe and Megadeth, dropped them. Then, in early 2002, DreamWorks Records picked them up, and Loudermilk recorded their first official major-label release, The Red Record. A year later, DreamWorks Records shut down. And now, it seems, the curse of the disappearing label has followed them. But they’re decidedly optimistic. They’re going to focus on recording their next release, tentatively titled Charismatic Movement, and “If someone wants to put it out the same way V2 did, that’ll work,” says Davey. ”If not, we’ll put it out ourselves.” It wouldn’t be the first time.