[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
His frequently sold-out DJ sets turn into communal dance carnivals. His name is appropriated from a neon-glossed Echo Park bar known for PBR and tequila specials. But Goldroom's musical genesis derives from the magic of isolation.
For the synth satrap born Joshua Legg, it begins on a boat. Not the 100-foot yachts of Lonely Island lampoon but a tiny vessel that he and his chemistry-professor father took out on Cape Cod. During nonwinter weekends of his childhood, the duo sojourned to idyllic vacation villages and former whaling meccas.
“The whole time I'd read, play with micro machines and listen to music. Music became very escapist, insular and personal. It's still that way for me today,” says the Boston-raised Legg, now in his late 20s, sporting a light brown beard, black tee, jeans and moccasins.
It's a Friday afternoon in early May, and Legg is temporarily anchored at the downtown loft he shares with his wife – full of antique furniture, vinyl and books, with bulletproof glass windows overlooking the pedestrian crush of Seventh Street. Most of last week was spent on a three-city swing through Mexico. Tomorrow, there's a party in Texas. There will be roughly a dozen more in the next two months, many accompanied by a live band.
The music is a luscious swirl of deep house, disco and electronic pop, with a tropical-drink umbrella poking out of it. The genre section on his Facebook page (which has more than 85,000 fans) describes it as “shufflin' feet and melting souls.” And for the past 2½ years, his career arc is best captured by thermodynamics. Since last fall, Legg has sold nearly 100,000 songs from his independent EP Embrace, strictly through iTunes. He's been streamed more than 1 million times on Spotify and twice named “Most Blogged Artist” on Hype Machine.
There's no secret to his success other than impeccable songwriting. In a dance world governed by anvil bass drops, Goldroom crafts shimmering grooves and infectious hooks. Sometimes he sings, other times he seeks collaborators. He fits into neither the hip-hop experimentalism of the Low End Theory nor the saucer-eyed porn-step of big-room EDM. Tom Petty and Daft Punk are cited as equal inspirations.
“I'm such a cliché,” he says with a laugh, his black cat bouncing up on the dining table. “Until I saw Daft Punk at Coachella in 2006, I probably would've said that I didn't really like dance music. Even today, I still hate probably 95 percent of it.”
The Daft Punk Damascus moment occurred while Legg studied psychology at USC. Throughout adolescence, he'd recorded acoustic guitar songs on four-track, never showing them to anyone. The Gallic robots triggered his sense of emotional potential in electronic music. Soon after, along with classmate Kyle Peterson, he co-founded Binary Records, as well as Nightwaves, a down-tempo, '80s-inspired synth band.
Sometime in mid-2011, the trio took a hiatus, leaving Legg with a clutch of songs and no outlet. So he dropped them on his Soundcloud page and emailed a few blogs; within two months, promoters from Canada were flying him out to spin.
Ten million Soundcloud streams later, Goldroom is preparing for the next step: his debut solo full-length. The songs are recorded and waiting to be perfected and winnowed. The size of the audiences continues to increase each month. There's the El Rey on May 31. HARD Summer in August. But Goldroom remains determined to write music that mines his original solitary inspirations.
“I realized early in my songwriting that I was really comfortable writing fantasy,” Goldroom says. “That's because when I was a kid, I'd be on the boat feeling shitty about my life and dreaming about being on a tropical island or my imagined version of California. I still feel like I'm writing for that 15-year-old version of me, and hopefully, I can provide a similar sense of escapism for everyone else.”
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