Will Marsh has seen his fair share of Virginia’s I-64 corridor.
Marsh’s Central Virginian journey started when he was seven years old and his family followed his father’s teaching career from Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It continued in Williamsburg, where he attended the College of William and Mary and found a creative community that included Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo. That collaborative relationship culminated in the first Gold Connections release — a self-titled EP recorded in a moldy basement, set aside for a couple of years, and finally released on Fat Possum Records in 2017 — that merged Marsh’s sharp, varied songwriting with Toledo’s production and mixing, among other contributions.
While the divergent paths of the two musicians may have resulted in separate bands, they’ve shared several stages, including a 2017 Friday Cheers bill that saw Gold Connections open for Car Seat Headrest in Richmond in a memorable display of the talent that, just a few years before, had been taking shape less than an hour’s drive east on I-64. Virginia’s Capital City now takes on new significance in Marsh’s life, as Richmond-based label EggHunt Records recently released the first full-length Gold Connections album, Popular Fiction – a balanced, yet energetic collection that showcases the Charlottesville resident’s expressive singing and clear knack for identifying a song’s essence.
We spoke over the phone about the various stages of this journey, how he approached recording Popular Fiction, and where he’s going next.
How did your partnership with EggHunt Records come about?
After our EP — Fat Possum did the EP — we were looking at different indie labels, and we were in contact with a few. I guess the most appealing thing about EggHunt was that they’re based in Richmond, and there’s that proximity to Charlottesville. It had been kind of difficult working with a label based in Oxford, Mississippi, slash New York, because you only see them once in a while, maybe once every five months or something, and that makes it harder, at least at this point in our career, to have a trusting relationship. I saw EggHunt in that they seemed like a really hardworking label based in my area. We reached out to them, and Adam Henceroth was really friendly and came to our shows. He was kind of the loudest voice, and he seemed to want us the most. That’s what we wanted — someone who would make us a flagship artist, or a priority.
Are there any songs from Popular Fiction you’re especially excited to play live?
“Bad Intentions” was the first single from this album, and hopefully people will connect with it in the live setting. We’ve been playing that song forever live, and it’s kind of a curious song for us. For a while, we were starting our set with “Bad Intentions,” which has a blues kind of lick to it, so we’ll start off these shows, like before Car Seat Headrest or something, with a [Rolling] Stones-y kind of thing, and people don’t really know what to do. “Who are these guys?” And then we play our more traditional, weird indie rock after that. That being said, it’s been fun to play a song like that alongside these other songs just to see what the reaction is.
Popular Fiction sounds beautifully balanced — it blends quiet and loud moments and songs so well.
We were thinking a lot about dynamics, and I think my producer [Daniel Levi Goans] recognized that all of these songs have dynamics written into the structures of the songs, and we did make an effort to bring that out. When it comes to the album as a whole, I have a sense of how a record should sound from listening to music my whole life… I love records, and I’ve been listening for a long time, and I guess it came through in some way.
What was your listening environment like growing up?
The first band that I fell in love with was Everclear. I moved to Charlottesville when I was 7, so that means I grew up in Baltimore in the late 1990s, when Everclear was always on the radio. I think my dad got So Much for the Afterglow. To me, that’s still a perfect album. So that was definitely a big influence as a youngster. My dad is an audiophile, and he was around for the 1970s and 1980s. When I was 14, he gave me his record player, and I could choose 50 records out of his collection… I think that was a huge moment, because it opened me up to Neil Young and R.E.M., and I could get more into the Beatles and this whole tradition of vaguely alternative rock music from the 1970s and 1980s.
The vocals on Popular Fiction do such a great job of incorporating different techniques and modes of expression. What was the experience of recording them like?
It was fun. Obviously my producer really loves music too, and we were both really excited about using the studio and using different techniques that we had come across just from listening to rock music. So it was fun to [say] ‘Do we double this track, or do we want to keep something like “Desert Land” really stripped down?’ We doubled the vocals on that, but on “Icarus,” [in] the verses, the vocals are on their own. It was really fun making those decisions. We didn’t have any hesitation to use all the resources that were there for us. We just wanted the music to come out.
What does the next chapter look like for Gold Connections?
The next big step is definitely recording another album. Basically, right after writing Popular Fiction, I started writing new songs. I’ve been making demos for the past three years, and I have a whole bunch of new material that I’m really excited about, so the next step is definitely another album, whenever that’s going to happen.
For more information on Gold Connections, including tour dates and links to buy Popular Fiction, visit GoldConnectionsMusic.com.