Interview with guitarist Scotty Iulianelli and drummer Brandon Moss | By Tom Crandle
Bars Of Gold have released Shelters, their first new album in more than five years, on April 12 through Equal Vision Records. The suburban-Detroit-based six-piece describe themselves as four-parts Wildcatting and two-parts Bear Vs. Shark, and those are pretty good reference points for the uninitiated. It’s weird, angular rock ’n’ roll with half-shouted vocals, shifting time signatures, and lots of guitars.
Bars Of Gold certainly take some cues from the Motor City acts who have preceded them, including one who listeners might not expect. When it comes to his biggest Motown influences, guitarist Scotty Iulianelli has a simple answer. “Bob Seger & The Last Heard, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, and The Bob Seger System,” he relates.
Drummer Brandon Moss also eventually gets around to mentioning the soon-to-be-retired Seger when talking about who helped shape the Bars Of Gold sound. “My gut reaction is to say, hands down, the MC5,” he says. “Their chaos, their heart, bravado, politics, even their mistakes. I love it. They even had Bob Seger in their circle. Come on, just amazing stuff.”
Iulianelli has an interesting way of describing the current state of rock ’n’ roll in Detroit. “I think Detroit is back in the primordial stew phase. Remnants from all different sounds from the city and influences are starting to form complex organisms,” he opines. “It’s kind of crazy how small the world has gotten since we started Bars Of Gold. Which is to say, the younger bands in town came up on full access to the music of the world via the internet, while we had our parents’ record collections. Just the same, music being made in the city can reach right past and connect with people all over the world.”
Moss feels good about being in a rock band in Detroit in 2019. “Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, or possibly naïve, but I feel like it’s always been good to be in a rock band in the Detroit area—or any artistic venture, really. There’s a great heap of beautiful thinkers and doers in town,” he says. “It’s a strange place that we’re all pretty stoked to call home.”
Moss says the individual band members have kept plenty busy in the five-plus years since their last album, 2013’s Wheels. “We built a pretty solid practice space between where we all live, so basically, lots of construction,” he shares, adding, “Our families have expanded.” For Moss, that time also included a Bear Vs. Shark reunion.
Iulianelli has a similar explanation for what they’ve been up to over the last half-decade. “We built out a practice space that Bars Of Gold and some of our brother bands share,” he confirms. “Also working on animating the video for [the new song] ‘$20.’ We all had some kiddos in that timeframe too. Busy, busy, busy!”
Shelters is clearly the work of a confident, maturing band who understand their strengths. “Shelters is the first focused Bars Of Gold record where we all just let it fall out of us. We don’t force anything. When we do, it pushes back hard,” Iulianelli says, using an analogy to further clarify. “It’s like trying to row a boat really hard. You’ll just get sick of rowing and not go any faster. This record, for me, was made with a very steady rowing motion, and it’s the one that I am most proud of.”
Moss claims that having six people in the band doesn’t make things overly complicated. “Truth be told, it actually seems easier,” he says. “Like any social situation, it’s about the chemistry of who’s involved.”
“It’s funny because people often ask, ‘What are you going to do with so many guitar players?’ and I always opt for, ‘Let’s all play the same thing at the same time,’” Iulianelli shares. “It gets a good laugh, but I think it gives Shelters a kind of power, both live and on the record, that most people are afraid to tap into.”
Despite being the band’s most straightforward rock album to date, Shelters is still probably going to be too weird for mainstream audiences. Bars Of Gold are OK with that. “I personally wouldn’t know how to do anything other than the way we do it already, and I’m pretty stoked with that,” Moss says. “Per usual, it’s cool when people pay attention, but it’s fine if they don’t. We’ll still keep running.”
Iulianelli concurs, “We just do what we do. There is little conscious effort to make anything other than what we make. For the most part, we just listen to music individually, and when we find something truly inspiring outside of the Bars Of Gold universe, it usually manifests itself into our music.”
This group of family men hope to be able to do some touring behind Shelters. “That’s the plan,” Moss concludes. “It’s nice to get out of town every so often, see some friends and make some new ones.”