Hippies. You gotta love ’em. The Golden Animals love to “jam” and “plug into each others current” while they’re jamming. Vilification aside, at least for now, the band has obtained their catchy, dirty pop sound by listening to countless albums around the 1930s. They embody some of the best, and worst, qualities in any contemporary band. The current generation of music makers is said to have no originality, while instead stretching backwards to pick through the fading albums of the past to gain their inspiration. In this, the Golden Animals have succeeded with flying colors, pulling from greats like Memphis Minnie, Skip James, Chuck Berry and more to create a sound that is packed with guitar-led rock-n-roll.

But the worst qualities have yet to be spoken of. Frontman Tommy Eisner was not the easiest subject. After hanging out with him for around a half hour I had heard several times how he just wanted to be left alone, how people’s opinions didn’t matter and essentially how their vision of music was the right one. Identifying with the nomadic desert dwellers, Laura Beecroft and Eisner have immersed themselves in a culture that not many have been apprised to. It’s one adorned with shawls, scarves, fur, glitter, and unkempt hair.

Though I must admit I had enjoyed their album Free Your Mind and Win a Pony, after meeting the duo it certainly calls into question whether or not the album was as much of a facade as their fashion statement.

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Alright, so we’re here with Tommy Eisner and Laura Beecroft of the Golden Animals. Nice to have you guys here.

Golden Animals: [Silence]

And this is your first time at Don Pedros?

Laura Beecroft: Yeah.

Nice. And you lived in New York for two years, right?

Tommy Eisner: I think a little less than that. We were on and off when we were living here. Just going back and forth between different places, but we were kind of based here for maybe a year. And then we bought a van and drove out west and we’ve been living in the desert
for two years.

Where are you originally from?

T: Baltimore.

L: In Sweden (Facts were checked and she did have a legitimate Swedish accent)

And now you’re living where?

L: Right now we aren’t living anywhere. We just move around all the time in the same sort of big area in the desert in California.

T: Yeah living in the desert and finding temporary locations. Like we’re interested in being able to be left alone and being able to play music as loud as we want whenever we want. That’s our only criteria for a space, to be private and to be able to jam without pissing anyone off or deal with anybody.

Not something you could do in Brooklyn.

T: Yeah, that’s why we left.

Why desert as compared to say, farmland or something like that?

L: We actually just kind of ended up there. It wasn’t ever planned to go there. But once we get used to being there, you know, it just feels right for us.

How did you guys meet in Brooklyn?

T: We just met on the street.

L: [Silence]

So you guys are out pimping your album Free Your Mind and Win A Pony. How did you come up with that name?

T: It’s a line from the fourth song on the album called “Try on Me.” It’s the first line in that song. I don’t know, like everything we do, something just pops in our head and if it feels right then we just don’t think about it that much. That’s another instance of that.

Did you write that here or was that in the desert?

T & L: Desert.

T: We wrote this record out there, basically. Some songs were started I guess back east.

What was the writing process like that?

T: It’s all different. As we’ve been playing together I think we’ve become a lot more collaborative, and since we’ve been able to just jam a lot, a lot more comes out of just jamming and playing music all the time together. We both kind of tap into one sort of current and if it feels easy and natural then we follow it ’til we get hungry.

L: Yeah

T: We jam a lot. It’s a big part of our life.

Who were some of the influences for that?

L: [Laughs]

T: We were influenced musically by old blues music, like pre-war. Mostly blues music. Guitar based, which felt like it had more to offer us than many more contemporary forms that came from that. They’re the people that started all of it, cause Jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and everything really came from the blues, and the people that started that in America mostly just had one guitar and that was enough to do what they needed to do. They approached the guitar as a total
instrument as opposed to just a piece of a band. We were able to find a lot of…. So yeah, that’s what we were listening to out there. Nothing really after 1930.

So maybe Robert Johnson or Skip James?

T: Yeah! Those are really two out of dozens of really incredible people that people don’t think of as easily. Memphis Minnie and Frank Stokes and Blind Willie McTell. I mean there’s a gigantic list of bluesman that really just blew our mind. AND women. Yeah it’s sort of an unfortunate expression because the blues women, I mean, that stuff is unbelievable to listen to. Like Memphis Minnie and Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and stuff like that.

Same influences for you, Laura?

L: Yeah, totally.

You guys have been compared to a lot of music from that era as well as musicians like the Doors. How do you feel about that?

T: People can say whatever they want to say about us.

Do you see that at all though?

T: I never said it and I don’t think about it at all or anything like that.

L: There is music is bluesy too and they probably had similar influences as us.

T: Yeah.

How did you get involved with Happy Parts Records?

T: They contacted us through MySpace about three days, coincidentally, before we were going to the west coast and they were based in the west coast and it was really simple. We made an EP really quickly in two days in Brooklyn and posted it on MySpace and didn’t think much more about it. Then we just focused a lot on buying a van and getting rid of all our belongings and trying to go out west. It really just fell into place. Right before we left they got in touch and asked if we wanted to make a full length album and said that they would pay for it, which was great because we were without money. So we said “yeah” and we were out there in a week. Which we were.

So you guys are again heading west for the end of this tour?

L: Yeah, we’re going to get back right before Christmas.

I saw you guys are heading back through Lawrence, Kansas. That’s in the area of my hometown.

T: Oh cool.

You’ll be playing at the Replay?

L: Yeah!

You have to play Spiderman Pinball when you’re there. It’s my favorite.

T: [Laughs] Ok. We’ll have to get there early.

So you feel pretty good about the record and think you’ll stick with the same style?

L: Well you know, we always are working on new stuff.

T: We’ve written a whole new record and most of the stuff we’re touring now is our next record. We’re going to start recording, what two days after Christmas?

L: Yeah.

T: The 27th.

And that will be on Happy Parts?

T & L: Yeah.

You see yourselves staying in the desert for a while?

T: Yeah.

L: Definitely. We like everything about it. The air, the temperature…

T: The sky at night…

L: The animals…

T & L: The space [laughing at themselves]

L: You know we’ve lived there so long.

T: Time moves, you know, everything is dramatically different than what anyone in the city lives with. And the people we meet out there, and you don’t meet many people cause they move out there to just be left alone and to focus on something that they’re working on. It’s a great place for artists because it’s inexpensive and it hasn’t been turned ugly by a lot of capitalism and stuff.

And how does it feel coming from Sweden?

L: Well, it’s great! I love the desert. I feel like I was always heading out west.

When did you first come to the United States?

L: Maybe three or four years ago? I can’t really remember.

So I typically like records that have a touch of country in it. I think that’s tucked into your record as well.

T: Oh yeah! We really love that too. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf have that in there. It’s more of an urban style, which we really like too, but we’re more influenced by the blues that came before some of the country music. The Plantations as they were forming, as it was being created. Those people too.

Do you guys have any outside influences, like hip-hop?

T: No, we don’t listen to hip-hop.

L: Well, you know, music from other countries like African and Indian music.

T: Oh yeah, definitely. We’re interested in that. We don’t have the money or the technical ability to immerse ourselves in other cultures’ music, but we’re really interested in African music. We listen to Ali Farka Toure, some desert blues that’s being made in Africa, like Tinariwen, contemporary stuff that’s just amazing. These bands of people that are also living nomadically in the desert in Africa that are influenced by blues music, and playing electric too. We listen to
that stuff. That’s definitely another influence.

So you don’t have any time of player that you can listen to music with?

L: No, I mean we’re just moving around all the time and we just bring what fits in the van.

T: Yeah, we live with the bare minimum so vinyl and record players just don’t make the cut. But someday maybe it would be fun to have a record collection. It would be really fun, but it ain’t possible yet.

So what’s it like being back in Brooklyn right now?

T: Cold and wet.

Well thanks, it was nice was meeting you guys.

T: Cool.

by Edmond Stansberry
[Illustration: Sarah Goodreau]

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