There’s just something about the music Gold Motel makes that feels like a road trip in your Dad’s wood-paneled station wagon during some long-ago summer. It could be the vintage ’60s/’70s pop feel of the tunes this Chicago-based indie outfit plays, but it’s more likely the mood. There’s simply joy in the music.
Gold Motel is the brainchild of frontwoman Greta Morgan, possibly better known as Greta Salpeter from her days with The Hush Sound, and she has no problems saying she makes happy music, even in a field dominated by tales of heartache and longing from the lovelorn. It’s natural, she says; she’s just a happy person.
“A really close friend of mine … said something about how he felt like my personality was summer, and he didn’t realize that until he saw everything in full bloom,” Morgan said. “It was such a nice thing to say. That was when I decided I do want to make a happy album. I am almost all the time a very joyful person. I just feel so happy to be alive every day.”
It was the mood she wanted to capture on Gold Motel’s debut album, Summer House, with its clap-along beach ballads set to Morgan’s delightfully upbeat vocals. It was the summer of 2010 when Gold Motel released Summer House, and the band was just starting to become a band. It all started as a solo project for Morgan, launched when The Hush Sound went on hiatus in 2009. She recorded some demos, and then teamed up with Dan Duszynski, a guitarist for This is Me Smiling but also a studio engineer, to record Gold Motel’s self-titled EP that fall.
Morgan recalls that Gold Motel had booked its first show, in fact, before the project had a band. But they filled out the order with This is Me Smiling cohorts Matt Schuessler and Adam Kaltenhauser, and Eric Hehr of The Yearbooks, and the Chicago indie scene dream team took the stage in December for a sold-out show.
Summer House followed; the group toured the country in support of the album with acts like Kate Nash, OK Go and They Might Be Giants, and went international with Hellogoodbye on a UK tour. They followed up Summer House this summer with the release of their self-titled sophomore album. This time around, several of the band members brought their own songs to the table and took part in the arranging and recording process, further moving Gold Motel from a solo venture into a group effort.
“Gold Motel has been one of the most fun and eye-opening experiences,” Morgan said. “It’s fun and interesting to play with new musicians who have this wealth of experience, and it’s also been exciting to record the albums ourselves.”
The songs on Gold Motel more fully embrace the emotional spectrum, Morgan said.
“Brand New Kind of Blue” kicks off the album, its inspiration drawn from books Morgan read on near-death experiences when she was “just going through one of those morbid periods,” and delivers the refrain “drifting in a brand new kind of blue/hoping that I’m only passing through” with a smile. “Counter Clockwise,” though, Morgan’s personal favorite track from the album, is a mellow place on the album, a somber tale of regret.
“The happy songs feel happier and the sad songs feel sadder,” Morgan said. “I think we’ve been able as a unit to speak more precisely to whichever emotion we’re using.”
Gold Motel has been out for about a month now, and this week the band embarked upon a two-week tour that will bring them to Jammin’ Java Monday. As might be expected for audiences who’ll get to see the joyful music of a joyful person played live, Morgan says Gold Motel puts on a fun, spontaneous show.
“We try to get people dancing,” Morgan said. “We try to get people to have a great time.”
• For more information about Gold Motel, visit goldmotel.com.