by Nathan Springer (@drownloading)
Knoxville, TN, has a trend of keeping some of its best musical talents a well-guarded (okay, maybe not intentionally) secret. I went to college there from 2009 to 2013, and bands that left a huge impact on myself and the Knoxville community at large (Killer Whale, Plant Parenthood, Steaks, among others) seemed to never reach ears beyond those in the relatively small college town. This seemed like a combination of intentional and unintentional lack of touring, sparse recordings, and a sometimes endearing aversion to promotion. However, for bands touring the south, Knoxville and the Pilot Light (an amazing DIY venue run by the exceptionally kind Jason Boardman) offer a near-essential tour stop; the exchange of musical ideas is thriving in Knoxville, and they treat touring bands better than almost any venue in a larger city. Today, I am excited to say that one of my favorite bands from Knoxville, Ex-Gold, is finally releasing some recordings, which feels like an almost voyeuristic peek into Knoxville’s beloved music scene.
The ironic part of all of this is that, after having been a band for six years, Ex-Gold (formerly Solid Gold) are releasing just thirteen minutes of music, originally recorded back in 2014. But this is an exceptionally entertaining, zero bullshit, rollercoaster ride of a near-quarter hour of punk rock. E-X-E-P-1-4 (fittingly titled, considering the refreshing lack of affectation I find to be a trait of many Knoxvillians) moves at an incredible pace, but I have a feeling that even if it were double its length there still would not be a boring moment. There are head-bobbing guitar antics (“Red Light”), noise breaks (“I’m a Man”), and manically fast vocal trade-offs (“People Talkin”) crammed into songs that range from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half minutes. The songwriting never feels too busy, though; at their roots, these are just super catchy, fun songs that bring attention to what could be mundane moments of life. Chris Rusk and Sam Stratton (who both also play in Royal Bangs) sing and yell about getting drunk (“Red Light”), the suffocation of social media (“Red Lite”), and whatever else pops into their heads, but they make you feel like it’s all something to care about. And they do so while dropping riff after riff. Ross Stansberry (bass, now covered by Kelsey Tanner) and Zach Gilleran (drums) give the band its rhythmic backbone, maintaining the frantic pace of the album with seeming ease. Ex-Gold is a band that you should most certainly see live, but this EP does the songs justice and translates the manic energy that they give off onstage.
Long story short, check out this EP. It is being released on vinyl on Saturday through Striped Light (a label with a string of excellent releases by Knoxville bands, also run by Jason of the Pilot Light), and apparently includes a “surprise” that won’t be included on the digital release. Check out the digital version below, and if you live in or near Knoxville, check out the album release at Ex-Gold’s home turf- the Pilot Light.