Sugar & Gold

Sugar & Gold by Matt Kiehl 1

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Hedonism in hard times, decadence and decay. Indie Dance mainstays Sugar & Gold embrace it. Putting your best face forward, celebrating your problems and dancing troubles away, these are the mantras of S&G. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell u gonna love anybody else!?!” Shaking off comparisons to the likes of Prince, MGMT, Hot Chip and Ssion, Sugar & Gold have created a form of danceable pop that is uniquely their own. Furiously writing and recording in between loaning members out to the Of Montreal touring band, Sugar & Gold have released two LPs and two EPs on Oakland’s Antenna Farm records and toured the US multiple times.

At Sugar & Gold’s core are Philipp Alberto Minnig (PAM), born and raised in Mannheim Germany and Nicolas Dobbratz (Painless), born and raised in Washington D.C. The two met in middle school in central California and soon after, got their start in music in the notorious garage punk disaster Dura-Delinquent. The band was probably better known for causing fights and fucking shit up than making music, but nonetheless landed opening slots on national tours with the Make-Up, Chrome Cranks, and the White Stripes. Sharing bills (and members) with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dura Delinquent finally imploded following a European tour where they were ejected from the UK.

Picking up the pieces in San Francisco, PAM and Painless found themselves moving beyond their garage rock aspirations to a more R&B based sound. A couple of short-lived projects later, the duo learned to program drum machines and write horn arrangements, honing their skills as musicians and producers. Sugar & Gold was born.

And just in time. San Francisco’s live music scene in the mid 2000’s was still recovering from a decade-long country rock hangover, and humorless, arms-crossed indie rock ruled the day. Sugar & Gold’s outrageous live shows and instantly catchy melodies caught the town off guard and soon began converting even the most uptight teasers. Their first album, Crème, was released in 2007, a glittering homage to classic R&B. The album was faithful enough to the classics that haters across the country dismissed it as disco, and indeed, how could they know that this polished dance album was the product of a self-produced, DIY ethos.

After years of filling ever larger venues in their hometown (the band was rated “Best Local Dance Band” in 2007 by SF Magazine, and “Best Party Band 2008″ by SF Weekly), the band capitalized on a series of MTV song placements and some plum tour opportunities to raise their national profile. One of these tours saw the band opening a string of shows for like-minded indie dance stars Of Montreal; the tour resulted in thousands of new fans as well as Painless joining the OM touring band.

Following nearly two years of non-stop touring and recording, Sugar & Gold released their sophomore LP, Get Wet! in 2010. Get Wet! saw the band expand their musical palette to incorporate elements of electro, new wave psychedelia, and german minimalism, woven together in a framework of transcendent modern pop. If Crème was the ultimate hookup record, Get Wet! was a melancholy trip through the niteclub, a more sober take on the work that goes into keeping relationships fresh and vital. More MTV placements and inclusion in a series of retail playlists saw Sugar & Gold playing to new and more mainstream audiences, though as youtube videos of kids in the bible belt lip syncing their songs continue to pop up, it should be noted that the mainstream is coming to them rather than the other way around.

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