Goldsboro: Recharging the Power Trio Tradition
By Marty Paule
While the name may be a jokey reference to big-haired ‘70s pop singer Bobby Goldsboro, this L.A. trio gets dead serious when it comes to laying down its brand of furiously hard-rocking riffs. Classic rock and metal influences are evident: Goldsboro’s collective roar recalls Thin Lizzy by way of Black Sabbath. But with the massively detuned destruction of songs like “Bottom.” the band has one foot solidly planted in the 21st century.
Oddly, guitarist/singer Kevin Roentgen, bassist John Bentjen (aka Johnny Lonely), and drummer Chris Cano came together as part of Orson, a power pop outfit that scored a massive 2006 UK hit with its album Bright Idea and number 1 single “No Tomorrow.” After going platinum and winning a Brit Award for Best International Breakthrough Act, Orson failed to register with its sophomore release and quietly disbanded.
There’s nothing quiet about Goldsboro though. Since forming in 2010, they’ve put out a well-received self-titled album in 2013 and did two Las Vegas residencies with Guns N’ Roses in 2012 and 2014. The lead-off single from Goldsboro’s album, “Great White Buffalo,” has received recurring play on Sex Pistol Steve Jones’ Jonesy’s Jukebox show on L.A. radio station KROQ. Their song “Angels” was heard on the TV series Sons of Anarchy.
Goldsboro drops sly references to other bands while pursuing a girl from the future in “She’s a Runner.”
Stream and/or download Goldsboro’s 2012 album here.
For all things Goldsboro, drop by the band’s website here.
Connect with Goldsboro on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We spoke to Kevin Roentgen, Goldsboro’s guitarist and vocalist.
The HUB: The trio can be a challenging configuration for hard rock and metal bands looking to produce a powerfully dense, enveloping mix. Goldsboro clearly has no issue doing that. Can you talk about how you create that density with just three musicians?
Kevin Roentgen: Well, first thanks for saying so. We're certainly not the first trio to do it and we've always kinda looked at it like Black Sabbath was musically a trio, with a singer up front. Zeppelin, too. We're just the kind of trio where the guitar player is also the singer. I think when you're dealing with one guitar, one bass and a drummer you've got to design the musical parts with that in mind and share the workload. It's what bands like The Who and Cream did. Rage Against the Machine, too. The list goes on.
The HUB: Buffalo imagery arises both in your song "Great White Buffalo" as well as on your album cover. Is there anything behind that you want to talk about?
Download or stream the lead-off single to Goldsboro’s debut album - “Great White Buffalo” here.
Kevin Roentgen: GWB was one of the first songs we played together as a band. It's the song most people talk about with us. The story behind the song is that we recorded our first album with our friend, Noah Shain producing at his studio in Hollywood that’s called White Buffalo. We'd all worked with Noah before, making several records together in other projects so we had that history of creating music together, so that was the literal source of the song title. Lyrically, for me, I think maybe it symbolizes this sort of tribe that's on the outside, like a separate subculture, which to me is the thing you belong to when you're a rock or metal musician or fan. Like a group that accepts you for who you are. A place where you fit. "We run with the Great White Buffalo."
The HUB: "Great White Buffalo" has enjoyed heavy rotation play on the LA tastemaker station KROQ. Did you catch the broadcasts, and if so, what's your mental process, hearing yourselves on the air?
Kevin Roentgen: Well, we owe that to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. And yes, we were pretty excited the first time he played Buffalo on the air on his show Jonesy's Jukebox. I remember I got a Facebook message from him earlier that day saying something like, "Saxon, I command you to listen tonight", ha. Which goes back to kind of a thing we'd joke around with years ago in the studio when he was producing my old band's record. Jonesy's got that distinct sense of humor. You know that American Pearl album never took off, and I'm just really grateful to still have his support for Goldsboro all these years later.
The HUB: You've said that KISS was a big influence. Yet Goldsboro doesn't seem to get into the theatrics and elaborate costumes and makeup that were KISS trademarks. Do you think those things can be a distraction from the music?
Kevin Roentgen: When I was around nine years old, I owned like two rock records —Led Zeppelin 2, mostly forced on me by the older kids on the block that of course I eventually grew into and began to love, and an obscure Steppenwolf album called At Your Birthday, that my dad bought me because it had little cartoon mice all over the cover art. But it was KISS that truly spoke to me.
It's the classic story of an older kid named Marty up the street turning me on to KISS Alive 1. And telling me how Ace Frehley was ‘the best guitar player in the world (I still kinda believe him), and how the other guy spits fire and blood…’, and so on. So, yeah I was HOOKED big time from an early age. As far as costume and makeup and the show, I just think that made it super-exciting, and it's how KISS best expressed the music they were making, which was this awesome hybrid of bands like Humble Pie, The Beatles, The Who and KISS led my generation to go on and discover that older music that was so influential to them. I think that's how it works with bands. So yeah, KISS was my favorite band growing up, and I stood by and defended my musical tastes with all the naysayers, which taught me a lot about standing up for myself, and protecting the music I hold dear.
The HUB: I think it's fair to say you guys aren't into subtlety. Do you think there'll come a time when you'll perhaps delve into a softer, more ballad-like approach?
Kevin Roentgen: Entirely fair assessment. Goldsboro will not be delving into balladry.
The HUB: I understand your name comes from the '70s pop singer Bobby Goldsboro. How does that connect with your face-melting musical approach?
Kevin Roentgen: The name comes like most, from not having a band name. Going back to making our first album, Noah, Johnny and I were walking out of the Cinerama Dome after seeing It Might Get Loud. We told Noah we had started a new band that was ‘heavy like Sabbath’ and he was like ‘F*** yeah, I wanna play drums’. We were like, ‘Cano's playing drums.’ Noah then said, ‘Then I'm producing it!’. We said, ‘Killer!’ He said, ‘On one condition…you gotta call it Goldsboro’ (based on an old joke about BG's ‘70s hairstyle). We said, ‘Perfect.’ C'mon, Bobby Goldsboro melted some faces in his day, right!? Actually, his daughter, Brandy Goldsboro, has become a friend and fan of the band.
Goldsboro’s lineup originally came together in a musically very different power pop setting. Photo: Robert John
The HUB: What's your approach to songwriting?
Kevin Roentgen: Usually I'll come in with a rough song idea, guitar and basic vocal melody that I've worked out a bit, and we'll start playing it in the room and we'll know soon enough if it's something to pursue, if it feels right for Goldsboro. Lyrics often come last for me. But melody seems to come in tandem with a chord progression or riff.
The HUB: You all were a part of the band Orson whose flame burned brightly but briefly. What did you take away from that experience?
Kevin Roentgen: Speaking for myself, the Orson experience was mostly a good one. The band had been together in LA for five years when their guitar player quit. I wasn't in a band at the time I got the call. Of course there was already a singer. My gig was to basically be the second guitar player, which, for me at that time, was a good lesson in humility and ‘showing up’. Within months, we were packing our bags and moving to the UK, with a record deal from Mercury. Fast forward through being based in London for 2-1/2 years having a Number One single and album, two years of extensive touring in the UK, as well as Europe and Japan, winning a Brit Award in 2007 for International Breakthrough Act, recording a second album and eventually being dropped by Mercury. This was the catalyst for moving home to LA and starting a very much different type of band. Also, the relationships we made while in Orson have helped with us going back now twice with Goldsboro to tour the UK.
The HUB: Do you go into the studio with finalized lyrics and tight arrangements, or is the process more organic?
Kevin Roentgen: I'd say it's both. We're just about to go in and record 10 new songs for Album Two. I think eight of those songs we've played out live over the past year, and the other two we haven't. And lyrics are still coming together for those. Similar thing with the first album. So, there's for sure a slight element of being organic in the recording process.
The HUB: Are there any particular shows that stand out?
Kevin Roentgen: All of the shows we played with Guns N' Roses are absolute stand-outs, especially The Wiltern, an iconic LA venue we'd all wanted to play our whole lives pretty much. And, The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas was killer.
The HUB: Any funny road stories?
Kevin Roentgen: With Goldsboro, it's like every road story is a funny one. Maybe because the three of us have so much history of heavy touring together in the past. I mean there's everything from Johnny being detained for hours at Heathrow and almost not being allowed into the UK for not having proper work credentials (none of us did, by the way) on our last tour to spending the night in a London hotel with five (or six?) guys crammed into one 8' x 14' room to save money on our last night. Basically not enough space here for all the stories. It's your typical rock band buffoonery, always.
The HUB: Any words of wisdom for young musicians just starting out?
Kevin Roentgen: Well, wisdom seems to come from experience passed along. At least that's how it's been for me. So, speaking from my experience, I'd say if you really want to do this, like for REAL, you're going to have to sacrifice a LOT, and work harder than you have ever worked. And there will probably be rejection and heartache like you're dying, and hopefully there will be great moments of feeling like it was all worth it.
Very important to practice your craft, whether it's songwriting or playing an instrument, like pretend you don't live in a world where you can edit your music on a computer. Instead, play it great, over and over. And have conviction. Believe in what you're doing, so that others will too. And maybe while doing all of that, don't take yourself so seriously. Oh, and try to have fun.
The HUB: A career in music usually involves learning to deal with rejection. Any advice about how to handle it?
Kevin Roentgen: Ha, I think I just answered that in the last one? But I'll just add to it by saying never give up. And do your best to surround yourself with people who you respect, and who respect and support you. Life's too short to run with A-holes. Always carry on.
The HUB: You've played some famous venues like The Whisky and Viper Room in LA. Are they favorites or are there others you like to gig at more?
Kevin Roentgen: In LA, there are so many places to play. Yes, The Whisky, Viper, Roxy, Troubadour all hold a lot of rock history and every band has or at some point will play those. There are a bunch of newer clubs that have sprung up over the last ten years on the east side and downtown LA, plus more outdoor events all around the city. Our first gigs were at the Silverlake Lounge, which is basically a narrow-roomed bar with a loud PA on East Sunset Blvd. Obviously, we ALL want to the play the newly reopened LA Forum!
The HUB: Can you offer any advice in dealing with a new venue in terms of sound checks, working with the house PA, etc?
Kevin Roentgen: Again, my experience is keep it simple. Be nice to the people that are going to be running sound or lights for your show, even though they may not often be in a good mood. Remember they know how to do their job better than you probably. Do what you can to work with them, help them lift stuff, whatever. I think not being a jerk goes a long way. But also help them make you sound good by asking directly for what you need.
The HUB: Got any projects in the works you want to talk about?
Kevin Roentgen: Next up is tracking Album Two.
The HUB: If you could get everything going your way, what would ultimate success look like for Goldsboro?
Kevin Roentgen: Not sure how to answer that, mostly because my way ain't always the right way. But mostly, if we can be a band that gets to keep putting out music, and can continue to build our fan base and a healthy touring business that allows us to keep going…if we could have those things and enjoy them, then I couldn't really ask for much more. That's the goal, I think.
GOLDSBORO GEAR LIST
Chris Cano (drums):
14 x 26 kick
14 x 16 floor
9 x13 rack
6.5 x 14 N.O.B. Snare
Zildjian A Cymbals:
Vic Firth Sticks:
Whatever I can get my hands on…I'm using the Steve Jordan stick right now.
REMO Drum Heads:
Kevin Roentgen (vocals/guitar):
2006 Gibson SG Junior '68 Reissue
1968 Gibson SG Junior
‘80s Gibson SG '61 Standard Reissue
1974 Gibson SG Standard
1997 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Gibson J45 Acoustic
Fender Telecaster Deluxe '72 Reissue
Fender Telecaster '62 Reissue
Yamaha AES 1500 Semi-Hollowbody Electric
Epiphone 335 Casino Reissue
Jim Dunlop .88mm nylon picks religiously!
I like Shure SM58 vocal mics for live, and Shure SM7 for recording vocals in the studio.
John Bentjen (bass):
Sandberg Bass- model "California TT 4 string"
Active passive switching, P/J set up.
25 year old Galien Kruger 800rb amp
SVT CL 810 cab