The Optimo Music-signed duo are releasing 'Still // Alone' later this month.
This post ran originally on THUMP UK.
Football, we're told time and time again, is a game of two halves. This is both an indisputable fact and a handy metaphor for life's turbulent, infuriating, and often unpleasant tonal shifts. It only takes a second to score a goal, we're told, and it also only takes a second for an affair to end, for a friendship to vanish, for us to realise that all that is solid melts into air.
Football has absolutely nothing to do with the music that Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman make as The Golden Filter, but it is a handy contextual crutch for thinking about their latest album, Still // Alone, a ravaged, beaten, bruised and decidedly icy record that's defiantly (and definitely) split in two. You've got Still, the minimal, skeletal, (goth) club-ready side, paired perfectly with Alone, an incense-stinking, distorted, odd set of the most melancholy pop this side of Roy Orbison on a comedown.
The London-via-New-York duo have recently signed to Optimo Music, and their blend of industrial-tinged coldwave and spectral electropop is a perfect fit for the imprint. With Still // Alone about to hit shops, we caught up with Hindman and Trappes to discuss everything from Trump to turning yourself into a pariah. We've also got an exclusive premier of the fantastic "There Is No Love Between Us" for your pleasure too. Happy Valentine's everyone!
THUMP: Let's start big: America is in crisis—what role, if any, can the arts play in reshaping the American present?
Stephen Hindman: It's getting tiresome seeing so many polarizing things online on at the moment. Social media and news outlets seem only to further divide people, but I think art exists in a politically undefined place that can bring a lot of different people with different beliefs together. Art is always one of the first things to get pushed away, banned or defunded within conservative governments, and there are reasons for that. A fear that art can open people's minds to positive ideas in much more abstract ways. Thinking back to when I was a kid, the Dead Kennedys shaped my current political and religious views more than my parents ever could. It might be a slow process, but I think art can definitely change things and positively influence upcoming generations.
Is the old adage about the personal being political more important than ever?
Stephen: Completely. There is no "American dream" for entire groups of people because the system is permanently built against them and the privileged are seemingly blind to it. And I do think that small personal problems triggered by bizarre, drastic, poorly thought out laws, like what's happening in the US currently, can snowball into negative life changing events for a massive amount of people. Our issues with the US weren't nearly as dire as other people's, but there was a growing sense of powerlessness and polarization going on there that we needed to get away from. The second half of Still // Alone is mostly about leaving the US behind and feeling quite good about it.
How does the immigrant experience impact on your musical practice, if it all?
Penelope Trappes: Since finishing school in Australia, I have been a resident of 3 countries—Bahrain, USA and UK—and have had to establish my whole life again from scratch, at times struggling to be a part of a community and often feeling alone—always a "transplant." My self-awareness of where I am from became a dominant part of my existence, and it absolutely affects my words, to the point that a lot of our songs that sound like they might be about a relationship, are often more the personification of a place. "There Is No Love Between Us," about our former home, is a good example of that.
Do you genuinely see yourselves as "self-imposed pariahs?"
Penelope: Yeah we really do, both in life and in music, and I don't think it's uncommon. Back when the music industry and fans thought we'd be a major label pop thing, we just went pretty silent and didn't really play along as to offset all of the expectations thrown our way. We said no to opening slots for tours, big managers, and major labels, and we just tried to pave our own way. And If we write a song that is super pop, we'll deconstruct it and strip it back to its core. It feels better. We'd rather go into a dark room with a synth and a mic and create a vibe alone than work with songwriters, other producers, A&R people and managers. Though we obviously would like more people listen to our music, we aren't trying to be part of the music industry, or any industry. But at the moment we're more comfortable with what we're doing, and we are on a label that seems to feel the same way as us. And also, we have each other...and love. Which really is all we need.
Finally, because it's Valentine's Day, what's the most romantic record ever made?
Stephen: "Hot on the Heels" of Love by Throbbing Gristle
Penelope: "Lovin' You" by Minnie Ripperton
Still // Alone is released on the 24th of February by Optimo Music. Pre-order it here.