Band of the Day

2012.04.13

Sugar and Gold

Disco, funk, and soul elements combined with a modern dance-pop twist
Stay soft, it feels so good to me. And over and over you see. It really ain't no great mystery. Stay soft. Stay clean. Stay free.
lyrics from Stay Soft

Nicolas Dobbratz and Philipp Minnig are two childhood friends from San Francisco, CA that go under the pseudonyms PAM and PAINLESS, respectively, to form the electro synth-pop group Sugar & Gold. After performing in the bands Dura-Delinquent and Connexion, the two decided to work as a duo on a more dance-friendly pop project, and so Sugar & Gold was born. The pair began writing and recording songs in 2005 to release their debut 12” "Workout”/”Do it Well” in 2006 for the label Antenna Farm. The duo then released their first EP Creme in 2007. The group earned the title of Best Local Dance Band from SF Magazine in 2007 and Best Party Band in 2008 from the SF Weekly. The group added members Fatima Flemming aka Fati Beloved (Vocals), Jerome Steegmans aka Jeromeo (Bass, Production), and Robin MacMillan aka Robot (Drums) to tour in the U.S. and the U.K. and record and release the AYA EP in 2009. Sugar & Gold debuted their first full-length album in 2010 and have most recently and have most recently released the Bodyaches EP in 2011.

San Francisco natives Sugar & Gold might wear their influences on their sleeves (or, perhaps under the straps of their sequined tanktops), but they are not defined by them. Though they are undeniably influenced by Studio 54-era funk and disco jams, with their 2010 LP, Get Wet!, the group endeavored to carve out a sound that's all their own. Chock full of lush, sumptuous melodies and slinky, head-nodding riffs, the group's breakout LP is equally comfortable being the soundtrack to a wild night out, a trip to the gym, or a long Wednesday morning at work.

Their debut LP Creme (2007) was very much an exercise in soul/disco revivalism. While it's an effective slab of nostalgia, the group really hit their stride with its follow-up. On Get Wet!, the group injected a more modern, synth-pop sound in with their 70's influences to form a potent, multi-faceted sound. For example, a track from Creme like "Burnin'" would easily pass for a deep cut from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, whereas Get Wet!'s explosive opener "Feels Like Fire" is clearly an updated take on that sound.

Like their sonic peers Chromeo, Escort, and LA disco-pop upstarts Under the Influence of Giants, they have been criticized for staying too committed to one sound, but I think those who label their tracks as overly homogeneous are missing the point. While they never stray too far from their tried and tested sexy party jams, musically there is plenty of variation on Get Wet! "Feels Like Fire" may be your trademark, streamlined, hook-heavy disco jam, but "Sneek Freq" is a more mid-tempo, laid-back affair. They slow it down even more on the album's best track, "Salty Seraphim," where vocalist Philipp Alberto Minnig slinks over a spacey synth line and a languid backbeat. But, in typical fashion, the respite doesn't last long, and soon enough they're kicking into what might be the best representation of them as a band, the hyperactive earworm, "Stay Soft," which is followed by the sparkling, moody synth ballad "Bodyaches."

The group's funk and disco roots will always define the band, but those who write them off as pure pastiche or one-trick ponies are guilty of a massive oversight. In just a few short years, the group has carved out an engaging, powerful sound all their own.