The Golden Age has been through a few lineup changes over the course of their existence as a band, but each one has served to make the band better. Their current lineup; Rob Hawkins (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Clint Wheeler (drums), Ian Aeillo (bass, vocals), Tim Jensen (guitar, vocals), and Alisa Heinzman (keyboards) are the most comfortable sounding lineup yet. I wouldn't call their music mellow, so much as "gentle", and even when it rocks it's still got a certain frailty to it. I had a chance to chat with Rob about the bands past, present and future.
SCS: How and when did The Golden Age form as a band?
Rob: The Golden Age formed in the late summer of 2000. I started working with Brandon McKenzie at this grocery store when I first moved here. I learned he played music, so I went over to his house and Brandon, Nick Harrel, and I would sit around and play guitars. So, we decided to start tinkering around. I asked my buddy, Clint Wheeler, who is also from Texas to play drums. That’s that.
SCS: If people come to see you what can they expect at your live shows?
Rob: We have been trying to be a little tighter lately. I don’t know. I tend to apologize a lot for mistakes. Mockery of Eagle Seagull, because they need that.
SCS: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members?
Rob: Many types of music have influenced us – from country & western to jazz to metal to shoo-bop or doo-wop or whatever it’s called. This answer could take up pages. I would have to say that I think as far as bands go, the list would be so long and obvious that it would just be boring and a pain to read. So…
SCS:The Golden Age has been through some lineup changes over time. How has the band grown, musically and creatively, since it first started, and do you think the different lineups have had any effect on the musical direction of the band?
Rob: Yes, TGA has had nine musicians in its sordid past and present. The only thing that I think we have been looking for is to find our own voice. Inevitably, major musical influences are perceptible in earlier songs – even now – but that is the goal. One’s own voice, I mean. Hopefully, we are getting closer. I feel, at times, satisfied. Different lineups have at times, impacted. I think that when Alisa Heinzman came along, she definitely added a new element with the keyboards. Nate Mickish added an ambient guitar vibe that has remained long after his departure. Our two new guys, Ian Aeillo and Tim Jensen, are doing something. I don’t know what. Costing me money, that’s what.
SCS: Rob, do you write all the songs yourself or do you collaborate with other band members, and how does the band work a song from the idea stage to a finished song
Rob: Generally, I have written the progressions, melodies, and lyrics for my part of every song so far, I think. Sometimes, I will guide the other musicians as to what I would like something to sound like, but I like everyone to play what they think sounds right.
As most of the people reading this will know, the best evolutions that happen to your songs go largely unplanned. Someone we worked with at an early stage said that our band needed to concentrate more on arrangement. That was definitely true. It takes a while to learn to “listen,” to your own music, but it is essential. These days, arrangement is one of the first components we look at in a song.
SCS: When and where was your first local show, and how did it go?
Rob: Our first show was in a house on 51st and N streets. Before we played, I was very nervous and I drank a lot of Tanqueray. I prefaced our first song, “Home Is A Hotel,” by saying, “This song’s fuckin’ legendary!” There is actually a recording of it somewhere. I think I held on just long enough to butcher our set and then I passed out in the front yard. My girlfriend started crying. Not from joy.
SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it that?
Rob: I will always remember our dates on the West Coast with Rilo Kiley and Matt Ward. We just had such a good time playing. The high points were Los Angeles at the Henry Fonda and San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. The curtain comes up and there are smoke machines and the crowds were huge. For a little band like TGA, that is pretty cool. I think we all had such nerves the whole time, but we had great fun, too.
SCS: Most embarrassing moment in a live show?
Rob: I can’t think of any from shows, but I’ll tell an embarrassing story just to show that I’m not faking it. One time, a few years ago, I was hanging out with this girl that I sort of liked. We were watching TV or a movie beside each other at my apartment. Something funny happened and I sort of “nose-laughed.” You know, just a rapid, quick puff of air from the nostrils for something that is semi-funny, not really-funny. So, anyway, I accidentally blew a big booger loose from my nose onto her pants. Then, she picked it up and threw it on the floor. We were silent for what seemed like five to ten minutes.
SCS: You should have said, indignantly, "HELLO!, that was mine!" So What is your best fan experience?
Rob: I remember playing a song called “Once A Cheater, Always…,” at the end of a TGA set in Omaha. It was just the keyboard and me. I think we were the opening act. Maybe second. Anyway, the crowd, which in Omaha is usually so complacent and yappy, was completely silent. I was shocked at how respectful they all were. Then, I finished. When the lights came up, I realized there wasn’t anybody in the room
SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Rob: I like obvious things like the community and friendliness. Everyone will keep listening, even if you suck it the first few times. I mean, look at Ideal Cleaners.
SCS: Have you learned anything in your experiences in a band that you feel newer local bands could learn from, or made any mistakes they should avoid?
Rob: Do not depend on other people exclusively for your own success, even if they promise. Because, then, you will be where TGA is. Reliable equipment and players are key. You can’t do much without either. So, spend the money and/or the time to find those things. I can’t give much advice. It’s the blind leading the blind. Who is an elder statesperson of Lincoln music? Let’s all ask her/him.
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?
Rob: I have been fortunate enough to have met a few people who were playing before I moved here: Lori Allison, Harry Dingman, Benjamin Kushner, Brian McCue, Mike Keeling, Dan Jenkins, there are undoubtedly more. Those are just the ones I have met.
Many of them have been very helpful with giving me advice and encouragement. I wish I was better at doing that for bands who are younger than TGA.
SCS: Are you working on a new album now, and if so, when do you expect it to come out?
Rob: We are currently working on an EP called "Jealous Love". It will consist of five songs. I hope that it will be out before May.
SCS: What is a musical goal that you would still like to achieve?
Rob: Actually putting out a full-length record. That seems like a good step for a band that’s been around for over four years, doesn’t it?
SCS: If you could tour with any band in history, who would be your dream band to tour with?
Rob: I would say Led Zeppelin, but I’m opposed to this idea of “rambling.” What is that about? I bet all “ramblers” are real drags. Like –
“Hey, man! You forgot to tear down your drum set.”
“Whatever, dude! I’ve gotta ramble. See ya.”
So, I don’t know. Maybe someone that was really responsible so we wouldn’t have to be.
SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made you want to play music?
Rob: I played piano from an early age, but I grew tired of playing classical music (even though I love most classical music to this day). I quit piano lessons at age eleven or so. I always liked pop and rock music, but I didn’t think of actually playing it until I was thirteen or fourteen, when my friend Josh Metteauer got a Fender Stratocaster. Once he got that, I knew I had to have one, too.
My parents gave me an old nylon-string classical guitar that had a broken bridge and weird machine-heads, but it somehow worked. So, this was around the same time that Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York came out and I was O.K. with having an acoustic guitar for a while.
We would call up girls and play “Polly,” or “Dumb,” or any other Nirvana song we could learn. Then, Josh learned to play that Pearl Jam song “The Yellow Ledbetter,” that has those sweet licks. I was so jealous. I fucking hate that song now. And Pearl Jam.
SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?
Rob: I don’t really remember. I know I inherited a lot of old LPs from my parents. Cat Stevens’ Tea For the Tillerman was one I would put on in the garage while I played basketball in the driveway. A friend gave me several cassettes: Green Jell-O, 2 Live Crew, and King Diamond. I would take them in my back yard with my brother and we would play them on this little Playskool tape player that had a little red microphone with which one could sing along to the songs. My cousin gave me Prince’s Purple Rain, which I adored.
The first recording I actually bought could have been (gasp!) The Last Action Hero soundtrack because it had this Def Leppard song on it that I thought was somehow inspiring. It also could have been Bryan Adams’ Please Forgive Me cassette single.
SCS: The most recent?
Rob: I typically don’t buy many records unless I’m at a show, but I recently received The Futureheads self-titled (I think) CD as a Christmas gift. I usually just randomly download songs that I like from the Internet. Sometimes, I even pay for them.
SCS: What other bands would you recommend people check out?
Rob: Locally, I would strongly recommend that people go see Eagle Seagull. They are a very talented new five-piece pop/rock band that is biting TGA’s style.
On a larger scale, I can’t seem to find anyone else singing Jon Brion’s praises. He is a great songwriter/composer and producer – at least I think so. Also, this guy Mike Bloom from Los Angeles writes really good songs. He was with Rilo Kiley on their acoustic tour, and I didn’t think he got enough attention.
SCS: What are your top records of all time?
Rob: This is impossible. I can’t try.
SCS: OK then...what’s the best gig you've ever seen, local or otherwise?
Rob: Locally, I think it’s a tie between Head of Femur, The Kills, and a performance of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch – all at Duffy’s. Elsewhere, I saw a great show on the polo grounds in San Antonio, Texas with Mercury Rev, Wilco, and R.E.M. It was outrageously good, except that Michael Stipe was wearing this hemp-looking suit with a very long, elfin hood. That was a little distracting.
SCS: Perpahs he was worried that the sun shining off his dome might burn out some fan's retinas. He is very caring about his fans that way. Who do you think is the most underrated artist in the music industry?
Rob: Matt Ward is a great artist whom, I think, deserves more attention. And again – at the risk of sounding monotonous – Jon Brion. Regina Spektor is really good, but maybe not everyone’s cup of tea. On second thought, these are all highly rated artists, I just don’t hear many people around here talk about how good they are.
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?
Rob: Like I said earlier, we are working on another EP that is tentatively titled Jealous Love. It will have five songs. I don’t know what we’ll do with it. I am a little timid about saying if we have any real plans or not. It all hinges on so much. So…
SCS: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Rob: I think that I can speak for the entire band when I say that everyone in Lincoln has been incredibly gracious toward us and has been helpful and encouraging every step of the way. Also, if anyone knows of a good practice space that TGA could rent out to make noise in, please let one of us know. We are outgrowing our current space.
SCS: Thanks Rob. Alright, Lincoln, help this band out with a place to practice!
If you don't have the opportunity to see The Golden Age anytime sooner, they'll be playing at Scenefest on Saturday April 23rd, along with a lot of other great Lincoln bands. Come check them out!
- Tery Daly