Troy Sanders Talks Gone Is Gone, Band Chemistry + Latest on Mastodon
Gone Is Gone / Mastodon singer-bassist Troy Sanders was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show. The musician spoke about the Gone Is Gone debut EP, what he thinks of the term “supergroup” and what Mastodon has planned for the future. Check out the chat below:
How’re you doing?
I am four out of five stars right now, which is really good.
That’s not bad. I usually will pick that movie on Netflix if it’s at least four out of five.
Some of my favorites are always three, three and a quarter, you know? I don’t go by the populated judgement sometimes. You never know, you have to choose and judge for yourself.
That’s very true. Gone Is Gone’s self-titled debut EP is coming out on July 8. Tell me, what makes a creative outlet like that important at this point in your career.
The last thing I would do is search or hunt for another band to further spread myself out thinner or to occupy more time. When I’m home, I enjoy my home time. The last thing I would really want to do is make less home time. I like where I live and I like my family. But sometimes opportunities come up that are kind of what I call a ‘dream gig,’ and that’s what happened with Gone Is Gone.
My friend Troy Van Leeuwen [guitar, Queens of the Stone Age] called me on the phone three or four years ago and asked me if I would be interested in hearing something that he is a part of and is on the ground, taking off. He’s one of my favorite people and one of my favorite guitar players of all time. I think he has a class and a taste with his tone and his style that is untouchable. So when someone like that physically calls me and asks me to be a part of a potential collaboration, I have to say yes.
I believe in stars aligning and opportunities presented to you for the right reasons. I said yes immediately and flew to Los Angeles to meet with these three guys and start laying vocals down right away for this band that they had created.
It’s been made to sound like you’ve heard the music immediately and literally boarded a plane to join the band. What drew you in so quickly?
I heard the music that they were putting together and initially this band was accidentally created, in a wonderful way. It started as a two-piece with Mike Zarin [keyboards] & Tony Hajjar [drums, At the Drive-In] composing music for film trailers and video games. They’ve collaborated a lot of music together and there were some songs that felt like it needed guitar or other instruments. That slowly grew to a point where they thought, ‘Wow, this could be a full on band. We could use some vocals.’
My name came up several times and when I got that phone call, I wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip through my fingers. So the music that I heard, it drew me right in. It felt accessible, it felt dreamy, it felt heavy and it felt like it had a load of potential. So that’s what drew me in initially and these three guys I have been inspired by and respect madly. To give it a shot, you owe it to yourself sometimes to at least give something a shot and see how it pans out. I’m so glad it worked out for the better, I couldn’t believe they called me and asked me to be a part of it. It was very humbling of a moment.
Troy, how familiar were you with the other guys both musically and personally before Gone Is Gone?
I befriended Troy Van Leeuwen as Mastodon and QOTSA have shared many stages together. We always felt we should do something in the future together, whether it’s owning a business, owning a bar, starting a band, whatever. We truly believe that two Troy’s are better than one. The power was in our favor.
I was familiar with Tony’s band At The Drive-In, as [Mastodon has] done many shows with their later band Mars Volta. I didn’t really know Mike Zarin & Tony Hajjar on a personal level so we hung out for hours before we even made music because that’s the most important thing, in my opinion and theirs, as well. You need to befriend one another and start a relationship from the ground up as opposed to scratching all the personal stuff and jumping right into business or making music. Everything this band has done, so far has been very very naturally and I really love that aspect about these guys. Now we’re all best friends and everything is great.
There was already music written when you got involved. How much did it evolve and change with your participation?
What makes up this new record of ours coming out, our first next month, that music was composed and arranged all instrumentally before I was brought on board. They took their time tossing around ideas of vocalists to come into the picture and my name came up several times, they said. Getting that phone call was an incredible moment and I owed it to myself to go give this a shot. So I came in and laid down vocals and started letting the music play in my head and tried to write the best vocals as I could, vocal patterns and lyrics, etc. The things I started doing connected with them in a way, and they’re like, ‘Yep, that’s what we’re looking for. Keep going with that. Keep going with that.’ So they kind of gave me the vocal range openly. With this record, I brought all the lyrics and vocals to it.
Troy what’s the most distracting thing about being categorized as a supergroup?
It misrepresents how and why it was formed. When I was mentioning the four of us aren’t looking for more bands to be in. We’re not looking to travel more than we already fulfill by our other bands. So when this thing happened, it was very organic. That’s a wonderful way to be created. But I don’t like the term ‘supergroup’ because we weren’t put together – we didn’t piece this together to try and achieve any more success or fame just by having some names in the band that are marginally famous. I think a lot of people feel that it was pieced together for a reason outside of just being fulfilled musically. We’re rewarded by being in each other’s presence and creating together.
The reason a lot of other bands who are in other bands form a new band is because those are the people who are in our circle — when all of us travel and tour so much there is so much downtime. What do you do? You hang out in dressing rooms of other bands, befriend one another and cross paths over and over.
So when it’s time to start collaborating in starting something new, you’re familiar with the people. You’re like, ‘Oh, I like that guys drumming and he’s a cool dude, we should ask him.’ So, a lot of times bands are put together at this stage of our careers, it’s comprised of members of other somewhat established bands. That’s just a natural progression. I mean, if those guys wanted to piece together a band that would be really successful and really famous and really gathered attention, they wouldn’t have picked me to front the band. That’s the last thing they’d do — the hairy fuzzball trying to be a singer in a band.
I think it’s a misconception that supergroups are formed for different agendas than other than just trying to collaborate with your friend and create something that’s rewarding and fulfilling to yourself.
Troy is there going to be any kind of touring or what does 2016 look like for Gone Is Gone?
We are going to do a few shows around the release of the record in the Los Angeles area, and New York and I think D.C. That’s the main difference between this band and our others is that we cannot afford to tour two years on a record cycle. We’re basically going to tour for 2 weeks. We hope that these short and sweet shows and little runs around the U.S. and hopefully overseas, the bill will hold something special. They will for us, at least. But we will be promoting it as heavily as we can because we’re excited about it. We’ve been living on it for several years now. So they’ll be some shows sprinkled around. We’re going to try and stay as busy as possible but we’ll see what reality holds for us.
What can you tell us about what is happening with Mastodon?
Mastodon — good question. I’m driving to band practice right now to meet the Mastodon guys. We dedicated this year to writing and recording a new record. So, at the moment we’re neck deep in loads and loads of skeletons of song structures. Today we’re working on vocals for some of the songs. It’s coming together nicely. I’m super excited about it. There’s no time frame on it on when it’ll be done and when we’ll actually record for the release date. We don’t like to put any kind of timetable on our shoulders to weigh us down. We just try and take it as far as we can, get in the studio and hash it out when we’re all super comfortable with it.
Right now, we’re neck deep in demos. We’re at a good spot where it’s overwhelming with a lot of ideas. The opposite of writer’s block at the moment. It’s a wonderful spot to be in, but outside of a one month tour in August, we’ve dedicated the whole year to trying to get this new record done.
Good luck and thanks.
Awesome, thanks again.
Thanks to Troy Sanders for the interview. The self-titled Gone Is Gone debut EP is available at iTunes and Amazon. Keep up with Gone Is Gone on their Facebook as well as Mastodon. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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