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Troy Sanders Talks New Band Gone Is Gone, Upcoming Mastodon Album + More

Chad Childers, Loudwire
Chad Childers, Loudwire

One of the more intriguing new projects to arrive in 2016 has been Gone Is Gone, a band consisting of Mastodon‘s Troy Sanders, Queens of the Stone Age‘s Troy Van Leeuwen, At the Drive-In‘s Tony Hajjar and Sencit Music’s Mike Zarin. The band began with Hajjar and Zarin working on video game scores and finding sounds that deserved a different outlet. The additions of Sanders and Van Leeuwen brought Gone Is Gone to fruition, delivering an eclectic mix of songs.

Loudwire had a chance to chat with vocalist-bassist Troy Sanders about his involvement with the band, the unique experience of playing a “first show,” the group’s future and some of the key tracks on Gone Is Gone’s self-titled EP. Sanders also gave us an update on Mastodon’s next album and reflected on the 10th anniversary of the Blood Mountain album. Check out the chat in full below.

I had a chance to see your first Gone Is Gone show here in Hollywood. What a show that was and you seemed to be genuinely enthused by the audience reaction!

Really? That’s good to hear man, thanks man. It was mixed feelings for the four of us going into it. Because on one hand we knew that the show, albeit for a relatively small crowd of 400, but that show was sold out before anyone heard a full song. So we were thrilled to know that at least people were excited to see what this had to offer.

Just because a place is crowded and the guys in the band are marginally famous doesn’t mean they are going to like what they hear. But by the end of the evening the majority of the crowd had their hands up and were applauding loudly so that is what made us feel so rewarded and relieved. It was like, ‘Okay, I think they liked it.’ We felt that was hard to pull off because no one knew the material. When you are familiar with the song you’re singing along, ‘Oh I have heard this, boom boppa boom.’ No one had heard a damn thing, so I am glad you were there. Afterward, we were so relieved that it was successful. We were like, ‘Cool man, let’s do this again,’ because we enjoy each other’s company and are such tight friends and enjoy each others company. We’re like, ‘Man, this could be great!’

It was interesting from the audience perspective, too, and seeing the band start to become more comfortable with each song played.

Yeah and it’s really rare where you had a first show with the band. That was a good one.

You’ve done things outside of Mastodon before but when you’re taking on an outside project, are there certain things you look for that make you want to join a band? What brought you into this?

Absolutely, it has to inspire, fulfill and reward me deeply in order for me to still want to leave the house. I am extremely happy with the Mastodon world I have been fortunate to live in for 16 years. I also really appreciate and enjoy being home with my family. So I was and I am never looking for other reasons to get out of the house when I do have downtime.

Gone Is Gone was formed when the stars aligned, and I was invited to come and listen to this band’s material and lend vocals to it and to see how it would congeal and vibe. And upon my first trip to L.A., these guys were like, ‘Yes, this is what I want.’ Prior we had connected and bonded as people together which was first and foremost. So I felt like this was in the cards, this was fate calling out you have to do this. Those are the things that have to happen for me to be a part of something. It’s gotta present greatness to me and for me. Otherwise I couldn’t leave home for any other reason.

Take me into the sessions. You’ve bonded with these guys before and you’re familiar with their music with their other bands. Did any of them surprise you in terms of what they were bringing to the table?

No, really, you know we are all cut from the same cloth to a degree. We have all dedicated our lives to music, we have traveled the bulk of year in and year out traveling to do this. And you cross paths with so many other musicians when you are touring when you’re doing festivals. So it just makes sense when things like this can and do and come together. It was pretty straight forward. Three years ago these guys were working on material and were composing music for film and started branching off into full-on rock songs and were in search for the right person for and the right voice to fit this music. And saying I was flattered was understated when they called and said my name had come up several times and asked if I was interested in coming to L.A. to check it out. So yeah, it was just like wow. So this is something I must take advantage of that was presented right to my face.

The band basically started with these guys working on score work for video games. It does, listening to it, have a soundscape type of thing going on. It’s very visual in nature. Is that part of what appealed to you?

Very much, absolutely. The past seven records I’ve been involved in, we’ve always been writing and when it comes to the lyrics and vocal patterns, we always said close your eyes and listen to the music and let the music play a movie in your head. Then, once you can grasp some images from that, that will dictate the what / where and why the lyrics will go. It’s almost like, starting with cinematography and coming back and finishing it with fitting dialogue. So when Gone Is Gone was presented to me, it fit that process of mine perfectly. I just dove right in lyrically and they were very happy with what I was doing and let me do my thing. So yes, being cinematic with the music, I agree, and I was drawn to that right away and I really believe we’ll be able to tap into more of that in the future. We have a huge desire to score music to film, collaborate with visual artists. Tap into VR, we like to really dig in, create and collaborate with artists of many levels and platforms. It’s kind of an ambitious and bold thought, but we’re going to give it a go.

Gone Is Gone puts an image in my head and makes me think a bit. What does Gone Is Gone as a band name mean to you and tell me why that ended up being the name.

Cool, I’m glad to hear that you like it because band names are tough, you know? There’s a lot of good ones that are all gone without creating a sense of a band, it can be difficult. We liked seizing this opportunity that was presented, like this could be a magical experience and I wasn’t particularly looking for another band or how to spend more time away from home. This was something, a once in a lifetime thing that I was extremely curious about and humbled that my name was even brought up. So the idea of Gone Is Gone, that type of experience as just one of the many. We wanted to hone in on all things sincere, beautiful, frail, fragile and really find these moments of sincerity to tap into — feeling free to get deep with ourselves and not taking this lightly, not half-assing it. Being determined and committed to see this thing to where we really want it to go, if that makes sense.

So the imagery, we worked with a photographer to get this image of something that we felt was simple, yet putting all of these thoughts and feelings together — falling. It’s beautiful, it’s also tragic. It’s many of these emotions that many of the great movies give you, all wrapped into one. That’s what we’re aiming for here.

“Violescent,” absolutely crushing, nice bass sound on that. Talk about that song, the savagery of it and where it comes from.

That is the one song that is truly the obvious sum collective of the four parts. That kind of sounds like, hey if the guy from Queens of the Stone Age, At the Drive-In and Mastodon got in a room together and wrote one song, what would it be like? “Violescent” would come out. We’re all very well versed in being in hard rock bands, and really getting to the point. So that’s what that feels like to me. That’s how the music feels to me, if I can sum that up. It’s the obvious sum of our four parts.

“Starlight” just arrived. It’s a completely different vibe than “Violescent.”

We’re going to continually go into different vibes with everything we do from here on out without any fear of doing so. I think that one touches on the cinematic vibe with the dreamy scene. Maybe I think more highly of it than most people because I’m so invested in it, of course. I don’t know. Troy Van Leeuwen gets his guitar to shine there at the end. It’s a song of survival mode, man. It’s a lost in space vibe. If you’re done, you could easily shut down and turn this world off in a split second and things are looking bleak, it’s bad. Or the flip side, are you going to fight this thing all the way through and not give up? It’s facing this ridiculous adversity and gathering every ounce of strength you can muster and fight your way to the end. I know that sounds generic, but there’s a deeper meaning behind that, something very real to me. In a nutshell, that’s what “Starlight” means and the music itself is the first taste that people will here, there’s more of that to come. There will be more branching off in those directions and in those soundscapes.

“One Divided” was one of my favorites live. Do you particularly have a favorite that you want to see how it does in the set moving forward?

We played a handful of songs that aren’t going to be on this record. They will see the light of day soon. We will figure out all of the various plans that we have once this record is out to the world and we can put that behind us and move forward. It’s loads of new material that we’ll be playing live that I’m stoked to see what the reaction will be. They all mean a lot to me for obvious reasons. I think there’s a song called “Dublin” that really sticks out at the moment and was at that night too. It had a different title on our set lists.

Was it “Slow”?

It was called “Sad Song.” That’s what it was titled for the show but it’s official title was “Dublin” and I think that one has the most deepest meaning to me, personally. It’s the song that every time we’ve practiced it, played it or listened to it back on a proper stereo system, it gives me goosebumps. That is a magical moment that can not be forged or faked. That one truly does it for me each and every time. That 60 minute set we’re playing, I’m proud of the whole thing. Half of those 11 songs I think we played, and that we’ll play next month in those various cities, those are my 11 babies and I do have a favorite child and its name is “Dublin.”

What’s the progress at this point on the full-length that will follow the EP?

We’ve got loads of material. We had a writing session last year out in L.A. and the musical floodgates opened wide. We faced a glorious problem of having loads of material coming out of us that we all were really, really into. It’s a great spot to be in. Where and how they will see the light of day is undetermined at the moment, but we’re really going to focus on the next move very soon after this first record is released and we do this short run. Gather the energy and figure out where to take this somewhere else and explode.

I realize with everyone having different projects to work on besides this, scheduling is difficult. But what is the future for Gone Is Gone?

We are going to strive for this band to exist on many platforms with various artists. We want to score to film, we want to do interactive with visual artists and VR. We want to tap into — we’re exploring and tapping into various artistic platforms, I guess. We’ve got grand ideas and we are about to become extremely ambitious. We’ve got too many great ideas in a dreamworld but we will make a handful of these into reality. We’re going to hone in on that in July. I’d be ridiculous to tell you all of the thoughts and plans that we have at the moment.

Can’t wait to hear what else is coming. With Mastodon, I think I saw an interview where the discussed EP has turned into a full album. What’s the progress report on Mastodon at this point?

We spent the past few months at our studio in Atlanta in full on writing mode. Yet again we’ve got, we have loads of material that we’re sifting through and honing in on and dialing in. It’s the opposite of writer’s block, which is wonderful. The EP is growing into a bigger life of its own, which is great. All the new material that’s being created is really rocking and sounding pretty damn great to me at the moment in these early skeletal stages of songs. We’ve been up there for a few months, focusing a lot of time and energy on the new record, outside of touring Europe for the month of August this year is dedicated to writing and recording a new album.

Is there a theme building? Do you see it independent of a concept? Or is it too early to tell?

It is too early to tell, we let the music dictate storyline. Right now it’s all hands on deck, focusing on music.

2016 is the 10-year anniversary of Blood Mountain. Any recollection or thought of putting that album together? And now having the separation from that time period, what does that album mean to you?

I remember we were all shocked and blown away that Warner Brothers had picked us up for that record that still felt like someone was pranking us. We never felt like that would be in our plans. I remember we really wanted to put something together, not just because of a label change but Remission had really planted us as a legit band. Leviathan came out and really opened a lot of eyes and we just wanted to — we were very focused on trying to create bigger and better and to push ourselves as songwriters and people.

With that record is when we, because it was Blood Mountain, we always wanted to feel like we were ascending the mountain and we want to have moments on this record that are greater and different to anything else we had done prior. Even today, we feel the same way. We still have a lot in us and we feel like we have yet to reach the peak. That keeps things very fresh and invigorating to be a part of. I remember really, for the first time for Blood Mountain feeling like that was the first time we were like, ‘Wow, let’s up the ante. Let’s go.’ We were in a wonderful spot. The world was wide open to us musically at the time. We lived in Seattle for six weeks, we lived at a Motel 6 and recorded that record with Matt Bayles and everything else is a blur.

Awesome. Outside of Mastodon you’ve done some other things. You’ve performed with Metal Allegiance, Killer Be Killed. Gone Is Gone is your baby right now and Mastodon is in the process as well, but do you see anything coming up outside of Gone Is Gone and Mastodon?

No. I have borderline spread myself too thin, but when these things happen they’re all for the right reasons and it all feels 100 percent in my heart and that’s what I enjoy being a part of, is when things are very fulfilling and rewarding. That’s why I’ve done those previous things here and there, and I enjoyed doing them. I hope to do all of those when the time is right, but outside of these — I just try to keep a healthy balance of what I’ve got going on at all times.

Our thanks to Gone Is Gone’s Troy Sanders for the interview. Gone Is Gone’s self-titled EP is due July 8 via Rise Records and you can pre-order it here. As Troy revealed, Gone Is Gone does have a handful of shows lined up for July. Look for the band at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom (July 7), New York’s Bowery Ballroom (July 11), Washington, D.C.’s Rock & Roll Hotel (July 12) and Brooklyn’s St. Vitus (July 13).

Watch Gone Is Gone’s “Starlight” Video

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Gone Is Gone Reveal 'Violescent' Song

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