On Introducing… Gold Star Gold Star, Adam Miller and Adam Obermeier’s take on classic radio pop shines in its studied precision, knowing subversive choices, and undeniable warmth. For their debut, the Chicago duo uses the language of bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Motown acts–and then twist the dial ever so slightly away from what you’d hear on AM radio. “It comes out with this Lynchian effect of taking something very familiar, and even a slight difference feels a little bit weird,” Obermeier says. “But in pop music, every second needs to be exciting.”
Miller and Obermeier met at a party as students at Columbia College in 2015, shortly thereafter co-founding indie-pop sextet Jungle Green. As that band returned from a recording session in Los Angeles in 2017, its members split off into new combinations and projects to kickstart their creative process. For their project, the Adams (as they are often called) explored their adoration of pop classics with heartfelt, mono-recorded reverence.
From the earliest inklings of Introducing…, the duo split every element of the album’s recording, aided by fellow Jungle Green member Vivian McCall as a producer. Each Adam would come up with song ideas, picking up the guitar, bass, piano, percussion, and even lyric-writing as the ideas struck. On day one, they set out to write a track that could fit on Rubber Soul, complete with sublime mono recordings and detailed arrangements. But the twist to “If You Only Knew” came in removing any hint of ownership or control in its lovelorn lyrics.
More than an aesthetic, the duo’s recording process was aimed at directing their sound right to the heart. “Mono allows you a perception of time and movement that you don’t have in stereo,” Obermeier explains. The duo’s name pays homage to their mono aesthetic as well as their own repeated name, doubling up on the name of a Los Angeles studio home to the “wall of sound” and sessions for Pet Sounds.
Each song is full of unexpected moments that jolt listeners out of the classic reverie: the woodblock on piano stomper “1-800”, the fluorescent fuzz guitar solo on “Talkin’ Need My Friends Blues”, the trickling water on elegiac “Sun Staying Down”. Those twists amass into a language all Gold Star Gold Star’s own. “We don’t want to do the same thing over and over again,” Miller says. “We put unique limitations on each song, and then wound up with something unique every time.”
This song is a spinning carousel of ageless pop tricks and treats that comes to a most peculiar stop, inspired by the simple vocal hooks of The Everly Brothers.
We sought out to create a mood of motion, with arpeggiated chords that feel directional with the melody resting aboard. Vivian McCall produced “If Only You Knew” with us on a mix of digital and tape. This was the second song recorded by us, and we were completing the whole process in one day back then, on a four-track tape machine before moving to the eight-track.
Recording the harmonies of the bridge of the song with all three of us was a highlight and a delight, now deep into the night trying to finish recording before noise became a nuisance to the neighbours. The song’s glockenspiel tidbit was an exercise in making one of many “dumb” ideas actually work out.
Listen to If You Only Knew – BELOW: