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Golden Drugs and the dreadful mayhem

The Mouth of Musical Madness

Golden Drugs blends the beautiful with the horrifying. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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I recall reading an interview with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, where he commented on the bittersweet trend of critics comparing him to people like Syd Barrett, Daniel Johnston and Brian Wilson. His response was something along the lines of, "Yeah, they're all iconic musical minds, but they're also all mentally ill."

There aren't a whole lot of genuine musical madmen out there, anymore. After decades of learning from the legitimately whacked musical geniuses, it's become something of an exercise to appear to be one yourself, through wild-eyed performances and kaleidoscopic gimmickry. Still, while you may not come across these crazed wizards of pop music so much anymore - and another conversation should be about whether or not that's a bad thing - finding a performer who manages to actually pull off that feeling of possession is a treat.

During the last incarnation of my music festival, Squeak and Squawk, I was lucky enough to be able to bring up a band from Oakland, California, called Twin Steps. Led by Drew Pearson, their maniacal frontman, Twin Steps are a stubbornly undefinable group of weirdos who mix warped vocal samples with visceral percussion and interchangeably nightmarish and sweet vocals. They were divisive, let's say - one woman at the bar told me she thought they were "trying too hard," which is a statement too stupid to get into. Now, Pearson is returning to the Northwest with his new project, Golden Drugs, which streamlines the mayhem of Twin Steps in exchange for a more concentrated dose of dread.

"Golden Drugs got started from a random song that I wrote really early in the morning," says Pearson. "I think the song was about drugs, and different colors of drugs, and it was a metaphor for guns and candy and sunshine, I don't know (laughs). All these different things. I didn't know what to name the song, and there was no project for it. So, my drummer Chris Natividad and I started working on it, and Golden Drugs just came from there. ... Twin Steps has more of a physical party vibe, whereas with Golden Drugs I think more people can dive deeper into their own brain. Twin Steps is about cathartic release, while Golden Drugs is more anxious, like a mind prison (Laughs). A mind prison."

After Pearson and Natividad hooked up with bassist Lance Bell, Golden Drugs began to take shape. While they still retain some of the prankster vibe of Twin Steps, Golden Drugs has more of a morbid and ominous aesthetic, typified by their song, "Friends," which languidly swims along in a way that might be beautiful if it weren't so creepy. The song's accompanying video is full of violent and vaguely grotesque imagery - images that repeat in other Golden Drugs videos and on the cover of their forthcoming album, In the Midnight Sun or Stubbornly Persistent Illusion. Just like with Twin Steps, Golden Drugs stubbornly resist categorization. Dreamy pop gives way to violent trashing and mathy change-ups, with Pearson acting as fearless leader.

"If you're not afraid of sadness, I think you could like us a lot," says Pearson. "I wouldn't want any of my music to fit into anything specific, genre-wise. That scares me when I start playing at a venue that has a lot of the same bands always coming through, and then it starts turning into something clearer, and then it has a name - that really frightens me and turns me off. Our record release show has a hip-hop sampler/producer, an acoustic guitar guy, a garage rock band and then us. We've played in bars, we've played in art galleries, really anywhere."

We need more madmen in music, and though Drew Pearson is not mentally ill (to my knowledge), he's damn good at conjuring the spirit of mayhem.

GOLDEN DRUGS, w/ Chung Antique, Clayface, Derek M. Johnson, 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, Northern, 414 ½ Legion Way, Olympia, $5

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