Golden Suits Talks Kubla Khan, Springsteen, and Collaborations

Meredith Schneider

photo by Sammy Goldfien

Brooklyn’s Golden Suits – a musical project by Department of Eagles‘ Fred Nicolaus – releases the much-anticipated follow-up to 2014’s Golden Suits today. The album – titled Kubla Khan – is a dreamy and fun 12 track adventure, allowing you a glimpse inside a myriad of sounds. It’s a little bit rock, slightly vintage, a hint of country, with some love songs scattered throughout. And we believe you get a very heavy dose of where Nicolaus is at this point in his life, lyrically at the very least.
We got the chance to throw some questions at Nicolaus in anticipation of Kubla Khan‘s release. Enjoy.
Please, introduce yourself.
“Young Urban Professional Bruce Springsteen…JK…not JK”

What is the first album or song you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you? 

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Paul Simon’s Graceland on cassette.  My parents played the cassette in the car all the time. I remember being completely captivated by the concept of a girl with diamonds on the soles of her shoes.


Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to pursue music?
I heard DJ Shadow’s “Building Steam With A Grain of Salt” when it first came out and felt inspired to try and do something like that using two boomboxes in my garage as a janky multitrack recording setup.  Looking back it wasn’t that great, but at the time it was thrilling.  I feel like the renewable pleasure of that “new song thrill” is the only reason to keep going.
We’re really big fans of the dreamy, vintage sound to “Gold Feeling”. Was there something that inspired that song or sound, specifically?
Bruce Springsteen’s early albums.  I never really connected with his music growing up, as I felt like it was an “East Coast Thing” (I grew up in the Bay Area) but I had a real turnaround on “Born In The USA” a couple of years ago.
You collaborated with a lot of people on your new album. Do you have any fun anecdotes from the recording process?
We recorded it in a big church in Brooklyn that’s freezing in the winter and burning in the summer.  If you listen close on the quieter songs you can hear birds flapping in the windows, kids playing outside, heat pipes hissing, boards creaking, so that’s a fun aspect of it.  As for anecdotes – when we recorded Gold Feeling, it was the last song I had written and the last few days of the session.  We did most of it quickly, but it was missing a final little piece, and it wasn’t coming.  After a couple of hours of trying, my producer took a bathroom break, and I sat down at a keyboard kind of idly tapping out notes with my right hand, waiting for him to get back.  Without thinking, my fingers found exactly the melody that opens the song – it came out completely finished, from nowhere.  That never ever happens, and it felt kind of magic.  It was the very last part we recorded on the album.
Are you nervous about the release? Excited? Does it feel different?
Excited.  It feels really different than my first album.  For that one, I was a ball of nerves.  This one I feel really happy with, and excited to share.
Do you have a favorite track from the album? 
Gold Feeling. But I also like the last song on the album “You’re Crossing a River” a lot, I started writing it probably five or six years ago and just kept picking it up every now and then and making small changes.  I’m glad I waited.
What are you looking forward to most about touring starting?
When I record it’s easy to get lost in the minutae and shoot for “perfection.”  Live, I have much more fun letting stuff be a little messy.  It’s kind of fun to obsess over a song in the studio, then break it live.
If your music were a donut, what kind would it be and why?
Glazed Old Fashioned – classic, but not boring.
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Kubla Khan is out now. Join Golden Suits on tour through November.

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