Winter’s nearly over. But in Detroit, it’s still below zero (with the wind chill).
Here, a pair of young 20-something’s, both named Josh, are beaming some color out from the daunting grey, conjuring summer with warm tones and reverb-hazed vocals; demonstrating a knack for that sublime after-hours slow-dance tune or the meditatively throbbing resonance for those wordless night drives that say so much.
“We started making music together and becoming very close during a lot of those types of mornings that you speak of,” says Josh Smith, referring to his ally, Josh Freed. “Between night and morning…”
The Joshes, as Gosh Pith, blend an arrangement of synth, guitar, electric bass, looped-lap-top-blips and beats and the clattered adornment of a drum machine. With their first EP’s worth of singles, they’ve struck a synth-glazed funk that snaps and bobs as it spills itself out. There’s enough fuzzy fluidity and squinty-eyed mellowness to their songs that it easily evokes a sense of sunray-soaked escapism, to the beach or maybe a jacket-less shuffling into the club on a summer’s night, the air thick with electricity and possibilities.
Smith says the songs are certainly influenced by their surroundings, transposing them in a way. “Detorit can have a pretty strong visual aesthetic and it tends to bleed into our own.” The live shows are beaming with projected images of vibrant primary colors, swirled together into psychedelic rainbow ponds poured over the pair of performers. Detroit-based video artist Tony Katai has aided the duo in the early development of their visual aesthetic.
“I feel like the colors and the shrouded visuals are just how we cope with being in such a grey place.” That said, Smith says they also imbue the music and live shows with a measured amount of darkness and space to add a bit more mystery and coarseness, lest those blissed-out bloggers try calling this chillwave-revivalism. There’s enough ominous and frosty quivering cut in with those guitars to remind you that this is coming from a cement building on a cold night that’s becoming a cold morning in the Motor City.
Smith and Freed met as young children on a camping trip in 1999. They reconnected in 2009, having never forgotten the close kinship they’d both initially felt. They listened to some J. Dilla, Moby Grape and Jimi Hendrix and sat down to attempt a hip-hop production. Over the last five years, they spent a lot of time together working on songs, “listening and writing,” says Freed, “…and producing.”
The songs streaming on their Soundcloud came about a year and a half ago during a “pretty psychedelic experience in Paris,” Freed says. “That was really the genesis of Gosh Pith; we were flat broke but we still went to Paris to visit Jamie Neets, a friend and our musical spirit guide. When we got back to Detroit, we didn’t have our own place yet, so it was kind of scattered at first. We were just finding any place that was vacant and had a good wall outlet for electricity, mixing in cars or wherever people would let us crash.”
“We use gear that we got from some very lucky deals,” Smith reveals. “My amp is a ‘68 Princeton drip edge, the first time I played it my friend’s girlfriend fainted … I bought it from a blind man a few years ago, his son had to count the money I gave, but the dude could really shred still, even though he couldn’t see a thing.” Freed, meanwhile, uses a Roland sampler at their set-up inside a “big haunted house in Detroit.” The house has a pink-ish, sandy hue to it and it looks like a castle, with ornate woodwork adorning the rooms, which, Smith said, provides ideal acoustics for working on music.
But let’s get back to the bliss, the escapism, and the groovy, colorful vibes of Gosh Pith’s music. “We appreciate songs that make you feel a certain way,” Freed said. “Maybe that’s a little vague, but, it’s that reoccurring feeling that you get when you listen to a song, when it conjures up the same memory or reopens an old wound, if just for a moment. I notice, lately, that we’re drawn to songs that come from a bit of a broken time or place, but are very beautifully composed. Like, Delroy Wilson singing broken-heartedly, with these downer lyrics over poppy reggae and it creates this amazing contrast and conflict.”
Some of their other influential touchstones include everything from Bone Thugs to Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Mystikal, up to Curren$y and Blu. But, then, the records their parents listened to also seep in—Hendrix, Peter Green, T-Rex and Moby Grape. Lately, though, it’s been early ‘90s dancehall tracks and Travis Scott. They’re nothing if not eclectic.
The 18-year-old Joshes, then, leaned fairly heavily toward hip-hop, with most of their creative production going to other musicians or rappers. “We would make beats together and then sell them for weed money,” Smith admits. But a couple years later, they’re making more of their own songs and honing their own songwriting craft. Jump to Paris, jump to the pink, sandy castle and … here we are, with the two fronting a genre-expanding rock band.
“We don’t really go for a sound,” says Smith. “We just make music because sometimes we’re in love, sometimes we’re heartbroken, sometimes we feel trapped, sober, on drums, and so on … But, I know I’ve been influenced by a lot of art and film and our circumstances, like Jean Luc-Goddard. I remember nights of watching Belly and then Breathless and listening to beats that (Freed) had made; our sound is just like that! Hype Williams and Jean-Luc Goddard!”
From there, though, the Joshes feel they’ve recently begun yet another evolution of their sound, as they near the two-year mark. Expect “a pretty far out extension,” says Freed, “from the singles we’ve produced, so far.”
It’s a band in constant transformation. Or as Smith puts it, “more tunes, more visuals and more French flicks, traveling around, playing shows and continuing evolving.”