There are, of course, many reasons why people relocate to Athens from other parts of the world. In his explanation of why he chose to move from New York City a couple years back, Little Gold frontman Christian DeRoeck hits on three of the most common ones. "I wanted to go someplace warm and cheap," he says, "with a good music scene."
At the time, DeRoeck had already established himself as a force on the Brooklyn indie circuit, as a member of buzzworthy bands Woods and Meneguar. But he wanted to strike out on his own, and so Little Gold was born. "I had all these songs," he recalls. "Some of them were gonna be Woods songs, and some of them were [me] needing to do something new, musically."
Little Gold was initially a psych-flavored solo acoustic project that leaned heavily on DeRoeck's affinity for classic country-rock. (Gene Clark was and is a favorite, he says.) The project soon blossomed into a full band featuring a revolving cast of supporting musicians. The NYC-based iteration of the group released the Weird Freedom LP in 2011, a straightforward indie rock outing that oozed raw charisma but didn't quite harness it.
Its follow-up, Spectral Sight (Flagpole review), recorded here in town with Little Gold's now-permanent local lineup—which includes members of Deep State and Dead Dog—was released last month and showcases a very different band. Harder edged and clearer cut, the album finds DeRoeck heading back to his country roots but also incorporating his fondness for power pop. (As if to hammer the comparisons home, DeRoeck nods to his heroes throughout—"Solar Sister II" is a follow-up to The Posies' "Solar Sister"; "Tiny Hours" calls back to Luna's "Chinatown.")
The result is a well crafted record that is easy to love, good-natured but with a slight edge, thanks to DeRoeck's backers. "When it started out, it was just me, and I was also going through a sad-sack country phase and had to get those songs out," he says. "It's become a heavier rock band since moving here. Which was not entirely the plan, but we've embraced it."
Reference points run rampant—in addition to the aforementioned influences, DeRoeck's vocals often call to mind those of J. Mascis, soft and urgent with more than a hint of road-weariness—though it's not an easy album to pin down. There's the bouncy pop of the title track, the rolling folk of "Tiny Hours," the punk-minded "My Dog." It all works together, yet each track stands purposely apart.
"The sound is all over the place, but I like that. So many bands nowadays have such a specific sound. And I just wanna make rock and roll records. I like records that run the gamut," says DeRoeck, noting his affinity for Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and other such style-spanning classics.
Spectral Sight, which was initially designed as a concept record until DeRoeck got bored with the concept (it was to be "loosely based on the Salem Witch Trials," he says), is full of rich if often bleak imagery. On "Passin' Thru": "I'm a stranger in my own hometown/ But it's not as lonely as it seems/ I may be crazy, but I ain't no half-turned screw/ I'm only passin' through."
DeRoeck's reality is a bit more stable than that lyric suggests; though he says he lives to tour, he has settled into Athens, even purchasing a house near downtown. "It's cool, 'cause it's a small town, and there's that kind of camaraderie," he says of his adopted home. "But there's so much going on [musically] that it feels like a bigger city."
DeRoeck will perform tunes from Spectral Sight and beyond at an upcoming residency at Flicker, where he will play each Thursday in April. The first two weeks will be solo acoustic performances, a throwback to Little Gold's beginnings; the third and fourth will be full-band affairs. All the bills will also feature some of DeRoeck's favorite locals, including Deep State, Four Eyes, Shehehe and Night School, a new project featuring Black Kids frontman Reggie Youngblood that will make its debut at the Apr. 24 show.
In a way, the residency illustrates DeRoeck's simple reason for continuing on the largely thankless path of being an independent musician well into his 30s. He enjoys playing music. He enjoys listening to his friends play music. He enjoys traveling the country with his friends—playing music.
"I don't have any illusions about it becoming a huge deal," he says frankly. "I'd like to be able to play good shows in town, and book some tours where we can come back with some money… Maybe we'll get some good press out of [the new album], and maybe people will like it. I hope they do. But this is just what I do, and I'm gonna keep doing it regardless."
WHO: Little Gold and Guests
WHERE: Flicker Theatre & Bar
WHEN: Every Thursday in April
HOW MUCH: FREE!