I’ve eaten Easter dinner with Will Marsh, the frontman of Gold Connections. I've been saying that more and more, mostly as a brag, and sometimes even as a gesture of animosity, like “no you don’t understand. I know Will Marsh.” In this month, prior to the Nov. 16 self-release of their second EP “Ammunition,” distributed through AWAL, I’m saying it earnestly, followed with a collection of howls on why Gold Connections’ guitar-indie is perhaps the smartest of the time, whether I’d shared mashed potatoes with him or not.
Gold Connections makes relatable music, but that’s not to suggest that any one of us would’ve said it first. Except we don’t need to, because here’s Will Marsh, who has been down to dark spaces in dark places and survived, to be the messenger of the refrain “You don’t get hung for a memory / You just get hung up!” from their latest single “Stick Figures.”
The immediacy of this dark lyric emphasizes the danger of today’s increasingly punitive public sphere, where psychological afflictions are so expounded and common that Marsh translates all the grimenss of suicidal ideation into a dark punchline. Carrying all the lyrical tact of a Dylan song, Marsh writes “I tried to depict emotionally complex memories using a string of understatements and one-liners. Like gallows humor, but for when you’re stuck in your parents’ basement.”
The line also reaches back 50 plus years, interpellating a famous Beatles’ line in “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a song essential to decades of hallucinogen experimentation. “Nothing is real / And nothing to get hung about.” Marsh recounted hearing this and fixating on how melancholy this message is within a song about the glittering ecstasy of fields covered in strawberries.
And when it’s sung, it’s a great release from the ruts of Marsh’s mind, where we relive the anticipatory sensibilities of the “late-Obama-era.” Marsh now feels so removed from this “young romantic” of his past that he describes these memories as existing on a TV, no appeasement in sight.
Except, perhaps there is. Marsh calls the anticipated EP “Ammunition” the most honest Gold Connections EP to date, and June’s release of “Iowa City” only boosts this claim. The video for “Stick Figures” is shot on University Circle, the very road Marsh grew up on, and encapsulates Marsh’s lyrics’ interrogation of sentimentality. Guys in frat, punk and indie garb strut and jam with red solo cups in hand, rowdy for Gold Connections, who play from the back of a moving truck. Growing up just steps away from the University’s assorted flavors of toxic masculinity and partying, it’s easy to see Marsh’s wariness of nostalgia. Except he’s inviting us to see firsthand that the glory days weren’t the spectacle our mind makes them out to be. This dazy summer scene is spliced with a game of hangman, shot from a much darker place, charging the dancing boys with a great deal of prideful ignorance. While Marsh recently moved to Richmond, his decision to return to the place he spent his childhood to perform a song about the bogs of the past is an unaltered stare at the consciousness of his art.
The collaborative nature of Marsh’s projects nurtures mostly U.Va. and Charlottesville young artists. In Gold Connections, lead guitarist Ryan Lipps is a U.Va. graduate, as well as bassist Brett Jones. Stephan Larue, who plays the drums, is from Earlysville. The video is directed by fourth-year College student Phineas Alexander and stars all University graduates and current students — Brad Sheen, Tyson Scherer, Liam McCormick, Max Bacall, Pete Decker and Gus Constance. Fourth-year College student Graham Barbour does the photography, and fourth-year College student Emma Karnes produces alongside graduate Kia Wassenaar. The cover is a print done by recent University graduate Alejandra Vansant of a game of hangman, mid-play. In the upcoming video for “Ammunition,” a crew of dancers from the University’s hip hop dance group, Xtasee, are featured.
Marsh’s Dylan lineage is in lyricism and similar notions of artistry. Speaking about the upcoming five-track EP, he expressed a similarity to what Dylan said about his 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde.” — “The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind.”
Marsh says recently he’s been listening to Slow Pulp, the Sex Pistols and The Clash’s first, self-titled album, but Marsh’s music affection and knowledge encompasses the entirety of rock music. “Green” by R.E.M. is referenced in “Stick Figures” in perhaps the most funny and intimate moment in the song, detailing the album’s role in his first sexual encounter.
“Stick Figures” is a warning against diving into that warm pool of sentimentality; sure there’s validity, even comfort, in memorizing the “good parties” had, but to follow with lyrics that immediately recognize the mind’s decoration of a memory, “put on a record and take out the trash,” Marsh does what Marsh does best — takes the front-seat, departs the happy-go-lucky, and carries us into the real stuff. And we go happily into the delight of being so seen, transfixed by the miracle that someone else feels this way too.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Gold Connections drummer Stephan Larue graduated from U.Va. Larue did not attend the University.