Embracing Stranger Sounds: Boy Golden & the Church of Better Daze

Commentators much edgier and/or educated than yours truly have posited that a reboot of the 20th Century’s Roaring ’20s is imminent. Like that intoxicatingly innovated era, the potential uncaged enthusiasm could be a direct result of pandemic and political fatigue, and should earthlings unplug from their Mobius newsfeeds and daily social media affirmations long enough to commune, the detox and subsequent awakening could be biblically epic. And that’s another thing those smart cats have pondered– the moral opposition. Because what’s excess without the threat of damnation and leveled shame?

Of course, there’s another option. Instead of an all-out hedonistic assault barreling teeth first into high-horsed righteousness, we could all ease back on the throttle and meet tomorrow’s sun with a simple, singular mantra: Make today better than yesterday. That’s the gospel rolled into Boy Golden’s groove-rich Church of Better Daze.

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada, Boy Golden (aka Liam Duncan) preaches the importance of soft virtues that elevate life in small but significant ways– a good song, a warm beverage on a cool day, gliding away from a lousy situation, boxed dinners, and yes, even enjoying a toke. Or not. Therein lies the beauty of the COBD– it’s not one way or the other. There’s no price of admission, secret handshake, or brass rule to get through the door. It’s a temple of the spirit and of the heart, and as ol’ Arlo might say, “All you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around.”

AI- I want to go back to the beginning if we can, the genesis of Boy Golden. Tell me how that came about, man. Is this somethin’ you’ve been toying with for a little while or was it just the product of a global pandemic and legal weed?

BG- It was definitely in the works before the pandemic, but the pandemic definitely gave me time to realize it and set it all up on the internet. It’s been about two years in the making. I’ve played with various bands and released albums under my own name and then a couple of years ago, I took some time off trying to make a living as an artist and just played in people’s bands. I do a lot of audio engineering and stuff like that, so I was just doin’ that and makin’ songs on my own time. That turned into the Boy Golden project because I made a bunch of songs that are really fun and they suited the moniker! And then I came up with the Church of Better Daze and away we went! We had an album and a concept and it was fun!

I love a concept, I love a character, and let’s talk about the Church of Better Days, both the album and entity. You talked about taking the initiative to start things on the internet. There’s such an amazing online presence for Boy Golden and the Church of Better Daze! Putting all that together, did the idea just snowball, or did you want to have the footprint established first?

Yeah, I definitely want it to come out of the gate with the groundwork laid so that as people became fans, as they figured out what it was all about as they maybe became less confused, they could sign up right away, and then I’d have stuff to send them, music to send them. For people who sign up right now, they get a little welcome brochure and a bumper sticker, just kitschy stuff like that. But having all the groundwork laid before I launched the project was pretty essential.

You have one of the most original promotional tools that I’ve seen in a very, very long time. I got a box of the KD macaroni in the mail…

Oh, I’m so glad you got a box!

I confess that it took me until today to actually figure out that the KD stood for Kraft Dinner, which in Canada, it’s apparently what you refer to it as. We just call it Kraft macaroni and cheese. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me so long to put that together! Whose idea was it to send out the special Church of Better Days KD macaroni?

That was an idea that I came up with workin’ with the label, Six Shooter Records, up here. We were brainstorming because the church, the concept just leaves it so wide open to do so many ridiculous things! Despite the fact that it’s a serious record– I think the music is seriously good– but it doesn’t have to take itself too seriously, right? So we had a lot of fun designing that Kraft Dinner box. I’m working on a different project right now that entails basically making a giant version of that box, which is also really fun (laughs)!

Like an art piece? A giant giant-sized box of macaroni art piece?

That’s exactly what it is (laughs)

You mentioned being an audio engineer, which I know is something you’ve done a great deal of. You invoke a lot of JJ Cale on the record– that sound, that beat, and that Tulsa groove. Did you come at that as an engineer or as a player?

First and foremost, I came at that as a huge JJ Cale fan. My dad was a huge JJ Cale fan and for whatever reason, I rediscovered those records four years ago. I listened to them all the time when I was a kid, but then knowing now what I do know about recording, I just loved his whole approach of using the drum machine when there was no drummer available. Song to song, his songs will sound so different because he’s experimenting all the time and embracing stranger sounds. That was a big part of [Church of Better Daze], and the record really came together when I decided to forego real drums on all the tracks and just use the drum machine as the backbeat. On a lot of them, I used the Rhythm Ace, which is the actual drum machine that JJ was using back in the day. But I didn’t stick to that. There are a few other drum machines on the record as well.

That’s interesting that you came to the conclusion to employ only the drum machine. So there had been some experimentation before you made that decision?

Definitely! Yeah, tried real drums, tried all sorts of stuff, and at the end of the day, it was the demos that I was making in my bedroom with the drum machine that had the most character and the most vibe. Trying to recreate it with real drums just made no sense ’cause there was something so cool about it. It’s like having a drummer with no ego and an insane pocket (laughs)!

You talked about the album being serious, the songs being serious but not taking themselves seriously. You mentioned earlier making music under your own banner, Liam Duncan. Back in 2019, I think it was the summer just two years ago, you released If I Don’t Feel Better. That was a much more serious undertaking. I understand that there was a heavier story behind it. Because you made such a heavy record dealing with heartache and a breakup, was there a freedom afforded you from creating the character Boy Golden and allowing you to write these songs?

Yes, absolutely! That was kind of the whole point. But yeah, I was having a really serious time. That was my first heartbreak. It felt terrible! So that was the record that I made. But my actual personality is not really like that! Even in darker times, I tend to be a pretty positive person. I do a lot day to day to keep my mindset positive and try and inspire the people around me. So that was what I was tryin’ to channel with Boy Golden. Plus the character of Boy Golden just allows me to say things that I wouldn’t say as Liam Duncan. I can be a little sexier when I’m Boy Golden (laughs)!

You have said that you didn’t actually intend for cannabis to be the interlacing theme throughout the record. Were you surprised that happened when you sat back and looked at the whole thing? That it had creeped in there?

Yeah! It was so funny, my buddy listened to the album and he was like, “Huh. You sure write about weed a lot.” And I’m like, “What? No, I don’t!” But yeah, it’s in like eight out of 11 tracks. The label asked me today, they were like, “Hey, can you make a list of the songs on the album that don’t have any of those references in them? Just for the radio stations that don’t like that sort of thing?” I was like, “Okay… But there’s only two!” (Laughs)

I don’t smoke weed, but it’s amazing how you can easily get on the vibe of the record because it just has such a great groove and it’s just so positive and easy to dig on.

Thanks! That’s awesome! I don’t really consider [weed] a huge part of my life, but it has been a part of my life for a long time. In Canada, it’s a bit more like pretty standard fare. I don’t think anyone’s really surprised to find out that a musician was smokin’ weed (laughs)!

Well, not here either! But I have to tell you legal marijuana is such a foreign concept to me being here where I’m at in Macon, Georgia. You can still get locked up for just havin’ a little bit!

I know! I think that’s a bit of a shame.

I heartily agree! “KD and Lunch Meat”, the opening track on the album, the overall thing that I take from that song is just how good possibility feels. I can remember having that crappy restaurant job. I’ve had good restaurant jobs, certainly, but I can remember having the bad ones where it was just a struggle to get up. But gettin’ out there on the street in the sunshine goin’, “You know what? Today’s the day I’m walkin’ off this sumbitch!” I remember that feeling. It’s possibility. And that’s what you capture.

Thank you, that is exactly the feeling! I came out of a darker period, and I was having a fun time for the first time in a while in my adult life. And feeling like myself! I was working at a bar that I really loved, and I was also working at a breakfast restaurant, which I loved a little bit less! I would often do double shifts, so it was exhausting at the time. At some point, I think I got a gig as a side guy goin’, and I was making enough money that I could quit the job. That was a good feeling!

I love “A Little Space”. That one to me comes across as a very quarantine-influenced, inspired song. Is that the case? Trying to navigate being so much closer to someone when you can’t go anywhere?

Man, that is something I’ve thought a lot about over this period. It’s harder to love someone the closer they are to you. Like even physically, you know? And the more time you spend with them. So sometimes, you do need to take a little space. I didn’t write that song during the pandemic, but you’re right. That really does apply, and it’s been a bit of a challenging time up here too! It’s been long! We’re still kinda in it in Manitoba.

Regardless of whether anybody wants to admit it or not, we’re still kind of in it here too, but folks are tryin’, I guess, is the best way to way to put it. One of the coolest but strangest tracks on the album Church of Better Daze has to be your cover of “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”. I myself am a huge Tom T. Hall fan. How did that make it on the record?

That is a good enough question (laughs)! I was trying to put a cover on it and it was hard because it’s hard for me to cover my favorite songs. Because they’re already so good! But with that one, I love the original version of “Clayton Delaney”, but it’s also like that era of Nashville production, it’s a bit hokey. So I wanted to make something that was just a little more laid back. Essentially, how it happened was just me and my friend, Austin [Parachoniak], who is a great guitar player, were just hangin’ out and I was like, “Hey, you wanna hear this song I know?” I just set up two mics, and we just let the arrangement happen to the drum machine. And that was that! It came together pretty easy! I guess I didn’t really think too much about it. I love Tom T. Hall. I was in a big phase of listening to a lot of Tom, and yeah, that ended up bein’ the cover on the record. I like that it talks about guitars and small towns. I grew up in a small town.

And we all had that small-town guitar player that you thought when you were a kid was the real deal hero! And sometimes was in fact!

Oh, definitely (laughs)!

You’ve been able to employ technology to great effect with the internet presence that we talked about earlier, with the way that you’ve recorded the album in your home studio, with the way even now that you’re continuing to promote it. I dare say that there hasn’t been another period in time for musicians where technology was so integral and important to moving their careers forward. I believe at a street level, at an individual level, that fundamentally is what is changing the music business because of the pandemic. We saw this in the late ’80s, early ’90s with the proliferation of digital recording and home studios coming into play at that point in time and growing, but now more than ever, it’s a way to reach audiences when you haven’t been able to do it through live shows. For you, what’s the next step?

The next step is continuing. I just think that my art can live in the digital and the analog realm very easily. I don’t really see them as separate things so much as just separate processes. You can use both things to your advantage. I mean, how am I talking to someone in Macon, Georgia right now? My songs had to be on the internet! I had to have an internet presence in order for that to happen, right? But I also want to come and play a show. And that’ll have to be in real life! So that is the next step for me– moving off of the internet and into people’s actual lives. I try to do that also by sending out physical stuff in the mail to Church of Better Daze, congregants. I’m always trying to mix the two mediums. Also, the next record that I’m recording is pretty much recorded all analog in most respects. I’ve kind of gotten into a bit of a home studio tape setup, which has been an expensive but really fun hole to dig myself into (laughs)!

I saw one of your videos on Facebook and it looked like you were recording on magnetic tape!

I liked the process because you lay it down and then you build a song on a foundation of stone that you cannot change. And that is really great! It’s the same sort of thing as committing to just using a drum machine on the album. It just gives you a limitation that you have to work around and then make something cool around it. I like that.

You talk about congregants of the Church of Better Daze. What comes next for the church? Are we still encouraging people to text COBD to (450) 800-2205? That’s still a thing that’s working?

Absolutely! Or if you go to churchofbetterdaze.com, you can sign up to be a member, and if you give me your address, I will send you some cool stuff! It’s never spammy, only quality! I try to deliver quality whether you like it or not!

Are you in fact an ordained minister of any sort?

Absolutely not (laughs)! It’s a bit tongue in cheek. I hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings or anything, but it’s all playful and positive! I hope that’s how people see it!

Church of Better Daze will be available across all your favorite digital platforms on July 16th. Click here to pre-order the album on CD, vinyl, or cassette! Like & Follow Boy Golden for COBD news & performance updates, and join the congregation at ChurchofBetterDaze.com!