Gold Dime is the brainchild of Andrya Ambro, formerly the drummer of acclaimed noise rock duo Talk Normal. When Talk Normal decided to take a “breather” around 2013, Ambro found her creative juices were still flowing strongly, only this time around she was writing all of the parts, something she hadn’t done before.
That in turn, inspired her to become more proficient as a guitarist, so that when she recruited musicians for studio and live band, she could better communicate her musical ideas. “In my past experiences with guitarists, all of whom were really compelling and I consider myself very lucky to have worked with them (Sarah Register, Jorge DuCouto and Ninni Morgia), I would often try to explain a vibe and fell very short of conveying how to execute that vibe. So I thought I should hone my own skills so I could communicate more clearly to guitarists what I might be looking for. And then it just became this really intense, inefficient, and dare I say fun, challenge which pushed me to write new songs…So then I just put together a batch of, like, four songs and brought in people to play them.” The process worked wonderfully, first with guitarist Jordan Bernstein and Adam Markiewicz (both of The Dreebs), who helped her refine her songwriting, and later guitarist Lazar Bozic, who joined her on guitar in the studio for Gold Dime’s debut album, Nerves.
Produced by Ambro and recorded with Justin Frye, Nerves showcases her minimalist take on art rock that combines grooving rhythms with disjointed, often noisy guitars that draws the listener into a universe of its own. The multiple definitions of the word, “Nerves”—ranging from “nervy” to express bravery or guts to “nerves” as in nervous—seems to makes it is an especially fitting title for a first album. Ambro agrees. “I just like the word ‘nerves,’” she says. “My gut reaction to ’nerves’ is a more on-edge feeling, like a quiet but urgent anxiety. I feel this often. I think also this is an energy I inevitably put into the music. Also, it’s become a fun game since my days in Talk Normal to name the album after a lyric in one of the songs. ‘Nerves,’ the word appears in the song “Rock.” Its context there is ‘someone shot my nerves.’ This context feels like the cornerstone of the album, to me.”
As for the songwriting on the album, Ambro says her background on drums impacts her approach to bass lines and rhythm, but less so on guitar. “I think most of my ‘unconventional’ rhythms express themselves in the drums (obviously) and sometimes the bass,” she says. “I’d say most Gold Dime bass lines are in 12/8, which is just a more mysterious 4/4 to me. Like they walk the line between swung and straight,” she says.
“As for the guitar in general, those rhythms are a little more straight forward… Often I do like to think of the guitar with a more narrative function, like an actor that enters and exits the stage. Sometimes the guitar leads, sometimes it supports, sometimes it goes away and hopefully it is rife with vibe and simple with notes. Bruce Gilbert from Wire was a big influence in that regard as well as Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order. I’ll usually sing the imagined guitar line against whatever already exists (i.e. a beat or a vocal), then adapt that line to the guitar.”
In a live setting, Ambro sticks to vocals and her primary instrument, drums, while her artistic vision is articulated by drone bassist Ian Douglas-Moore and guitarist Jessica Ackerley. “I appreciate her energy and grace with the instrument. She is also very willing to do unconventional guitar-ing despite her skilled background. This is rare,” Ambro says.
And while Ambro doesn’t have any plans to play live guitar in Gold Dime at this point, she is open to the possibility in other projects. “I do always tell people they should let me play noisy guitar in their band,” she says. “I would practice more if that was the case. Thus far no one has taken me up on the still standing offer.”
Check out Nerves now. The album is out on June 2 via Fire Talk Records. Pre-orders are available now.