Mastodon Singer Troy Sanders on New Project Gone Is Gone: 'The Stars Aligned to Make This Band Happen'
Gone Is Gone wasted no time after announcing its formation in April. The group, who will release its self-titled EP on July 8 (on Rise Records), has already played a gig at Los Angeles’ Dragonfly club to live-test the material. But the band’s swift moves from announcement to singles to concert to EP is part of a journey that actually began a few years ago when film composer Mike Zarin and At the Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar started collaborating on music. They eventually brought in Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy van Leeuwen, who in turn asked Mastodon singer/guitarist Troy Sanders if he could contribute vocals.
“My phone rings, and it’s one of my musical heroes, Troy van Leeuwen,” says Sanders, who got the call while standing in line at the DMV in Atlanta, where Mastodon has its home base. “That was a phone call that just threw a giant rainbow into the miserable DMV environment where I was standing.”
The pot of gold at the end of that rainbow is how much fun joining Gone Is Gone has been for Sanders. “It was almost like the stars aligned to make this band happen,” he says. “I certainly wasn’t looking for any other music, but now that we’ve worked on lots of material and played our first show and have lots of plans in the future, I realize that this thing just came together so great. It’s so invigorating to be a part of that I think it’s obviously meant to be.”
Sanders spoke to Billboard about how he found the time to make Gone Is Gone happen, the type of musical satisfaction he derives from it and the band’s future plans. And listen to the new single, "Stolen From Me," which Billboard is premiering exclusively below.
How are you all able to juggle the recording and performing with your schedules?
How we’ve worked in bits and pieces over the past couple of years, it boils down to pure dedication, mostly on my behalf because those three guys live in Los Angeles. I live on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, so it’s cross-country for me, but if you really want to make something happen you need to give the effort to make it work. If you want it done right you’ve got to do it yourself. So when those guys were home, whether it was for 24 hours or up to five days collectively and I was home also, I would make the trip out there and get something done, be productive, whether it was over a one- or two-day period, or seven days was the longest I think we ever got together. So I’m just, “Hey, I’m in it. I’m completely invested in this. I will make this work. I won’t be the weak link here.”
You’ve been in a group like this before with Killer Be Killed. What did you learn during that experience that you applied here in terms of making it happen?
Speaking for all of us in the band, like, we can’t half-ass it … If no one else cares for it when it’s all said and done, that’s fine. But the four of us are the ones super-invested in it. It’s just got to mean so much, and when it does, you rise to the occasion and do what it takes to make it work. Like a long-distance relationship, I suppose.
So far the group has released “Violescent” and “Starlight.” What else can people expect from the album in comparison with those two songs?
It’s always tricky what song is going to be released first, because that’s the first taste, you know? Impressions; what’s the first impression you like to give. We’re all over the place, and ultimately I felt like “Violescent” was going to be the most obvious case. Like people think, “Oh, it’s a little bit Mastodon, little bit Queens of the Stone Age, At the Drive-In, there you go,” and that’s kind of the sum of all the parts.
But we were conceived with the idea of playing in many different soundscapes and ultimately branching off from just the idea of being a hard rock band. With the eight tracks that are coming out on this record in July, I think it really touches on everything that’s to come, because since the recording of these first eight songs, we’ve recorded and written many, many, many other tracks, and I think it’s very promising to the four of use because we realize how very far we’ve grown in just a short amount of time.
Listen to the new Gone Is Gone track “Stolen From Me” below:
You have recorded more tracks than what are on the album?
We have. It wasn’t intentional. We had a solid chunk of time together last year, maybe 12, 15 days together, which is the longest we’ve ever been able to be in Los Angeles at the same time, and the musical floodgates kind of opened and material was flowing out of all of us rapidly, and that was unexpected and a wonderful thing to experience. It was the opposite of a writer’s block.
How do you see the band going forward with that material? Do you think a new album is on the horizon soon?
It’s very possible. It could easily be an album format. We’re also hoping to collaborate on many levels with various artists on a multitude of platforms. We would like to really be able to compose, collaborate, create outside of just being on a stage at a venue. We were fascinated and all have various experiences composing for film. We would like to collaborate with virtual-reality artists. We would like to do interactive travel and art shows. We’ve got loads of ideas that we hope some of them will actually come to fruition at some point in time. I guess that would be the anomaly perhaps of what this band is. We are not going to rely on releasing the record, touring for 16 months and then repeat because we physically cannot do that. We just hope this band and the music to come will further open doors of opportunities and possibilities to tap into very interesting collaborations with artists on many levels. I know it’s a big dream, but we’re dreamers and our hearts are full of gold.
What kind of musical itch do you get to scratch with this group that you don’t with Mastodon?
That’s a great question, because it’s like, why would you need another band? I guess it’s not just different scenery for me, personally. It’s a different energy with a different chemistry. And it’s extremely refreshing to be a part of another group of guys that you connect with on all levels of life. It furthers my skills as far as collaborating with people and being a musician. Every time I collaborate, work with other people, jam with other people, play a gig with another band, when I come home and back into my other reality, it feels like I hit a reset button for the better on my behalf. It’s almost like the more I’m involved in music, the less I achieve burnout or would feel at any sort of mental dead end. It kind of fuels the first continuously. That’s weird, but it’s true.