Call & Response: GoldenGirls

Matthew Vlahovich (aka GoldenGirls) is a one-man band and party. Armed only with old keyboards and a plethora of 80s hooks, he's become one of the go-to electro pop bands in TO.

Matthew lived in Ottawa and Brussels before settling down here in Roncesvalles. His new EP XOXO is really good and really fun and he's playing a massive party this Thursday at the Drake to celebrate it's release.

I spoke to GoldenGirls about the pro's and con's of being a one-man band, using rare gear, and we inevitably land on Bea Arthur.

blogTO: How was your CMW? What bands did you see?

GoldenGirls: I don't have much recollection of my CMW weekend - very little sleep and high levels of toxins in my liver. Kidstreet, Opopo, Green Go and TMDP were all very good.

Why are you a one-man band? Have you ever played with other musicians?

I'm not a one-man band by choice. When I moved to Toronto, I didn't know many other musicians, so I pulled my old casio tone bank keyboard out of the closet and discovered that I could do the whole show on my own. There are certainly advantages; I am not constrained by other schedules and have entire creative control. The down side is that it is often very lonely on tour.

I used to play in a dance rock band called Parlormaid as a bassist and singer. When I moved to Belgium in 2006, they started up a new project in Hamilton called Dark Mean. Check them out.

What keyboards do you use and why did you pick those? Are they still in good shape? Do you have back-ups?

I use two Casio Tone Bank CT-670s and another Kawai keyboard. One of my Casios is my keyboard from childhood, and the second is my backup - I found it on Craigslist. The Kawai I took from my friend's Peter's parents house; it was his childhood keyboard. They are all very basic and inexpensive but difficult to find.

For me, it's easier to work within the confines of such basic equipment. You can't modulate the sound; rather only use the presets. All three keyboards work well but there has been some wear and tear. At my show in Peterborough, some drunk girl fell into my boards and one of the keys is now broken. Crossing my fingers that nothing breaks down.

Are you from Belgium? What brought you to Toronto? How long have you lived here?

I'm actually from Ottawa but lived overseas in Brussels, Belgium doing a Master's degree in International Relations. Living in Europe reaffirmed my passion for the arts and certainly influenced my current musical vision. I moved to Toronto in October 2007 and planned to start a streetwear label called Flesh Trade. That project has been put on hold because of GoldenGirls.

You are already a staple on the live circuit. Are you surprised that you have turned so many heads here already?

I've played roughly 30 shows since my debut in April 2008. I think what people enjoy the most is that I play original party sing-alongs using only two old keyboards.

A lot of bands have 80s-inspired keyboards these days but your songs sound like they were actually written in the 80s. Who would say are you major influences?

My sound has been described as 80s new wave/post-punk. I'm not surprised by this given that I use sounds and drum beats from an old casio keyboard. To me, it's simply modern pop.

My sound isn't directly influenced by any genre or band in particular. I really like Peaches' minimal sound and am listening to a lot of The Knife, The Whitest Boy Alive, and Holy Ghost.

I have to ask: did you borrow your band name from that old TV show "Golden Girls"?

I assumed this question would come up. To be honest, I never watched the Golden Girls TV show when I was younger. My parents didn't let me watch television so I spend most of my time banging on garbage cans, making noise, and building tree forts in my neighborhood.

One night when I was living in Brussels though, I had come home from the bar with some friends and got dressed up a hot pink vintage Nike tracksuit, put on a granny wig, and played a performance on an children's toy keyboard. My friend Dennis commented that I look like Bea Arthur. I guess the name stemmed out of that.

If it was socially acceptable to have crazy 80's hair again, what 80's hair style would you wear?

Good follow-up question. I would copy Ben Boles' mullet.

What do you like best and least about living in Toronto?

I have met a ton of new friends because of GoldenGirls - both great musicians and supporting fans. This had made me feel very welcome in this city and I am incredibly thankful of that. I also love my new neighborhood, Roncesvalles. I'm a total epicurean, and the selection of foods in the city is truly remarkable.

My greatest dislikes of Toronto are the poor urban planning of the waterfront and dated public transportation system. Lack of foresight by municipal planners will be Toronto's greatest failure in thye 21st Century as the population increases and people move closer to the central core.

What can people expect to see/hear/feel at your Drake show?

My album release party on Thursday at Drake Hotel is a free (no cover) show. You will see a collection of some of my favorite up and coming musicians and DJs from Toronto . The early part of the evening will feature live acts such as 84.85, TMDP and GoldenGirls; the second half will be DJ Barletta and St. Mandrew. Come early for cheap drinks.

Quick Fix presents: GoldenGirls EP Release
w/ TMDP, DJ Barletta, St. Mandrew, 84.85, DJ Asher
Thursday, March 19
The Drake Underground
1150 Queen Street West
Doors 9pm

Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Dave Gillespie.

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