Text: Alec Coiro
Photo: Todd Weaver
Gold Star is the pen name of Marlon Rabenreither, who arrived in Los Angeles at the early age of four and has since taken to embodying the city’s literary history through songwriting. “I’m a huge fan of LA history, all those Hollywood stories, and Raymond Chandler in particular. Chandler wrote about the Hollywood that I live in, Raymond Chandler Square is here, and Bukowski Court is spitting distance from my spot.” It would be a mistake, however, to pigeonhole the universal appeal of Gold Star as just an L.A. thing, and it should be noted that the song we’re making ourselves content with while waiting for the album to come out is “Sonny’s Blues,” which is named for a James Baldwin story set in on the opposite coast in mid-20th century Harlem. It’s probably best to think of the album’s connection to L.A. as part of what gives it its sense of place. As Rabenreither puts it, “It give the songs a geographic touchpoint and a little context.”
Speaking of geographic touchpoints, the most specific touchpoint is the album’s titular Big Blue, the house where Rabenreither lives, writes and where he recorded the album. “It’s this trippy Craftsman from 1910 in the middle of Hollywood. It used to be a halfway house, so it’s legally zoned for about 30 people to live there. I live with other musicians and creative people. It’s a creative place in the middle of the city next to the freeway. The record was written here. A lot of the experiences were channeled through the house even if they didn’t occur here, so it facilitated a lot; it grounds the record and ties it together.”
I ask him if the house is literally blue: “It’s very blue.”
Songwriting is different for every song, each one is its own riddle. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve written; you have to figure it out every single time.
“Big Blue” is Gold Star’s follow up to his first release, “Dark Days.” On the new album, Rabenreither says he tried to “find my own voice through stipping thigns down, and trying to be as concise and honest as possible. This record is much more of a live thing with all the players in a room and minimal overdubs over a couple days. ‘Dark Days’ was more about building things up over a longer period of time, and I wanted to do something that was more of a moment, a tangible thing.”
While the recording process captures the essence of a moment, Rabenreither devoted time to planning out the record as a whole “All the technology and the streaming re-emphasizes the importance of a record, because when you really want to listen to music the record once again has value. I definitely set out to make a record in the traditional sense because that’s how I like to listen to music.”
Most importantly, Rabenreither also recognizes the importance of puzzling over each song he writes on its own terms: “Songwriting is different for every song, each one is its own riddle. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve written; you have to figure it out every single time.”
The record is out at the end of March and the tour is still being worked out, but in the meantime some favorite spots of Gold Star in L.A. include The Bootleg Theater and the Hyperion Tavern.