"I want to write my Moon Safari or my Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, or my Rush of Blood to the Head." From behind a pair of spotless Ray Bans, Josh Legg of Goldroom looks towards some big goals. He pats his nearby laptop bag affectionately. "If in my life," he says, "I could write a song that's as good as 'Free Fallin'' or 'Wonderwall,' then I can die happy."
Goldroom is Josh Legg's solo DJ act and a separate four-piece live band. With a catalogue of remixes dripping in palm tree sap (Nikki and the Dove's "Mother Protect") and a discography of sleepy sunshine originals ("Fifteen"), Goldroom surfs the line between sugary synth anthems and disco laden refrains while never quite jumping ship for the pop music bandwagon. Despite the current influx of marimba ridden 'tropical' house, Goldroom brings a classic songwriting technique to an otherwise dull music subgenre. "Before I was even 18, I had seen a few Allman Brothers shows and a couple Phish shows, which led me to the amazing songwriting that happened in the 60s, 70s, and 80s," he says. "So many artists are like, 'I was lying under my dad's piano and he would play music for me for hours…' That just didn't happen for me."
Legg fled Boston for L.A. to pursue sailing and a degree at USC. There he met his friend Kyle Petersen and together they started both the synth-pop group NightWaves and the record label, Binary Entertainment. The label and corresponding blog, written by Legg, tried to push melodic synth pop into LA's watery music scene. "We weren't friends with the cool kids playing at Dim Mak Tuesdays. We'd play shows with our synthesizers and the people would look at us like we had four heads," says Legg. "We got laughed off the stage. We were just a couple years too early I think." By 2011, NightWaves' output stagnated and depleted. "I was always making music for myself and I still do," he says. "At that point, I had all these songs I had written and didn't know what to do with them." A solo project was inevitable.
In the meantime, Legg had fallen in "romanticism with L.A.," blissfully disregarding its rat race realities for the charm of the 10 Freeway. "My parents lived in L.A. throughout their 20s. It's a portion of their lives that's a mystery to me," he says, "so L.A. was magical to me before I got there." The sunshine smothered escapism that cradles Goldroom tracks are the romance of an L.A. implant. "There's nothing I love more than grilling carne asada and drinking a Tecate on a rooftop. It's still a very romantic thing for me." His debut solo EP as Goldroom fittingly took the name, Angeles. "I started Goldroom as a way to DJ and remix when I want, alone," he says. "It's weird because even though I knew I wanted to DJ while I was producing, I used guitar, bass, vocals, and hand percussions…real instruments in this supposed dance music. As time when on, it was obvious that it should be played live."
Unable to secede from his jam bands tendencies, Legg began deconstructing his songs and redelivering them with a live band. He soon roped in Mereki Beach, the tambourine-totting vocalist from Australian band Peacocks, as his longtime vocalist and collaborator. "We got a shot of tequila one day and the rest is history," he says. That history unravels in successive years of touring and two additional EPs, Embrace and the recent It's Like You Never Went Away.
"I don't ever want people to think that the DJ set is not the real thing," he says, acknowledging how trendy it has become for DJs to boast of both a live set and DJ set. At Electric Forest in Michigan this year, Legg performed both with the Goldroom live band and separately as a DJ on the same day—a first for him. "DJing is just as valid an art form. But of course, of course the live thing is more rewarding. I'm in front of someone and I'm singing the songs I wrote. It's a real emotional, human connection."
The instant gratification that characterizes much of electronic music is something that Legg's songwriting finesse can't appease—nor does he care to. Though finding himself lugged into the tropical house realm is no compliment, either. "It's like, finally people are appreciating melody driven, mellower house music, but unfortunately the artists that have risen to the top of this genre have decided to come at it from a very, very dance music angle. It has little meaning," he says. "The lack of songwriting in tropical house is just as vapid as the lack of songwriting in big EDM music."
Using songwriting as a shield, Legg fends off the pressure to be anything other than himself. And he's only getting better at it. "California Rain" and "Trade Winds" are two perfect examples of the cohesive songwriting he so admires. He's even proudly re-releasing "Fifteen" and "Embrace" three years later. "I always thought that maybe the songs deserved more of a shot," he says. "The great songs still get delivered out of the sky. They happen in an hour. They're crazy like that. It's the quality of the shitty ones, that's what's getting higher." So a forthcoming, full-length Goldroom album is undeniable. Not that he's in a rush to finish it, by any means. "I've become very okay with taking my time and not worrying about the buzz cycle," he says. "It's fucked up because I want it to come out soon but I don't care if it takes me five years. I'm sure it won't, but I don't care if it does. The pressure to get music out used to be a paralyzing thought to me, but it's not anymore."
As new Goldroom music rests in the wings, Legg spreads himself across any new venture he can get his hands on. Recently, he collaborated with Snapchat to help launch its stories feature by releasing a four-part music video on the app for his track "Embrace." A Goldroom boat cruise tour is also being readied, solidifying his two loves of sea and sound. But his ambition butts heads with his feeling of self-fulfillment, Legg is both hungry for more and satisfied with how far he's come. "If the music thing went away and I didn't make any money, I'd be okay with it," he says, with a smile. "I've done all this shit I've set out to do. I travel the world and play music for the people interested in hearing my music. I don't feel pressured anymore."
'It's Like You Never Went Away' is out now on iTunes. You can listen to an exclusive remix of 'Embrace' by Madeaux below.
Rachael is guilty of singing "Fifteen" in the shower weekly, find her on Twitter.