Pacific Gold takes old, relatively unknown hymns and puts them to a new musical style. On March 24th, Pacific Gold released their new record Sing My Welcome Home. I recently spoke to Pacific Gold’s Dan Koch about hymns, his podcast, and their new record.
If you’d like to check out some of Pacific Gold’s early work before reading, check this out:
Gabe: You were in the band Sherwood prior to Pacific Gold. What was that transition like musically for you?
Dan: Basically, I’ve always loved the type of music that Pacific Gold plays. That’s not a new thing for me. You can hear a lot of Beach Boys influence on the Sherwood records but we were also doing a very particular genre of rock music. So I had to keep that (Beach Boys) style somewhat curtailed to fit into that vibe we were doing with Sherwood. The influences on the Pacific Gold record have been around with me for years. There’s nothing new there. But now that I’m not playing in a rock band anymore, we can do whatever we want to do. I guess I’ve been writing music like this for a long time but I just wasn’t able to use it with Sherwood.
Gabe: How did you get hooked up with BadChristian?
Dan: I’ve known Matt and Toby (Emery) for almost ten years. Sherwood and Emery toured together on Warped Tour in 2006. So we’ve been friends since then. Once their label got started, I thought that it would be a good fit for what we are doing. So I sent our stuff to Matt and a few days later he told us he’d love to sign us.
Gabe: Obviously, hymns are a spiritual song. What was your experience growing up with hymns, worship music, etc?
Dan: I grew up in one of the original nondenominational church. It was actually a inter-denominational church. A bunch of mainline churches got together in the early 1900’s and said “Let’s just be one church”. I think that’s actually kinda cool. They hired a really great architect to build them a chapel.
By the time I was in high school, for the most part it was a standard nondenominational church. But there was some traditional stuff still around. There was a specific second service that would be all hymns. So I grew up probably knowing 50 or so hymns. Not as many as someone who may have grown up Anglican or Lutheran. But I knew a good amount. I guess I liked them. I’ve never really particular cared for worship music of any kind. I’ve always gotten really distracted during worship time at church. For me, it’s a time to think about the lyrics and just meditate. I think that’s just because of me being a musician and thinking about music all day long. But I just love the idea of finding these beautiful hymn-texts and doing something new with them.
Gabe: I know what you mean about going through a worship service and micromanaging it in your head. I’m guilty too. What is it about hymns that the modern worship just isn’t really grasping?
Dan: Well there’s nothing that’s true of all hymns or true of all modern worship music. The thing about hymns is that any hymns that are around today are the champions of that era. People didn’t just stop writing songs. So if you open up a hymnal and there are like 700 hymns in it. How many of those songs are from the 1780s? There’s maybe 8 songs in that hymnal from the 1780s. How many songs are we singing in church today from the last decade or so? Like 200? But it ends up being only the best 10 songs of every decade that make it out. So it’s just kinda like about what songs make the cut. So that’s why it’s not fair to compare sometimes. Some of the songs that people are writing today will be around in 100 years. But it’s just going to be the very best ones. So there’s a quality level musically. And then there’s the lyrical aspect. Every song in a hymnal has resonated with someone lyrically or musically at some point in time. People talk about how there might be more doctrine in hymns…Pacific Gold doesn’t really focus on those types of hymns. We focus more on the hymns that have more poetic imagery.
Gabe: There’s still something about hymns that has left a fingerprint on a lot of people’s souls. If you go to a nursing home, you’ll find people that barely know their own names but could sing every word of How Great Thou Art.
Dan: Yeah, I think that’s true. I guess it’s hard to say. But also, folks in nursing homes now didn’t have access to the amount of songs that we do now. I think that if you go to a nursing home in twenty years and you play a Beatles song, you might find a really similar reaction among the baby boomers that will be there. Now we are talking about the great hymns…the greatest hits. Those songs are just stellar. You think about a song like Be Thou My Vision or Come Thou Fount…these are just perfect songs. Amazing Grace might be the greatest English language song ever written. When you get into that level, nobody can compete with that. There’s only a few songs out of the last hundred years that could compete with those. So we try to stay away from those songs because what could we possibly contribute? So we actually steer clear of tracks like that. They’re so established and…
Gabe: Songs that everyone’s done…
Dan: Yeah, song that everyone’s done…So we just leave those alone for the most part.
Gabe: Well, do you have a personal favorite hymn?
Dan: Probably Come Thou Fount. It kinda has been since college. Even though even I am getting a little sick of singing it. It’s so good though. It’s a good one to have in almost every set. I think it’s incredibly beautiful and meaningful. But I could still go a couple months in between singing it each time for variety sake.
Gabe: I saw you also have a podcast. What’s that about?
Dan: The podcast is really simple. We are just going through the album one track at a time. And we’re breaking down that song. We talk about any story we know about the original hymn. We talk about the process of rewriting it on our end and arranging it musically. And then we will also pull out our favorite musical moments…and then we solo those and listen to them separately. So at the end when we play the whole song, the listener has a greater appreciation for it. Sometimes we have guests and we chat about related topics. And that’s pretty much it!
Check out this brand new Pacific Gold video from their newest release:
Be sure to check out their website http://www.pacific-gold.com for more information about their new record!