Asheville’s Goldie & The Screamers fashion soul music from disparate influences

VOLUMINOUS: Goldie & The Screamers started playing mostly covers. But as the band began to put its own spin on soul music, original songwriting became the musicians' focus. Photo by Josh Rhinehart

“We were going to make Goldie its own entity,” says CaroMia Tiller, lead singer and keyboard player for local indie-soul act Goldie & The Screamers. “It didn’t work out that way. We’re all Goldie, and we’re all the Screamers.”

And, adds bassist Chandler Brewer, “It was the least vulgar band name that we came up with.”

In fact, the name has that kind of off-kilter-but-instantly-familiar ring to it. It could be a joke. It could be retro. The truth about the new-to-the-Asheville-scene band, which opens for Zach Deputy at The Grey Eagle on Friday, Feb. 6, is a bit of both. “People see us having fun onstage, really enjoying what we’re doing and not taking ourselves too seriously,” says drummer  Jacob Coats.

Enthusiasm goes a long way, but style and sound are key factors, too. Both Tiller and Brewer are self-professed soul music fans. In fact, despite his involvement with both indie-rockers Antique Firearms and avant-rock outfit Shorty Can’t Eat Books, Brewer agreed to take on Goldie & The Screamers as “very much a side project.” But then the Dotson brothers (three-fifths of Antique Firearms) moved to Los Angeles, and the lead singer of Shorty Can’t Eat Books needed to focus on his family. Brewer’s schedule opened up. Plus, as the group discussed in its early days, there’s somewhat of a soul music void in Asheville.

“It’s such a cherished style of music,” says Tiller.  “All ages love it.” The vocalist is inspired by divas like Etta James and Aretha Franklin while the bassist favors Motown classics. But their playlist is no mere greatest hits rundown. Instead, Goldie & The Screamers have already recorded their takes on Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky” and Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone.” Original track “My Day Has Just Begun” morphed, at the band’s inaugural show, with Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”

An early attempt at writing in a soul style, “My Day Has Just Begun” seethes and sweats through its deep groove and emotion-drenched lyrics. Tiller’s voice is that of an old soul; her vocals seem to draw on decades of hard luck and esoteric torment. “Pretty Boy,” a song that Goldie & The Screamers submitted to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest, is both cozy and raw. It’s the calm after the tantrum, the particular ache of wanting and almost having.

“When I first started the band, my vision was for us to be a throw-back band,” says Tiller. “Very stylized, only doing old soul music and bringing people into that time and space again.” Early setlists were all covers, but the focus has shifted to songwriting. “Hopefully in a year, it’ll be mostly originals,” she says.

But where many local groups shy away from cover songs, Goldie & The Screamers used those well-worn favorites as a means to learn the style of the music. “Especially contemporary soul music,” says Coats. He was also in Shorty Can’t Eat Books and admits, “It was hardest to me, being a surf-rock [and] punk drummer, to play soul music true to form. I think I had to add my own version of whatever drum track was being played.”

But Coats’ approach is indicative of the whole band’s evolution. What started as a side project became a main event and a canvas for the musicians’ (including guitarist Jesse Lapinski) personal styles. “Initially we were really trying to do it like the original. Now, we’re doing the opposite,” says Tiller. “Any covers we bring into it we want to redo and make our own.”

WHO: Goldie & The Screamers, opening for Zach Deputy
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 6, 9 p.m. $12 advance/$15 day of show

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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