“I used to make fun of people who were apathetic,” says Bob Goldie, the new singer for Denver’s Modern Goon. “Now I kind of embrace it. We want to pay attention, stay on top of things. But friends of mine who used to be lighthearted and funny, now all they do is post about Trump.”
Goldie is talking about one of the band’s songs, “Help Me Escape,” which takes on the growing political division plaguing the United States. It’s just one of the not-so-pleasant themes he addresses on Modern Goon's recent EP, This Empty Space.
Goldie might be unknown to younger members of Denver's music scene, but to the old heads around town, he’s a familiar face. In 1993 he moved from Miami to Boulder, where he went to school, worked at the now-defunct Wax Trax on University Hill and hosted a garage-rock radio show on the University of Colorado’s student-run AM station, Radio 1190. But after more than a decade in Colorado, Goldie says, he needed a change.
“I was kind of bored of Colorado,” he says. “I had friends that moved out to San Francisco, so I followed them out there.”
Goldie says he was happy living in California. He got a job teaching history and sociology at the Academy of Art University, got married and had a kid. Then, after more than a decade away, he began to miss Colorado.
Back in Denver, Aaron Betcher was facing disillusionment of another kind. After several years of fronting Modern Goon, he’d grown tired of the job, or at least half of it.
“I was at this point with singing in our band that I wasn’t happy with it,” he says. “I didn’t think I was doing a very good job, and I didn’t want to sing anymore.”
Betcher and Goldie had been casual friends when they were both living here, and they eventually reconnected online. When he learned Goldie was beginning to miss Colorado, Betcher saw a way out of his vocal duties in Modern Goon.
“I was like, ‘Shit, maybe this will work,’” he recalls.
Once an agreeable work situation made a move possible, Goldie began thinking seriously about bringing his family to the state he’d called home so many years earlier.
“The last five years, I started missing Colorado, the mountains,” says Goldie. “I kept my 303 number, so I knew, psychologically, I was going to come back.”
He returned in 2017, and once he’d settled in, the band got to work writing new songs and even tweaking tunes Betcher had been singing for years to help them fit Goldie’s vocal style.
“Aaron was super-cool about the existing songs,” says Goldie. “He said, ‘Take them. Do what you want.’”
“We kept having these, like, ‘Are you sure it’s okay?’ conversations,” adds Betcher, laughing.
The new songs, with Goldie’s lyrics, are still the same noisy punk explosions Modern Goon is known for, but with a new sense of urgency. Four of them make up the band’s new seven-inch, a series of diatribes about some of the ugliness and alienation inherent in the modern, hyper-connected world.
“The title track is about being exposed to negative media 24 hours a day,” says Goldie. “There’s no dialogue in America now; it’s just tribalism.”
But Goldie is clear about one thing: Politically speaking, he’s not taking anyone’s side.
“I don’t write anything about politics,” says Goldie. “I don’t want to push one particular viewpoint. You can have pretty much any political viewpoint and hopefully identify with this music.”
If anything, he says, he’d like to see people attempting to understand other people’s viewpoints, on both sides of the political divide.
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“We have several songs about preaching into an echo chamber,” says Goldie. “It’s a real problem for society. As a parent, as a teacher, I really worry what kind of world our kids are going to live in. They don’t talk to each other.”
As for Betcher, he’s perfectly content to redirect his energy in the band.
“I love playing the guitar, and singing got in the way of that,” he says. “Bob is a great singer, and he has songs that he uses to tell great stories. I think I'm better at telling stories with my guitar.”