Guest article by Gina Sigillito
Music fans who happened to be wandering past Holy Mountain off Red River last weekend may have noticed that it felt more like a packed dance party than a typical Saturday night show. The mesmerizing trio of Justin Dillon, Chuco Phil and Matt Dunn took the stage for the rerelease of their new CD Gold on Black Ice (Deluxe Edition). From the very first beat, they gave the kind of high octane, groove filled performance they’ve become famous for. Bathed in red strobe lights, the band made the floor shake until the wee hours.
GOBI (Gold on Black Ice) is an innovative Electronic Dance band, but they possess an element and style that make them so much more. Their unusual mix of heavy beats tinged with percussion, hip hop and culturally literate lyrics have earned them a loyal following not just in Austin, but across the country.
The Austinot sat down with the group recently to discuss their journey from West Texas to Austin, their love of every genre of music out there, and their place in the Austin music scene.
From Discos of Juarez to Clubs in Austin
GOBI was born in El Paso where Justin and Chuco Phil met as kids. The pair became fast friends, sharing a love for the burgeoning club scene in Mexico. The boys would often cross the border to Juarez on the weekends to soak in the throbbing beats of the discotecas there.
Unlike many forms of music, the popularity of Electronic Dance was growing in El Paso before other areas. As Justin recalled, “I think it hit El Paso a lot faster than it did here [Austin]. Just because it’s right next to Mexico, it was probably more popular there. In El Paso, you kind of get things twice. You get music when it’s popular in the U.S. and then when it’s popular in Mexico.”
Chuco Phil agreed, adding, “Things that are popular in Mexico are different than what’s popular here, so the dance vibe was definitely part of it. A bunch of our friends used to go to raves out in the desert, but we were going to the clubs in Juarez.”
Justin and Chuco Phil met Matt Dunn while they were attending Texas State in San Marcos ten years ago. The trio was complete.
When the band came to Austin, hip hop and EDM were both relatively new and the guys had to find their niche in the local music scene. “Austin’s a place where you definitely have to pay your dues, and in a good way,” Chuco Phil asserted. “No matter what genre you’re playing, you have to play live and you have to play well live. You’re really one fish in a giant sea of touring artists as well as local bands.”
Austin music fans were incredibly receptive to GOBI and the band soon earned a consistent fan base. As Justin observed, fans in Austin have a wider musical palate than people often give them credit for. Matt added that since the band started playing live, audiences have given them an overwhelming reception, turning venues in town into dance clubs.
GOBI’s Unique Style
The brand of music that has brought GOBI such acclaim is steeped in the band members’ eclectic tastes. Justin Dillon began listening to a little bit of everything. As a fan of EDM, he remembers a mystery to this form of music when it first came out. “You really never see how EDM is made, and that’s part of the mystique.”
Drummer Matt Dunn, who takes his influences more from metal and industrial music and bands like Ministry and Radiohead, observed that adding live drum beats and percussion makes GOBI’s music all the more multi-layered.
Chuco Phil has a love for hip-hop that infuses the band’s songs with topical, smart references that range from Martha Stewart to Michael Jackson. The band also has a darker, more serious side, especially on their hauntingly beautiful track, “Dream With Me.”
Their Secret to Success
Part of GOBI’s success is a penchant for making themselves so rare. Unlike many bands with regular residencies, the trio plays few live shows in Austin. When they do, their gigs become spectacular events, complete with live visuals and fans dancing on stage with the band.
There is a pure, unbridled joy at their shows, which comes from the band’s love for spontaneity. They are off the chain, in the best way, and fans never know what to expect when they come to gig. “We do improvise a lot, which is rare. A lot of dance groups have to stick to a certain structure,” Chuco Phil mused. Matt added that he loves the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen. “Someone could come on stage and try to tackle Phil,” he joked.
Recently, GOBI was named Austin Music Foundation’s artist of the month, and last summer the mayor of Austin declared June 6th as GOBI Day. Their infectious rhythms have garnered them a place on stage with acts such as G-Eazy, The Cool Kids and Chiddy Bang, plus DJs like MSTRKRFT, Treasure Fingers, Z-Trip and Paper Diamond.
GOBI has also taken the festival circuit by storm, performing at prestigious events such as Insomniac’s Nocturnal Fest, Neon Desert Music Fest, Bacardi+ Fest, Red Guerrilla Music Fest and the Pachanga Music Festival. “What motivates us is that we’re highly competitive, mostly with each other, but we love supporting other bands. There’s room for all of us in Austin,” Justin observed. They also see their fans as friends, enabling them to form a special bond with their audience.
GOBI’s new CD just came out last week, but it’s already garnering widespread acclaim from local and national media. The release, produced by friend and acclaimed musician AJ Vallejo, features a slew of new songs that are as captivating as the group’s older music.
Justin is also working on a side project he calls “Tombstone Disco,” which will feature visual elements like dancing skeletons. GOBI is writing new songs with some notable EDM vocalists, and it will be fascinating to see what this fun, smart and highly creative trio comes up with next.
Exclusive Release: “Empty Streets” Music Video
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you ever had a chance to see GOBI play live?
Gina Sigillito is a writer, music promoter, and owner of Ginaraq PR. She is also the author of three books and a member of The Authors Guild, The Professional Writers of Austin and The Recording Academy, Texas Chapter.