THE WORD “MYSTERIOUS” has often been used to describe the electro-pop duo The Golden Filter. And the group certainly does have a secretive quality—mainly, it seems, in an effort to shroud itself in an enigmatic aura that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
The Golden Filter released its first single “Solid Gold” early last year, and numerous blogs latched onto its sparkling synths, catchy beats and the ethereal beauty of singer Penelope Trappes’ voice. And in a multitude of online blurbs about the obviously talented New York-based band, the term “mysterious” was repeated, mostly thanks to the related press materials that played up this angle and provided little background information. Though Trappes (vocals and synths) and Stephen Hindman (percussion and synths), who constitute The Golden Filter, previously performed together for years as a glitchy electro-pop duo from Jersey City called Lismore that released a couple of EPs and one full-length album, official communiqués about The Golden Filter omit these tidbits. And in the interview with Hindman I conduct via phone (an in-person meeting is impossible for a reason not revealed to me), Hindman is cryptic and obtaining substantial information from him about The Golden Filter is a bit like pulling teeth. When asked where Trappes and he live currently, he responds with some evasiveness.
“Between the two of us we live in Manhattan and outside of Manhattan,” Hindman says. “We’re just around and about, so we say New York.”
He says that the band practices in Greenpoint, and when I ask about the live setup, he mentions a new drummer who’s been playing with the group since January.
“Our drummer is basically a friend named William,” Hindman says. When I ask for William’s last name, Hindman spells it for me, but doesn’t mention that William Kuehn used to be in Rainer Maria, a quite well known and beloved Brooklyn-based indie rock group that disbanded at the end of 2006.
When we discuss the history of The Golden Filter, Hindman doesn’t mention Lismore by name.
“We were working together before The Golden Filter for a little bit under a different name,” he says. “Basically, through that and our influences, we had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted The Golden Filter to sound like.”
Hindman says Trappes and he initially bonded as neighbors over a love of film and art, and soon discovered they both played music, with common influences in their youths.
“When Penelope was growing up in Australia, and I was growing up in Ohio—we didn’t know each other obviously—we both went through similar phases throughout our histories,” Hindman explains. “You know you go through your punk phase, you go through your ravey techno phase, you go through your ’60s psychedelic phase, and in some weird way, [The Golden Filter is] like a combination of all that stuff.”
And as The Golden Filter, Hindman and Trappes have succeeded in capturing the imagination of electronic music fans with several singles and remixes for Cut Copy and Peter Bjorn & John, among others. So far this year, The Golden Filter has performed in Barcelona, London, Vancouver and Austin (as part of South By Southwest), and is about to embark on a North American tour in support of the recently released full-length debut Voluspa, an album of dreamy, synth-laced, disco-inspired tracks about moonlight, stardust, thunderbirds and ghosts that Hindman proudly says the two recorded at a home studio in his apartment and produced themselves.
Perhaps the duo’s efforts to build interest in The Golden Filter by keeping its history under wraps will earn Hindman and Trappes more attention than straightforward methods could. But with such amazing work to promote, it’s a true mystery why the band would keep any secrets.