Five years ago, Alex Goss was treading water as a guitarist and singer with an alt-rock act called Golden Palace, a riffy garage band with punkish grunge leanings. But these days, as the lead singer and bassist with Savage Tongues, he's far more mature, confident, and professional.
"We were young guys in our early 20s. We weren't too familiar with our limits at the time," Goss says. "I pretty much botched a big show at the Music Farm [a CofC Battle of the Bands in 2006]. I remember getting loaded before the set, and then getting shocked from a wet microphone on the stage. The next week, the City Paper just ripped us up. The managers from the club contacted us and told us not to come back because we apparently vandalized the dressing room. I'm glad those days are over."
The City Paper's review of that infamous show at the Farm said that Golden Palace looked haggard, and sounded slumped, drunk, and aimless.
"Golden Palace seemed to play a bunch of Battle of the Bands shows all the time — at Cumberland's, A Dough Re Mi, and the Music Farm — and we usually sucked," Goss remembers.
Fortunately, he has his act together now with the Savage Tongues and can laugh about that negative review. His younger brother, Matt Goss, handles the piano and organ parts for the band alongside lead guitarist Andy Adkins (an old friend and classmate) and new-guy drummer Johnny Emmel.
The Goss brothers come from a musical family. Their mother taught music classes and directed concert bands, and their dad helped run a popular downtown club called Myskyn's. Alex Goss picked up the guitar when he was 10. "I tried to start on piano, but my little brother was much more talented than I was with it," he says. "He blew right past me, so I switched to guitar."
After playing with various bands during their college years, the Goss brothers reunited in 2010 and began writing original songs. They assembled a quartet with Adkins and drummer Dylan Gomez, both of whom had played on and off with Golden Palace. The band rehearsed several sets of choice bar-rock covers. Over the course of a year and a half, they recorded their strongest material at the Sound Factory in West Ashley with producer Jeff Peek. This week, with Emmel on board as the timekeeper, they're ready to release a 14-song, self-titled debut album.
"We did the record in bits and pieces, starting with the guitar, keyboards, and vocals," Goss says. "Fortunately, Dylan was a wiz on the drums. He came in with charts and laid everything down really well."
With a crisp and clean production quality, the new album is a sturdy document of the band's first major step. Much of it resembles the rock of mid-'70s FM playlists (think Wings, Jackson Browne, and Steely Dan) with a dash of Beach Boys-inspired classic power-pop and funky Southern rock a la the Allman Brothers and the Black Crowes.
"That was the music we always valued the highest," Goss says of the classic rock influences. "When we were younger, we got into the rock of the '90s — Faith No More, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and the grunge thing. But then I went back to some of the '60s and '70s rock my dad was really into. I think some of our own songs reflect that. I'm glad we're finally putting it there, and I think we're all eager to move forward with an eclectic range of new tunes."