For a band with such a diverse palette of influences to choose from, The Go! Team have a remarkably identifiable sound.
Bubblegum-rap-adelica The Go! Team are an explosive live force. On record, the myriad of samples never lets up, like the greatest mixtape you’ve ever heard condensed into a three minute burst. Then repeated twelve times.
Battered and bruised after a global tour, The Go! Team retreated to their rehearsal room last year. Tiring of their frenetic sound, the band opted for something more linear and slightly less exhausting. Not quite laid back, new album ‘Rolling Blackouts’ is more melodic without losing any of their trademark energy. Having been in love with 60s girl group sounds and shoegaze guitars for some time, The Go! Team have recently come under pressure. A host of newcomers have emerged citing the same influences, with the band coming close to losing their edge.
At one point recruiting a pre-fame Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast) ‘Rolling Blackouts’ is both a re-affirmation of their mind set and defiant move forward. Leaving behind the barrage of beats that was ‘Proof Of Youth’ you could be forgiven for allowing the band time off. “I don’t actually remember having a rest – I wish we did. I wish I did” explains Ian Parton. “It was a long process writing this one, really. There were no songs carried on from the last record, it was a blank canvas situation really.”
Is that the first time this has happened?
Well I’m never not thinking about it. My ears will pick up if hear something interesting, if a melody comes to me I’ll sing it into my phone. It’s not like I have to sit down with an acoustic and think “right I have to write a song now”. You have to look back on what you’ve assembled. I had like hours and hours and hours worth of stuff.
Did you start with a basic song on this album?
It varied. There was definitely a songwriting point of view on this record, like an original melody instead of hijacking a sample. It was definitely treating the melody like God. I’ve always had this obsession with catchiness and melody, so I guess I really wanted the record to be more about singing. Rather than double dutch chants which is the obvious Go! Team
sound. There are nods to that as well!
Have you moved from the bedroom into larger studios given your success?
We’re not rolling in it by any means. Six of us in a band and stuff… I have no desire to work with Brian Eno or anything like that. I definitely lean more towards the bedroom idea of not having to spunk loads of money on something, the idea of doing it yourself. I think that idea should be able to stand up to just about anything. When you start paying producers stupid amounts of money to live in residential studios with swimming pools I think you can hear that on the record, it loses something. I was keen to not replicate the exact sound of the first two records, it is definitely rounded and much more bedroom-sounding. It’s much more panoramic and widescreen sounding, but at the same time the last thing we did was put the whole thing onto a cassette. So we’ve still got those urges to fuck it up a bit! That’s still there. We could work with a fifteen piece brass section and then put it on cassette. The tension between bedroom and epic.
Where did this songwriting approach come from?
I still wanted to keep that element of it, Ninja’s element, going. But add something extra. It’s more of a challenge to write pop songs, catchy songs. Those are the hardest ones to write, I think. Whereas rapping over something is comparatively easy, if you know what I mean. I found myself with these songs and began thinking about what worlds they belonged in. What kind of voice do they kind of suggest? Things like ‘Secretary’s Song’ I was automatically thinking of a Tokyo office in the 60s – electrical desks and loads of women typing in time. For me, the idea of getting Sitomi to do it just made sense. Same with Best Coast – we had this song which was very jangly, girl groupy. I was looking for that Californian style of voice then found Best Coast on MySpace back in 2009, so before the hype. We did it via Email and here we are a year later and Best Coast are the most hyped band in the world at the moment.
Have you noticed your influence becoming more widespread?
There’s definitely a cyclical thing going on at the minute – the whole Mary Chain, C86 thing. The whole chillwave thing, MBV played on keyboards. I’m a bit unaware of that. But I’m all for things being sun bleached, a bit fucked up like they’ve been left in the sun – that kind of thing appeals to me. I always imagine The Go! Team feeling like a VHS which has been left in the garage for years. That’s the kind of feel, that woozy, warped fucked up feel. It ties into the idea of memories a little bit. How memories become this hazy, half-remembered thing. I want the Go! Team to be like that, so you’re not even sure if it happened or not.
You’ve spoken about ‘schizophrenic music’.
That was done quite a while ago that one. I don’t think I’ve achieved what I set out to do. The original idea was to make really schizophrenic music, all within one song. Changing channels on the radio, I think I said. That turned out to be really fucking hard, so in the end the album turned out to be more like songwriting. More about traditional songs, strange little pop songs rather than schizo music. Across the album it’s pretty schizo but I’ve always liked being generally eclectic. Putting white noise next to gospel, then a Boards Of Canada song then a psychedelic soul song. Keep people surprised. That’s one thing I’ve always liked about us – we can span several different genres but then always sound like The Go! Team.
How do you attain a sense of unity?
It’s never a conscious thing – I never think “oh does this sound Go! Teamy enough?” But maybe I’m close to see what’s going on. There’s some bands, some songwriters who just have this conscious thing which will stand out. You can spot a Neil Young song a mile off no matter who is singing it. So there must be something in him which is coming out despite him not singing it. It might be a similar thing, it might be a melody, having lots of trumpets or two drummers I don’t know. In fact sometimes I’ll want to record something which doesn’t sound like us but then it does.
How has the new material translated to a live environment?
We’ve played about three new songs so far. We’re not worried about slavishly replicating things from the album, I think Ninja comes a lot more to the fore when we’re playing live. I think it’s kind of a ballsier, rockier sound live just because of the double drums, double guitars. We’ve never tried to exactly replicate – we had Chuck D on the second record and we could never take him on the road with us. We always come at it from a different angle but we’re not worried about that. You can put the record on if you want to listen to that.
Do the songs alter organically as you’re playing them?
It’s kind of ongoing. We’re still trying to work it out. Because of the samples we can’t go off road, we can’t wig out really. Because there’s lots of us in the band we can all play different things. Someone can play a typewriter, then someone’s playing a steel drum. All of which makes our soundman hate us even more! It’s getting pretty daft up there now.
Where does that Go! Team energy come from?
I think it’s just more fun. Particularly live, there’s always some songs which I look forwards to playing. I don’t know what it is really. At certain points I’ve said that we’re a reaction against that whole singer-songwriter “hey I’m an artist I’m going to tell you about my life”. The idea of being an artist, I would like to blast that away and just thrash around. We put more emphasis on energy than precision. If you’re jumping around you’re going to miss cues all over the shop but we’re not massively bothered.
Is there an obsession with being throwaway?
I am interested in trash culture. Not in an entertainment, Paris Hilton kind of way but more like B-movies, trash cinema, fanzines and so on. I don’t really buy into the idea that introspection and heaviness plus darkness = real art. This idea that Radiohead are unquestionably the greatest band in the world because they have a weight to their lyrics. I think that’s bollocks, frankly! I like the tension, really, between trash – things like The Jackson 5 cartoon or girl groups – and noise. White noise. I like the early, old school hip hop which was more street corner, cheesy. I like recorders, glockenspiels things which don’t have that weight in a critical stylee. Things which are thought of as childish or disposable. I would be there to campaign against the idea of throwaway things. All the best pop songs through history- like the Jackson 5 or The Monkees – at the time those were probably thought of as shitty little songs which no one will remember. But there’s something about them which kind of keeps them alive.