Take Care: Goat Girl Interviewed

“Part of knowing what to do within the present is imagining the future...”

The music of Goat Girl, whether purposefully or not, tends to be plugged into the mood of contemporary Britain. Their first ever single, ‘Country Sleaze’, was released a few months after the UK voted to leave the European Union, with their self-titled debut album following a year and a half later, while the country’s news cycle remained unrelentingly jammed upon Theresa May’s failure to “get Brexit done.” Their second album, ‘On All Fours’, arrived not long after Christmas had been cancelled, during a lockdown period in which the phrase “mutant strain” was perfectly normal and appeared frequently in print. Now, three years later, we have ‘Below The Waste’, released in the midst of a continued cost-of-living crisis and weeks before the commencement of a British election that few could claim to feel especially buzzed about.

‘Below The Waste’ is a record born of hardship. As the country they call home continued along its steady path of decline, the Goat Girl members found themselves struggling, too. The record addresses some of their issues directly, most notably on the songs ‘words fell out’, ‘take it away’, and ‘tcnc’, which all reflect upon drummer Rosy Jones’ experience of addiction and recovery. The band was left shaken, too, when, shortly before they were set to begin recording, guitarist Ellie Rose Davies decided to leave following health issues.

Alongside Lankum producer John “Spud” Murphy, the band’s three remaining members, Rosy, Lottie Pendlebury, and Holly Mullineaux worked beneath the shadow of Dublin’s centuries-old Hellfire Club, where uncanny happenings have long been rumoured to occur, to create a record that, though melancholic, bears hope for the future. We discussed that hope, how they dealt with Ellie’s departure, and how co-producer Spud came on board.

The record sounds great. Are you excited about putting it out?

Lottie: Yeah, it’s kind of mad actually. I haven’t really thought about it. Well, I have. But I haven’t.

Holly: We’re very excited for many, many reasons. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

Lottie: Hopefully it’s going to be our big break.

Holly: Yeah, we’re waiting for our big break.

Are you?

All in unison: Yeah!

Lottie: Yeah. We’re the most underrated band.

Holly: In the world.

Lottie: Print that.

Will do. Can you talk about the album’s title, ‘Below The Waste’?

Holly: It started off as a bit of a joke. It was a pun. I just got out of the shower, and Roost (Rosy) came in the room. I was just like, oh, just so you know, I’m naked from below the waist. And then we were like, oooh.  

Lottie: During that period, any phrases that are said are instantly like… album. Jumping on every bit of conversation to figure out what it’s gonna be called.

Holly: It’s nice to be able to pull out actual meaning from these things. Waste became a bit of a metaphor for things that are unnecessary, but also it has links with the climate and capitalism. It felt quite open and applicable to a lot of the themes on the record. And a bit funny.

You’ve stated that within the record is a desire to imagine a future that discards oppressive structures. Could you elaborate on that?

Lottie: It’s about that idea of seeking liberation through the hope and joy that you envision for a future world. Part of knowing what to do within the present is imagining the future and how you can get to that point, which is a framing that I learned about in lockdown. I was listening to The YIKES Podcast with Mikaela Loach [and Josephine Becker], who’s an eco-feminist. They were talking about this idea. And it does stem from a lot of literature that I was reading at the time, as well. Octavia E. Butler’s book, Parable of the Sower, constantly talks about change being this all-consuming force. Change as a concept is like her idea of God. There’s this group of people and the protagonist who are seeking a better world within this dystopian present, by living in a way that reflects what they want to see in the future.

I found the record to be quite melancholic. Do you agree?

Lottie: It’s all kinds of emotions for me. It’s melancholic, it’s nostalgic, it’s joyous, and angry. It’s quite human. We’re not just one thing, so our music shouldn’t just be one thing if it’s really representing how we feel. We feel all these things all the time. We wanted to show that somehow.

Holly: Sometimes the actual music can feel quite uplifting, but the lyrics are maybe a bit more sombre. There’s definitely moments of release, as well. I feel like it’s quite cathartic. It’s not afraid to be sad when it’s sad, and be loud when it’s loud.

Lottie: Quite a few of the songs, when they were written, were in the pandemic, and I was quite interested in this almost destructive sound. I became kind of obsessed with post-hardcore-y bands, or abrasive sounds. I think that definitely played quite a big role in it. I don’t know if that’s melancholic, though. It felt like it was depicting that time, which was quite hard for everyone.

Holly: We’ve all been through a lot together, emotionally, as friends, as a band. Particularly from the time that we finished ‘On All Fours’ ’til now. It’s been really, really, really challenging. Ellie was really sick, and we’ve all gone through difficult personal struggles, which I couldn’t have got through without these guys. We’re exploring some of that personal stuff on this record.

The tune that sticks out to me most in that vein is ‘tcnc’, which stands for “Take care, not crack,” right?

Rosy: Yeah, my mum said that to me.

Lottie: How did you feel when she said that?

Rosy: I felt… oh, is this therapy? I felt like, I don’t know. I just know that that’s how she is. That’s her personality. So it’s quite nice.

Lottie: It’s her love language.

Rosy: I went around for this massive family thing, for my auntie’s 60th birthday. So all my cousins are there, all their partners. I sent my family the album, thinking, oh, they’ll listen to it in their own time. And then my dad starts blasting it in the kitchen while he’s cooking. And I was like, oh, god. Then the song came on, I was like, heeeeeeeey. Then he’s like, wait, is that you? I can’t really hear what you’re saying. I was like, thank god. Thank god.

Let’s talk about recording in Ireland.

Lottie: We knew about Hellfire Studios. It just sounded like an amazing place to work, because Spud normally works out of his own studio in central Dublin. So he hired this space for us to record in. It had amazing equipment and a really beautiful landscape, because it was in the mountains. It was near Hellfire Club, which was exciting.

Holly: We wanted to get out of London. I guess there could have been a world that existed where Spud could have come over and we could have hired a studio in London, but we knew that we wanted to get away and be in nature, because we wanted to do some recording outside. We’d thought about doing it in churches in London, and there would be road noise and this and that. But there was a double whammy of, we’ll go to a place that Spud prefers and feels comfortable to work in, but also we get to have a different experience from what we’ve done before and get our heads down and not be distracted by being in London, with all the craziness that’s going on all the time.

Lottie: Hellfire Studios is a nice balance between being really natural, while also being made into a studio. You can still hear the way the sound moves around in the space. The actual structures are made of granite and old stone. I think that does really make a difference to the acoustics. But then you’ve got your treated acoustic doors that obviously help. There was a balance between the sound not being so untreated that it would just turn into mush, but also it had that kind of environmental quality to it.

How did you end up working with Spud? Had you heard Lankum’s last album, ‘False Lankum’, before you started recording?

Lottie: I heard ‘False Lankum’ in the car on the way to a festival with my friend. She was driving and she was like, oh, I really like it, but it’s a bit too doomy. No. It’s never too doomy. This is amazing.

Holly: We spoke to a lot of producers and had different ideas. We knew we wanted to co-produce. We wanted someone that could bring these atmospheres we weren’t quite sure how to create on our own. We wanted to find our sound, but to capture the space and thickness of what Spud had been doing. Luckily we met up with him and he was really up for doing this together as a co-production.

Lottie: It came at quite a good time. It was after we’d met everyone else and we were still not quite sure what to do. And then we had this light bulb moment of, oh, this guy. I feel like you do have to come to these things on your own, because we were told about him ages ago. I’m glad that we came to it on our own.

Rosy: If we’d met him before, it might have been different. But with things like Ellie leaving — it was a very strange time. But then we met him and it was like, yeah, this is going to work. We were all sold.

Lottie: We were playing together for quite a while, before Ellie decided she didn’t wanna do it anymore. It was a bit confusing to figure out what that departure would look like. It was right before we were gonna go into recording. It was just a bit confusing to navigate. People don’t tell you how to navigate these situations. But luckily we did it in a nice and amicable and friendly way, and we’re still in touch and stuff. Vibes are good.

Did you consider bringing in a fourth member?

Rosy: We knew we could make this album as a trio, because we’d been working on it so much. All of us have so many ideas with different melodies or arrangements or structures. It never felt like we needed someone else. We had finally come into a confidence where we felt quite sure of ourselves. We were just like, yeah, we can do it. And we did it.

‘Below The Waste’ will be released on June 7th.

Catch Goat Girl at the following out-store tour:

7 Kingston Banquet
8 London Rough Trade East
9 Nottingham Rough Trade Nottingham + Bear Tree Records
10 Leeds Crash Records
11 Bristol Rough Trade / The Fleece
12 Brighton Resident Records / Chalk

Words: Tiernan Cannon
Photography: Holly Whitaker

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