It’s peculiar to hear a Belgian band sound so French. “Belgium is a tiny country, and because of that we have influences from all over that we pick up easily,” says Tom Coghe of GOOSE. “Being in between France, Britain, Netherlands, Germany – we’re in the middle of all of it.” Starting life as an AC/DC cover group, GOOSE is where traditional rock meets electro and European dance music. The four-piece have a rich history in the late 00s ‘nu rave’ and ‘blog house’ scenes, but while coming up alongside groups like Justice, they were also the French duo’s electro rockstar aspirations come to life.
Now on the precipice of Album No. 5, GOOSE is exploring those ‘sources d’inspiration’ in a whole new way. Tapping the producer for both Justice’s Gaspard Augé and Kavinsky, as well as recording in Paris’ legendary Motorbass Studios, 'Endless' sees the band finally relinquishing control and working purely from intuition.
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Having grown up together since kindergarten in Kortrijk, the four have a storied history together. “We have been playing together as a band since the age of 16,” Bert Libeert says with a hint of shock at the passing of time. “In the beginning, we worked above a bar. Simply we would work in the studio and then go downstairs [laughs]. Ended up making four albums there.”
As Coghe signalled earlier, GOOSE was the result of boredom in a city that offered little for them. “Our first album [2006’s Bring It On] was made to escape our city,” Bert continues. “We thought going to concerts was very boring, waiting for this band to play their one hit single.” Instead, they were enthralled by the DJs that kept the crowd going in between sets. “They would play songs that you don’t know, but you’re dancing all night long,” David Martijn adds before frontman Mickael Karkousse punctuates with the band’s mission statement. “We said that we should make music like a DJ, to have the same effect.”
The quartet would go on to become one of Belgium’s biggest bands, riding multiple waves of alternative dance music from the mid-00s to the early-10s and garnering a reputation as a stellar live band. They are quick to thank the UK’s busy and hard-to-please touring circuit for that latter accomplishment. GOOSE’s dancefloor-ready music earned them spots at club nights at Manchester’s Warehouse Project and London’s fabric, further cementing them as a unique attraction even if the shows were a logistical nightmare.
“These were amazing parties, but the conditions were less than great. You had to go through the party people with the gear at house parties, but we wanted that,” David Martijn says, galvanised. “Those gigs were literally raves, and the good thing was that we were surrounded by good music, too. Bands like Crystal Castles, Klaxons, Justice, Digitalism, Boys Noize, it was really cool to be in that scene at that moment.”
If the lo-fi, home video aesthetic of the title track’s video tells anything, it’s that GOOSE is looking back at that tantalising rookie season. Karkousse recalls that the new material started to be written with the live experience in mind as time went on. “That’s when we got really excited,” he gushed. “We were making an album to go out and play live. That reminded us of our first album. It felt like something dangerous.”
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For the first time, they recruited an additional hand for the sessions – producer Victor Le Masne, who recently co-piloted Gaspard Augé’s solo album Escapades and is currently finalising Kavinsky’s long-awaited second album Reborn. Clearly, he is trusted by the French synthwave community, and he and the band instantly clicked when they first encountered one another. “We were roughly the same age, had the same tastes and grew up with the same kinds of music,” Bert explains. “We could speak the same figurative language.”
Le Masne also presented them the opportunity to work at the iconic Motorbass Studios. One of few recording studios in the heart of Paris, the thick orange walls of the studio hold the weight of French dance music history. Created by the late Phillipe Zdar of Cassius, Motorbass has been used by the likes of Phoenix, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Justice [there’s that name again], Sebastien Tellier and Christine and the Queens. GOOSE spent three weeks there, and like good students, they had done the hard work in their own Safari Studios beforehand. However, even they were surprised at how much the mythological aura of the place provoked them.
“The idea was to relax and have fun, work but also enjoy this trip,” Karkousse recounts before he relays to Martijn. “The studio manager told us that Motorbass is not just work, it’s a vibe too.” The four of them lived and breathed the album during recording, during off-time going out for dinner to discuss the music. Most artists would become tiresome and heated after such an intense period of focus, but GOOSE was sternly unfazed until the project was done. “Going out for dinner, that’s part of the process. You have to let life into the studio,” Martijn ponders. “Plus, there were really nice surprises here.”
Invited to see the Motorbass Studios for myself, the band showed me around the place. Thick with history, the rooms are spacious but cut no corners to deliver a quality experience, as the band tells me about how the space subtly came to define their record. For one, its 70s-inspired debonair interior – replete with tanned colouring and leather-wood combos – became instrumental to the visual design of the artwork that looks ripped straight out of a vintage fashion magazine. Another observation is the towering blocks of synthesisers dotted around that lead to the most explosive electronics seen on a GOOSE record ever.
Most enticingly, they showed me Phillipe Zdar’s personal record collection in a small room on the far side of the studio, featuring unseen test pressings of Daft Punk records, Cassius’ discography and Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’. Initially, they were enthralled by this legendary archive of material. But for all the influences that they would listen to for reference at the start of the album process, time in Motorbass reduced the need for them.
And so, as they were carrying on a Zdarian mission of elevating the club experience, never once does 'Endless' feel like an imitation of the man’s work. Rather, the band removed external influence completely, and honed in on their own greatness. Surrounded by a studio and a name that birthed the French Touch movement, GOOSE had unlocked the spirit of Motorbass.
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Catch GOOSE at the following shows:
7 London Brixton Academy – Support The Midnight
9 Glasgow SWG3 – Support The Midnight (SOLD OUT)
Words: Nathan Evans
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