Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Go! Team Interview

The Go! Team seemingly came out of nowhere to take the music world by storm with debut record Thunder, Lightning, Strike in 2004. Its intoxicating marriage of samples, chants, rapping and childlike enthusiasm won them many friends and a Mercury nomination. Proof of Youth followed in 2007, but as early as January 2009, founder member Ian Parton was talking excitedly about The Go! Team's third album. That album, Rolling Blackouts, is finally here, and as well as the vocal stylings of frontwoman, Ninja, The Go! Team have worked with such varied artists as Dominique Young Unique, Lispector, Satomi Matsuzaki (Deerhoof) and Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast).

The Go! Team are about to head out on tour around the UK, but first, Ian Parton found the time to drop No Ripcord a line and give us an insight into the world of everybody's favourite team.

Lots of adjectives and genres are bandied about by journalists to try and accurately characterise the Go! Team sound. How would you describe your music?

I generally try and avoid describing it if I can but I guess its eclectic, occasionally cheeky, halfway between catchiness and trashiness, occasionally brassy, lots of ladeee vocals and sometimes featuring recorders.

What artists do you enjoy listening to and who would you say your main influences are?
My Bloody Valentine, Public Enemy, Velvet Underground, Boards of Canada, Sonic Youth, Roxanne Shante, David Axelrod, Curtis Mayfield, Ennio Morricone, The Shangri-Las, Deerhoof, Serge Gainsbourg...

There’s a joy and a playfulness to your music. Is this a conscious thing or do you naturally write songs with that feel?
No, it's never a conscious decision to write a happy song. I do like stuff that's kind of triumphant with blaring trumpets and stuff like that; I think we're treading a line with The Go! Team and never want to dip into Coke advert territory. For me, its genuine, there's no irony - I'm definitely interested in making music with personality and feel; I put that above professionalism and perfection.

Previous albums made heavy use of samples, but the songs on the new record were primarily written on guitar and drums. What prompted this change in the songwriting process and do you think you’ll be sticking with it in the future?
Well, I like to think we've never been too reliant on samples. People might assume we just put a beat on top of a sample and call it a song but we've always tried to apply songwriting to a sample, if you know what I mean. This album's definitely driven more by songwriting and features more singing, rather than the Double-Dutch chants people know us for. I wanted to make strange little pop songs; I've always been really into catchiness and melody because its the hardest thing to do, but not to have a hit or get into the charts. So on this record I was really putting melody first and letting it run the show. When you've got something you think is watertight, that's when you can start fucking it up. The record's different for a few reasons; it's more sing-y, more melodic, more panoramic, has more bass, it's more eclectic, plus it features a live teenage community brass band!

In interviews, you’ve mentioned you wanted the new album to have a “more widescreen” sound. How did you achieve that?
It's partly the production - to make it "sound" wider. Partly it's the songs; some have touches of Ennio Morricone and make you think of deserts and driving and stuff like that. This record is less lo-fi than the last two but its still not exactly Starbucks. In fact, I mastered the whole record onto a C90 cassette at the very last stage to give it a more fucked up quality.

You’ve worked with a wide range of artists on this album, including Satomi from Deerhoof and Bethany from Best Coast. How did those collaborations come about?
I would write a song and then think about the kind of voice that would suit the song, so it was back-to-front really. I had one song called Secretary Song which made me think of a 60's office in Tokyo and secretaries all typing in time, hating their jobs, and it had a melody in the chorus which reminded me a little of Deerhoof. Because we kind of know Satomi - they asked us to play a festival they were curating in Belgium earlier this year - it was easy for us to ask her and I knew it would work perfectly. With Bethany from Best Coast I had a song called Buy Nothing Day that had a Californian girl group kind of feel; I discovered Best Coast on MySpace and loved her voice. This was about December 2009, so before all the Best Coast hype; maybe I should be an A&R man!

When Thunder, Lightning, Strike started to do well, you had to put a band together in order to go on tour. Did its success surprise you? Were you caught off-guard?
Yeah, I never dreamt we would be together 6 years later. It started off as a hobby and I didn't have any idea of how people would react. All I remember is listening to Thunder, Lightning, Strike and thinking, "I can't think of anyone else that sounds like this." We might have been hyped too quickly; we were playing sold-out shows in Manhattan when we weren't actually very good.

You don’t allow your music to be used in adverts. Why is this and what do you think of Go! Team-like music being written specifically for ads?
There have been a few cases where it's totally obvious some advertising executive has given a Go! Team CD to someone and said, "copy this"; a Google ad in Russia clearly ripped off Junior Kickstart. I have said no to lots of stuff and sacrificed a lot of money - mainly because I know it ruins a song when all you can think about is some yoghurt or something. Iggy Pop has fucked it doing those insurance ads. I have had to mellow a little on ads though; in the US we have a song on an NFL ad - it's actually quite a good ad though. It's these massive American football players with headphones on sitting on a bus, rocking out to the Go! Team. It's pretty funny because I'm the least sporty bloke ever.

You’re on tour in the UK throughout February - what can people expect from your live show?
Lots of swapping instruments, lots of jumping around, lots of fucking noise. Our drumkits have flashing light-up stars on the front of them now and we have a typewriter on stage with us too!

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