The Go! Team’s Art of Retrospection

Chanting vocals, old school hip-hop, brass bands – all of these are echoes from music history. And all of these are thrown together by one of the most unique bands to emerge in the last decade. The Go! Team are a present to the eyes and ears, with each song throwing something curiously enthralling your way.

Anishka Sharma and Dean Simons talk with Go! Team front man Ian Parton to discuss the life and influences of this unique band on the eve of the release of their third album _Rolling Blackouts_.

_Anishka: So how’s it all going in the Go! Team world? It’s been a long wait for the new one, ‘Rolling Blackouts’._

Ian: Yeah, it’s all go now though! We’re off doing things on Monday, doing a [BBC Radio] Six Music thing and then we’re on tour next week. It’s the calm before the storm, just now. But it’s good, y’know? Radio stuff has been good. Six Music are really digging the album.

_Anishka: You looking forward to your new tour?_

Ian: Yeah. I always love touring. It’s good fun.

_Anishka: So, tell us a little bit about ‘Rolling Blackouts’, it’s been a long old while since you release your last ‘Proof of Youth’ in 2007 were you looking for a new sound?_

Ian: I think it’s quite different but I’ll let you be the judge of that. It was definitely more about melody and kind of slightly more ambitious, I suppose. But without it being wanky and overblown. Definitely more about songwriting, a lot of the songs on Blackouts are more singy, rather than the shouty girls that people associate with the Go! Team.

_Anishka: Did this just come about or did you think that you needed to try something different for this album?_

Ian: I thought that we had done the chanty thing by now and it would be much more of a challenge just to write singy songs. With the new one [Rolling Blackouts] I really had to find the right voice to fit the song. It was a case of constantly asking myself “What is the identity of this song? What personality does it have?” It was a really interesting experience.
It turned out it could be someone from anywhere in the world. We really explored, we had a French girl singing one song, Satomi [Matsuzaki] whose Japanese, and Bethany [Consentino] from Best Coast who’s Californian. So we had lots of different types of voices and people all rubbing shoulders.

_Anishka: How did all these collaborations come about?_

Ian: I approached them really. It was a lot of trial and error as well. There’s a song that has an African gospel choir on it, which I recorded in a church in London. Before that I tried it with a Brazilian choir and that didn’t work out so well so I couldn’t use it. There were lots of things like that. We didn’t make it easy for ourselves!

_Anishka: So how was it to write ‘Blackouts’ was it a painful artistic experiment like a Kid A or something?_

Ian: No, I always love writing music really. I’m slightly obsessed with melodies… [laughs] I’m always hoarding these little tunes in my phone and dictaphones and stuff. So lots of the time I’m listening back to these f***** up little songs of me with an acoustic going “LALALALA”. When you listen back to these things a few weeks after you’ve done it you can put it in your “best of” pile. It was a bit like that really. Lots of hoarding of all these different melodies and eventually ideas come out and songs kind of reveal themselves.

_Anishka: You said a few years ago that you’d like to make schizophrenic music._

Ian: It’s definitely a lot more schizo and eclectic across the album. Within each song, I think, they are quite stable, if you know what I mean. They are within that world the song and then they move moves on. It’s the difference between those songs on the album is where the scizophrenic comes into it. You have a piano interlude beside something that comes in really mean, with a warped guitar, then you have a marching band song, then you have an early 80s strange little hip-hop song and stuff.
We’ve been making videos for each one of the songs as well to kind of tell the story. We’re making a little Channel 4 documentary and DVD all based on that.

_Anishka: That’s pretty unusual idea, what inspired you to make videos for each one of the songs?_

Ian: I think it’s because the songs are quite cinematic. They lend themselves to videos and they’re really quite schizo as well, so each one has a different feel and a different story to tell.

_Anishka: Have you started recording the videos for all these songs yet? Do you have any ideas in more for what we might expect?_

Ian: They’re all nearly done. There are at least four of them up on our website, or on Pitchfork or Youtube.

_Anishka: Have you taken a cinematic influence up on these videos?_

Ian: I’ve been working with the director. His name’s James Slater and he lives in Berlin. He’s totally on a wavelength with me. The videos look a bit like an old American cable channel. Really messed up looking. We use vintage vision mixers and stuff. Loads of shots of warp speed/light speed space, y’know: stars shooting at you. Others have loads of old black and white photos and zooming in a bit. You have to check it out to make sense of it.

_Dean: When you listen to the songs when they are coming along or completed do you get mental images and stuff?
I, for instance, get these images of old Peanuts cartoons like Snoopy and Charlie Brown and stuff, whenever I listen to the first album. Do you get that kind of feel when you’re making these songs or once you’ve made them?_

Ian: Yeah! I’m mean, I’m a big Vince Guaraldi fan, who did the Snoopy music. That was definitely one of my influences.
I could tell you what I’m thinking about for every song, really. It varies from driving through a desert, or [standing on] a street corner. I like the idea of recordings in non-studio settings. I build recordings of people. I prefer that than the idea of people going into a studio and singing.

_Dean: So what were you thinking about when you made T.O.R.N.A.D.O.?_

Ian: I was imagining it being a bit like ‘what if Sonic Youth were a brass band?’ It’s quite mean and city-themed in a way. There’s a 70s film called the Taking of Pelham 123, which is this thriller which has got this really mean, brass soundtrack. Really angular and tough. That’s what [the song] was really: trying to reclaim trumpets as being a tough instrument. Really taking it further away from Mark Ronson territory, making it more angular and mean, I guess.

_Dean: You mention some cartoon influences. Do you have any favourites, anything you always think about?_

Ian: I’m not superly into cartoons really. I do like Charlie Brown though (chuckles). I don’t really like childish things just for the sake of it. I like things that I think are actually quite cool. Generally. Its like the music, its about picking the best of it all.

_Dean: Any examples?_

Ian: If you watch an old episode of Sesame Street, occasionally there will be a little film in it about things. About sea lions, or the seasons, or a trip to the dentist, or something like that. Often those films will have really cool music. Genuinely cool. Not childish. Really cool, groovy little Fender Rhodes piano songs. It’s the feel of things, as well. The idea of graininess and stuff like that. It sound odd, but that’s an influence that kind of attracts me, that way of seeing things.

_Dean: So what is it that attracts you to that old school vibe within the albums?_

Ian: I mean its lots of things really. We look to varying decades as well: 60s girl groups and the whole girl group sound, where everything is drenched in echo, and the kind of attitude of those girl group songs. The whole idea of those little symphonies as a sort of spectre. The Girl groups were a massive influence. It’s quite particular things that I like, it’s not eclecticism for the sake of eclecticism. I like to combine the 80s electro and 80s noise bands like Sonic Youth and MBV [My Bloody Valentine]. The whole Riot Girrl thing from the 90s, and Ennio Morricone in Spaghetti Westerns, and marching band music.

_Dean: So was this kind of stuff in your parents’ music collections or was this stuff you just came across and thought it sounded cool?_

Ian: No. Just things I’ve been into over the years really. I grew up digging noisy guitar stuff and then went south from there. I’ve simultaneously liked cutesy stuff alongside noisy things. That’s been the defining idea, I suppose: the tension between distortion and cute stuff.

_Dean: Was it the objective to be kind of unique and to combine all these styles or was it that you ended up with the sound and it seemed to fit?_

Ian: I think the product of mixing these has made us instantly recognisable. Even now, on this record, even though hopefully it sounds its evolved, I think it’s still recognisably the Go! Team. I can’t quite define what that is, but I think its a drum sound or trumpets or the distortion or something about [the music] that just instantly defines it as the Go! Team.

_Dean: The live band and yourself are quite separate are quite separate when it comes to recording and performing live. Has that changed or merged over the years or do they remain separate?_

Ian: The writing stage is largely me. The actual recording is definitely a band effort. It’s normally done in layers. We don’t all sit in a room and play at the same time. We go: “Right, let’s do the bass”, and then we do the drums, and then we do the trumpets and so everything sort of grows in layers. It’s only on stage when it all comes together, really.

_Dean: So when you go out on tour, it’s like a reunion for the band?_

Ian: Oh no, we’re not that bad! We do practice, we do see each other. (laughs)
But, one’s about detail and really thinking all the time. Wheras playing live for us is much more about a kind of release or explosion of noise. It’s not perfect and we’re not trying to make it perfect but we’re all really into energy and thrashing around like Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine, and stuff. Its what brings us all together, and connects our music with the audience. We all move in different ways.

_Anishka: How do you think you fit into the current music scene? Do you like the fact you have your own separate niche, like you can’t be pigeon holed._

Ian: I don’t think we do to be honest. The NME hate us, which I’m slightly proud of. We don’t fit into this kind of fantasy of the indie band, which is like ‘boys on the road’. I know it sounds like “Hey, we’re really weird!” or whatever, but I reckon its better to be like that.

**Rolling Blackouts is available now. The Go! Team will be performing live at the HMV Institute in Birmingham on 10th February 2011.**


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