Interview The Go! Team: “Pop Is The Hardest Music You Can Make”

Ian Parton discusses marching bands, thrashing around and fucked-up pop songs.

The Go! Team haven’t released a full-length since 2007’s ‘Proof Of Youth’, but with new album, ‘Rolling Blackouts’, getting closer to release, Ian Parton takes some time out to discuss with DIY marching bands, thrashing around and fucked-up pop songs.

You’ve recently released ‘Buy Nothing Day’ and it features Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast, what was it like working with her?
Well, as is the case with most things these days, it was a long distance affair, you know. It was emailing backwards and forwards. I spoke to her on the phone, but I wasn’t in the studio when she did it. So yeah, it was a remote thing. But we actually did it ages ago, I think it was December 2009. It was kind of before the Best Coast hype, and she was someone I found on MySpace. Lots of the songs I write, it’s kind of a reverse process the way I write a song and find a voice to suit it, so I’d written this song with a girl’s garage groupy, 60’s Phil Spector kind of feel to it and when I came across this band called Best Coast I thought they suited it really well, and then here we are a year later and she’s all over the world!

It’s stylistically different to ‘T.O.R.N.A.D.O’ as well…
That was the idea really, because people have such a strong idea about The Go! Team should sound like, i.e stilted drums, trumpets and chanting girls, but on this record I definitely wanted it to be a lot more melody driven because that’s the hardest music you can make really, melodic pop songs that are bit fucked up and a bit odd, so that was really the idea behind the singles. Give a signal that this album is going to be heavier on the melody.

So we can expect a lot more fucked-up pop songs?
Yeah. I’ve always been obsessed with melody and catchiness and what makes them good as a pop song, that kind of thing. At the same time, I kind of have a phobia of pop music as well and what pop music means in 2010 and how shit it can be.

Are there any particular songs where you think you have really pushed yourself?
I think the album’s a mixture of songs that people would recognise instantly as The Go! Team. ‘Apollo Throwdown’ and ‘Voice Yr Choice’, you’d hear them and go “That’s The Go! Team” but others like ‘Secretary Song’ or ‘Rolling Blackouts’, you wouldn’t ever guess it was us, I don’t think. The influences are more diverse, there’s hints of psychedelic, west coast jangly stuff and African funk. There are places where these new influences come out a bit more. Some of the songs are much more marching band based, like we were recording at a parade. My obsession with marching bands and that kind of stuff is coming out more.

You got a live community band to record in the studio as well?
That’s a new thing for us, getting a brass band and score things out, arrange things. I imagine people will hear the record and think we’ve sampled that stuff… it’s not the case. I think people have always overstated the role of samples in our music, it’s more driven by the song-writing, less hijacking someones good idea and then sticking a beat on it.

So how has this made preparing for your tour, have you got anything special planned?
We keep adding instruments, we’ve even got a typewriter in one song and a steel drum in another, so keeping adding to our songs and we’re probably better live now than we ever have been. It’s nice to able to draw on the three albums, although we kinda just thrash basically. I see them as two things: songwriting, which is meticulous and lots of hoarding and trying things out; then the live thing is just thrashing around [chuckles].

Are you looking forward to getting back to thrashing around and touring again?
Well, we’ve always been touring actually, but not in the UK. We’ve been all over, we’ve been to Singapore, Ukraine and different places last year, so we’re not exactly rusty or anything. But, it’ll just be interesting really, as you know how quickly things move these days.

As you said, you’re known for the way you use samples, so how do you feel about services like Spotify and the way they’re going to influence the way people discover music?
There’s one theory that .mp3s are like flyers these days, like they’re saying ‘come to my gig’. If you resign yourself, you can get nostalgic about it, but you’ve just got to go with it. You’re never going to stop it. People want music for free these days, they treat it like a flyer… maybe they’ll buy a t-shirt or something. As much as I hanker after those days where you knew exactly how popular or not popular you were, it’s quite mysterious now actually. There’s no real way of monitoring, apart from how many friends you’ve got on MySpace.

So do you think this new system encourages fans to support bands?
It’s a lot more tip-offy. Everything is a tip-off. Twitter, that’s just a tip-off, people swapping ideas and stuff. It can’t be a bad thing. However, it does make the world a lot more transient, you pick things up and discard them a lot quicker than you would have done. That’s the way it is.

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