Interview Zoey Van Goey: Where The Literary And Lyrical Collide.

Michael John McCarthy chats to DIY about the Glasgow-based band’s recent developments.

With the recent release of the band’s second album ‘Propeller Versus Wings’, Zoey Van Goey’s Michael John McCarthy talk us through their recent line-up additions, how Glasgow became the epicenter of their multicultural musical backgrounds and why they may resort to writing songs for Kylie Minogue and Justin Bieber…

What is the story behind Zoey Van Goey? You have English, Canadian and Irish backgrounds, so how did Glasgow become a central hub for your musical output?
The three original members (Matt, Kim and I) all came here to study initially. I met Kim in my first week at Glasgow Uni. A year and a half later I was introduced to Matt by a mutual friend who knew I was looking to start a band with a drummer. Matt and I jammed a little then asked Kim to join out of a desire to expand our capabilities beyond tuneless two-man country-swing covers of 80s electropop classics.

You’ve just released your second album ‘Propeller Versus Wings’. How have reactions been to the new material?
Well, we tested out all the album material live in advance of the recording sessions, at a couple of small Sunday matinee gigs at the Captain’s Rest, Glasgow. Not everything we played at those gigs made the cut but everything that did was well received. Several songs were transformed as a result of really constructive feedback from friends. ‘You Told The Drunks I Knew Karate’ for example ended up with an entire extra verse.

How do the songs and ambience differ from your debut ‘The Cage Was Unlocked All Along’?
I think ‘Propeller’ is a more confident sounding record, due in large part to the addition of Adam as a permanent bass player. Having a rhythm section working on the songs right from the get-go placed more of an emphasis on the dynamics, even on gentler numbers like ‘Extremities’. As a result there are a lot more live-in-studio guitar-bass-drums takes on ‘Propeller’. Whereas the first album, in retrospect, was more about overdubbing figures and textures, recording sounds layer on layer.

You were involved with the National Theatre of Scotland and their stage production of ‘Dolls’ last year. How did that come about?
I do a lot of freelance composition and recording for theatre. The director and producer of Dolls, made contact via the National Theatre of Scotland, with whom I had just started working on another project. They were interested in the kind of veracity they might achieve through working with an actual band on a plot-line that involved a girl-singer named Mimi being plucked from indie obscurity and made over into a kind of tweenie pop starlet. Kim did a fine job of taking on the performative aspects of that role, whilst Matt and I collaborated with composer on underscoring the storyline. Amongst other things we were tasked with writing a convincing Europop tune for Kim to lip sync to live - it’s called ‘I.O.U.’. If things get desperate, I still think it could be worth pitching to Kylie. Or Justin Bieber. Though I suspect I’m alone on that one.

You received Scottish Arts Council funding towards your first album. How do you feel releasing your music knowing that a government arts body has funded and fully supports the project?
On a very practical level, relieved! Without the SAC funding we could’ve gone another year or more before being able to afford decent studio time. There’s more than one way to record an album, of course, but for that particular bunch of songs, we had strongly developed ideas that could’ve only been done justice in a studio like Chem 19, with the engineering ingenuity of Paul and Jamie Savage. There’s a huge amount of competition for the recording fund – we’d already been knocked back once before – so in the main we were thankful that our perseverance had paid off. And things have turned out well, so far at least! Having been given the kickstart for album number one, we were able to earn enough from sales and shows to finance the second ourselves.

Your first single ‘Foxtrot Vandals’ was produced by Stuart Murdoch and your first full-length was produced by Paul Savage. How did these high-profile partnerships come about and is keeping the Scottish identity of your music an important part of your recording process?
I first met Stuart as a friend of a friend. He came to see one of our early shows, and shortly thereafter asked us to play a gig for the youth group he helps to run. When we were preparing to record our first single we cheekily asked him how he would feel about producing it and were surprised when he actually said yes. He even showed up on crutches for the mixing session having sustained a football injury. As for Paul, we initially did some recording with his brother Jamie as part of his apprenticeship at Chem 19. Being fans of Paul’s work, both as an engineer and as a member of The Delgados, it seemed like a logical move to ask him to helm the first album sessions. He is a remarkably calm man in the centre of what can sometimes be a very pressured environment, and is possessed of an astonishing pair of ears. These attributes are just about enough to make up for the disturbing amount of affection he has professed for several Genesis albums.

You’ve just finished a UK tour. How did it go?
Tour is maybe exaggerating it a bit. We played three cities beginning with L in a weekend. All the shows went well – Liverpool saw us headlining a seven band bill on a Saturday night, which was on the more raucous side of the shows we’ve played, lots of fun. London consisted of a very lovely, very attentive listening audience at The Slaughtered Lamb – any talking during songs being done mostly by noisy Corkonians (Cork is my home county in Ireland). And Leeds found us playing very quietly at a venue dealing with freshly imposed noise restrictions, again in front of a lovely, suitably candlelit audience.

Any touring/festival plans for the rest of the year?
We’re currently in the process of booking what we hope will be a more extensive run of UK shows in late May/early June. It will probably culminate with a festival slot at Doune Castle, where Monty Python filmed the Holy Grail! And we’re in the final stages of confirming a handful of European support dates ahead of that – more details forthcoming soon, fingers crossed.

‘Propeller Versus Wings’ is out now.

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