WHEN THE Go! Team play Galway next month it may be the last time they grace a stage in this city, as the Brighton based collective are thinking of calling it a day by the end of the year.
Since they first emerged in 2004, The Go! Team have beguiled indie and dance fans with their mix of hip hop mash ups, funk instrumentals, and melodic, old skool indie rock; they have impressed critics with the albums Thunder, Lightning, Strike, Proof of Youth, and this year’s Rolling Blackouts; and won over festival crowds with their full on, high energy, live performances.
It seems a pity that a band who seem to have plenty left to say and do should decide to take this step.
“It’s a bit early to say, but possibly yes,” Go! Team founder and leader Ian Parton confirms to me during our Monday afternoon interview. “This may be our last year as a live band, but you can’t really keep away reunions, everyone’s doing them now. Saying things like that might seem like we are trying to create publicity but all of us in the band want to try other things.”
Perhaps it is a case of quitting while you are ahead, but at this stage Ian is not ruling too much in or too much out.
“Perhaps we will come back in some other form,” he says. “Perhaps I will go back to my old job and create music for a hobby, but there is still plenty of mileage in this idea of creating music that plays around with the conventions of genre. I still think we have only scratched the surface.”
Whatever happens next, and whatever Ian decides to do with and in music, for the time being, The Go! Team - Ian Parton, Ninja, Kaori Tsuchida, Jamie Bell, Sam Dook, Chi Fukami Taylor - remain an active entity, with shows to perform, music to play, and an album to promote. It is a long way from their inauspicious beginnings when they had a tour booked and no members.
“I had the band confirmed to play a gig in Sweden but there was only me in the band and I had a week to get it together,” Ian recalls. “I found Ninja on the internet. Jamie sent me an email asking ‘Do you need a bassist?’ Sam we found through Pickled Egg, a label I was on at the time, Chi was a friend of a friend, and Kaori asked to come along. We’re all different people. I didn’t want it to be just four mates from school who happened to like the same music.”
While Ian is the band leader and songwriter, the focal point has always been Ninja, the band’s charismatic and energetic rapper and singer.
“She is our PR officer, our motivational speaker, and dancer, as well as our MC,” says Ian. “Ninja is just a complete natural performer, she could turn her hand to anything she wanted.”
Get it together
The Go! Team’s music mixes shoegaze indie, grandstanding funk instrumentals, and hip hop mash ups, but it is Rolling Blackouts, released in January, which perfectly balances and mixes those disparate influences. It is also an album which reveals much about Ian himself, both his approach to music and his approach to life.
The album’s instrumentals would not sound out of place in a 1970s blaxploitation film and TV soundtracks have been a huge inspiration to Ian.
“I would be lying if I said I was not influenced by TV theme tunes when I was a kid,” he says. There was a piano in my dad’s house and I would try to play the theme from Degrassi Junior High. I had piano lessons but I hated it, but my ears pricked up when I heard a good theme tune. I was really into Knight Rider and was running around singing that all day.”
As well as TV theme tunes, melody is another key ingredient in Ian’s songwriting.
“I’m obsessed with melody,” he says. “I always have my phone with me to record an idea as soon as it comes into my head. I’m often singing into my phone so if I get an idea in the pub I might have to excuse myself and go outside and sing it in. When I listen to it later there can often be a lot of background noise so it can be hard to make out!”
The sheer eclecticism and genre hopping of The Go! Team embodies Ian’s vision of what music should be about. It should never be about ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s out’, or a set of orthodoxies to which a genre must rigidly adhere, instead music should be a neutral ground, where all kinds of people can come to exchange ideas and together express themselves.
“Ninja doesn’t like a lot of the music I like and I don’t like a lot of the music she likes, but that’s what makes us interesting,” says Ian. “We’re out to confuse the indie kids in a way. There are a lot of strict rules within the indie world and we try to f**k around with that.”
This is also why collaborations with other artists have always been a key part of The Go! Team.
“What I love about collaboration is that wildly different people can rub shoulders and you hear different accents, different cultures, and that prevents things from sounding to Go! Team-y. It adds more flavours to what we do.”
One of the most fruitful collaborations on the album was with Deerhoof lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki on the brilliant ‘Secretary Song’.
“Something about the song suggested Japan,” says Ian, “particularly the part with the sample in it and this whole world springs up around it - I imagined Tokyo in the 1960s with this secretary and her day, and because we are all Deerhoof fans and kind of know them we asked if she would sing and she said she would love to.”
The collaboration ethic also saw Ian employ a community brass band in preference to professional musicians to take on some of the funk instrumentals.
“I wanted to have people who weren’t professionals to give it more of a funky, out of tune, feel” he says. “I think that’s more exciting. When we were recording I would tell them ‘Louder! Louder!’ and get more out of them. I think trumpets are underused in modern music.”
Voice Yr Choice
These are dark times in Ireland and Britain. There is recession, politicians are more mistrusted than ever, the banks have imploded leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill for the crimes of the social elite. There is much to be despondent and angry about. Yet, The Go! Team’s music is a counter-balance with their life affirming sounds providing a necessary alternative.
“I have always been reluctant to describe our music as ‘happy music’ and I cringe when we are called a ‘party band’ as it has become vacuous and trashy,” says Ian, “but I believe the economy is only a fraction of what it means to live. There is still everything else - friends, nature, that has f**k all to do with the bankers.
“There is some loose idea around, that of ‘F**k ‘em!’ but I wouldn’t say we are living in a fairy world. The Flaming Lips have a similar outlook of ‘Hey things are s**t but f**k it!’ and I think that’s healthy.”
The Go! Team play The Black Box Theatre on Thursday March 3 as part of this year’s Heineken Green Spheres event in Galway. Tickets are free and can be got through HeinekenMusic.ie