Ian Parton, the man behind The Go! Team, talks to Cormac Duffy about duetting with Bethany Cosentino and the problem with Lady Gaga
Speaking to o-two, Ian Parton, the ideas man, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader of sorts for English indie sextet The Go! Team, inadvertently describes his band’s work concisely. “It’s the kind of music that couldn’t have existed in any other decade.” This line taps into an essence that makes The Go! Team special.
He talks about the unique vantage point musicians have in a time when any piece of music is only a click away. “We’re at this point in time where you can look over music history and cherry pick your favourite things from across the decades.” And no one cherry picks like The Go! Team.
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief introduction. Parton began the group in university as a solo project, but it soon became a full band. Thunder, Lightning, Strike and Proof of Youth, the band’s first two albums, were met with acclaim from critics and fans. The music has an immediate impact on the listener, but is tricky to articulate.
Songs are built from marching band brass, Sonic Youth-style guitar noise and a 60s pop sensibility, amongst other influences. Tracks are littered with small samples from sources as diverse as TV themes, cult movies and lost pop songs. Frontwoman Ninja’s brilliant rapping is backed up by chants that could be (and sometimes were) straight out of a schoolyard or pep rally (the song ‘The Huddle Formation’ was even warm-up music for a cheerleading squad in One Tree Hill). In practice, it’s just great pop that’s catchy, danceable and completely enjoyable.
Speaking to Parton before the release of the new album Rolling Blackouts, o-two asks a fairly standard music journalist question. Where did the album name come from? He pauses, thinking. “I don’t know!” he says with a laugh. “I just have books full of slogans. Whenever anyone says anything good, I write it down.”
Quite like his music then, building up a collection of sounds, styles and samples as he encounters them? He agrees. “The first thing I did when I made this record was listen to records all day, thousands and thousands of them.” He describes searching for snippets worth keeping, and adding them to a lengthy database of samples. For him, it’s about salvaging sounds that others have forgotten. It’s the same ideal The Avalanches and DJ Shadow have successfully adopted in the past.
He emphasises that melody and songwriting are the album’s true cornerstones. Writing with a traditional approach, the aim was “slightly strange little pop songs with unobvious melodies”. Then he calls the album “more eclectic” than the previous two. This is like hearing Kanye West’s new lyrics will be less humble.
To support this claim, psychedelic hip-hop, country, Ennio Morricone and My Bloody Valentine white noise are all promised to feature. He calls it “a bit all over the shop,” a definite understatement.
In addition, like so many others before and no doubt after them, the band have fallen victim to music piracy. “It leaked. You can pick it up from loads of places,” he informs me with an odd chuckle. It’s difficult to judge whether he’s bothered by the leak, or if he just feels that it’s out of his control.
‘T.O.R.N.A.D.O’ is one of these tracks that have hit the internet – an energetic rap number, propelled by a dramatic brass band backing. ‘Buy Nothing Day’ is a duet with indie darling Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, recorded back in late 2009, and “pre-Best Coast hype” as Parton puts it.
He recalls looking for a vocalist to bring out the song’s “California girls in the garage” vibe. “The moment I heard her voice, I knew she’d be perfect.” He made the right choice. It’s a power-pop gem that benefits from the kind of focus and ambition that Best Coast can lack at times.
The songs old-school feel brings us full circle to the idea of taking cues from pop of the past. “I’m more interested in 60s than modern pop,” he admits. “It has a lot more warmth than this charmless Lady Gaga toss.” What is it that puts him off? “It’s just Europop, isn’t it? The image is trying to get you off the scent. If you just listen to the music you realise how fucking dull it is.”
On sampling, he criticises the P Diddy variety of sampling, that “hip-hop mainstream thing where you just hijack someone else’s idea. It’s more like being an entrepreneur, you’re seeing a gap in the market and you’re just trying to nail it before anyone else does.” Does he see any hope in mainstream pop music? “Beyoncé,” he argues. “‘Crazy in Love’, that’s the classic. It’s just a kick-ass song.”
With his band’s penchant for brass, o-two suggests they try a cover. He doesn’t think so. “We’d just fuck it up, and make it less shiny.” Maybe they would. However, having heard the fresh ways they reinvent the music they come in contact with, I’d still love to see them try.
The Go! Team’s third album Rolling Blackouts is released on January 31st by Memphis Industries. They will be performing at The Academy in Dublin on the March 5th.