A night of energy
The Go! Team took to the QMU stage at the beginning of February. the Brighton band have been energetically gracing us with a healthy mixture of indie-rock, old-school hip hop, and garage rock since the early 2000s. A constant revolving door of artist and sounds, the band is a living entity. The Glasgow Guardian had a chance to ask bandleader Ian Parton about their journey so far ahead of their QMU show in February.
Glasgow Guardian: How has your relationship with music changed since the beginning of your career?
Ian: I’ve always thought of The Go! Team as this utopian thing - almost as something that has nothing to do with me. Something I’m aspiring to and want to do justice. It’s not actually about my life but maybe how I wish the world was. So for me music is this never-ending thing where your best song is just out of reach.
Glasgow Guardian: You've said in past interviews that despite being involved in music from a young age, you were “never really down with the Brighton scene”. With comparisons to music moguls such as The Avalanches, where do you draw inspiration from, if not your direct environment?
Ian: There’s no one band I can point to and say they are the inspiration. Avalanches aren’t particularly one. I think labels like Ghostbox – that whole warped, half-remembered feel they create. It has a lot to do with feel for me – that moment when Motown went psychedelic, episodes of Soul Train; I’m imagining this record as a fucked up, technicolour community project or something. So it’s more about feeling than “I want to be like them”.
Glasgow Guardian: How do you compare the different experiences of studio recording and mixing to live performance – do you find the initial creation more thrilling or satisfying, or the concert?
Ian: They are such different things – writing for me is slow and painstaking, trying things next to each other, listening to thousands of records. There are occasional moments when things slot together and it all starts to feel like a song. But the live thing is almost like throwing all that away – it’s kinda the payoff for all that and you are blasting it away. It’s probably more rowdy than the records – double drumming and noisy guitars, jumping around. So yeah live is the payoff.
Glasgow Guardian: Has time apart between the band members added something to the creative output? Have individuals come back with different attitudes and expectations, and has this impacted on the music?
Ian: There was a time in between Rolling Blackouts and The Scene Between when it was uncertain whether we’d play as a live band again. I always thought I’d keep doing music but life stuff – babies, jobs and that – was making it difficult to operate as a band. So when we came back and started playing live about 5 months after The Scene Between was released it felt like starting over and felt new. It’s slightly more of a hobby band as many of the band have jobs and they use their holiday time to tour.
Glasgow Guardian: How personal do the songs feel? The musical collage of different samples, vocals, sounds and influences remains your brainchild despite a variety of external sourcing and influence. Does it still feel intimate? In this vein, do you consider your music “yours” or do you impart/let it go it completely once it’s released?
Ian: The Go! Team has never been about the singer songwriter idea of “hey let me tell you about my life” – not all music has to be about that. In fact that sort of earnestness and off-the-shelf emotion is kinda what I’m trying to get away from. It’s personal to me in that it’s all the stuff I’m in to melted down in a sound. So in some ways it has me all over it but in other ways I’m invisible in the process – which I don’t mind. For me the most important thing is putting something there that is original and deserves to exist.
Glasgow Guardian: Modern streaming is changing the way people listen to music. Is there a particular way you would like people to enjoy your music, do you imagine a particular setting (ie instead of picking and choosing individual songs, listening to the album as a whole, integral piece)? Do you think technology in general opens up creative avenues and opportunities, or does it hinder them and stifle creativity?
Ian: I haven’t got a massive problem with people not listening to complete albums in order – this is generation pick’n’mix. Everyone is curating everything. I like the idea of music becoming life shaped. Pretty much every situation is improved with music, it ramps everything up and makes life more filmic. So I like the idea of music being everywhere and I guess technology does that.
Glasgow Guardian: How do you respond to claims your music remains similar to your past albums? Or that it doesn’t engage/delve deep enough with some of the sample material you use?
Ian: I think when people say that they are normally being quite literal – this song has a trumpet on it and so does this one. I think bands having a unique angle is a big deal and a good thing, they should have their own distinct thing going on and be recognisable – there’s nothing worse than generic, interchangeable indie. I couldn’t have written lots of the songs on Semicircle during the Thunder Lightning Strike era. The emphasis is a lot more on singing and melody now. When people say it sounds the same I normally think “well show me someone else who sounds like this.”
Glasgow Guardian: Do you ever compare your own music to your previous work? Do you have your own “favourites”?
Ian: I don’t really listen back that much – this new record has got lots of differences. It has more space, uses instruments I’ve never used before, like steel drums and Kalimbas, and really ramps up the marching band side of the band working with big brass section. There’s a lot more emphasis on melody and singing. We play samples on a sample pad so it sounds more choppy and worked with a choir. In some ways I think the new album Semicircle is the best one.
Glasgow Guardian: Do you ever have any expectations from the crowd, on how you would like them to react? Do you feed off their energy, expect them to feed them yours, or is it a symbiotic relationship?
It’s just a surreal thing – because you write these songs in a vacuum. Not really thinking about live or the audience. So it’s an amazing thing when it becomes this two-way thing. You can put faces to the people who listen to it. I’m still not sure exactly who Go! Team fans are – we have teenage girls, old punks, Northern soul fans... The main thing I’m after from a gig is ACTION.
And action is certainly what the Go! Team gave the crowd at their QMU gig. Kicking off with Flashlight Live, their performance is just as you would expect: loud, energetic and entertaining. The song, of 2007’s Proof of Youth album, launches them into the set with a strong start. They followed this with one of their latest singles, Mayday: a medley of Morse code, rolling guitar twangs and rousing shouts, a song that has been dancing up and down the radio stations since its release. Rewind from the present day back to their first album, to Ladyflash - a welcome return to early favourites.
The Answer’s No – Now What’s The Question exposes one of the show’s main weaknesses in terms of sound: unfortunately Angela Won-Yin Mak’s vocals do not carry enough to pack the punch the music and performance need. Through the organised chaos that reigns across the rest of the stage, the singer gets drowned out among the melodic ruckus. This stands out perhaps more so next to Ninja’s rather powerful stage presence, tunefully belting out various songs and dancing across the stage alongside the two sets of drums. The two team up to initiate Get It Together with a flute ditty, and while it’s an intro that plays into the whole high school image and air they usually thrive in, it comes across slightly forced.
With Semicircle Song, Ninja begins to get the crowd more involved: a handful of people shout their star sign into the microphone, and it’s a small but invigorating act that renders the show a little more intimate. The crowd itself is an indiscriminate amalgam of ages and styles, and while it takes a little longer than expected for everyone to join in, these characteristics themselves bear no impact on whether they dance, jump and/or sing along.
The members of The Go! Team cannot really be faulted for their dynamic performance, staying active and moving throughout the whole show, and Parton hops around with remarkable consistency. Everyone’s A V.I.P. To Someone marks the beginning of the end, in an odd – yet undoubtedly successful – composition of country (provided by Parton’s harmonica and a banjo), strings and pop that descends into a full-blown anthemic crescendo that has everyone waving their arms to the skies.
While rhythmically bobbing along until this point, it isn’t until Huddle Formation and the final All The Way Live that gets everyone really vaulting around excitedly. While Ninja gets them all to dance, it is this last song that really sends the crowd into a hopping, sweaty frenzy; an atmosphere they don’t quite manage to recapture in their encore. Nevertheless, She’s Got Guns and The Power Is On are strong songs to finish on, and the end of the show leaves no one leaving disappointed. Quite the opposite, everyone is buzzing: the vitality and atmosphere brought by the band lends itself the music in an electrifying way. It’s an intensity that only the live version really can translate and release to its full potential.