Interview: Goan Dogs
The profile of Bristol’s Goan Dogs has been rising rapidly over the last few months. The release of their latest EP 20 Minutes from the Border to positive reviews coupled with some impressive live shows and their first play on BBC 6 Music has meant that the city’s favourite desert rock outfit have been turning heads not only in the South West.
DrunkenWerewolf’s Benjamin Salt caught up with front man Luke St Leger, drummer Dan Lane and later bass player Bill Sherwood and guitarist Theo Mackie in the intimate surroundings of Cafe Kino in the Stokes Croft area of the city to talk the EP, their love of cinema and what the future holds in store for the five-piece.
So, first things first, why the name Goan Dogs?
Luke: In Goa, there are a lot of dogs. They’re very territorial and their interaction with each other is very interesting. It’s just a poignant thing for me, so we just thought why not.
Who came up with the name?
L: Me, I visited 4 or 5 years ago.
Is that how long you guys have been playing for?
L: No, no. As a band we’ve been together for about a year and a half.
Dan: Coming up to our second year.
For those that haven’t heard you, how would you describe your music?
L: Straight up desert rock. Think Josh Homme with a bit of Radiohead thrown in there as well.
D: Possibly some Fleet Foxes vocals for good measure.
Is there a main songwriter in the band or is it more a collaborative effort?
L: Yeah, I write all the songs and lyrics then relay them to the group. It does vary from song to song though. Sometimes I have a complete song, but then a lot of the time I just have an idea and then we jam on it as a band to get the finished article. It all transpires from playing the guitar and making a mistake, and then suddenly thinking, well actually, that sounds pretty cool. When I do that I record it, so then I have a huge list of mistakes which I then stick together. When you get two different things like that and try and force them together, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but when they do it’s a really interesting way of writing songs.
You released your latest EP 20 Minutes from the Border a few months back, tell us about that?
L: Well it was recorded in Christchurch studios in Clifton by The Insects (a local recording/producing duo), apart from the live track which was at the Croft. They – The Insects – mixed half of it and Euan Dickinson – Massive Attack’s sound engineer – mixed the other half.
D: It was all about using the best that Bristol has to offer.
How long did it take?
L: A long, long time. Not because we worked on it for two years, just because it was very hard to coordinate everything.
D: The actual time we spent doing it was very small, two weekends of recording time.
What’s the oldest track on the EP?
L: Probably “As the Train Rolls By”. It was one of the first songs I ever wrote actually, years and years and years ago. It’s had many different variations and will probably still evolve some more.
Are you happy with the reception it has received in the press?
D: Yeah, we got some lovely reviews, including yourselves, not as many as we would have liked but we haven’t got a massive label to put it out. Hopefully there’s time for some more reviews to roll out before our next release. Personally we’re very pleased with it. It’s the first time we’ve been able to get something up on iTunes that we can show people and say “this is Goan Dogs” you know, which on the back of we were able to send up to BBC 6 music and get our first play from Tom Robinson, so it’s all good.
When I reviewed the EP I noted how cohesive the songs were, almost like a film score. Is sound tracking a movie something you would be interested in?
Bill: You mean the post-modern Mariachi that is going through our minds all the time? Yeah!
D: Film Noir desert rock.
L: We live in the movies; it’s happening right now, this is it. But yeah we would definitely be up for it. Thing is, to get an opportunity like that people have got to know about us and they’ve got to like us enough to want us to do it. The more successful you get the bigger circles you roll in, so maybe in the future.
Leading from that, if you could have written any soundtrack to any film, what would it be?
D: That one that Johnny Greenwood did, There Will Be Blood. Amazing score, it’s all percussion.
Theo: I really liked the Zidane [a French ex-footballer] film that Mogwai did. I thought it was a great because it was just ninety minutes of Zidane running round the pitch so it was all about the music. It’s got crowd noise and chanting mixed in with big epic Mogwai sounds. That was really cool.
Lyrically your songs are very vivid in their imagery, often detailing specific moments in time, such as on ‘Gasoline’ for example. Is there a specific reason for this or is it just the way you write?
L: It’s just the way I write really. When I write it’s a very visual thing, if I don’t think of a picture I found it very boring. All the songs are from things I’ve heard or seen, normally people will say ‘oh this happened to me’ and it’s really cool so I just write about that. They’re all taken from direct experiences, just not necessarily my own.
Your live show has also been drawing a lot of attention for its use of unique stage lighting and visual stimuli. Tell us about that?
T: That’s Dan’s forte, he made our stage lights. Basically it’s flashing light bulbs in an old school disco system.
D: Yeah, I just but some backlit lights in it and they flash. They kick in and out with the music, it’s all DIY.
B: It adds an element of danger as well because you never know if or when we’re going to electrocute ourselves.
D: We really love playing with them because usually when you’re at a small venue they have a blue light and a red light that’s it. Rocking out with your own stage lighting adds another dimension to the show.
L: Especially because we’re a very visual band, when people come to watch us we don’t want to be boring, we want it to be theatrical even.
T: They’re quite important really; we end up feeling a bit naked without them. We’ve started putting projections up as well, like at our EP launch at the Cube.
D: It adds to that whole cinematic vibe. We had real cool Cadillac’s driving through the desert and stuff.
T: We’re trying to create a certain visual element that is going to spark people off without being too specific.
Are there any songs in particular that you enjoy playing live more than others or any ‘fan favourites’ that get the crowd going?
B: I think to play, “The Ripe” for me definitely.
D: It was one of those songs that never made it on the EP just because at the time we thought it wasn’t quite right.
L: It’s really mean and hard, great fun to play.
T: It terms of getting the crowd going, “Hotel Rooms” or maybe even “Hold Me Back” because it’s got that chorus that everyone can sing-a-long with.
What other Bristol acts are you digging at the moment? Anyone we should know about?
L: A band called Idles are good. Got that whole indie post-punk thing going on.
D: The Mother Beef, definitely worth checking out.
T: I like Scarlet Rascal and the Trainwreck, I thought they were shit-hot when we saw them.
D: We like Schnauser as well, they’re great and lovely people.
So what’s next for Goan Dogs then?
B: Organise a little tour.
L: Yeah nationwide. Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, places like that.
D: Ten dates, two weeks, that sort of thing. Hopefully early next year we can get that sorted. We want to get back in the studio as well; we have loads of songs we want to get down.
T: Old and new, we’ve definitely got over an albums worth of material stored up.
L: I would like to get someone who could distribute our music for us so we don’t have to find money all the time. We’re really good at playing shows and stuff but we do need a little help getting our music out there.
D: I think securing the festival scene in the summer is a main goal also, we’re desperately trying to find a lead into Glastonbury particularly.