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Forget The Barriers: Goat Girl And The Power of Subverting Expectations

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

Photo: Holly Whitaker

Expectations are constantly being placed on Goat Girl, and they just keep quietly subverting them. The band were hyped by London’s music press before they had released their debut single, while a narrative grew around them as a political garage-rock band that was part of a growing scene in south London. They then signed to Rough Trade, and 18 months later their self-titled debut album was released. Here they finally have an opportunity to let the music speak for itself.

“I think it feels very free and flowing,” says Ellie, the band’s guitarist. “We thought about the tracklisting and the order of the songs quite a bit.” The LP is full of strange, unnerving sounds: country and blues guitar melodies, folkish violins and Lynchian synths. They’re teamed with frontwoman Clottie’s abrasive lyrics. “I really want to smash your head in,” she sings on Creep. It’s definitely not what you might expect from your average garage-rock band.

Goat Girl worked with Dan Carey on the LP, and the producer managed to capture the band’s raw energy by recording the tracks live. “He suggested that we record in groups of three or four songs,” Ellie explains. “And we’d go through a set without stopping. The natural breaks in the album are where those sets end.

“We could only record that set of songs twice, and we had to pick which take we wanted to use. It was actually really good to have limitations. It also means that there are mistakes. In the first track I play bum notes but that was the best of the two takes, so you’ve got to put your ego behind you and see it as a whole thing rather than what you are doing, which I think is really good.”

The recording studio isn’t the only place that Goat Girl defy the rules - that attitude extends to their live shows. “Maybe how we are on stage is a bit different to how a lot of bands that make similar music to us are,” Ellie says, prior to a US tour opening for Parquet Courts.

“I think what’s a bit different about us is that when we perform we don’t go mad like a lot of rock or indie bands do. We’ve never really felt comfortable throwing ourselves about on stage. I feel like that’s quite a male thing to do anyway. It’s not really in our nature.”

Goat Girl got a reputation for being political band early on, thanks in part to their debut track Scum. “I honestly do think that someone spiked their drinks,” runs the opening line. “How can an entire country be so fucking thick?”

“We were making angry music at the time because we were teenagers and that was what teenagers do,” Ellie says. “The political stuff that was going on at the time, with tuition fees and the Tories, there was something to be angry about. I think teenagers are always going to be angry but I think if there is a focal point then it’s not a bad thing to direct your anger in some kind of way to do good.”

Goat Girl don’t really have any kind of set agenda, though. It’s more that they are writing songs about their own lives and those they see around them. That approach sometimes results in them making a statement. Creep is based on a real incident where one of the band was leered at on a train, while The Man puts a spin on the male gaze. Burn The Stake, meanwhile, takes an aim at the rich elite that surround them on London’s streets.

They became associated with other bands coming out of the city, particularly those who frequented the Windmill in Brixton. “I think to some extent it’s a fashion thing. All things go in waves,” Ellie says. “We just really wanted to play at the Windmill, because our idols we playing there, like MEATRAFFLE and Fat White Family and Primordial SOUP.

“We just admired the feel of the venue, and the sense of community. It’s not like a place where people come off stage and they’re rude or don’t talk to you because they think that they are better than that. It’s a very communal thing. Everyone sits in the garden and drinks and smokes and chats.”

Goat Girl are still only in their early 20s, but they’ve been writing these songs for a long time. Ellie formed the band when she was a teenager, along with Clottie and Naima, with Rosy joining them later. She speaks of a childhood spent watching folk acts in pubs and going to Green Man festival with her dad.

Recently the band played Wales Goes Pop, a small, family-friendly festival in Cardiff. After the show they were surrounded by young girls who wanted to meet them. “That was really sweet,” Ellie says. “They were so excited by the whole thing. They all played instruments as well. Some played guitar, some of them played drums. It was a nice feeling.

“I know when I was younger I didn’t really have that, going to see live musicians that were powerful on stage and female. Normally we can’t play in front of younger people because there is a curfew, which is a real shame because I have two little sisters and they love seeing us play live. But they’ve only seen us play, like, twice because they can’t come to the gigs. It’s kind of weird when people put on under age shows, because it has this thing attached to it. It shouldn’t be like an under age show, it should be for all ages.”

It’s not that they set out to be deliberately break barriers, it’s more that they didn’t notice the barriers in the first place. That a band like Goat Girl can currently exist is testament to all the female musicians that paved the way. Get together with your friends, play your favourite music venue, get signed by an indie label with a rich history, and make a sexy, violent, angry, dirty, weird album. Or don’t. Just do whatever feels good to you.

'Goat Girl' is out now on Rough Trade.

Goat Girl Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu September 06 2018 - BRIGHTON Haunt
Fri September 07 2018 - LEICESTER Cookie
Sat September 08 2018 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Sat October 20 2018 - STOKE Sugarmill
Mon October 22 2018 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Tue October 23 2018 - MANCHESTER Gorilla
Thu October 25 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
Fri October 26 2018 - GLASGOW Stereo
Sat October 27 2018 - YORK Fulford Arms
Mon October 29 2018 - NORWICH Norwich Arts Centre
Tue October 30 2018 - BRISTOL Thekla
Wed October 31 2018 - PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms
Fri November 02 2018 - LONDON KOKO

Click here to compare & buy Goat Girl Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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