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Goat Girl: The Journey, Not The Destination

Tuesday, 25 June 2024 Written by Jeremy Blackmore

Photo: Holly Whitaker

Goat Girl’s ‘Below The Waste’ finds the south London band taking a voyage of discovery into the personal and political, where the journey itself is more important than the destination. Pieced together like a collage, the record explores different soundscapes and genres, transitioning effortlessly between expansive, industrial-tinged noise-rock, psychedelia, delicate folk experimentation, stark minimalism, candid, fragile ballads and engaging electronica.

It’s a ride inspired too by L’Rain’s genre-blending 2021 album ‘Fatigue’, itself a patchwork of styles that made use of field recordings just as Goat Girl do here. Sounds of laughter, rainfall and animal noises help create a world of their own, still rooted in their surroundings but gazing out into nature and the world beyond.

If the angst-fuelled post-punk of their 2018 debut isn’t quite in the rear-view mirror – the frenetic TCNC (Take Care, Not Crack) features ‘cathartic’ screaming – ‘Below The Waste’ reveals a band expanding their sonic palette, while opening up about some of the many personal challenges they have faced in recent years.

Now a three-piece following the departure of guitarist Ellie Rose Davies following her treatment for cancer, the band also address their emotions as they attempted to help drummer Rosy Jones through their struggle with addiction.

There’s a change of producer, too. While Dan Carey helmed their debut LP and sophomore release ‘On All Fours’, the band wanted to get more involved this time round and turned to John ‘Spud’ Murphy to co-produce, impressed by his work with Lankum. “It was finding someone that could help us bring this album to life and have more of the technical knowledge we don't necessarily possess,” Jones observes.

“We made these demos and John was like, ‘These are like the best demos I've ever heard!’ I think it's due to being from marginalised genders — I feel we need to do everything to the best degree we can. When we first met with Spud, he really seemed to get it. We just needed a safe pair of hands. He really felt like that.”

The trio bonded with Murphy through listening to lots of music together and finding they shared many similar reference points. “What first attracted us to working with Spud was the discog of stuff he's got his name to, bands like Percolator and Katie Kim were some standouts,” explains vocalist-guitarist Lottie Pendlebury.

“Just on meeting him, he just seemed like a very humble and patient person. I guess we are like that. We need that patience with each other to get to the place in which we're all really happy. We do operate as quite a democratic band in the way we write music. We don't really feel like something is finished until everyone's really happy, we try to avoid complete compromises and just figure it out until it gets to a point where everyone's expressing themselves in the best way.”

They tracked most of the instrumentation in a 10 day stint at Dublin’s Hellfire Studios, with further sessions at Damon Albarn’s Studio 13 in west London. Left to their own devices, the band captured all the backing vocals there, able to fully experiment with singing or shouting, inspired in part by their friends Leatherhead, whom Jones saw live shortly before the session.

“It was really fun because it was just us three,” they say. “There are lots of funny videos of us, screaming our heads of. It was quite a cathartic experience, for sure. Then we did some dates there with Spud. It’s a mad studio. It was like a playground in that they have these vaults and they're like, yeah, just go down, you can use that if you want. They've got original Gorillaz keyboards and stuff. It just felt like a sort of museum. Everything was so organised, but quite personal as well. It was a really, really cool space.”

The LP’s Lead single Ride Around takes its cues from minimalism, a genre Pendlebury particularly enjoys. It is particularly inspired by Phillip Glass and Deerhoof, playing with notes that sustain and then resolve. “I’m really attracted to music that's quite simple, and it's built upon and becomes this tapestry of visual paintings, almost,” she explains. “I think that's where that genre really fits in.”

“With Deerhoof, it feels really virtuosic, but also at the same time they're really not afraid of making it sound really lo-fi on purpose or just really sporadic,” she continues. “The rhythm’s really sporadically placed, and it's almost disjointed. It feels quite childish in a way, and almost like trying to revert to that age where creativity is just in everything you do and using the instrument as a tool for that. It’s why I find them a really fascinating band, because they just never really fail to surprise me.”

Bassist Holly Mullineaux agrees they wanted to embrace a pure, childlike style of writing. “I think we wanted to lean into that and not second guess or over complicate or feel like we needed to prove something. There are definitely elements of that within other songs on the record,” she says. “Motorway feels like a nursery rhyme-type song. When I think of Good Sad Happy Bad, the band that used to be Micachu and the Shapes, a lot of their lyricism is quite free and pure and genuine and special. We wanted to lean into those moments as well.”

The genesis of 'Below The Waste' dates back three years to the pandemic so, perhaps inevitably, that sense of isolation fed its way into the early writing. “It was almost the inspiration for a lot of ideas because it meant there was a lot of space granted to be able to explore different ways of writing,” Pendlebury says.

“So, I started journaling a lot and writing stories that were sort of stream of consciousness and finding common themes and ideas, but also I was reading a lot of dystopian literature and science fiction, and at that time it all felt quite real. So, this record has a lot of storytelling as well and it feels very visual.”

As a band who forged their sound around south London, and the Brixton Windmill in particular, the city is a constant character in their work, their debut shining a light on “the abnormalities and strange happenings” that exist on its streets. The irony of paying so much rent to live somewhere they couldn’t experience during lockdown is not lost on them, although, adds Pendlebury, London always feels like an odd fit with who they are as people.

“It's this fast-paced city, but we're invested in our local venues, and we don't really go to the city itself,” she says. “It doesn't really feel like we're even really living in London. We could be anywhere. But the communities we've built around us are the most important thing for us. We love nature and going to the seaside and swimming or going on hikes. So, it feels like a weird contradiction to live in the capital.”

Indeed, the video for Ride Around, directed and produced by filmmaking duo Luke Kulukundis and Mateo Villanueva Brandt, sets out to explore themes of ‘outsiderdom’ through both desire and fear of connection in London, the “strangeness of togetherness in the context of a drab city, mired in capitalist claustrophobia and absurd mundanity”.

Words Fell Out, meanwhile, sees Pendlebury reflecting on her relationship with Jones while her friend struggled with addiction, something Jones themself addresses on TCNC. “The song is about the helplessness felt amongst our friends as we attempted to nurture Rosy,” says Pendlebury. “[It was] a time that felt really hard to find words for. I wrote it to sort through the emotions that are pushed aside in the midst of dealing with a crisis. The opening line ‘I only want the best for you’ is the central theme, not only of the song but also our friendship.”

Returning to the theme of travel, the sparse, synth-driven Motorway, with echoes of Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’, is accompanied by a striking video directed by renowned choreographer and director Holly Blakey with dancers dressed in archival Vivienne Westwood pieces.

“It's interesting to think about travel or movement or journeys in a non-literal way as well,” Mullineaux says. “That's what happened in the video. It was Holly’s interpretation, because we didn't want a literal car driving down the road. We wanted it to be a bit broader and more open to interpretation. So, things were reflected in the lighting and playing with light and dark and shadows and headlights. 

“It's all quite cohesive because that links back to the artwork on the front cover with the car and the imagery and the press shots. We like to create these worlds around the record once we've made the songs and made sense of them. And I think naturally from the songs we’ve written, there was this overriding theme of journeys.”

For Pendlebury, there was a personal connection in the videos for Motorway and Words Fell Out, which both leaned into the dance world she grew up around. Indeed, the intimate black and white video for the latter was directed and shot by her sister, Molly Ann Pendlebury, and choreographed by her mother, Lauren Potter. “I think dance is kind of similar to music in that it's just creative and expressive and free,” she says. “It just feels like you can do so much with it — that's really suited to our music.”

Goat Girl’s ‘Below The Waste’ is out now through Rough Trade.

Goat Girl Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri June 28 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Lubber Fiend
Sat June 29 2024 - GLASGOW Queens Park Recreation ground
Thu November 21 2024 - LEEDS Leeds Irish Centre
Fri November 22 2024 - EDINBURGH La Belle Angele
Sat November 23 2024 - BIRMINGHAM Castle and Falcon
Wed November 27 2024 - SOUTHAMPTON Papillon
Thu November 28 2024 - LONDON Heaven

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