After a delay while she was getting to New Cross on the train, Rosy Bones had reached the pub by the time I got hold of her late on Tuesday afternoon, visiting friends after a day of ‘admin’ and a visit to the Rough Trade offices with fellow Goat Girl bandmates Clottie Cream (vocals/guitar), L.E.D (guitar), and Naima Jelly (bass).
I’m not convinced those names will appear on the 2021 census, but it’s all I have for now.
Rosy, the band’s drummer, is based in Lewisham but grew up in South-West London, while her bandmates gravitate from East London, getting to know her via a happening South London music scene, ‘getting integrated into this thing’.
“We all went to the same gigs and like the same things. That’s how I met them, really.”
Which bands were they watching back then?
“Erm … Warmduscher, Meatraffle … Trashmouth Records’ nights every so often. There’s always a gig to go to.”
That takes me back to formative nights listening to John Peel in the ’80s, those not in the know always slightly amused or bemused by the odd names of bands we craved back then. Now, 30 or so years on, it seems that I’m the clueless one. Have I become that bloke?
The Windmill in Brixton was key to that whole scene, Rosy told me, and she’d soon joined the band that became Goat Girl, practising with them, with gigs around Peckham and New Cross too.
My excuse for speaking to her was an upcoming Manchester Gorilla date (Tuesday, October 23rd) on the band’s autumn UK tour. And it wasn’t so long ago, I pointed out, that they were in nearby Salford for Sounds from the Other City.
”That was crazy. We had quite a fun day, although I’d twisted my ankle a couple of months before, then fell and re-twisted it. It was kind of mad. We didn’t expect the crowd we had. We were on really late, the only thing still on, and everyone seemed really drunk. It was a good crowd. Yeah, I really liked that festival.”
I’m not suggesting she’s accident prone, but the previous month Goat Girl had to postpone a date in Sheffield after an accident on a ferry from Dublin when Rosy had boiling water poured over the left side of my body. Ouch. Anyway, talking of festivals, how was Portmeirion and their No.6 appearance?
“Oh yeah, that was alright but a bit horrible with the weather, really rainy and muddy. It was all good, but we did a few gigs before that around the UK, and were a bit tired, with a lot of waiting around.”
What other festivals or other appearances stand out from this year?
“I think Green Man was probably the highlight. We didn’t play that well, but the crowd was really good. Loads of people were there, including friends. Another big moment was this festival in Zurich, with Kendrick Lamar playing. That was amazing. There was a storm as soon as he’d finished. The clouds opened, with massive thunder and lightning. We ran out into the heaviest rain ever, had a little rain-dance.”
I was reminding myself of your appearance on BBC 2’s Later with Jools Holland this summer too, sharing a bill with Niles Rodgers’ Chic, former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, and Chas and Dave, one of their very final appearances together.
“I was very excited to see Chic, and Chas & Dave … RIP Chas! Actually, I’m a bit worried we’re cursed, having also appeared on the same bill as Mark E Smith in some of his last shows.”
Those were at The Garage and the 100 Club in early May, Goat Girl chosen by the legendary front-man for what turned out to be The Fall’s final London gigs.
And it’s been a manic year for the girls, still in their early 20s, with lots going on, not least the release of their self-titled debut album, with lots of rightful acclaim following. Is it nice to be appreciated, or is there concern that the music press traditionally build bands up only to knock them down later? Everyone seems to be raving about you at the moment.
“Well, it’s nice that people are listening. We’re not going to sacrifice anything though. It will always be about the music we want to make, whether people like it or not. And we’re all pretty level-headed.”
Was there a lightbulb moment when you were out watching bands, realising you could do this? And was there a manifesto for success and where you could get to?
“No, we’ve never really had any sort of plan. For some, it works to have a manifesto. But for us, if it works … well, we try not to over-think it.”
The first single, Country Sleaze, seemed to light the way for you, waking people up to who you were and somewhat setting out your stall. Was there a good feeling putting those early songs together?
“I guess so. I kind of think we’ve only recently realised that we are kind of good! We never really thought of ourselves as that. We just thought, ‘Let’s enjoy it, y’know.’ If we hadn’t had the label around us, we’d still be making music, although I don’t know if we’d have released anything.”
That’s certainly seems to be one of their strengths. There’s a raw feel to the band, one that shows on their recorded product so far.
When I hear Goat Girl, I hear the likes of PJ Harvey, but also Nick Cave, and even Blur’s Graham Coxon’s solo material. You’ll see plenty of others touted as influences. But who were the bands Rosy heard that inspired her to have a crack at all this?
“I think we were all influenced by different music we were listening to when we were growing up, including female pop stars like Rihanna and Gwen Stefani.”
That’s more down the pop line than I expected. But in the week Wolf Alice secured the Mercury Prize, there does seem to be a resurgence of interest in critical circles for female-fronted guitar bands too.
“Maybe, but I always find that kind of thing rigged, and just think good music should be appreciated (regardless of awards).”
Rosy started playing drums at the age of 12, having stalled with early piano and guitar lessons, while ‘the drums made sense’. She is learning and enjoying piano now though, and you’ll see her tinkering away for an filmed acoustic stroll through album track ‘Viper Fish’ for BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley show recently.
“That was a lot of fun! And it’s nice to be able to stretch out the songs.”
I’m reading Robert Forster’s Grant and I at the moment, a great read from a fellow performer with a Rough Trade past, in his days with The Go-Betweens. He talks about the band only starting to finally get a wage, and we’re talking £50 a week, after a few albums and perceived success in the late ‘80s. Is that how it is for you 30 years on?
“I think there’s still money in it for the big cheeses. We get money to live off, because we can’t really have jobs, but it’s kind of like fake money really. And I don’t think there’s much in it for bands anymore. There’s a threshold.”
Back to the LP, and it’s 19 tracks and 40 minutes altogether, certainly value for money. Do you think you’ve captured the true live Goat Girl experience on there?
“Yeah, definitely. We wanted it to have that live feel … and there’s a few mistakes in there as well!”
Well, that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. I also love the feel of the A Hard Day’s Night-like promo video for ‘The Man’. Where was that filmed?
“In and around London, with some of it around Borough Market. We spent around two days filming that. Yeah, that was fun.”
What happens next, after this tour? Are you on with the next record? Or is it like with Joe Strummer’s shocked, ‘What do you mean, ‘second album’?’ when questioned after basking in the glory of The Clash’s self-titled debut LP?
“I think we’re going to go on a hiatus, focus on writing some new bangers! We haven’t really had the time, and I think we want to do some sort of charity work and get back to some sort of reality and be able to write songs. Because we’ve used them all up now!”
And if you weren’t doing all this now, or at least if no record company came calling, what would you be up to instead?
“It was always like a big passion, but we’re also really passionate about animals, so I think I’d want to be sort of helping turtles get into the sea or something, doing some sort of humanitarian thing … or travelling … working and saving money to go travelling.”
For Goat Girl’s autumn tour details, head here. You can also keep in touch with the band via their website, and Facebook and Instagram pages.
Pingback: Looking back at 2018. Part two – the second six months | writewyattuk