Australia’s favourite folk-punkers THE GO SET are getting ready to bring their huge one-arm-around-your-mate-and-the-other-in-the-air sing-alongs down the East Coast and to Adelaide on their ‘In The Streets’ Australian tour this April. As well as pulling from their impressive back catalogue, THE GO SET will be performing songs from their acclaimed 2015 release Rolling Sound, including the brand new title-track single, the video of which was released over the weekend.
You guys are no newcomers to the music scene, you have been making music since 2002. Is there anything different about releasing a new album now than it was back then?
Everything! yeah look there is a lot different, we talk about this a lot, We used to have to call record stores before we toured to make sure they had our record in stock. We would do in-store performances as a record store was a vehicle for helping promote the release. Back in 2002 – 3 we didn’t do vinyl, as vinyl disappeared momentarily and digital wasn’t in yet.
The release aspect of putting a record out was completely different. I guess the other thing to facilitate an international release you really need a pretty strong middleman and we don’t really need that as much any more. The other major difference with the release itself is that radio seem to be first and foremost worldwide where as now radio only seems to be only in Australia. That is my opinion, a lot of people in this country rely on listening to Triple J before they will buy it. In Europe, people seeking out different sorts of music which is why we probably have more success in Europe than in Australia. It is no coincident that we go back there every year. Because at the end of the day one of the things is that the industry is so unfair. It It is not something that you can invest your whole heart and soul in. The art form, sure but the industry is so unfair and it is monopolized. We go back to Europe because we feel that there is a real reward for our effort. It does not transpire in Australia. It is dominated by a few media sources and kids are followers rather than finders especially if someone endorses it. We can grow organically for example we can go back to the same club in Germany and Czech Republic and play to full houses and they are appreciative of us.
Out of interest, how many of the band have an Irish or Scottish background, seeing the Mandolin is used and you are classes as Celtic punk? I am Irish.
3. Myself, the bass player and the Bag piper. The 3 of us do and two of us have very different backgrounds. One is from a big Italian family and he is interesting music makes us sound a little bit different. He is into jazz, soul and funk which is completely different from what we do so when he plays drums with us he brings a bit of that sort of vibe. He is really into that Detroit stuff, into garage rock.
Your ‘In the Streets’ tour is fast approaching, and your tour is described as “THE GO SET are getting ready to bring their huge one-arm-around-your-mate-and-the-other-in-the-air sing-alongs”, is that what you think your shows are like? Sounds great!
Yes, I think so. It is one of those things like we are deliberately doing small rooms so the people that come are really engaged and people know all the words to all the different songs and know other people from coming before and it feels like be extended family. People who are into our band are really into our band, it is just not thousands of them. So we have picked smaller venues so touch wood they will be full. That should create that sort of vibe. One if the things I love is that extended family feel and the feeling of belonging that I got from music when I started to listen to bands. I love that no matter what happens, our fans care about the music, the words and I guess the interpersonal relationship in my opinion. We have created something special amongst a small group of people.
Your set list for this tour, will that be a huge mix of old and new? I always think the more album’s a band has released the harder it would be to sit down and compile a set list.
I think that if there is such a thing most bands will write their best of. Two or three songs off each album that go down well live. Some of our songs I’d love to play live we can’t get the feel right. We tend to write a set list that is pretty upbeat and pretty punk rock. Then we leave a lot of our sentimental acoustic stuff for the albums. So we mix it up and we won’t play the whole new album, some bands do that, we make sure that we have a fairly equal spread of the whole. What is difficult however is when you have a huge amount of back catalogues it is hard to fit all the songs you want to play in an hour. So we have crept out to nearly an hour and a half now because we think… oh we can’t leave that out and we have to include this song and it just gets more and more and the next thing you know, you have 25 songs. So that is probably the biggest challenge, to fit in the songs go across live and to choose the right ones.
The artwork for the tour poster is interesting. It took me a while to see the city image
in the toxic fumes coming from the gutter. I saw that kilt straight away. Is there a particular meaning to the artwork?
Actually, no there is not. However a lot of people have commented on it. One of the things that I think we have not done well in this band is that a lot of other bands are really good at branding and marketing and we have not. This is something that I’ve only learnt about in the last few years. There are a lot of bands in our genre that have got really being on the back of their artwork. They make the best T-shirts, and the best posters and some of the music is complete shite. It is like me being in a glass house throwing stones as people would say that about our music. Some of it is based and really well marketed but the music is bad. We are a bunch of muso’s and we want to be all about the music. Well that is all well and good except you can’t get bigger with crap artwork. Recently we hired this young guy, James, and told him to make a poster that you think embodies the band and that is what he came up with. I thought that was really interesting because if we had of come up with something it would have been completely different. A lot of people commented on it saying that it was all pretty street punk for us. I thought maybe that is not a bad thing. It is interesting because artwork can be perceived as different in different regions. For example the punk rock art work would suit us in Germany but here we play a mixture of folk festivals so the logo we might go with would be different. We have used this logo on tees and when we posted it on instagram we got comments from people overseas immediately wanting to know how they could buy them. I thought that was really interesting as we have not had that much demand for tees but some bands make a lot of money from tees.
Your music video for ‘Rolling Sound’ is awesome! I love it! Going with the 70’s style. I recognise a few landmarks, Flinders street, Grafffti lane, is that St Kilda beach?
Yes some of it is and some of it was Point Lonsdale. We literally just had a bunch of kids that we knew and they all ride skate boards and we just followed them around with a Super 8. We just captured them, as the song is about growing up and having a boyfriend or girlfriend at 14. It is just a very simple concept and we wanted to have a music video that matched.
How was your St Patricks Day? Headlining the Dan O’Connell Hotel would have been crazy I can imagine, everyone loves to celebrate St Paddy’s Day!
It was alright. (not very enthusiastic answer) St Patrick’s Day is a funny one because traditionally it is a good day for drinking. When you are doing a show in front of a lot of people that is a free entry gig you can get a large amount of people there who are not necessarily fans of our music as much as fans of drinking. By 10 o’clock they are pretty messy so it is fun but when you are not on the sauce yourself it is probably not as fun.
‘Rolling Sound’, the album also came with a DVD that included the struggle of staying independent, the highs and lows of touring, the writing process and the hardship experienced throughout. You have so many tours under your belt and have played with some great bands, is the one highlight that you can tell us?
I reckon the highlight is a handful of moments where you feel like where everything you have done has contributed to this point. Sometimes in a DIY band those moments are really apparent and they just dawn on you at the time. A couple of times we have walked on stage at a festival in Europe and we are on the main stage in a great slot and a lot of people knew the music, I know that has happened twice in the last couple of years and I have thought to myself every show we have done up to this point has contributed to having the opportunity to play music in front of these people. Those moments are really awakening and there is something about it, that is really rewarding.
Is there a good story that you can share that was a disaster and you can laugh about it now and not then?
Yeah I mean we put this in the doco a lot. We have been really resilient as a band, I remember there were nights when the band started and going on a trip to the US without any money. Not being able to pay for accommodation we didn’t realize that it was going to be -20. We were all wrapped up in sleeping bags and even the backdrop for the band around us and slept in this backroom like under the stage area. It was fucking horrible! There are a lot of occasions like that and any small mercy that you get just makes it so much sweeter. We have had our band robbed before and you name it it has happened! But that has made us more resilient and stronger. We are certainly not a band that has had one difficulty and quit, we stuck at it.
Your writing process is that a whole band approach or more of an individual process?
I write the songs but what happens is I bring the songs to the band, which are basically written on an acoustic guitar and I play them to the band and then they effectively arrange them.
Has there ever been a time that you have rocked up thinking you have a really good song and you play it to them and I think that is crap?
Yeah heaps of times. (both laughing)
I actually these days, I write a lot of half songs, I am constantly distracted and a little aloof, one of the big challenges in my life is I am constantly searching for innovative ideas for the band. I am under no illusion that I’m going to be a millionaire because that is not my motivation, my motivation is I just want to be sustainably creative.
I have decided to only take songs to the Go Set guys that are Go Set songs and keep the ones that are not for a solo project. I find it rather suffocating as an artist who only write one style and that it the Go Set style, I like listening to The Smiths and Joy Division (we then had a chat about how much I loved those bands) You can’t listen to the same music all your life, I have 100 influences, and if I try and put horns on a Go Set song people get upset and say ‘What the Fuck are you doing? I went to buy your record as I knew you sound and you ruined it” That is great for them to pigeonhole their acts but I don’t want to be a Dropkick Murphy’s kind of band as my only outlet.
I am trying to juggle things in my head against business and other musical influences and to write specifically for this project sometimes.
Well I hope to see you at your Melbourne show.
Look forward to meeting you.
Thanks Justin, hope the tour goes well.
Headroom Agency and Four | Four present
THE GO SET ‘In The Streets’ tour – April 2016
Tickets are on sale now via thegoset.com/events
The Go Set are:
Justin Keenan (vocals, guitar); Ago Soldati (drums); Lachlan McSwain (bagpipes, tin
whistle); Evan Young (bass); Ben Fraser (guitar, vocals, mandolin); Tom Collins (guitar,
mandolin, double bass)