A loose assembly of musicians, unleashing a mixture of northern soul, teen choirs, funk and grunge – on paper The Go! Team could be chaotic under any other stewardship. But Ian Parton knows exactly how disparate sonics can be formed into something jubilant.
Since the band’s stunning 2004 debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, he’s crate-dug through the pop music zeitgeist to find moments which inspire and excite him. Now, with the release of SEMICIRCLES last month, he’s again redefining expectations of this unique outfit and subtly indulging his marching band obsession. “It’s grander in its scale, pushing the sound and what the possibilities are.
We played around, layering up loads of brass and using beaters on drums to get that physical ‘BOOM! when lots of people are playing., I was trying to harness my favourite part of that sound, the physicality of it and the fact it takes your head off, rather than the marching around patriotic sporty bollocks.” The result is something which undeniably belongs to The Go! Team, but succeeds in being both ambitious and accessible – never the easiest of bedfellows.
If My Bloody Valentine had spent the summer of 1989 partying hard with Lyn Collins, Jim Henson and Public Enemy in Ibiza, instead of struggling to create a masterpiece in damp East End London, this is arguably what they’d have produced.
Like a modern-day Phil Spector, obviously without the abusive personality and easy access to firearms, Parton has wrangled the best bits from girl groups, krautrock and up-tempo soul to create a procession of lo-fi symphonies.
The past has seen collaborations with artists as diverse or crucial as Deerhoof and Chuck D, but Parton refutes there might be a wealth of famous names looking to work with him. “People don’t want to sound like they’re recorded on a four-track.” For this album he’s instead engaged the help of undiscovered Soundcloud singers, Dutch indie-star Amber Arcades, and The Detroit Youth Choir. “I didn’t want to go down the ‘kids’ route, because it can be fucking nauseating – that St Winifred’s School Choir shit. And I didn’t want to go too professional, otherwise you get gospel and it’s all oversinging and bending notes. I wanted that perfect place inbetween, where it’s community but not really slick.”
This chorus, made up of kids from the crumbling home of Motown, adds heartfelt soulful reflection across the whole of SEMICIRCLES. It’s unlikely alliances like these which keep his band sounding fresh, and enable Parton’s endless experimentation. His penchant for reordering people who wouldn’t regard themselves as singers is well documented. “I’m always after the feel and sincerity of it. It’s a kind of a purity in a way, rather than someone who calls themselves a singer and goes through the motions of what they think singing is.”
SEMICIRCLES shows what happens when you use hiphop techniques to craft indie music. It’s rich with rhythmic workouts and cheerleader call backs, and that persistent marching band sound. You can hear sousaphones, glockenspiels and steel drums stomping across its breadth. “I think some of it’s to do with the uniforms,” he ponders. “I love the psychedelic bright colours they wear. In this day and age it seems other-worldly in a way. Nobody uses colours like that anymore. There’s a part of that I dig, it’s quite funny and gang-like.”
Parton says there hasn’t been a conscious decision to revisit the band’s past, insisting he doesn’t work like that. “I stockpile songs, and always have some on the go. As ever it’s a mix of samples, brass and real instruments..” With the help of touring Team members, Simone Odaranile (drums) and Angela ‘Maki’ Won-Yin Mak (vocals), plus old guard members Sam Dook (guitar) and Ninja (irrepressible rapping), again something blisteringly authentic and joyful has been put together.
Soon it’s time to take the record around the country (some rock tropes cannot be escaped). Parton’s genuinely excited about being on tour with German punk act GRR, but also there’s the task of recreating the band’s extensive sound onstage. “There’s eight of us on tour – we’re taking two brass players. It’s going to be like UB40 or something in our little van. We’ve never used brass live before. It’s another dimension.” After providing much of the brass on SEMICIRCLES, fellow Brighton band Neon Saints are also joining their hometown show at Concorde 2 (upgraded from The Haunt due to demand) on Sun 11 Feb.
At university Parton owned a karaoke machine, and fell in love with the possibilities of blending disparate sounds. “I’m kind of a noise kid. Sonic Youth were the first band I was into. At the same time, I liked easy listening stuff like Herb Alpert. I’d take these trumpet loops and play distortion over the top. The idea of mixing stuff up has been there for a while.” The ‘hook’ acts as the anchor of every song he writes. It’s just a question of how it gets constructed. “With some of the songs on the records I’m literally getting chords from different samples and building a melody. The fun part is how you do it!“ The holy grail for any band is to be instantly recognisable. The Go! Team have created their own little world, which everything, from sounds and song titles to visuals and artwork, flows through.
Parton thinks of his band in a utopian way. It’s a musical space which exists almost in parallel with his own reality. This isn’t an outfit endlessly peddling social commentary or autobiographical venting. “It’s much more about cherry-picking your favourite things from across the decades and ramming it all together. It’s personal, but not a lived experience. The things you receive through films and documentaries can be just as inspiring as your own life…”
The Go! Team play Brighton’s Concorde 2 on Sun 11 Feb
SEMICIRCLES is available now, via Memphis Industries