Pressing play on your boom box, The Go! Team’s debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike, came out of the speakers fighting tough like a Brooklyn-born middleweight. Fresh with ideas and new directions, Ian Parton’s home recordings found themselves transformed onto tape with its heavy mix of Sonic Youth styled guitar fuzz, high-fiving with the Big Apple’s hip-hop fuelled Double Dutch beats. With a Mercury Prize nomination in the bag and backslaps from those in the know, they hit the road hard with lead single LadyFlash on heavy MTV2 rotation (remember that?) and their own unique twist on the five boroughs.
Three more albums took the band forward on their own lo-fi flightpath whilst making friends with music royalty on the way. As The Georgian Theatre in Stockton prepares to welcome a new line-up with a fresh take on what came before, I spoke to Ian Parton about all things Go! Team and what a Teesside audience can expect.
“I could have done the band in lots of different ways,” Parton explains, when it comes to the live make-up of the band, “the tedious Avalanches way – you know, standing behind decks triggering samples and stuff like, that but I’d no interest in that really. I wanted to put together a kind of violent element to it, where everyone is moving in their own way adding their own personal touch.” It’s clear that the individual makeup of the group and their different personalities were key to the identity of the band. “I like the clash of personalities on stage. That was the idea from the start; that one member of the band could be coming from the angle of, say, Le Tigre, while others could be listening to Rhianna. Initially I think it was quite a unique take on things, where perhaps nowadays it’s a bit more normal.”
The band’s visual references, as well as their curiously styled live show, has always made The Go! Team stand out. “I think the visual reference points were as important as any musical influences in the makeup of the sound. I love Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine and the feel you get from an Ennio Morricone record, but then of course there are also lots of non-musical things that I wanted to incorporate. The energy of 70’s and 80’s New York and everything that springs from that; from Sesame Street to Glen Branca, the feel of Central Park, graffiti, movie theatres and subway trains.”
Taking the audience face on was the task given to frontwoman Ninja, whose energetic stage presence gives the group the movement and swagger they need to keep the audience on their toes. “Yeah that’s where Ninja’s amazing really,” Parton agrees, “she treats every gig like a workout with the audience, and plays each gig until she’s ready to drop.”
I wanted to put together a kind of violent element to it, where everyone is moving in their own way adding their own personal touch
Continuing the band’s collaborative aesthetics, second album Proof Of Youth featured legendary Public Enemy frontman Chuck D on vocal duties for Flashlight Fight. A harder hitting, sonic car crash of a record, Parton was prepared to break a few self-imposed rules in order to involve one of rap’s most influential godfathers. “I had this song in mind that I kind of imagined Chuck D busting into over the top. Although the band kind of had this no male vocal policy, it made so much sense to ask him.”
Legendary bass man Mike Watt also became an admirer and collaborator of the band at the same time, and they made friends with the former Minutemen and fIREHOSE man over festival drinks in the band’s backstage portacabin. On tour with his compatriots The Stooges, Watt left the five star hotels to Iggy and the rest of the crew, favouring downtime with Parton and fellow band member Sam Dook with whom he went on to form quirky pop duo Cuz.
Bringing the band bang up to date, and after receiving critical acclaim for 2015’s The Scene Between – in which Parton returned to his original set-up by composing and recording the album on his own – they’re continuing to wow fans with their incredible live show, which will be hitting Stockton’s Georgian Theatre on Sunday 28th August. “It’s a kind of follow up to the touring we did last year really.” Parton says of their return, and it’s clear he has a fondness for the Teesside town. “We’ve played Stockton a couple of times before, including the Riverside Festival and I saw the film about Sound It Out Records and really liked that.”
As thoughts turn to the future, Parton’s looking forward to creating a new studio album. “The last record was kind of shrunk back to just me making it, and the result was a more Yo La Tengo sounding kind of album. This time I’m more conscious of making it more of a team effort. The melodic sound of the last record combining with the break beats and tempo that we originally became renowned for.”