INTERVIEW: The Go! Team | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Rather than working nine to five, Ian Parton, the brains behind The Go! Team, is currently basking in Brightonian sunshine in a post-album making, pre-tour sweet spot. With a 28-date tour fast approaching, peaking at Newcastle’s Riverside on Friday 16th February, the hiatus will be short.

The tour coincides with the launch of a long-awaited fifth album, Semicircle, which is a blockbusting Blaxploitation-esque horn-infused triumph, with a Kashmere Stage Band/Funky 16 Corners rawness to the vocals and brass, but a modern sample-driven overlay which reminded me slightly of Asobi Seksu. It’s unmistakably Go! Teamy, but from another perspective perhaps, making it different to previous LPs. 

One of the features of Semicircle are the untamed voices of the youth choir, plucked from Mr White’s Detroit youth group. “I’ve got a particular taste in voices, I don’t like people who think of themselves as singers.” He says of the choir: “I might zero in on them and say ‘You!’… there were a lot of people to choose from with different levels of willingness to get involved.” With such a loose and fast recruitment policy, quality levels must have been spiky to say the least. “It’s more about the personality than perfection.” Ian assures me.

I wanted to know why he was so particularly interested in the voices of teenagers, wouldn’t an established church choir be more accomplished? “Using teenagers was always the way to go because if they were adults they might be too good, too gospel-like or too smooth, or if they were kids it could be sickly and yucky. They were literally 16 when they recorded a lot of that stuff and I think the youthfulness, the tone, the voice has got a lot to do with that age group, so I naturally veer towards that tone and voice.” Plus, as he agrees, church choirs tend to have an attachment to a certain mythology not all of us are comfortable with. “I didn’t really want to go down the church route, the gospel route, because I’m an atheist and I don’t get involved in all that stuff.”

We’re taking a trombone and trumpet player on tour – two ladies, so there are eight of us onstage now. When you layer the brass up, it’s like a thump in the face

Back on safer ground, there’s a beautiful moment on the title track in which some of the Detroit singers introduce themselves with their star signs. “I kind of like those moments, like soul train, going down the line doing your thing. There’s not enough of it in music. My favourite, Brandon, he’s got a lisp and he says ‘I’m a Sagittarius’.”

While on the subject of specific tracks, the Morse code at the start of Mayday is surely a hidden message to super-fans? “It isn’t spelling anything out unfortunately, it’s just kind of percussive, I realised that the chorus could have a single note going over the top of it, then I immediately thought ‘that could be a Morse code’ and that it could be like one of those old soul songs, like Rescue Me. So all of those things came together in one coherent thing.”

There’s a lot of love for the horns on Semicircle, with comparisons made to The Hot 8 Brass Band or The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble but it would mean a hefty expansion for them to join on tour, so is there going to be any shiny metal onstage? “We’re taking a trombone and trumpet player, two ladies, so there are eight of us onstage now, it’s ridiculous. When you layer the brass up, it’s like a thump in the face, but I think two is enough! I was particularly on the lookout for female players because I think the stereotype of the brass player is always a middle-aged bloke in the background.”

As well as the live horns, there’s the usual well-placed samples collected lovingly and painstakingly. Any digger will speak of the joy of discovering a hitherto unknown LP, Ian takes this further and hoards specific moments. However, his footfall has taken a backseat to clicks. “I do my record digging online these days. I used to go around charity shops and spunk my money on rubbish records, so it’s pretty cool that you can track things down on blogs. I’m hoarding little snippets of samples but at the same time it’s an idea triggering method as well, so I can’t just sit in a room and be quiet, I have to be listening to something and occasionally I’ll think ‘I’d have done this at that point there’ so it becomes a new idea, your own idea. I listen back eventually, I arrange things in major and minor, and breakbeat etc., so it becomes quite easy to audition things next to each other, like on Mayday, which is kind of six minor ideas sellotaped together in places.” The same transpires with song and album titles, but mined from within. “I have books full of slogans and I raid them whenever I need to. Some people kick off a song based on the title, I can’t get my head round that; my kick off is always melody.”

The Go! Team play Riverside, Newcastle on Friday 16th February. Semicircle is available now via Memphis Industries.

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