By Jeff Miller
The Go! Team is a righteously fun band that’s really all the work of one man, producer Ian Parton. He put the band’s first record, Thunder, Lightening, Strike together via samples and studio tricks before assembling a live band with Ninja, his hype-woman MC, and an interracial mix of party-starting multi-instrumentalists. Before the record came out, the Go! Team were the toast of the music-insider world, playing line-around-the-block shows at South By Southwest and flying just under the radar—but now, they’re on a world-domination tour/dance party. We talked to Parton backstage at Coachella, and he gave us his take on live performance, writing new material, and his new favorite thing to do on the West Coast on Friday night.
Relix: Tell us about your Coachella experience so far…
Parton: It’s pretty straightforward—I just got here, actually. We just rolled in, and then you play, and then you bug off again. I could make something up!
Are you touring? Festivals? Where are you at right now?
We were in Vegas the other night with Bloc Party. That was quite odd—we played the Hard Rock Café, which I swore I’d never set foot in in my life. You don’t want to go into a Hard Rock Café if you can help it. We did San Francisco, and we just came off the Flaming Lips tour in the UK. And then, after this, we go home again.
Whirlwind U.S. Tour! Yeah.
The last time I saw you guys was at SXSW last year. You were the buzz band, your record hadn’t come out yet—how have you seen your crowds in the U.S. change since then?
I don’t really look at our crowds too much—I’m thrashing around too much to actually look at them. I still think we’re a culty little band, you know? We’re almost in the same place that we were then—we’re still a little buzz band, whatever that means. I think we’re a lot better than we were at SXSW—we’d only played like six gigs by the time we were there, so that’s the thing. We’ve gelled as a band more since then.
I remember hearing the record and thinking the live show and the record were, essentially, two totally different bands.
I think that’s still the case. I don’t mind that. There are lots of bands around—I think about Franz Ferdinand, you see them live and it’s so slick, you know? It’s like they just put the record on, you know what I mean? I don’t mind the idea of them being two different things. The process behind it and the ideas behind it are really different. The record’s anti-production, almost, you know? It’s going to sound like it was made in a bedroom, which frustrates lots of people. The live show is bigger sounding, there are lots of instruments, it’s like we swoop in and are crashing around and stuff. I’m not worried about that, really, if there are some differences between the record and the live thing.
Is it still the same songs?
The songs are still the songs, you know? We use samples, but we play lots of live instruments over the top of it as well. It’s not like we’re playing different songs or anything. Ninja does her own thing over the top of it.
I remember Ninja rapping a lot, and getting the record and having it not be a hip-hop record at all.
There are a lot of vocals on the record that were found on a Double Dutch documentary, and cheerleaders from the ‘80s and stuff, which we’re never going to re-create live. Sometimes, we have a gang of girls on stage with us, when we can afford to fly them ‘round with us, so there’s another five girls there kind of going for it, which kind of really nails it.
Does Coachella have the reputation in the U.K. that it has in the U.S., as a festival that people come to to discover new music, or is it looked at as just another festival?
My image of the place is really different than how it turns out. You hear that it’s in the desert, so you think it’s going to be rattlesnakes knocking around and stuff. You think it’s going to be sandy under foot. Not palm trees and a polo club. That’s probably what people at home think as well. I’ve just heard that it was the coolest festival in America—more so than Lollapallooza or anything, and that’s all anyone really knows about it, I think. NME might cover it, that kind of thing. SXSW is a lot more well-known these days than even a few years ago.
Are you guys doing the other U.S. festivals, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo?
We’re doing Lollapalooza. We may be playing with the Flaming Lips over here for a few dates, amphitheaters and all that, so: stadium rock.
Are you finding time to write songs and do production when you’re on the road, or are you at a holding pattern with that right now?
It’s ongoing, really: I’m always listening out, singing into my phone, stuff like that. I’ve got loads of snippets of ideas that are waiting to be transformed into songs—that’s kind of how it is with the Go! Team: you’re trying to stick a verse and chorus together, and then a middle 8, so… it’s kind of weird. It’s not the kind of thing you can write with an acoustic in the back lounge of the tour bus, you know? We’ll be playing three new songs tonight, and over the summer we’re going to start going in there and putting them down.
What’s the last record that really moved you?
I really like the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Soundtrack. You ever heard that?
Yeah, it’s got the great Beck song on it.
The Jon Brion stuff is really underrated. Great mixes, low-fi 4-tracky stuff with strings over the top of it. I really like that stuff—more so than the Arctic Monkeys or bands like that, you know?
Have you ever heard Jon Brion solo stuff?
I’ve been looking for it all over—what’s it like?
It’s fantastic. He plays every Friday at a club in L.A. – if you’re ever in L.A. and have a free Friday night, he sells his CD there.
No way! What does he play?
He loops every instrument on stage, he loops the drums, guitar, and bass – he’ll have people like Beck and matt Chamberlain sit in, he takes requests from the audience.
That’s a well-kept secret, that is! I’m there!
Ian Parton was interviewed by Jeff Miller at the Coachella Music Festival in April, 2006. For more information see www.coachella.com or www.thegoteam.co.uk