It’s been five years since The Go! Team last toured. Now, as the English six-piece band gears up to visit the States for a short tour, frontman Ian Parton can’t help but be proud of the crew he roped together. Given its newest album, The Scene Between, was created entirely by Parton, the live renditions of album cuts succeed from reinvention, imaginative expansions, and the return of original members like drummer Ninja and guitarist Sam Dook.
“I think we’re better now than we ever have been,” Parton says over the phone as he packs to fly over the pond. “With these three new girls and a couple of us from the original grouping here, it brings a real vibrancy.”
That’s saying a lot. Ever since The Go! Team’s first album dropped in 2004, it’s been churning out full-length sugar highs, and while those sounds are deliberately changed for the live setting—you won’t be hearing gospel choirs or scratched mixtapes for obvious reasons—fans get to hear full-bodied parts sung from new touring members. “That’s what I loved about us as a band,” says Parton. “We’re always so different recorded, live—culturally and visually. In that sense, we’re pretty unusual. My mission statement is to never be blokes with guitars who grew up together and like the same records and wear the same clothes. We swap instruments and run around all crazy-like instead.”
The Scene Between sees a plethora of styles at the display window, from wind-swept country songs to My Bloody Valentine weight. What gives it uniformity, however, is the curviness of Parton’s melodies. “I’m always imagining things like journeys and the Pacific coast highway and waves,” he explains. “At the same time, I want it to be filtered through a degraded VHS machine. I don’t ever want things to be too straight. Although I’m interested in catchiness—I’m not just interested, I’m obsessed with it—it’s never about making a hit for the radio. I’m not looking to make songs that pass you by. I’m making hooks; I think of myself as being in the hook business.”
While that uniformity is no doubt present, what Parton sought to do on the newest album was divvy things up even more. Even though he returned to the recording days of 2004’s Thunder, Lightning, Strike where he wrote and recorded every instrument (“It’s kind of liberating in that way; I don’t have to factor in whether anyone else will like it,” he says, laughing), he was still left wanting more. So he took a risk: He collaborated with musicians he’d never met.
“I think people always thought they knew what The Go! Team was,” he says. “There was a checklist for reviewers: car-chased horns, double Dutch chants, distorted drums, the whole bunch. I wanted to break from what they usually took away by focusing on singsongy melodies instead. Yet at the heart, there’s still that curvy, bubblegum sound.”
Parton scoured Bandcamp and Facebook for rising bedroom artists who encapsulated a sweet, naive sound, choosing virtually unknown singers over close friends in the England scene. Then he started saying hello, one by one, to musicians around the world.
“There’s a particular kind of voice I like: people who don’t over-sing, people who have a bedroom feel to their voice,” he says. “That’s another factor of The Go! Team—it’s championing slightly amateurish sounds. These singers aren’t amateurs at all, but it’s a penchant for slightly unfinished, lo-fi sounds. It’s almost like asking your girlfriend to sing to you in private.”
Even if they don’t have leading melodies or forefront hooks, the singers he brought onboard strengthen each track’s individual personality. Making sure they weren’t minor celebrities was part of the research. “As soon as you use a big name, that becomes the story of the record,” he explains. When he put Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast on “Buy Nothing Day” back in 2010, that became the lead headline. Her contributions are important, of course, but it strips the focus away from the song’s other elements.
This time, tracking people down was done on a song by song basis. Certain numbers called for the voice of a bratty American high schooler while others would work well with the sweet round tones of an Asian delivery. Deep digging was a lot of extra effort on his part. But passion, it seems, made the hard work worth it.
“One idea I had for the album was to make it choppy,” he recalls, thinking back to the early writing days of The Scene Between. “Each chord is from a different sample; there’s a G-chord from this psych record over here and a D-chord from this Bollywood track. Instead of that, it became a more conventional record—which is odd because I don’t think we have the right to do that. Conventional isn’t meant for our catalogue, yet what else would I make, another double Dutch chant album? It’s been 10 years since that lightning struck; it isn’t going to happen once more.”
THE GO! TEAM, GLOCKABELLE, HANDS AND KNEES. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. FRI 1.22 8PM/18+/$15. SINCLAIRCAMBRIDGE.COM.