Goat Girl

Q (UK) - - Goat Girl - Pho­to­graphs: Gaëlle Beri

Goat Girl are hard to keep up with. Words tum­ble out of them. Ideas per­co­late. They speak in an un-cyn­i­cal tor­rent of ide­al­ism that is in­fec­tious to be around. And that is where we are go­ing to be, for the next two nights, amid the thrill of chat­ter and chaos with these punk up­starts in New­cas­tle and Edinburgh. For any­one who has heard their self-ti­tled de­but al­bum, which opens with an un­com­pro­mis­ing at­tack on the state of Bri­tish pol­i­tics (“Build a bon­fire, put the Tories on the top. Put the DUP in the mid­dle and we’ll burn the fuck­ing lot”) it’s un­sur­pris­ing that their con­ver­sa­tion will steer rapidly to the state of the na­tion: Cor­byn, Lon­don’s hous­ing cri­sis, the “fucked up” stran­gu­la­tion of state ed­u­ca­tion. They rail on sub­jects, from rape cul­ture to fe­male sex­u­al­ity, New-Age spir­i­tu­al­ity and grow­ing your own veg­eta­bles, with a flu­id­ity that it’s hard to keep up with. It is also quite prob­a­ble that they are the only band writ­ing about Lon­don’s air qual­ity cri­sis: “Find an an­ti­dote for this ac­cu­mu­lat­ing smoke,” they sing in solemn har­mony on Viper Fish. If ev­ery­one be­came self-suf­fi­cient, even in part, says gui­tarist El­lie Rose Davies. “It would re­ally fuck the sys­tem up in a re­ally beautiful way.”

Q meets Goat Girl in New­cas­tle’s Ouse­burn Val­ley, where the mo­men­tous Byker Viaduct meets the Ouse­burn Viaduct. Ev­ery­thing here stands as a relic of the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion: the paint fac­tory is now a farm, the old mill is now The Cluny, where the South Lon­don four-piece will play tonight. It’s ironic we should meet here, in glo­ri­ous sun­shine, the grass soft and mossy, daf­fodils open and stri­dent. Goat Girl’s self-ti­tled de­but al­bum

is a doc­u­ment of the Lon­don they grew up in: the in­jus­tice, the in­equal­ity, the creeps and freaks and per­verts. It is an al­bum of fury and dis­gust, shame and sex­ual de­sire. The dark places of the mind, the chaos of the city. They formed when they were just 17 and signed to Rough Trade a mere three months later – the day af­ter Bri­tain voted to leave the EU. “It was prob­a­bly too soon,” says Davies, re­flec­tively. “Peo­ple treated us like chil­dren.” They have spent the last three years hon­ing their craft and their songs, most of which singer/gui­tarist Lot­tie Pendlebury started writ­ing when she was just 15. Pro­ducer Dan Carey was brought on board, help­ing them turn their spi­ralling ideas into a de­fi­ant 19 songs – none of which is over three min­utes – plus in­ter­ludes, “like a book with dif­fer­ent chap­ters and scenes,” says Pendlebury. Post-punk riffs take about turns through folk and grunge, which sim­mer un­der three­part har­monies. Creep On The Train is a story about a man Pendlebury saw try­ing to film her in a car­riage, which ends with a vi­o­lent re­venge fan­tasy made all the more alarm­ing as a sul­try vi­olin plays as the sce­nario un­folds. “A lot of our songs have that tone to it,” says Pendlebury. “They sound quite jolly but you’re ac­tu­ally singing about want­ing to smash some­one’s head in.” Davies nods: “It’s like smil­ing at some­one with an axe in your hand, ready to blow.” “It was about the frus­tra­tion I felt at not do­ing any­thing,” Pendlebury con­tin­ues. “I just sat there and tried to cover my body up. After­wards, I thought, ‘Why am I re­ceiv­ing this and why am I fuck­ing not stand­ing up for myself ?’ And I al­ways have that feel­ing, like I’m re­ally pa­thetic, but these oc­ca­sions shouldn’t even ex­ist, I shouldn’t have to train myself to deal with it. Men need to be taught how to be fuck­ing hu­man. We shouldn’t feel that we should re­spond to rape cul­ture, be­cause rape cul­ture should be non-ex­is­tent.” That ex­pe­ri­ence, she says, “left me feel­ing so sad within myself, which I found so un­just. I wanted to kill him for mak­ing me feel like that. And that’s the thing with mu­sic, it gives you the safety to say what­ever you want, it gives you con­trol. When we all sing it to­gether on­stage, it’s rit­u­al­is­tic, it’s em­pow­er­ing.”

The morn­ing af­ter their New­cas­tle gig, the rain is tor­ren­tial as we pack into the back of their tour van. They are a rag-tag bunch: Pendlebury wear­ing wide­leg Levi’s with the la­bel still on (“They’re a present for my sis­ter! Don’t tell her!”), Davies in a baby blue furry jacket that be­longed to her grandma. Drum­mer Rosy Jones car­ries a can­vas shop­ping bag that’s ex­plod­ing with screwed-up clothes – she doesn’t, she ad­mits, have any idea how to pack. As the bus steers through the rain, they re­call how they met with all the vim of a morn­ing af­ter the night be­fore – it is a de­tailed web of friends and nights spent at Brix­ton’s Wind­mill venue. Davies and bassist Naima Iliana had known each other at school in New Cross, Iliana met Pendlebury at a house party when they were 15 while tak­ing care of a friend who was “so fucked she’d passed out. We were forced to talk to each other on this bed, and we bonded.” The three of them started mak­ing mu­sic to­gether, per­form­ing at an open-mic night in Hamp­stead called Pen­tame­ters. “My mum used to drive us there. It was run by this guy whose one claim to fame was that he used to play har­mon­ica in Hawk­wind,” says Iliana. “They were all like rich, old rock stars from like the ’ 60s. He was al­ways bang­ing on about know­ing Wil­liam Burroughs,” says Davies. They were ob­sessed with the 2005 rock doc Dig!, chron­i­cling the bit­ter ri­valry be­tween Brian Jonestown Massacre and The

“A lot of our songs sound quite jolly, b ut y ou’re a ctu­ally singing a bout w anting to smash some­one’s h ead i n.” Lot­tie Pendlebury

Dandy Warhols. “I guess that film in­spired so many bands to start,” says Pendlebury. They don’t come off amaz­ingly well as peo­ple in that film… “I know but they’re just past the point of even car­ing what peo­ple think of them. That’s what I love about it. They were still just so ex­cited about mu­sic – ev­ery­where they went they had a gui­tar and were writ­ing. It didn’t feel clean or clin­i­cal like most mu­sic did to me at the time – it was so loose.” Hav­ing lis­tened to Brian Jonestown Massacre as well as Pave­ment and Sil­ver Jews, they re­alised they needed a drum­mer to “am­plify the sound,” says Pendlebury. And so in came Jones. “I joined when I was 18. I met Naima at a Fat Whites gig. She was with a guy I knew.” Ro­man­ti­cally? “Well, we got off a few times,” laughs Iliana. Spend any amount of time with Goat Girl and it’s clear there is a yin and a yang to the group. Iliana and Davies live to­gether in East Lon­don and are self-pro­claimed “home­birds” who like to “chill the fuck out”. Pendlebury and Jones are the he­do­nists. They live to­gether with two Gold­smiths stu­dents in Dept­ford in what they de­scribe as a “tip”. “What’s that pro­gramme? How Clean Is

Your House? We thought about ap­ply­ing for that so some­one could just come round and get rid of the filth!” says Jones, eat­ing a roast chicken din­ner with gusto at 11.30am at a mo­tor­way ser­vice sta­tion. “I used to be vegan,” she laughs, hold­ing up the car­cass. Pendlebury had thrown a party the night be­fore they left for this stint of gigs. “I brought the whole of the Wind­mill back, like 40 peo­ple. Our house­mate’s re­ally an­noyed with us…” It’s a pre­car­i­ous balance of per­son­al­i­ties, but it works for them. When Q had ar­rived at their Airbnb ear­lier that morn­ing, Iliana an­swered, elec­tric tooth­brush in her mouth, while howls of laugh­ter came from the bed­rooms be­hind her. Du­vets were bun­dled on the floor, items of cloth­ing strewn around like a high school sleep­over. They chris­tened them­selves with stage names: “I guess it started as a joke to dis­tance our­selves from our real per­son­al­i­ties,” says Pendlebury. “We don’t want to take our­selves too se­ri­ously.” Her stage name, Clot­tie Cream, was a nick­name given to her by “this rude boy I went out with for like two weeks. I met him at a squat rave.” Rosy Bones, just “likes bones, parts of the body, stuff like that”. Naima, whose “hippy” mum named her af­ter the John Coltrane song, has Naima Jelly: “It makes no fuck­ing sense.” “And mine is LED,” says Davies. “I thought it sounded funny, like a rap­per’s name. I’d never in­tro­duce myself as a per­son like that be­cause I’d feel like a wanker. But that’s it – tak­ing the piss out of those peo­ple who think they’ll get so fa­mous that they can’t have their real names, it’s ridicu­lous.” There is a dis­tinct lack of pre­ten­tious­ness or van­ity in Goat Girl. They hate so­cial me­dia and now only have it “be­cause our la­bel made us”. In the early days, they wanted “ev­ery­thing to just be by word of mouth”. As part of South Lon­don’s DIY scene that counts Shame, Sorry and Fat White Fam­ily among its kin, this was pos­si­ble at the be­gin­ning, when they played in and around lo­cal venues. As they got big­ger, they came around to reach­ing wider au­di­ences. But as the first gen­er­a­tion to use Face­book from a young age, Iliana wor­ries about its ef­fects. “I won­der what the im­pact will be in like 30 years’ time, on men­tal health and mem­ory and what’s the word… the thing where you can’t pay at­ten­tion for long enough?” ADD? “Ha – see?!” she laughs. “Our at­ten­tion span has been low­ered to such a de­gree. We take in so much, but it’s all mas­sively su­per­fi­cial.” Only Davies has a smart­phone, the rest have old Nokia bricks. Their man­age­ment

and la­bel of­ten seem to have trou­ble track­ing them down, some­thing that makes Jones cackle with de­light. If there is one thing Goat Girl do not like, it’s be­ing told what to do – in fact there are two songs on the al­bum with that theme, I Don’t Care, parts one and two. They talk about de­mos and protests they’ve been on: Iliana bunked off high school to go to the stu­dent fee protests and ended up get­ting ket­tled for hours. “Cor­byn is the rep­re­sen­ta­tive that we’ve been look­ing for for how many years now?” says Pendlebury. “You can com­plain but he’s a mil­lion times bet­ter than most of the peo­ple in his po­si­tion.”

We ar­rive at an Airbnb in Edinburgh at the top of a cob­bled street next to Sneaky Pete’s, tonight’s gig venue. They stam­pede in and check out the rooms – which are def­i­nitely nicer than last night’s. There are even some fake roses on the table in a plas­tic jug. “Woah!” they all shout, run­ning up and down the stairs. Their con­fi­dence and self­as­sured­ness is pow­er­ful. “We just try and be our­selves,” says Jones. Sat at this tiny table, in her ny­lon track­suit bot­toms, shaved head, pin­stripe suit jacket done up with a bit of string and a T-shirt with a gi­ant straw­berry on it – you can tell she re­ally means it. Do they care about what they wear on­stage? “What, do some bands get changed be­fore they get on­stage?” Well, yes. “Ha! No, I just put on what I’m go­ing to wear for the day.” “We’re not shy about any­thing to do with our bod­ies,” says Jones. “We’re all sex­u­ally open peo­ple, we’re al­ways talk­ing about it.” Con­ver­sa­tion steers to sex, and their song The Man, in which Pendlebury sings, “Bite my lips and taste my hips.” “It’s me imag­in­ing how I want a guy to ex­pe­ri­ence me. It’s in­spir­ing as a woman to be able to say those things,” she says. “I wanted to struc­ture the song like an or­gasm, how the melody be­comes higher and higher un­til you’re scream­ing at the top of your lungs.”

he Edinburgh show is sweaty and cathar­tic – on­stage they are re­laxed, even non­cha­lant. “I hate bands who have that de­tach­ment, and are so un­re­lat­able. I never want it to be a sep­a­rate thing of us on­stage and the au­di­ence,” says Pendlebury. “I feel con­fi­dent in the way we per­form, but as soon as a song ends I don’t know what to do. I’m just lost in play­ing the mu­sic. I’m scared that comes across as ar­ro­gant. But I want the mu­sic to ex­ist as its own form. I want it to not need my per­son­al­ity.” Af­ter the gig, a crowd of peo­ple peel off into the streets, some still hold­ing glasses of vodka and orange from the venue (this is the sec­ond drink­ing ves­sel Q has seen Jones nick from an es­tab­lish­ment in one day). Are these all your friends? “Well, we know one of them from a band we played with once, the rest are kind of strag­glers…” Jones says – as if she can’t quite ad­mit that they are be­ing fol­lowed by fans. The mist is thick now, and the street­lights make gi­ant moons on the damp pave­ment. We climb the gothic stairs to a bar owned by a friend of a friend and they smoke and drink and chat­ter. You get the feel­ing that noth­ing can con­strain the four of them. Ask them their am­bi­tions for the fu­ture and they say, “just to be able to make what­ever mu­sic we want”. In fact, the only thing that does seem to be con­strain­ing them is the city it­self. They’re off to Amer­ica soon – they’ve only been once be­fore. You sus­pect it would suit them: the free­dom, the open space, the wild­ness. They’re think­ing about mov­ing to Texas maybe, if all their friends came with them. And they all want to have a go at “liv­ing off the land, be­ing self-suf­fi­cient.” For one brief mo­ment, they pause. Si­lence. El­lie looks up, into the damp grey night, the open road stretched out right in front of her.

“What’s that pro­gramme? How Clean Is Your House? We thought about ap­ply­ing for that so some­one could just come round and get rid of the filth!” Rosy Jones

(Clock­wise, from left) Naima Iliana dur­ing sound­check in New­cas­tle; Pendlebury mimes the band’s name; Pendlebury and Iliana get rolling back­stage in Edinburgh.

Ah, the glamour of the road: the band in tran­sit in a Tran­sit.

An­i­mal magic: (above) Goat Girl take it to the bridge, New­cas­tle; (right) Rosy Jones and friend go sight­see­ing in Edinburgh.

The kids are al­right: Goat Girl (from left) Rosy Jones, El­lie Rose Davies, Lot­tie Pendlebury and Naima Iliana, Edinburgh, 10 April, 2018.

Hit the North: (left) on­stage at The Cluny, New­cas­tle, 9 April, 2018; ( above) Davies shows some pluck at Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh.


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