About to play their first set of UK live dates and with a new video for Sweaty Hands, taken from debut album Up To Anything, Louder Than War editor Sarah Lay talks to Louis Forster from The Goon Sax.
When Australian trio The Goon Sax dropped their debut album Up To Anything earlier this year it was to a warm reception. Full of pop hooks and perfectly capturing the pairing of awkwardness and hope that defines many a teenage year the trio made their own the sound of bedsit pop influences including Galaxie 500, Arthur Russell and The Pastels.
Formed of Louis Forster, James Harrison and Riley Jones the three, all aged 17-18, have been making music together over the last few years. Their songs capture the moments of their life in a personal, but highly relatable way, all set to jangling, catchy melodies.
Talking to Forster, he says of their path to settling into their current line up: “James and I met when we were both playing in a friends band in 2012. About a year later I left that band and decided to start playing music that I was writing with James.
“I had the idea of starting a band called The Goon Sax for a few months before we actually started the band, so it was exciting when it happened. We played together for about eight months and wrote a 30 minute set.
“We asked Riley – who we had met through a mutual friend – to join the band after we had thought about doing it for several months and started playing the set live.”
The influences cited by the band, and which are clearly heard throughout their delicious and off-kilter record, mainly come from a time before the band were born. But with a father in a much-loved indie pop band of those times (Robert Forster, of the Go-Betweens) comparisons are perhaps somewhat inevitable, as is an assumption that this was a great influence on Louis and The Goon Sax.
“I think influence happens in a lot of ways. Our friends are all very into music so there they are always showing us things. It’s nice when everyone is listening to the same stuff at the same time.
“I think I definitely read a lot of reviews so when I see something that sounds interesting I will go and listen to it, the internet is really useful in that way, you can just check whether or not you like something.”
And to check out The Goon Sax you would find a band matching the naive surety of youth with the awkwardness of approaching adulthood, you’d find playful melodies and deftly delivered hooks. There’s no escape from it (and why would you want to?) – The Goon Sax have made a great pop record.
“I think when you are asked to describe your own sound it’s very difficult to judge it, and also you kind of want to avoid putting yourself into too much of a permanent box.
“The term “pop” feels quite general. But I also think that it is true, we have always tried to make our music as hooky and clear as possible.
“I like a lot of music that isn’t pop though I definitely don’t want to be permanently defined by that term but as far as labels go I think it’s the most free.”
The band confess they aren’t prolific songwriters. The going is often slow with the process more muse-driven than workhorse, but they’re finding their own groove as individual songwriters and musicians as well as how to come together and create as a band.
“I think our songs come about in very different ways every time. There is definitely a feeling which I get when something is better than the other ideas I have been throwing around, which then makes me stick with that idea and try to develop it into a full song.
“We all write quite separately, I think writing songs is very personal so it’s difficult to do it in a group situation. With us it starts with someone bringing a finished song to the practice room and then we work out our parts and play it together. I think we do collaborate more on the structure and feel of the song now than we did a year or two ago.
“I think for all of us melodies come first and we then try to fit lyrics around that, if you know what you want to say it’s more easy to write that around a melody.”
And with lyrics that can be apologetically shy and first-time brazen there is a lot about this band which captures their own coming of age.
“Our songs are very personal. I think when there is nothing in our lives which we want to write about we don’t really write songs.
“For me the purpose of writing has always been to try to connect something personal to me with other people, so there is not much point in writing something impersonal to me.”
The band’s debut long-player was released on iconic Australian label Chapter Music, also home to Sulk and Twerps, after the trio sent in an unsolicited demo. For the first time in the label’s history the band were plucked from the demo pile and given a deal.
“Chapter were the first label that we sent anything to. They were definitely at the top of our list because we really love their roster. We sent them two songs we had recorded over two days, which we were really hoping they might press as a 7”.
“There were definitely other labels which we thought about though – there are a lot of great ones in Australia. We based it on what bands they had, but we also wanted a label that would do vinyl rather than just tape and digital.”
It’s not just great labels going on in Australia, Louis is enthused by their local and national scene too.
“I think there are definitely a lot of great bands in Australia. I find that at least 50% of the new music I listen to is Australian, which is nice.
“We have been lucky to play with Blank Realm four or five times. They are one of our absolute favourite bands in the world, so it’s really great to be getting to do that.
“We have also played with James’ other band, The Mosaics, quite a few times too, they are really really good.
“I always feel excited when a band I really like kind of exists close by so it’s really cool to see that there is so much really interesting music coming from Australia at the moment.”
As emissaries of Australian music and with a swiftly signed and charmingly self-deprecating debut delivered, where next for The Goon Sax?
“Well we are heading on this short tour of Europe, which we are incredibly excited about. We have been writing a lot for our next album too. We are all not very prolific, and that mixed with that we are very picky with what songs to use does make it slow.
“But we have quite a lot of songs now which we are all very happy with so I am really looking forward to going into the studio and recording again. It will be fun to play a lot of them for the first time on tour too, I really want people to hear them.”
The Goon Sax are on tour in the UK next week. See them live:
- Mon 26 September – DIY Space, London
- Tues 27 September – The Shacklewell Arms, London (Sold Out)
- Wed 28 September – Headrow House, Leeds
- Thu 29 September – Eagle Inn, Manchester
- Fri 30 September – Mono, Glasgow
You can find them on Facebook. Debut album Up To Anything is out now on Chapter Music.
Interview by Sarah Lay. Sarah is editor of Louder Than War and you can find her on Twitter or more in her author archive here. She provides the LTW recommended track of the week on Radio Andra’s The Rumble – tune in Tuesdays from 8pm or listen again on the podcast.