"I love the idea of curating your life and surrounding yourself in the good sh*t..." - hmv.com talks to The Go! Team
When The Go! Team's bandleader and chief creative force Ian Parton set about starting work on his band's sixth album, he probably didn't imagine that it might be the last he was able to make, but halfway through the three-year process of making new album Get Up Sequences Part One, Parton suffered a catastrophic hearing loss that threatened to halt his career in its tracks.
Thankfully, a near-total recovery has meant that Parton was able to complete work on their new full-length offering - and there's even a second part to the album in the works too.
With Get Up Sequences Part One arriving in stores on Friday (June 2nd) we caught up with Ian for a chat about the ups and downs of recording their sixth LP...
So our first question is: How are you doing? We heard that you were diagnosed with Meniere’s disease halfway through making this record. That must be a nightmare for any musician - what happened?
"Yeah, it’s quite a mild version, to be honest. I basically just woke up one morning in October 2019 and my hearing had sort of changed somehow, I couldn’t quite work it out for a while. All the bass had gone, it was all sort of tinny and at one point it sounded like robotic voices in one ear. Music was unbearable, it sounded like two records playing at the same time."
Has it improved?
"It sort of fluctuated for a while, it’s almost gone, there’s still a bit of extra high end in there."
That must’ve presented some challenges making this album…
"Yeah, well, about halfway through the record my relationship to the music completely changed. I mean, apart from not being able to hear it in stereo anymore, it was the trauma of it as well, you know? Being a musician and stuff.
"And it was nothing to do with volume or anything. When it first happened I thought it was because I’d caned it over the years with the volume, I never wear earplugs or anything like that, so I thought it’d finally caught up with me. But it turns out it's nothing to do with that, it’s just bad f***ing luck, know what I mean?"
How did you deal with all of that?
"The process of making the album kind of became helpful. People often talk about the positive-ness of The Go! Team, and I never use words like ‘happy’ or anything like that because it’s such a one-dimensional word, but I think there’s a particular feel around the music, which I’ve never consciously done, it’s just sort of natural and I can’t really shake it off.
"So working on the music on a daily basis was a genuinely helpful thing, to surround myself in those kinds of feelings when I was on such a downer about losing my hearing. And some of the lyrics on the record, even though I’d written them before this happened, and before the pandemic, ended up eerily echoing that. Like the opening song ‘Let the Seasons Work’ is all about how bad things will eventually be followed by good things in the end, about hanging in there, so it ended up being eerily suitable to what I was going through."
When did you actually start and finish working on the new album?
"It’s all been kind of a blur, it’s basically taken about three years, and I work by hoarding ideas for months, years, decades, until they find a home eventually. There might be one idea from yesterday and one idea from five years ago, and I’ll eventually put them together in a song. It’s a long process of trial and error, I hardly ever sit down and write a song from start to finish, it’s always sellotaped together from various places."
Was there any particular track/moment that shaped the direction of the record as a whole?
"I guess the opener kind of encapsulates everything that the rest of the record is, I suppose. It’s quite schizo, it veers from My Bloody Valentine style guitars and dive-bombing trumpets and easy listening flutes, then there’s an electro section, but it’s also quite melodic, so I guess it captures everything that the record as a whole is about. There’s a sort of woozy, Kevin Shields-y feel to lots of the record."
Last time out there was a lot of psychedelic marching band stuff, this time the vibe is a bit different – but still very Go! Team. What kind of thing were you aiming for with this one?
"I guess I’m always looking for curvy melodies, something that’s borderline R&B, but not that. It was a particular kind of melody I was looking for. I guess the nearest I could say would be to imagine My Bloody Valentine making an R&B record or something like that, even though that doesn’t really do the job and hopefully it doesn’t actually sound like that.
"But it’s kind of a woozy R&B record, in the best possible way. A bit like going on holiday in album form, I wanted to be about all the best things in life, all rammed together. I love the idea of curating your life and surrounding yourself in the good sh*t, so I kind of think of the Go! Team in the same sort of way. It’s almost like a parallel universe where all these musical things are possible. In real life, Kevin Shields probably wouldn’t really jam with Roxanne Shante, but in my world it’s possible."
What kind of record is it from a lyrical point of view?
"Go! Team songs are often a lot more downbeat than people might realise, given that we’re often called a party band or something. Lots of the songs are about starting again or trying again at things, about making mistakes. ‘We Do It But Never Know Why’ is kind of about a couple in trouble, basically, or ‘I Loved You Better’ is about someone who’s out of a relationship and is rubbing their nose in it.
"I basically just listen to what the song wants, what it needs, and usually the chorus sort of throws up a lyric and I take the lead from that. I think ‘Pow’ is the only song that’s really shamelessly partytastic"
For a lot of bands, the last year of lockdown has changed the way they’ve made records, with producers working remotely etc. – you’ve always worked alone in terms of writing, has anything changed about the way you’ve had to put this record together?
"Not really, but that’s because a lot of that was done before the pandemic, and it would have been a quiet time for us anyway I think because Ninja and Mia from the band have both just had babies, so I don’t think we could have been touring much anyway. As you say, I hoard things for months and years and then get on the hotline to the band when it’s ready."
The album title suggests there might be a part two – is that the plan?
"There will be a part two, that literally what I was doing before you called!"
Ah, sorry to interrupt your flow! So you’re not looking at touring any time soon then?
"We’re going to tour around Part Two I think, because it’s still risky setting up tours at the minute, really. But the first gig will be a bit of a personal milestone for me, given that I questioned whether I’d be able to do it again, so It’s gonna be quite a nice thing to do again, for everyone. But the idea is to put out Part Two next year if I get my arse into gear, so I think it’ll be the end of next year time realistically that we do the UK tour."