By Yeow Kai Chai
Take it or leave it – that pretty much fuels the defiant post-punk shenanigans of Goat Girl, the British post-punk quartet who named themselves after Goat Boy, the priapic, porn-loving alter ego of the late American comedian and iconoclast Bill Hicks.
It’s a particularly audacious name, appropriating what some may deem a misogynistic character from another era, and spawning a dialogue with it. So what was the motivation behind it?
On the line from her home in South London, Holly (just Holly for now), who took over the bassist’s duty from Naima Jelly (who left in amicable terms) in mid-2018, deadpans: “We just really like the comedian. Goat Girl was inspired by a sketch… which was disgusting and horrible.”
Based on their affinity for all things subversive and their eviscerating self-titled debut album from 2018, it is clear that the Singaporean audience are in for something unforgettable when they perform for the first time here at The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions.
Holly and her bandmates – lead vocalist and guitarist Clottie Cream, lead guitarist and occasional vocalist L.E.D., and drummer Rosy Bones (mind the nicknames) – nonchalantly take on anything from sexual harassment to gentrification to corruption.
Part of a burgeoning London guitar rock scene which also comprises acts like Shame, Big Moon and Dream Wife (also playing at Alex Blake Charlie), Goat Girl have signalled that they are a force to be reckoned with, with songs which deal with unsavoury urban realities and socio-political machinations. A scan of their song titles such as ‘Scum’, ‘Burn the Stake’ and ‘Cracker Drool’ proves their intent, not to mention the wink-wink humour in the music video for the single ‘The Man’. It’s a sharp, gender-flipped take on Beatlemania, with men freaking out over the band instead.
We speak to Holly and L.E.D. (otherwise known as Ellie, who was a couple of minutes late), ahead of their Singaporean debut, days after they had finished recording their second album.
Hi, Holly, how did you become the fourth member of Goat Girl? Were you friends with the band?
Holly: Sort of. I used to go to a lot of the gigs at the same places where the girls hang out and play, such as The Windmill, Brixton. I’ve seen them play quite a few times, met some of the girls for drinks. My boyfriend used to work at The Windmill, and he told me that they were looking for a bassist. I had a horrible job I didn’t like, so I quit.
Do you have a nickname for your last name, like the other girls? So it’s “Holly….”
Holly: Well, that’s the thing. I think they might be changing the nicknames for the second album. The other ones are old now. Meantime, mine is “Gaping Hole”. Yes, it’s crazy.
As a bassist, how different is your playing from Naima’s? You probably had to learn the songs from scratch. What did you bring to the table?
Holly: For existing songs, I basically try to do what Naima was doing. She went through the songs and taught me all, which is nice. We got along really well, so it’s not weird or anything. I didn’t try to do anything different in terms of playing those songs, as I was trying to stay true to what Naima has done. But maybe, one difference is that our voices are quite different. A lot of the parts Naima would sing quite low. I tend to sing higher parts. We’ve just recorded our new album, so I’ve been able to have input this time.
Ellie (who just steps through the door): Well, well, well, she brought her charisma and her good bass playing. She’s very organized, which is good, because the rest of us can be quite forgetful. Just a nice, calm energy, I think.
Give us a sneak peek into the second album, and how different it would be from the first.
Ellie: There’s a lot more synths and keyboards, and a little less grungy.
Holly: The writing is more collaborative among the four people in the band. We often switch instruments. On one of the songs, drummer Rosy plays the guitar, for instance. So, we keep it interesting.
Ellie: Someone will come in with an image, or something they have written, and we will play to the group. Next week, something else comes from a jam. It depends.
What about the themes this time? For the first album, you take on gentrification, sexism, et cetera.
Ellie: A couple of songs are talking about the end of the world. We are not treating the world very well. We are destroying the planet.
Holly, I read that you had mixed feelings about the sudden focus on female musicians, and the commodification of it. As the #MeToo movement is still making itself felt, what do you think the impact has been?
Holly: It brought attention to how some people are abused and unheard. Obviously in the past year, there’ve been a lot of people who have been revealed as abusers. In the music scene, it’s put some fear in those who have abused their positions of power. Some women are brave enough to tell their stories. Hopefully, the situation is getting better, although I don’t believe the abuse has completely stopped. Some people would continue to abuse their power but I’d like to think they are more afraid.
Do you have any ground rules?
Ellie: Well, it’s with anyone that I meet and talk to. You want to be treated with respect. They show me respect and I show them that back. I guess there have been situations where as a band, we feel like we hadn’t been taken seriously, whereas a male band would be. And it’s also quite subtle. It’s not so obvious. In terms of sexism in the music industry, it’s a kind of laziness with female musicians being compared in terms of our sounds. We often get referred to, like, Warpaint.
Are your individual music tastes similar or different?
Holly: I’m lucky to have quite similar music tastes with the rest of the girls. Recently we went to see Deerhunter and Cate Le Bon play, both of whom we really like. They performed at the End of The Road Festival. They are really good bands. We also performed there this year.
Also, I think it’s safe to say that every single one of us in the band really likes Little Simz. She’s got a new record out recently. She’s really amazing and she’s got a lot to say and her music is incredible.
Ellie: Yeah, we have our own music that we like, which makes music that we make more interesting. We bring our own perspectives and influences to how we play.
Goat Girl perform at The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions on Saturday, Dec 7, at the Pasir Panjang Power Station. Get tickets here: http://bit.ly/ABCapactix