On The Radar: Goat Girl – A South London four-piece backing up the storm of hype with infectious tunes
It’s not always comfortable growing up in public. Just ask Lottie ‘Clottie Cream’, singer-guitarist with Goat Girl. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it was a lot easier when we weren’t in the attention of the public,” she says. “I just felt so much freer in my lyrics, because you don’t want to be offensive, but I feel like that’s the whole point. Lyrically, what I’m trying to do is quite satirical, tongue in cheek, but it’s hard when people ask you what you mean.”
In truth, being asked to explain her worldview is something Lottie is likely to have to get used to in the months ahead. That’s because the band’s eponymous debut for Rough Trade already sounds like one of the albums of the year, a sharply focused, fiercely performed set of hook-laden songs rooted in the stop-start dynamics of 1990s alt-rock without ever seeming trapped in the past.
Dan Carey (Kate Tempest, Nick Mulvey, Franz Ferdinand) produced the album – chosen in great part because he likes to lay down basic tracks live to tape as a way to capture the moment. The band spent a month in pre-production to ensure they were ready, but nevertheless, technical perfection isn’t the point. “I can hear mistakes that I make, it’s not perfect,” says drummer Rosy Bones. It’s an album full of stories that together create, in Lottie’s words, an “emotional journey” told from “the perspective of growing up and just how your emotions change towards certain things”.
The album’s personal-political vignettes of urban life are played out in “a weird gloomy world”, a grotesquely heightened version of 21st-century Britain.
For an example of how this works, take a track such as Creep, a song of surface sweetness that turns out to be “about trying to bash someone’s head in on the train because he looked at me funny”, of “having the power and being able to do whatever you want with that” in a way you wouldn’t in this world – if only because you’d be arrested.
“You have this character that you’re playing,” says Lottie, who comes across as highly focused yet has a guarded quality, too. “Which, I guess, was even the foundations of starting the band – built on the character of Bill Hicks, the way he had this other person called Goat Boy who was so gross and horrible, quite funny in that sort of satirical sense.”
Considering how the late, great Hicks’ humour often expressed despair and righteous anger, leavened by a barbed delight at life’s absurdities, it somehow seems appropriate that Goat Girl signed to Rough Trade on the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union. “It was a very up and down day,” says Rosy. Even now, reflects Lottie, she can detect a “bittersweet” quality in the songs that somehow relates to Brexit and the uncertain atmosphere it’s created.
A debut single, Country Sleaze, released as a limited-edition 7″, followed in the autumn of 2016, launched on the world with a party at The Windmill in Brixton, the venue where Lottie, bassist Naima Jelly and guitarist Ellie ‘L.E.D.’ first met Rosy. It’s a place that’s starting to pass into legend as the epicentre of a new London indie scene that also encompasses Shame and others, but Goat Girl are suspicious of being seen as in the vanguard of a movement.
“[People are] trying to tell this story of how we’re leading this indie-rock thing,” says Lottie. “I don’t know, I find that quite boring, to think that’s all we can be. We have so much potential. The genres of the songs are put in this guitar context, but I don’t think they have that sound of easy, listenable guitar music.”
Instead, she talks about the band taking “a more electronic route, more experimental”, as in the instrumental passages that link the songs on the album. She and Rosy speak with approval of the huge synth Dan Carey set up in a corner of the living room to help soundtrack a party at the Lewisham houseshare where the two reside.
First, though, there’s the album to promote. Exciting times. Goat Girl are down to play the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, Lottie tells her bandmate. Rosy: “I thought that was a joke!” Lottie, smiling mischievously, replies: “Maybe it is…”
See goatgirl.co.uk for upcoming UK tour dates