LIVE REVIEW: The Goon Sax @ Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney

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The Goon Sax, Gregor, Married Man
Petersham Bowling Club
23 November 23rd, 2018

As The Goon Sax made a hurried dash from Newcastle after their flight from Brisbane to Sydney was curtailed, Married Man opened the evening of outside guitar pop music with a set that showcased the songs and voice of Sarafina Pea. Vocal effects were employed to songs that took in dream pop and post punk. It was blurred music with jagged edges courtesy of the rhythm section and in Pea, a voice that rises above the music quite impressively.

Gregor was up from Melbourne and like the headliners he too was celebrating his recently released album Silver Drop. If Married Man used the standard rock n roll components then Gregor (in duo format) delved further into the world of deconstructed pop songs by utilising a drum machine, endlessly inventive bass playing, washes of sound and deadpan vocals with filter-free diary-entry lyrics. It was a fascinating mix that took a few songs to adjust to but across a full set it all made total sense as sad confessional songs to dance to.

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The Goon Sax should probably have been playing a larger venue with a proper sound system, given that the show was sold out and the sound was under par. It was no fault of the sound-person but the drums weren’t mic’d and with drummer Riley Jones’ often light touch they lacked impact in the rhythmically driven songs. The bass was shortchanged as well, leaving the songs sounding a bit hollow and missing depth. All that aside, the band dug in and tore through a set that drew mostly from the new album We’re Not Talking but dipped into their debut, the super catchy Sweaty Hands a particular highlight. Sleep EZ, Make Time 4 Love and the Jones-sung Strange Light all stood out. 

As a band they clearly have the songs and have developed into a fascinating triptych of quirky and slightly awkward individuals (think Talking Heads) but the gnawing feeling still remains that Louis Forster needs to take the lead on more songs. There was a noticeable lift, clarity and drive in the songs that he helmed and the audience responded as a result. Jones’ vocal cameos were also a welcome addition to the set. In all this was a good show, not the best they’ve played in Sydney but good enough to warrant the acclaim and growing fanbase The Goon Sax continue to receive. 

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking

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They were young when they formed, young when they recorded their first album and they’re still only just sloping out of their teens as they release their sophomore album. At its strongest, We’re Not Talking still reaches the same impossibly catchy jangle-pop heights that they impressed with on their debut, but across its 30 minutes some minor risk-taking doesn’t quite pay off. 

Their trademark innocence and honest dives into the realities of approaching and entering adulthood is still intact and if they were previously singing about those things from an observational POV, now they’re reporting from the inside, as they experience them. Other changes include the three band members take a greater share of lead vocals, with Riley Jones’ voice particularly impressing on the tender Strange Light. They’ve also experimented with different instrumentation such as strings, piano and a drum machine, widening their palette from the straight rock trio format.

When the album works it’s a thrilling dash through young love and self-doubt. Opener Make Time 4 Love is brisk, fun and infectious, She Knows is reminiscent of the rough and barely contained sugar rush of The Strokes while Sleep EZ and Get Out recall the golden heyday of Flying Nun’s skewed pop moments. In contrast, other songs such as Now You Pretend are only partly formed interludes. They add variety to the album but they feel like filler before the next primitive, melodic pop explosion occurs.

The many highlights on We’re Not Talking suggest that The Goon Sax are still evolving and successfully exploring the art and craft of confessional, catchy and quirky songwriting.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: The Goon Sax

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TALKING WE’RE NOT TALKING

Brisbane trio The Goon Sax return with their second album and as Louis Forster and Riley Jones explain to Chris Familton, the desire to document their thoughts and experiences through an open musical relationship remains the driving ethos of the band. 

They were still teenagers negotiating the twin worlds of school life and being in a band when they released their debut album Up To Anything and now, facing the challenge of adulthood and the new responsibilities that come with it, The Goon Sax have found some different angles from which to write about familiar themes on its followup We’re Not Talking.

“I think growing up was definitely a big theme,” says singer/guitarist Forster. “We were writing more about love than we’d written about before. On the first record we were writing about that from an outside perspective, as a foreign concept. This time it was closer in that sense,” he reveals. “It was also about finishing school and worrying about what we were doing everyday, which we hadn’t had to do for 18 years.”

The group recorded the album down in Melbourne at Super Melody World and though they have mixed feelings about the experience, both Jones and Forster agree that it yielded positive results. “The recording process was really different because we worked with producers who had an idea of what we should sound like and we had a different idea, so the album is like both sides pulling and fighting for some middle ground which definitely makes it interesting,” reflects Jones. Forster agrees, adding, “we started writing as soon as we finished recording the first album, from 2015. It’s coming from the same place as the first record. I think there’s tension in every aspect of the record. It feels like it has so much tension and energy, that feels like it’s on the verge of falling apart or exploding which is a good thing. It didn’t seem like a good thing at the time but maybe it is now,” he says, with the benefit of hindsight.

One feature of the album is the increased democratisation of the musical relationship between the three of them. Alongside James Harrison, all members contribute lead vocals to the new album. “We definitely sing the songs that we write and then the others chime in. We recently made a rule that anyone can chime in whenever they like and so far that has worked well,” explains Jones.

That willingness to try new things on We’re Not Talking extended to the use of new instrumentation  such as strings, piano and more across its 30 minute playing time. “We wanted to experiment with drum machines a bit and have some horns and things.” says Forster. “We all wanted to sing more on each other songs. There are more group vocals and we were all having more influence on each others songs, both with the singing and the ideas we were putting forward. There are bits of Riley and James on all my songs and vice versa which wasn’t maybe there before that. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious thing but we did it at the time and it felt good.”

One common element that the newer songs share with the first album is the streak of melancholy and self-doubt that permeates their music. Is that a representative of their personalities or just the mood and tone of how their creativity is naturally expressed?

“I think to some degree it is part of our personalities but we definitely wrote about things that were difficult and that bummed us out at the time and writing about them made us feel good again. Sad music is made for a reason and maybe it’s to repurpose something you’ve gone through, “ ponders Forster. “It’s important for us to make music that feels necessary, not just for the sake of it. You need to feel like you have to do it. I like the absurdity of putting sad lyrics to happier sounding music, it just makes me laugh.” Jones has a similar take that also reflects the way she enjoys listening to music. “I like it when you can be nostalgic about those kinds of feelings and remember through the music how strongly you felt about something.”

NEWS: The Goon Sax Announce New LP ‘We’re Not Talking’

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Brisbane trio The Goon Sax are back with the followup to their acclaimed debut album Up To Anything. We’re Not Talking is due out on September 14th on Chapter Music via Secretly Canadian/Inertia Music.

CH151 The Goon Sax 1500Here’s the first single, ‘She Knows’, a song that still possesses that urgent acoustic strum but now framed by a bigger, warmer sound and more effects. If the first album was the skeletal introduction to their songwriting then this suggests they now have a clearer and more confident perspective on how they want to present their songs.

‘She Knows’ has become a very fast song, which took us a lot of practise to be able to finally hit and strum our instruments fast enough, with a lot of strings breaking. I hope it makes people energetic and excited to listen to, it’s a song about losing hope, stubbornness and heartache. I’m not sure if it’s our saddest song, but maybe if you lock yourself in your room for a couple of days and only listen to it you might not feel so happy, it is also okay if you feel happy to this song! Even better!!!”- James Harrison

If you’re in Sydney, you can catch the band playing a special one-off show at Golden Age Cinema & Bar next Wednesday May 9th, before they head to the UK, Europe and the US (for their first ever US shows) in May/June.

NEW MUSIC: The Goon Sax – Up To Anything

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Brisbane trio The Goon Sax are about to release their debut LP via Chapter Music in a couple of weeks. Here’s the title track Up To Anything, a song that hits the right spots for us – a bass line reminiscent of The Bats,  the delightfully doleful vocal style of Louis Forster and brisk, economical and snappy drums. It’s a melancholic pop song par excellence. The band are playing a run of East Coast shows in April.

Sat Apr 2 – SYDNEY – Newtown Social Club – tickets
Sat Apr 9 – MELBOURNE – The Tote Hotel – tickets
Sat Apr 30 – BRISBANE – Trainspotters – tickets on the door

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