Interview: The Gooch Palms’ Kat Friend talks cracking the US, the power of III, and… UFOs?

Aussie duo The Gooch Palms are spending a lot of time in America these days, so it’s little surprise their latest album III was released just in time for summer in the USA. Containing a slew of the fuzzy, fun party tracks we’ve come to expect from the Goochies, it’s the perfect summer road trip soundtrack. Ironic, really, since so much of the album was written on the road. Jade Kennedy caught up with Kat Friend, one half of the Newcastle duo,to delve a little deeper into the psyche of the new record.

We’ve seen a pattern of threes emerging with The Gooch Palms – three years between albums, released in 2013, 2016 and 2019; this is record number three – has this been by coincidence or design?

I think it’s a bit of both. If we could release albums quicker we probably would but we are on tour so much it’s hard. But we like that it’s evenly spaced out. It almost takes three years to squeeze everything you can out of a record touring-wise so that number just seems to work for us.

Is there any significance with the number three? Aside from the obvious – this being your third album – is there another reason you’re calling it III?

Now that we think of it, we do like to use three a lot. We like to leave off the fourth bar a lot of the time in our songs. But mostly, we thought by calling this album III that it would give brand new fans a hint that we have two existing albums and they might be inclined to go back and check them out! We were aware that it has been three years
between each album but that didn’t really factor into the name,that is just a coincidence! The number also ties in a bit with our song “When I Was A Kid” which is about a baby rock star Leroy (Macqueen, the other half of The Gooch Palms), as seen on the cover art. He was about three when he started showing a very keen interest in music.

You have a unique sound for a duo. How would you describe the band and your music to the uninitiated?

That’s always a super hard question for us to answer and we get asked it a lot. Any time someone, like an Uber driver, hairdresser, doctor etc. ask what we do and we say, “We play in a band” the first thing they ask is, “What do you sound like?”

I don’t know if we’ve ever answered in a way that really sums up The Gooch Palms. We always say we’re a two-piece guitar and drums band. Then explain that that I only play 2 drums and a cymbal and that we both stand next to each other at the front of the stage. I guess it’s some form of indie rock and roll? We started as a pretty primitive garage punk band and are still pretty primitive in many ways. It’s also very pop. We aim for hooky, catchy melodies and upbeat vibes. We both sing and when we play live it’s a party.

Who did you work with on this record – production and collabs – and why?

We worked with producer/engineer Dylan Adams. We just really liked the vibe of the work he’d done previously and thought it would be a great match, which it was.

We recorded it at The Grove on the Central Coast, at his studio in Coogee and some at our house in Newcastle. One demo that we recorded in Los Angeles while we were living there made the final cut – “Marfa Lights”. It didn’t really get tampered with from the demo version. But Dylan jumped in and helped with a few things too, like a group
drum session on both “Coast to Coast” and “New Phone Who Dis?” And he had some great ideas that made the album so much better!

We asked our friend Kelly (Jansch) from TOTTY if she’d be keen to record some backing vocals for “Busy Bleeding” to help beef up the chorus as Leroy didn’t want to sing on that one! Lol! But she was keen and recorded a bunch of versions, all killer, at her home studio and emailed them across. And Dune Rats did the same thing, helping out with group vocals for “Yeah Nah”. They sing the, “YEEEEEEEAH NAH!” parts with us! Oh and our manager Matty
Woo says, “NO!” in “New Phone Who Dis?” Haha totally makes the song!

I noticed you have been based in the USA quite a lot – what kind of influence has
that had on this album?

Not any really. We used a lot of our experiences on tour to form some of the lyrics but we were probably more influenced by ‘80’s Australian bands for this album than any thing else. Although maybe being away from Australia made us more appreciative of the great bands that we’ve produced as a country?

How have American audiences reacted to you so far?
Really well. We love touring America. People just seem to get what we’re doing straight away. I feel like we confuse people a bit in Australia.

There are a lot of Aussie rock bands trying to crack the US market now – what advice would you have for them? Would you recommend, say, SXSW?

All we know is that it’s super tough unless you just strike a chord with Americans. I don’t know what exactly makes them tick but they really seem to love the super Aussie stuff right now. The more Aussie the accent, the more they’re into it.

SXSW is very hit or miss. We really have no idea. America is brutal and if we weren’t a two- piece that can just pack it all up and head Stateside whenever we like I don’t know if we would have ever headed there. We’d be the wrong folks to ask!

I really enjoy the track “Marfa Lights” – what’s the story behind that one?

The lyrics come from us driving into the West Texas town of Marfa in the US. We like the town and had a night off a couple of years ago on tour so we decided to stay in Marfa and go and see the ‘Mystery Lights’ aka ‘Marfa Lights’ that night. They are star-like glowing lights that appear and disappear and dart and combine above a desert plain in front of a mountain range outside of Marfa. You can see them after the sun goes down from the viewing area on the highway. So the plan was to drive into town, book in to the campsite and head out at dark. But as we were driving towards Marfa we noticed a black, egg shaped object floating in the blue sky. I know they have a weather blimp on the other side of Marfa so we thought it might be that, even though it’s white. So we were waiting for it to turn sideways to expose the blimp shape. But it never changed from the egg shape for hours regardless of what angle we were looking at it. It also never got any closer, even though we were driving straight towards it for hours. Super weird.

So I scribbled down some notes about it and put them in the glove box of our van. When we finally got into Marfa, the egg had just vanished. We were joking that the aliens that make the Marfa Lights must have been out and about for the day! But anyways, we also went to see the Marfa Lights that night and even skeptical old Leroy was impressed at how weird and cool they were.

We completely forgot about the notes I’d written and put in the glove box until we were looking for lyrics to this demo that Leroy had made in our bedroom in LA on a 45-plus degree day. We had the window and door covered over for soundproofing and all the music and recording gear running so it would have been over 50 degrees in there! After about an hour Leroy came out soaking wet with sweat with a really cool sounding track. He had a melody in mind and wanted it to be sang really monotone but he had no lyrics. I then remembered the Marfa notes and went and grabbed them.

It was the perfect match up for the vibe of the song! I then had the unfortunate job of going into the insanely hot bedroom and recording the vocals. It was so hot that I tried my hardest to nail it as quick as possible. And like I mentioned before, that demo ended up being the version we used for the record so it was all worth it!

Which track from III do you think best describes your current state of mind, and why?

“Hi-Rise Lo-Times”. That one sums up the current state of the county, if not the world and our extreme anger and sadness. Even though we sound somewhat upbeat in the song, we’re devastated at the way the world is headed. In the song we mention how developers are putting up these shitty, cheap high rise buildings to make a quick buck
and in the process, closing down venues, destroying old buildings, destroying bush land, forests and green spaces and leaving cities ugly and in many cases just creating soon to be abandoned rundown eyesores. We are singing about buildings but it relates to anything that humans are doing for a quick buck at everyone else expense. The
same thing is happening with single use plastic and mining, just to name a couple. Fat cats making a buck off the world’s demise. It makes us so mad!

When can we expect to see you on tour in Australia again? Any plans for regional shows?

Oh we have some very big plans!!! We will be touring the album soon and also have a support slot on a big Australian tour coming up! All to be announced soon. And next year… well you’ll just have to wait and see!

Thanks to Kat from The Gooch Palms for taking the time out to chat with us!
III by The Gooch Palms is out now!
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