You may not see much in common between African funk, Bollywood, and 1960s sonic psychedelia, but to Ian Parton, they are all examples of the raw DNA behind his music. Almost anything is fair game for The Go Team!, an English music outfit that has played with genres and embraced its own mystery since its debut album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, landed in 2004.
In the 12 years since, Parton has continued what he calls “hoarding:” Collecting stray melodies and samples from any source he can find that he then somehow magically combines into ebullient, chaotic sounds.
[jump] Case in point: It was a 1980s American commercial that provided the roots of “The Floating Felt Tip,” an interlude off the band’s latest album, The Scene Between. Parton recalls buying “loads” of VHS tapes featuring old advertisements, one of which provided the foundation on which that song is built. As Parton describes it, each Go Team! song is five or six separate ideas layered together. He likens the process to a puzzle, one where every piece must be memorable or catchy enough to keep its place.
“It’s a combination of ideas from various times,” says Parton.” The verse could be 10 years old, [but] the chorus could be written yesterday.”
Parton’s approach to music is similar to that of a chemist. He pours sounds into a beaker and awaits the inevitable explosion, tinkering with minuscule recalculations until his experiment is complete. He admits to doing his best to hide the origins of samples in The Go Team! songs. Parton’s tools include distortion, layering, reversing, and even changing the chords over the top of something to more organically blend samples into the sound he’s working on. He also seeks challenges in the process, like flipping moods within a song or having different productions styles in a single track. When forced to describe the sound of The Go Team!, he calls it “overload.”
It can hard to define exactly who is in the Go Team!, both from a studio standpoint and when the band is on the road. Members come and go, and the catchy cacophony that permeates their records is difficult to distill into individual pieces. Parton welcomes the confusion, a sense he enjoys invoking not only in terms of The Go Team!’s make-up, but in their output as well.
“We’re quite mysterious,” he says. “We’re not an easy outfit to pin down, musically or personal wise.”
While every Go Team! record is primarily constructed by Parton, The Scene Between was acutely independent in its creation. When the band finished touring in 2011 for their third album, Rolling Blackouts, a meeting was held in which it was decided that creative control of the group would revert to Parton. Many members of the band were starting families or engaged in other passions, leaving Parton with the same crew he had worked with on Thunder, Lightning, Strike: himself.
What Parton discovered while assembling the music that would become The Scene Between was that his focus had shifted. Where he saw past Go Team! albums focusing on chant-driven vocals and raucous trumpets, he wanted his new venture to place an emphasis on melody, specifically through the medium of female voices. Rather than seek out singers and write to their ranges, Parton sought out singers who could replicate what he already heard in his head for certain tracks.
“It would have been much easier if I just had a voice which could cover the whole record,” he says, “but for me, each song needed something different.”
Another challenge he faced was figuring out how to replicate the varied voices he’d recruited in studio for a live performance. Parton found the answer in Angela Won Yin Mak, whom he discovered playing in the Cambridge, England shoegaze band Carousels. He sent her The Scene Between, and when she agreed to join up with The Go Team!, Parton knew the rest of his work would be easy. Simone Odaranile, who Parton calls “the best drummer we’ve had,” and bassist/backing vocalist Cheryl Pinero came aboard, along with mainstays Ninja (vocals) and Sam Dook (guitar).
“I always felt like the Go Team! would become like a list, particularly for our listeners,” says Parton. “It was this plus this plus this equals that.”
The Scene Between was released in March 2015, and, as he wraps up touring for the new record, Parton must now once again start from scratch. Like everything he’s done so far, it’s a challenge he readily embraces.
“It’s a dilemma, which direction to go now,” he says. “I guess that’s always been the situation with The Go Team!. You can go in literally any direction.”
The Go Team! plays Great American Music Hall on Monday, Jan. 18. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com.