Sampling rock success with the Go! Team

Sound tracking
By REYAN ALI  |  April 6, 2011

Go team main
MISH MASH-UP “People think of it [sample-based songwriting] as being lazy,” says Ian Parton (right), “but I think of it as a way of crossing decades and cultures within a song.” 
To hell with the average indie-rock band consisting of "four blokes with guitars" — Ian Parton isn't having any of it. In several past interviews, the Go! Team mastermind has expressed his distaste for the prominence of what he sees as a cookie-cutter musical dynamic, and why not? Even though the Go! Team have a major stake in an indie-rock-oriented audience, Parton's brainchild is the total antithesis of anything staid and devoted to one style.

Instead, his plucky band from Brighton, England, soak their records in razzmatazz. On February's Rolling Blackouts (Memphis Industries), they play genre hopscotch again, touching on schoolyard torch songs, mucky garage rock, brash hip-hop, Garbage-style alt-rock, and a thousand other niches. Parton originally envisioned this project as "distorted and fucked up" and "schizo," and though those terms are too negative to tap into the band's playful spirit, they're good reminders of the Go! Team's unpredictability. Even if their fusion experiments don't always hit the bull's eye, the Team never let themselves go for something easy.

"I'm someone who is quite reactive to things," Parton says by phone from the UK. "I don't just sit in a room and pace up and down." For the two years it took to write Rolling Blackouts, the guitarist rummaged through thousands of records for samples to slide into Go! Team songs. His palette was mostly older stuff: California psych rock, Northern soul, soundtracks, Bollywood, girl groups, African funk. If something piqued his interest, he added it to his "super-file" of ideas. In turn, this process inspired fresh ideas. He would occasionally sing fragments of new songs into his Dictaphone or cell phone, deciding later whether they had any value.

After Parton finished hoarding samples, assembling the album became a more collaborative effort with the other five Go! Team players. Cross-cultural experimentation came through here, too, with new musical sources like steel drums, kalimba, banjo, harmonica, and an African gospel choir. They even managed to work a typewriter into "Secretary Song."

Parton emphasizes that more-original songwriting and playing goes into Go! Team records than they're given credit for. "People probably assume that things that were recorded — trumpets or something like that — were samples," he says, referring to the actual 15-piece brass band on Blackouts' "Bust-Out Brigade." "Some sample-based music does have a bad reputation sometimes. People think of it as being lazy, but I think of it as a way of crossing decades and cultures within a song. You could have something African rub shoulders with something American with something French, so I like that idea of patchwork."

Like other Go! Team albums, Rolling Blackouts collapses several disparate snapshots into one experience. "Yosemite Theme" "suggested a world that made me think of windswept national parks and bears and eagles and things like that"; the result was an instrumental track that resembles a '70s promotional video score for a big nature reserve. "Secretary Song" could double as the theme to a '60s kids show; "Ready To Go Steady" is ideal for a movie montage where a tween girl settles down with a schoolmate.

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