Interview: The Goa Express

Youthful and fresh-faced The Goa Express are definitely making a name for themselves in the UK psych rock scene. Maia Gibbs chatted to them about music, lockdown, The Calder Valley and the band’s upcoming tour.

Originating from the new, surprising epicentre of alternative artists The Calder Valley, brothers James Douglas Clarke (vocals and guitar) and Joe Clarke (keyboard), Sam Launder (drums and percussion), Nathan Muzarrar (bass) and Joey Stein (guitar) find themselves in good company with the next faces of British music. The area’s spirited music scene sees names such as The Orielles, Working Men’s Club, and The Lounge Society. Strong competition, but The Goa Express do more than put up a fight.

Having released a few singles via Eli Records and Wrong Way labels respectively, the fivesome recently signed a management deal with Rough Trade. In that time, they’ve released the critically acclaimed Overpass, Second Time and most recently Somebody in the UK. They’ve even received a mentioned from The Steve Lamacq, which is all I ever need to listen to a band. And even more of a reason to chat to them, as I sat down to chat with James Douglas Clarke to talk about music, lockdown, The Calder Valley and the band’s upcoming tour.

There’s always an assumption that northern music is intrinsically connected to being northern. Where other bands can move around in terms of inspiration, these bands are always connected to ‘The North’. Where sometimes it can be true, in other cases it puts into a tightly-confined box.

How important do you think your youth in an Industrial town northern town effected your music?

“Umm I guess a little bit. I guess I felt that more when I was living back home. Yanno, Burnley is an old mill town. I guess it spreads into your music, though we didn’t focus on it specifically. Its not something we really think about. It’s just that feeling of being stuck in a small town.”

There are a lot of new bands from the Calder Valley - Workings Men's Club and The Lounge Society. Do you think there is a particular musical connection that joins bands from the same area?

“It’s nice I think, the attention being given to bands where we’re from. There wasn’t really much happening here before. I guess it’s what you say about growing up in certain places. We used to hang out, and play at the same bars. We both hung out at the Golden Lion, when we were all starting out. The Trades Club as well. We know each other and it’s nice to see.”

A recent debate regarding the ‘youth, internet and the good old days’ - a time old classic among the Twitter-using middle-agers – is whether there will ever be a ‘music scene’ again. Artists from Noel Gallagher to Tim Burgess, have made hypothesises. Will there ever be another Madchester? - say the over 40s, who I doubt will be at stage doors even if there was.

But I guess it’s a valid question.

"We’re not really trying to fit into a box, or scene."

How would you describe the modern Northern/Midlands alternative music scene?

“Whatever it is, I want to be a part of it. We all sort of do our own thing, which is very cool. We’re not really trying to fit into a box, or scene. We’re all just sort ticking away at our own stuff. We’re all friendly and supportive. You’ve got to be respectful of other bands’ stuff.”

Maybe the far cry from infighting, slamming other artists and overall bitching of the UK music 'heyday' - does not make these scenes very interesting. But certainly more palatable.

Spotify describes your bands sound as a 'fuzzy wall of diverse sound' - what exactly would you say this fuzzy wall is made up of?

(He laughed, which I hoped he would. Would be awful if he took the description of fuzzy seriously). “Hmm, yeah? That’s interesting. People just write this stuff up, don’t they? It’s actually quite a hard question for me to answer. Fuzzy? I guess the guitar. The electric guitar. It’s loud and live it’s blaring. Maybe that’s what they meant.”

How would you describe your lyrical and musical process? How do you get from the idea to the finished product?

“We usually go about it in the same way, to be honest. We start with the chords, find that melody. Then we do the lyrics, find that melody. Then you work on making everything fit. I’m currently trying to mix this new track actually. Just sat in the studio, with this new guitar. An electric one, so will be playing about with that.”

I hope the track is fuzzy.

How do you think the pandemic has effected your career trajectory as such a young band?

“Well, it’s definitely slowed things down, in regards to live gigs. But, also, it’s given us space. And time to work on new shit. Do this fucking room [studio] up. Just hang out and properly work on some stuff. We’ve wrote a lot, made them sound really good. In regards to the band, I don’t think it was such a bad thing. We’re definitely stronger. More put together.”

So is there anything that your especially excited to show fans with your upcoming music?

"Loads more new tracks. Loads. A lot are in the process of getting where they need to be. But even now, it’s just a lot better than stuff we’ve put out before. Just having more time. And obviously we’re going on tour in May, we should be really exciting. Maybe a shock to the system. We only had our first show last week”.

"We still listen to the same stuff we did at sixteen, and when we started out. We like what we like."

How do you think your sound and musical influences have matured since you’re beginning as a band?

“We definitely listen to more stuff that we didn’t pay attention to at sixteen. Which helps a lot. You consider more things musically, different ways you can go about things. We still listen to the same stuff we did at sixteen, and when we started out. We like what we like. But I think we have more fun writing, when you have more ideas to go off, and you’ve listen to more people and different types of music.”

Is their anywhere your particularly excited to play?

“Abroad. Anywhere abroad. Anywhere with just a bit of sun. I need it. In regards to the UK, I like them all the same. I treat them all the same as well.”

In regards to UK venues, The Goa Express Nottingham, this May, at The Chameleon. So all you locals get down there. And the non-locals - get to everywhere else they are, I guess.

Maia Gibbs


Edited by: Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of The Goa Express via Facebook.