The Goa Express: Garage rockers breakdown singles, lockdown life and influences

Every once in a while a band charges onto the scene and stops you in your tracks.

Meet The Goa Express – a rising five-piece that’s more of a brotherhood than an indie act.

Currently under the wings of Rough Trade Management, the Manchester-based troupe are fast making a name for themselves thanks to their brilliantly hectic, gung ho garage rock trips packed with dazzling riffs and soaring choruses.

Singles The Day and Be My Friend drag you away from the hum-drum grind and catapult you into an effervescent, carefree world bursting with life, adventure and limitless opportunity.

First single proper, The Day, saw them enlist the talents of Fat White Family’s Nathan Sauodi for production duties at their own Champ Zone studio in Sheffield, culminating in a 2-minute explosion of guitars, synths, and youthful energy.

Be My Friend, their latest, sonically-huge release, was given the Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, The Fall) treatment, and has enjoyed plays on BBC Radio 6 Music and Apple Music 1.

Talking to Daily Star Online, frontman James Douglas Clarke said Be My Friend was inspired by “boredom”.

He said: “Nights out were all beginning to blur into one and it was hard to distinguish between them, even though they seemed fun at the time. There was a need to get away from it all and to avoid bumping into people, full stop.”

The band’s tight-knit camaraderie – formed during their teenage years at school and playing intimate live shows above vintage shops – is captured in their self-produced video for Be My Friend; a lockdown-created clip pieced together using footage taken on nights out and day-to-day laughs filmed on a phone with no intention they’d ever be used in a music promo.

BBC 6 Music legend Steve Lamacq is an early champion, having invited the quintet to play their first radio session at London’s iconic Abbey Road Studios.

While their early influences ranged from Spacemen 3 to Brain Jonestown Massacre, James tells us the band now tries to “find influences in everything we see and in everywhere we go”.

The Goa Express are riding the tracks to the top and rightfully find their place among the exciting charge of UK and Irish outfits tearing up the rule book.

Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with James to find out more about The Goa Express, how they’ve spent lockdown, their singles so far, their influences, and hopes ahead.

How have the past few months been for you in lockdown? How have you navigated such an unpredictable situation for emerging bands?

“Lockdown has been the same for us as it has been for everyone else; there have been some ups and downs but none of us have let it get to us.

“Lots of shows have been cancelled and plans abandoned, but having the band spread over two households has allowed us to carry on, not slow down and keep up the pace.

You’ve returned with the new single Be My Friend, what was the writing and recording process like?

“We’ve had Be My Friend down for a while. It was initially written around the same time as The Day and was then recorded as a demo at the Champ Zone session with Nathan Saoudi. Both songs capture the positive/ negative feelings of being at university."

What’s the message behind it?

“Boredom. Nights out were all beginning to blur into one and it was hard to distinguish between them, even though they seemed fun at the time. There was a need to get away from it all and to avoid bumping into people, full stop.”

It continues the high-octane, all out garage rock style from the previous single The Day. Is this a sound you’ve set out to achieve since forming? How have you evolved together?

“Although we’ve evolved and have come a long way since beginning, the writing process has remained relatively similar.

“We never set out to create a certain sound and the tracks appear as they do, without much thought. Both singles may appear ‘high-octane,’ but within our setlist, we have much more of a variety.”

Its video features clips from nights out and day to day stuff that was pieced together during lockdown. Do you think it gives a snapshot of what The Goa Express are all about?

“The video captures the band’s day to day lives, its brotherhood and displays the energy that occurs between us. It’s this energy which has kept us going for so long.

“We now have a cool little video camera too, and have already managed to catch some new, golden material.”

It was recorded with Ross Orton, who’s worked with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and The Fall. What did he bring to the table?

“Ross Orton constantly pushed us forward and made sure that we remained focused at all times. His ability to try different things – regardless of whether they worked or not – kept our ideas exciting and fresh.

“This process of trial and error was very important and it’s something that we like when recording in the studio.”

You’re from the towns of Todmorden and Burnley and are based in Manchester. How have these varied environments moulded your sound?

“We’ve had the best of both worlds; the countryside to get away from people and the town centre to do the opposite, getting close to them. A mix of urban and spacious environments have given us the freedom to get up to what we want, without there being any trouble. It’s always felt important for us to get up to our own stuff without the involvement of others.”

You’ve been taken under the wing of Rough Trade Management, home to the likes of Shame and black midi. What’s it like being part of such an iconic team and how supportive are they?

“It can sometimes still feel kind of strange but like with everything, we don’t spend much time thinking about it and tend to take things as they come.

“We are all striving for similar things but most importantly, we get on extremely well and can speak openly and honestly about most things. To many more years of fun!”

Previously mentioned single The Day was recorded in Sheffield with Fat white Family’s Nathan Sauodi at their Champ Zone studio. What was it like working with him and are they a band you are inspired by?

“Nathan’s great and, like us, he’s interested in a million and one things outside of music, which is important. We met on several occasions prior to our recording session and got on immediately with him and those around him.

“When we were younger, we saw Fat White Family many times across the UK, most notably at Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club. We look forward to their next release and will probably bump into each other soon.”

Who are you influenced and inspire by? Do you all share similar music tastes?

“Our music tastes are all fairly similar; the same but different. As a younger band in our college days, we were initially inspired by bands such as Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Nowadays, however, we try and find influences in everything we see and in everywhere we go.”

Your part of an incredible charge of young talented bands breaking through in this country. What do you think of the UK music scene currently and are there any of your contemporaries you are impressed by?

“We don't think about the UK music scene often, but are glad to be a part of it all the same. Bands such as Children of the State and Document are close friends of ours, they impress us every day, without fail, and we’ll always support them, because of that.”

You performed your first radio session for the great Steve Lamacq at Abbey Road studios how was that experience?

“It was good fun and the first time we’d stayed in London as a band together. Lammo’s had our back for a while and that’s cool.

“It was a big boost for him to choose us to venture to Abbey Road to record, so we thank him for that.”

You’ve built up a reputation for your live shows. With venues still closed, how eager are you to get back to playing?

“Very, very eager. We miss it all massively.”

What are your hopes for the years ahead? Do you have plans to release an EP in the imminent future?

“We don’t look that far ahead, but more than anything, we hope to be playing live again in the not too distant future.

“In terms of an EP, who knows? We have plenty of tracks and at some point, they’ll have to go somewhere. Hopefully, summer 2021 will come around much quicker than they usually do. Nobody needs another winter after all this.”

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