The Goon Sax is one of our favourite recent bands. In our review we praised their witty lyrics, just on the right edge of sarcasm and self-pity. The trio are still at school and their songs offer a refreshing take on teenage life. Musically, those typical Australian pop tunes are easily recognisable and Louis’ father is Robert Forster from the Go-Betweens, so that’s no surprise. We asked The Goon Sax some questions for Beautiful Freaks about their band, what inspires their songs, and technology and the emptiness of modern life. Read the interview below!
Hey! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. First off, how has putting out your album been for you?
Louis: It’s been great, it feels wonderful to have people finally hearing it. I am sure a lot of bands say this but you really feel the delay between writing songs and them actually coming out, I think for us this was even bigger because you change a lot from 14 to 17.
How did The Goon Sax come into existence?
L: They came into existence when I left the band that both James and I were in and asked James if he wanted to start a band with me called The Goon Sax. We started practicing on two guitars James had either in his room or near the Aldi by his house. Being in a band with James was great because he was the only person I felt comfortable showing my songs to, it felt really great to just show them to someone and start playing them.
One of the things that make your songs so great is the way they capture a very specific sort of feeling a lot of people have during their teens. To what extent are your songs autobiographical? And if they are, is songwriting a way for you to self-reflect and self-relativise?
L: Yes definitely, they are always very autobiographical. A lot of people have been saying that the themes are very teenage, which is not something I really noticed when writing them because it was just what was happening in my life, but looking back at all the songs now I can definitely see that. As far as songs being a way of reflecting, I think for me it’s more a way of kind of processing something so I can put it out of my head in a way.
Sometimes your lyrics come off as almost sarcastic (for example the spoken sequence in ‘Home Haircuts’) – is there a bit of taking the piss out of teenage angst in your music as well?
L: Hahaha, that song was very real to me, I think when other people hear it they think it’s funnier than it seemed to me at the time actually. But we definitely do use humour in our songs, I think it makes it easier to talk about heavier things. A lot of my favourite lyricists like Jarvis Cocker or Jonathan Richman, often have quite a funny take on their problems which I like.
Can you elaborate on your hate of telephones? Is there any hidden anger against the technologicalisation of society in that song?
James: Haha not really, I use my phone all the time. I think it has more to do with the anxiety of returning your crush’s phone call, as well as when my friend’s dad told me about how he didn’t have a mobile phone and never would.
Related to this, there’s also some boredom present in your songs (“I need a boyfriend or just anything real”); do you feel modern life has some sort of emptiness or superficiality?
L: I think I am very easily bored and that probably reflects in the songs. There is definitely an underlying theme of boredom in ‘Making the Worst’ and probably a few other songs on the album too. I have never really thought about modern life being empty, but some of the songs definitely came from me feeling that my life was.
With Louis’ father being Robert Forster from the Go-Betweens, how has that influenced your music? (This might be a question you’re getting tired of hearing, sorry.)
L: I think it just gave me the idea that it was and option as something I could do, which was inspiring, but I don’t think it has influenced us musically really.
Apart from that, what has influenced you?
L: My primary school teacher was really wonderful at teaching English and I think getting excited about that meant that there was always a big focus on lyrics for me. Sometimes it can be hard to trace what inspired you because it kind of happens without you noticing, with music it’s kind of the easiest to trace but I am sure books and movies and friends played a big role too. Galaxie 500 were a huge influence for me both lyrically and musically, I felt like listening to them I immediately related to it more than almost anything else I had ever heard. I read Dean Wareham’s book and found it so fascinating to hear about things he experienced, and then see the way he turned them into songs, that definitely helped me with songwriting.
Where are you planning on going from here?
L: We are planning a European tour this September during my school holidays, and then we’d all like to move to Berlin, which I am very very excited about! Hopefully we will record our next album either late this year or early next year too. I look forward to getting back in the studio, maybe this time with a bit more time.
Our website is called Beautiful Freaks. Giving your own interpretation to‘Beautiful Freaks’, do you think the term fits you as a band and/or as persons?
L: James freaks me out a bit sometimes but he is also beautiful, so I think so.
-- Caspar Jacobs, April 19, 2016