Goat Leaf – ‘A Lack Of Oxygen’ Album Review & Exclusive Interview

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Goat Leaf are a band that you may not yet have heard, but, with their prodigious work rate and a recent appearance at Bloodstock festival, you can bet your last groat that this is about to change. A heavy, vaguely psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll band, Goat Leaf combine the dry, heavy riffs of Kyuss with elements ot anything from Cream to the Doors to create a wonderfully compelling, analogue sound that you hear all too rarely these days. Building their success through intensive touring and manic creativity rather than endless, tedious Facebook campaigns and marketing, Goat Leaf are doing this the old fashioned way and their obvious dedication to the creative art of making music comes across in every roared vocal and every speaker annihilating riff. In short, Goat Leaf are pretty damn awesome. ‘A lack of oxygen’ is the band’s second album and benefits greatly from having been mixed and mastered by Jaimie Gomez Allerano, who also mixed the Ghost album, and the result is a ten track blast through heavy stoner rock territory on the back of a turbo charged motorbike. It’s fast, dangerous and one hell of a ride.

Opening with the title track the first thing you hear is Jonny’s wounded blues rock howl as he sings “these times were meant to change me…”  over a rattling riff that kicks into gear as the band (completed by rhythm section Mat Washington and David Main) come surging in. With a rich, warm bass underpinning John Hodgson’s flinty, punky guitar sound, elements of Monster Magnet and Kyuss fly through the mix, but with the band’s own distinctively bluesy take on the sound of those desert-obsessed bands with the result that the track, with its beautifully arcing lead work, sounds refreshingly different whilst still paying tribute to its roots. ‘Moot point’ has a grinding intro only to explode into a full-tilt blast down the highways of, err, Yorskshire as the band take the music of Hawkwind and submit it to a thorough kicking, Jonny adopting a harder-edged snarl as John’s riffs pile up behind him. ‘Love under will’ is the first evidence of the band slowing down, the band operating in the weird hinterland that exists between Cream and Spaceman three. ‘Truth be told’ has a powerful groove to it, Jonny’s voice riding high over lascivious, throbbing bass and a sparse guitar arrangement that allows the song plenty of room to breathe before it dissolves into a spacey outro that swirls around the room like smoke before fading into nothingness. ‘Wolf bag’ is as feral as its title, John unleashing a pure stoner riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘welcome to sky valley’ whilst the chorus is short and memorable – a winning combination and one likely to wedge itself into your consciousness for some time to come.

An album highlight is the pummelling rock of ‘ain’t got time to bleed’ which has a sweet, multi-tracked vocal on the restrained verse and a monumental chorus that kicks like a mule. ‘Herr H Atom’ is a chrome plated monster that has soulful backing vocals, full-tilt riffs and the lyric that should be printed on every piece of the band’s merchandise: “I am what I am, don’t judge me.” ‘Bare witness’ is a pure groove machine, a hard-hitting slab of rock with smooth, impossibly addictive bass underpinning it that sounds like Pearl jam playing Lupine Howl covers and then ‘one last line’ slowly fades into view. It’s another song that brings to mind the more blues-orientated, soulful end of pearl Jam’s output (think ‘yellow Ledbetter’) and it’s one of the album’s more gentle tracks. The record closes with ‘they fell at Tucamcari’ a short and sweet end to an disc that keeps you hooked from start to finish. A trippy, bluesy piece it barely even counts as a verse and yet it not only concludes the album neatly but it also most certainly leaves you wanting more.

Ultimately Goat Leaf do a fantastic job of incorporating their many (and if you read on to the interview below you’ll discover just how many) influences into a cohesive and vibrant whole that will undoubtedly captivate heavy rock fans with a penchant for the heavier end of the blues (think Cream’s blazing rendition of ‘Crossroads) and stoner rock in the vein of Kyuss, Sleep and Monster magnet. It is no surprise that Goat Leaf have been building an impressive following in the four years since they returned to action, and if you dig heavy music built around a furious commitment to the art of making music then you’ll find much to admire in ‘A lack of Oxygen’.

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If the above review has whetted your appetite, then read on and learn more about the band whom we were lucky enough to meet and interview at this year’s Bloodstock.

So, first of all, could you introduce goat Leaf to us please?

We’re a four-piece from Rotherham, South Yorkshire and we play heavy rock music and a little bit of blues… yeah, that’s about it, we play fucking rock music!

How long have you been together?

Currently about four years. We were together back in 96 and split up after about a year and then fifteen years later and started the band up again

Is this your first bloodstock?

So how did you get on the bill?

We won the Sheffield Metal 2 the masses, so we got that which was great. We were on first, we were on very early but it was packed and the audience was fantastic so we were very happy. There were maybe a thousand people watching at that time in the morning, it’s a bit early for us, but it was great!

So is this one of the biggest events you’ve done so far?

I would say so, yeah.

What do you think are the biggest advantages of events like this for unsigned bands?

Exposure. Experience. Laying it down with the best of them.

The main thing is getting our name out there and as John just said, with all the other bands as well it’s great just to have our name associated with all that’s going on and it seems to be doing us a lot of good, so, it’s good.

It’s great of the festival to give unsigned bands a chance as well, so it’s fantastic.

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When you (re)formed the band – did you have any goals or did you just want to get together and jam and it’s grown from there?

I think initially the idea was… well we hadn’t seen each other in fifteen years I hadn’t seen Dave or John in fifteen years and we’d not spoken since we split up. I played with Matt in a different band for a while but again we’d not seen each other for a few years. Then by chance someone posted a video of one of our songs and we kind of got in touch, John got in touch, we tracked Dave down and we said – ‘shall we have a jam, and if we get together and it’s shit we’ll go and have a beer and if it’s good we’ll do something about it!” So we got together and the old songs that we’d been playing before still sounded great and unbeknownst to these guys I’d already booked us a gig, so we played our first gig two or three weeks later and it just became really apparent that the band was still really good and somehow we’re still relevant and we’re playing songs that we wrote, now twenty years ago, and they still sounded great and we love playing them. We’re playing maybe two of those songs in the now because we recorded those songs, put a record out, and then we started recoding new material and we just kick songs out as soon as we write them and I guess that’s it. We’ve just gigged and gigged and gigged everywhere we can. We’ve never been a band who just plays locally – we’ve got a pretty good following in London, Scotland and Wales and we play everywhere we can We went out into Spain last year, Amsterdam and Belgium and we just take the music to the people and that’s how we’ve always done it, and somehow four years have gone by really quick and now we’re at Bloodstock!

How have you found the promotion aspect of music has changed since the first time you formed?

It’s easier, I think the availability of media via the internet has made access almost too easy in some ways People seem to come and find us really through having good songs and a good live show. It’s been a very slow burn if you will, but the people who come and see us live often come and see us again and they tell their friends and there’s no real master-plan.

Gigs have never changed – if you’ve got the songs and you’ve got the means of presenting it then you’ll get somewhere whether you’ve got 25000 friends on Facebook or not.

That’s the other aspect that has changed significantly. In 1996 recording was expensive and difficult and now you can more or less record a full album in your bedroom with only a little knowledge. So did you start recording back in 1996 or did you only start when you reformed?

We did a couple of demos…

We did a four track demo first off. We had the now defunct Music For Nations interested in us and they asked for more music and it never really happened.

Two of us were signing on at the time and we just didn’t have the backing to push it out at that time.

We’re obviously not a young, good looking boy band. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band and I think age has actually helped us to be where we are. We have the experience now that we didn’t have then.

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How difficult is it to balance a band on the rise with the commitments of life?

This is my commitment to life. I haven’t got anything else. This is my life.

There is a bit of juggling that goes on – we try to pay the bills but we do every gig that we get and every tour that we get so we just keep doing it. That’s it.

We’ve got really understanding girlfriends and wives which helps!

Tell me about the new album.

This is the second album. We recorded it at a local studio and we were kind of unhappy with the sound of the mixes we were getting from the original thing so we had the guy who mixed and Mastered the Ghost album do it in his London studio and so it cost a little bit more money but it was really worth it when we got the mixes back from him. He never met us, but we spoke over email and by phone and we got the first mixes back and we thought it sounded like us so we were happy with that. It’s all mixed and mastered analogue so it sounds all the better for it so it’s cool.

What would you say your main influences are?

Dave – what are your main influences?

Stooges, Bad Brains, Yorkshire. Garage days Metallica, Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Pantera, Ride the lightning, Stone roses, Queen… Lots of stuff basically.

We never formed a band with an agenda to fit in a pocket. We play it and what we sound like, it is what it is.

The four of us playing together sounds like Goat leaf!

So what’s next for you – have you got anything coming up?

We’re playing in December. Four shows with a band from Sweden called Stonewall Noise Orchestra, and we’re finishing in Sheffield at the Winter Ox festival with The Answer, Stonewall, the guys from Zodiac and black whom we toured with last year, Eureka machines and I am giant. So quite a few bands so it’s going to be a decent festival. We have a couple of London shows and we’re going to play with Jeremy Irons in Camden in October and we’re also playing with Warrior Soul in mid-October. So quite a bit coming up.

We were planning to go to Spain again but that’s been put back to next year which is actually quite good because we’re working on some new material so we should have a new EP out for that, but that’s into next year really.

Any final words?

Errr, thanks for the support, keep turning up…

Keep buying our merch!

Yeah – keep on keeping on basically!

Thanks!

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