New power-pop/garage-rock phenoms such as the Futureheads, Franz Ferdinand and HotHotHeat have all opened for local lo-fi kinda-punks Gogogo Airheart in the past, according to drummer Andy Robillard. And while Robillard earnestly acknowledges the incest of their hometown support system (he was once even part of the CityBeat lineup, in the design department) and the myriad influences on Gogogo's hardline eclecticism, Robillard prefaced our enlightening Q&A with one contextual caveat.
"We love those bands and respect them very much," he told me. But whereas the "Futureheads are proud of how super-tight they are live; we nail a show by doing something we've never done before. That's our approach. Much more a psychedelic, taking-peyote-in-the-desert sort of approach."
And so was the interview session just a few weeks before Gogogo set out on their "first real" U.S. tour
CityBeat: Give me the Readers Digest creation myth of the band.
Andy Robillard: I think it happened [when] Ashish ["Hash"] Vyas and Mike [Vermillion] were DJs in the mid-'90s. Hash and Mike moved in next door to me... in O.B., and since Ashish was under 21, I would sneak him into the Velvet club where I worked. Good old lawless Velvet.
I got into the band under a false pretense: Hash asked me to bring a bass drum and snare drum to a party they were playing at DJ Kingsley's house in P.B., and when I got there, I learned their drummer had quit and well: "Gee, Andy, can you play them, too?" We ended up doing an impromptu rap battle for about three hours-still one of my favorite gigs in memory.
Is the Gogogo songwriting process as odd as the songs?
For the longest time, we never played a song more than once. We did what we called "instant composition." We would start with a beat or an idea and develop it as we felt it, hoping for the right combination of enlightenment and luck. In fact, the first record-commonly called "The Green Record"-only had one previously composed song on it, lasting 50 seconds. The second record [Love My Life... Hate My Friends] was about half-and-half. The current record, about four or five tracks we made up in the studio late at night under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol and whatnot.
I can only imagine their inspirations.
On this recent record-Rats! Sing! Sing!-about half the songs were brought in by Ben or Mike with a loose idea of how they should be, and then we fleshed them out as a group and arranged them to our mutual satisfaction. Hash wrote one, and the rest we made up on the spot. Really, though, we write songs every time we get together, quite organically. We could probably write an album's worth of material every month or two if only we could get together often enough. Damn those day jobs! Really puts a wrench into our creative process.
So how do you stay on the same page, musically?
I can say, without a doubt, that you will never hear a Gogogo song the same way twice. Sometimes they are drastically different from the original, sometimes just subtle changes. We often change things according to our moods, often right in the middle of the song. Halfway through a song, Hash will yell out something to me like "house beat!" and I'll change the beat around and, viola, you got a new song. Piece of cake.
How does the studio differ from the live sound?
Rawness. In the studio we can play with all the fun toys that studios have, but when it comes to live, we just kick out the jams. I guess at heart we are a garage band.
The music scene in San Diego is notorious for producing critically acclaimed bands who can't seem to make the jump to mainstream success. Where does GoGoGo fit into that tradition?
I think you said it all right there, buddy. In the beginning we had no desire to get a big record deal. With time and age we have changed that perspective.... Now we just want to make a living at it, for a little while at least, just so we have the time to write more songs. I think time will prove us to be historically significant-I just hope we don't have to wait 10 years until everybody else besides the critics realize it.
With this record we consciously tried to make it more sonically friendly to the airwaves, but you could never really clean up our sound enough to make it a cakewalk. The trick is to make it just recognizable enough that it's not completely foreign, but not so easy you get sick of it too soon. It's got to grow on you. Our music has always come with an inherent "cost of admission." You have to give it a few listens before you really dig it.
Listening to our records, I still find things in them that I didn't hear the time before. It's a beautiful thing.