Who needs a Simon Cowell-spun sob story when you have a tale like Goat’s to tell? Supposedly hailing from the Swedish commune of Korpilombolo, Goat’s music, a melting pot of Afro-infused psychedelic rock, is said to be lifted from an occultist West-African witch doctor who settled in the Artic outpost several centuries ago – bringing with her not only a sense of connection with the spirit world, but also a curse.
It is this voodoo curse that instructs the tribal, trance-like rhythms of the band today – though Goat is far from a contemporary creation. A contender for title of the world’s oldest rock band, my interviewee, going only by the Mr Goatman pseudonym, claims that the psychedelic outfit is a more ancient creation than their two-album output suggests: “Previous incarnations of Goat have been playing music since about 1898 I think, but never releasing it.”
Perhaps the bands lofty age is best represented in its size. When asked about the band’s two other members, a perplexed Mr Goatman replies, “You must have read a typo, we have at least 16 to 17 core members. But we normally play live with 7. We decide on those that know the songs the best – the tightest possible unit.”
This ability to adapt the band to a particular audience or environment is reflected in the subtle nuances between Goat’s debut LP, ‘World Music’, and their live offering, ‘Ballroom Ritual,’ where warbling Stratocaster wah-wah’s and fuzzy bass lines are stretched to Hendrix-like extremes – culminating in a intoxicating cacophony of aural black magic.
Mr Goatman’s polite, but succinct replies upkeep this sense of spiritual mystery. Even a discussion of the collective’s approach to songcraft fails to produce a lengthy response, “We jam a lot. Sometimes, someone may have a riff or a beat to start of with, Mr. Goatman says, before changing tack. “We write in Swedish first, but translate it to English so that everyone can understand our poetry.”
Unsurprisingly for a band that regularly practises transcendental meditation, ‘Commune’ is an LP entombed in spiritual ecstasy: “Our latest offering is more of a spiritual album. But this wasn’t planned, it just happened that way.” Granted, ‘Commune’ has a thicker atmosphere and a larger serving of lyrical mysticism, but the hooks – generated by Tichumaren vocals and cyclical riffs are steeped in a feel good alt-pop sensibility that burrows its way straight to the cerebral cortex.
Three years after the release of ‘World Music’, Goat’s unique formula continues its unstoppable rise – a fact that humbles Mr Goatman: “I really can’t say why people come back time after time. We could mean different things to different people. But I hope it’s the music.” It is a success that has coaxed the once hermetic outfit to play 41 live shows last year; a statistic the band is keen to reduce for 2015. “We’ll do less shows this year, but we’ve now accepted the fact that we enjoy travelling together and performing our music. Having said that, we’ll never be a hard touring band.”
But Goat’s peace-loving brand of pagan rock has a dark side. In the outer fringes of Scandinavian music lie the National Socialist Black Metal movement, a tight-knit web of far-right musicians with a want to return Northern Europe to pre-Christian roots. Considering the shades of fascism and anti-Semitism involved, it’s a movement that Goat understandably want remove themselves from. “To be part of Goat, which is a freedom loving and spiritual collective is a very liberating thing,” Mr Goatman says. “I have no idea about the black metal scene. I enjoy some of that music occasionally, but that’s all. I don’t know about the politics of the scene, but politics in general over here is fucked up right now – nothing surprises me anymore.”
Perhaps Goat’s fanciful tales of voodoo priestesses, Christian crusaders and Creole expressions would be scoffed if their music wasn’t so accomplished – an exotic blend of telekinetic riffage and mesmeric vocals. It’s a pretence the outfit can maintain, but only if the music remains befitting. So what does the future hold for the Goat? “Right now I don’t know for certain,” Goatman concludes. “But I can say that we are working on a new album.”
Calling for all festival goers to “keep an open mind,” Goat make their Irish debut at this year’s Body & Soul Festival.