Jazz (In the Supermarket)
They Bite on You
Where Do We Go?
During the late 2010s, South London’s Goat Girl emerged from the same Brixton-based scene that spawned similarly free-spirited alternative acts such as shame, Sorry, and black midi. With the band all taking on cartoonish stage names—Clottie Cream (lead vocalist and guitarist Lottie Pendlebury), L.E.D. (guitarist Ellie Rose Davies), and Rosy Bones (drummer Rosy Jones)—their 2018 self-titled debut album was a set of surly post-punk that moved with a shadowy menace and punch-drunk lurch. For this follow-up On All Fours, Goat Girl has kept that spirit but delivered music with a far wider scope. Propelled by the hypnotic playing of new bassist Holly Mullineaux (aka Holly Hole) and an embrace of electronics, tracks such as “P.T.S.Tea,” with its toy-town synth pop, and the creepily atmospheric “They Bite on You” constantly change direction (often within the space of a single verse). “I think this was always going to be because we’re all just a bit older,” Davies tells Apple Music. “We wrote the first album from ages of 15 to 17. And then Holly joined and that brought a fresh energy.” That progression in the band’s sound is also a reflection of developments in their songwriting processes. “It was a conscious thing,” says Jones. “It felt quite natural to all try and collaboratively write this one in a way that hadn’t happened before.” The resulting songs mark out Goat Girl as one of the preeminent talents in British indie music—and here they talk us through how they did it, track by track.
Lottie Pendlebury: “We got snowed in the studio, and the snowstorm was being called ‘The Beast From the East.’ There were loads of newspaper articles about it, and we were discussing that that’s a weird title for a snowstorm. It’s almost putting blame on it, like it’s the fault of the people who live in the East. To me, it seemed kind of racist and made me think about the fact that it’s rare with climate change that people actually think about who the blame really lies with. The people who have created this devastation are in the West, it’s the fault of industrialization, colonization, neoliberalism…that’s the true evil. We need to look internally and we need to stop blaming externally.”
Ellie Rose Davies: “That was a jam where we all switched instruments. I was playing bass and Rosy was playing guitar and I think Lottie was playing drums.”
Holly Mullineaux: “I can’t remember who came up with [the ‘badi-badi-ba-ba’ refrain in the chorus]. I remember us all just chanting it for ages and it being really funny.”
ERD: “I was thinking when I was writing it that when we try to do right and save the planet, we try to not be ourselves in our daily lives. There are these factors of what it is to be human that are quite selfish, and it’s about how that is unavoidable to a degree, but that has a knock-on effect for the rest of the planet and the planet’s resources.”
Jazz (In the Supermarket)
LP: “That was written in the studio. It was really hot and the air con wasn’t working and we were sleeping in there. It was all getting a bit insane, so that came from a jam there and it was quite unhinged. Our friend listened to it and was like, ‘That’s so sick!’ so we thought we should include it.”
Rosy Jones: “The title came from this idea of jazz where it’s meant to be complex and you’re all virtuosos, but ‘in the supermarket’ was because we thought the synth sounded like a supermarket checkout—beep, beep, beep.”
HM: “This came from a really mad, really silly demo. I don’t even think I had anything plugged in. I think I did it just using the computer keyboard. It had these spooky chords and then a really rampant, annoying drum beat, but there was something good about it, and then Ellie wrote a really nice melody over it.”
ERD: “I think we called it ‘Reggae Ghost’ for a while because it sounded like a ghost train. Then we called it ‘Greyhound’ because I’d written these lyrics about a dog my mum was looking after. I was really sad when she had to give it back.”
RJ: “We were on a ferry and I went to get breakfast. I was just there playing a game on my phone, then next thing I know this guy’s tea poured over me. This guy was just walking away and I was like, ‘Was it you?’ And he just looked at me and walked away. I was in loads of pain. It put me out of action for two weeks. I had to go to the burns unit and we had to cancel all our shows. I couldn’t move. The first lyrics were inspired by that, but then it sort of trails off into other experiences I’ve had with obnoxious men thinking they have a right to question me about my sexuality and my gender identity. Just being rude, basically.”
LP: “I was going through different recordings and voice notes on my phone and came across this jam from maybe a year before and there was this really nice guitar line in it. That was what became the main melody of the song, and then it just developed. I wanted it to sound slightly dissonant and strange, so I was messing around with different tunings of the guitar and I wanted the rhythm to have a jittery feel. I was just trying to experiment before I brought it to the band. That was one of the songs that slipped into place quite quickly.”
ERD: “I did a demo for that song quite a few years ago and just put it on my personal SoundCloud and didn’t really think anything of it. I think Holly was the one who was like, ‘Oh, this is really good, we should do it.’ It’s changed a lot from how it was originally. I never had a real chorus in my version, I just kept saying, ‘The crack, the crack, the crack,’ which was a bit shit. It’s about an imagined post-apocalyptic world where people leave the Earth to go and find another planet to live on because they’ve just ruined this one.”
LP: “I was trying to think about the words and the rhythms and also the images that they conjure up and how anxiety can take different shapes and forms. So the anxiety in me became a ghost that possesses me and controls me, or it’s this boil that I’m staring at on my head and different ideas that allow you to gain some sense of autonomy over the feelings that you can’t really control. It’s funny because the music is quite upbeat and cheerful. It does jar and it confuses you in the way that anxiety does. It’s an embodiment of that as well.”
ERD: “‘Anxiety Feels’ came out of a not very nice time for me where I was having panic attacks two or three times a day. Not really wanting to meet up with anyone socially or even leave the house to go to the shop. I was just feeling so weird and so self-aware from the moment I woke up, my heart would be racing and I’d be just feeling dread. The song was about that and weighing up whether to take anti-anxiety medication, but then knowing quite a few people close to me and their response to medication and basically deciding that I was going to find an alternative route than to be medicated for it.”
They Bite on You
LP: “‘They Bite on You’ was from my experience of having scabies. It was fucking horrible. You can’t stop itching, with bites all over your body. It was two or three years ago; I didn’t know what it was for ages. I thought there was an angry mosquito in my bed. My mum got this cream from the doctors and decided to cover it over my naked body and just layer this shit on and burn all these bugs out of me. I didn’t want the song to just be about me having scabies, though, because that’s gross, so I started to think about the other things that metaphorically bite on you.”
LP: “I started with the chords for this and I just immediately thought it was a banger. I played it to everyone and I was like, ‘This is quite intense…’ This is very much a pop song, it’s not really like our other stuff in that it was overtly pop, so I was anxious to play it to everyone because it could go two ways—they could’ve been like, ‘Uhh…’ or ‘Whoa!’”
Where Do We Go?
LP: “Lyrically, it’s quite specific. It’s about imagining dissecting Boris Johnson. It was quite objective in that sense. It’s like: What would his insides look like? Is he evil through and through? Would he just be covered in thick sludge? And it’s about the kind of evil that lies in Conservatives. It’s like they’re like lizards or something. It was more of a joke to me when I was writing it. I quite like the way that it’s almost like a rap as well. All the words are in quick succession, and again, it’s got that weird contrast between the lyrics being really heavy and forlorn and dark mixed with this airy-fairy cute vibe sonically.”
RJ: “One night, I wanted to try and get this idea for a song that I had down. I don’t really have any recording means at home, so I played it off my laptop and recorded it on my phone with me singing the melody over the top. Then I think I got quite drunk as well. When the others came in the next morning, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I did this!’ It’s quite sad but quite hopeful. It’s nice because all of the other songs are quite intense and opinionated to some degree and that song feels like there’s something pure about it. It feels softer than the others in a nice way.”