“Playing live is the whole point of being in a band”: Goan Dogs on gigging again after long hiatus
The Bristolian five-piece wield self-built guitars and enormous pedalboards and champion the DIY scene, all in the name of a stellar live performance. Which may or may not include holograms.
Image: Dominika Scheibinger
Despite being one of Bristol’s finest young guitar bands, Goan Dogs took an extended hiatus before returning with two certified bangers in Anxiety and God Loves A Trier, earning radio play from BBC Radio 6 Music and redrawing crowds to their gigs with gusto, as if they never left the scene.
As advocates of the DIY aesthetic, the band cover all bases themselves, from music videos and merch to self-producing their music and even building their own guitars. Below, frontman Luke St Leger and guitar player Theo Mackie detail how it all began, from a mutual love of Hendrix to crafting songs specifically for the live performance.
What first drew you to playing guitar?
Luke: “Jimi Hendrix! Man, I had copy of Axis: Bold As Love on cassette I taped from a CD when I was like 13 and I listened to it non-stop. The idea that it was possible to recreate those sounds blew my mind.”
Theo: “Mine was probably my Dad. He was constantly glued to his guitar and would spend evenings endlessly strumming away. He gave me his old acoustic when I was 11, signed me up for lessons but it was hard, and I hated it, so I gave up. Dad took it upon himself to learn songs I loved at the time (for me it was Jimi too but his version of Hey Joe) and teach them to me. Gave me the love straight away.”
You describe your music as “warped guitar pop”. Who influenced you to push your music in this direction?
L: “Well, me and Theo have always been into guitar stuff and we’ve got a kind of unusual dual style thing that we’ve had going on since day one. Even though we love hooks and melodies, I think our music has always been slightly off-kilter, so I guess it’s just the best description we could come up with of what we naturally sound like!”
Tell us more about your main guitar and pedal setup.
L: “I’m currently rocking a white S-Type that I made with gold foils. Kind of like a Coodercaster. I go through an MXR analogue chorus pedal and an RE-20 into a 1968 Super Reverb. Oh, and an MXR Custom Badass sparkly gold OD pedal, which is killer! It’s pretty simple but it sounds great. Theo’s setup is much more interesting though!”
T: “I’m a lefty so I can’t have nice things. However, I have been blessed with a lovely late 80s butterscotch Tele that I love very much – its tone is so warm and tasty. I run that through like ten pedals into a Fender Blues Deluxe. Recent additions to the board are the DOD Rubberneck delay and a Chase Bliss Mood which really allows me to create some delish delays and otherworldly pitched sounds. Sonically I try to be the bridge between Sam (our synth guy) and Luke, and my set up largely allows that.”
You’ve been a band for over eight years but chose to hang up your boots for a while. What made you return to the stage?
T: “I’m honestly so proud of what we’ve made in our time off and am absolutely itching to get back on stage to show it to people. A lot of what we’ve made required us to really rethink how we play music as a live band, and the process of working it out and playing those tunes well has been mega rewarding. For me, playing live is the whole point of being in a band. It’s the ultimate reward for doing all of the experimentation and practice before. So live is the final step and we can’t wait.”
As a band that prides itself on self-releasing music, how important is your engagement with your fanbase and the independent scene as a whole?
T: “A massive big up to anyone doing things themselves in the music scene – it’s not always the easiest way but it has its benefits. I mean we started self-releasing music because it was our only option – we’ve never had a label or anything like that. But we stuck with it because for us we love the freedom of being able to release music when we want, how we want, if we want.
“There’s a real DIY spirit that runs through the band – everything from music videos, merch, posters are all made by the band and always have been. Luke even makes his own guitars! So, we love seeing it when another band has shot their own music video or produced their own album. More power to everyone involved in that world.”
Anxiety was your first single for two years. How has your compositional process changed in that time?
L: “We’ve always fundamentally been a live band and so our tunes have kind of been designed to sound great on a stage. Songs were constantly evolving and our recordings just sort of capture what that song sounded like at that time.
“For the more recent stuff we’re working on, we hit the rehearsal room and just get creative. We write riffs and melodies and grooves and make some primitive recordings. We take them to my home studio and finesse what we’ve come up with and turn them into songs. Then we try and play them live! So far, I think it’s a great way of working and we’re writing some really cool stuff.”
It also talks of social anxieties and modern societal ills. Can we expect the same from God Loves a Trier? How does it differ to Anxiety?
L: “More so actually! I think anxiety, social media and these modern societal ills that you mentioned are playing quite a big role in the lyrical content of the songs at the moment. God Loves A Trier is essentially about trying too hard to fit in and being more concerned that your life looks great on Instagram rather than making you happy in the real world.”
You’re also getting coverage from respected radio stations such as BBC Radio 6 Music. Does that up the ante for the band?
T: “The novelty of hearing your own song being played on the radio never rubs off, like, ever. It still feels like such a massive achievement every time. As for upping the ante, probably not actually. We just want to make music and play music, and ideally, we’d like lots of people to hear it and like it. For radio stations to be playing our songs just lets us know we’re doing an alright job!”
You’re about to hit the road on a UK tour once again, so what can fans expect from your live shows?
L: “Unfortunately, due to everything going on right now, we’ve had to postpone our April live dates. But later in the year, you can expect us all to be playing live whilst each mounted on a large horse with snakes dangled around our necks and explosions going off constantly behind us. And there’s gonna be a hologram of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doing break dancing. Naked.”
What’s next for Goan Dogs?
L: “Believe it or not, we’ve never actually released an album. So that’s next. We’re not quite sure of the release date at the moment but we’re working on it at the moment and it’s sounding very cool. For the first time, we’re engineering, producing and mixing all our own stuff so I’m excited to see how people are going to react to it.”
T: “Yeah, the album is the one. Luke’s taking the helm on production/mixing and it is giving us a creative control that we’ve never had before. It’s really kind of comforting knowing that it’s going to sound exactly how we like and be an exact reflection of what we’ve been working towards. Unless Luke fucks it up.”
Goan Dogs new single, God Loves A Trier, is out now.