No shoe shops for Go-Betweens
Andrea Jones Rolling Stone, January 1982
"God, we're not a fashion band, just look at us!" exclaims Go-Betweens' bass player Grant McLennan pointing at himself, drummer Lindy Morrison and guitarist Robert Forster who's wearing a mohair-trimmed jumper while outside a scorching heat beats down from the mid autumn sun.
The full irony of this is that the three-piece Brisbane band has just signed to Rough Trade, possibly the most fashionable alternative label in the UK, certainly the label closest to the pulse of what's happening, or what's about to happen. And the Go-Betweens are about to uproot themselves and take on the most fashion-conscious market in the world.
But as the Go-Betweens all agree, part of their fascination with music is in taking risks.
They leave in mid-June and have just finished their first headlining tour and have released their debut album, Send Me A Lullaby, on Missing Link. The album was recorded midway through last year with producer Tony Cohen and adequately showcases the Go-Betweens' raw, minimalist style which Forster describes as "non affected music."
"I have an aversion to soloing instruments," says Forster. "I think people playing melody and rhythm should be sufficient. We just take the basic element of bass, drums and guitar which rock was formulated on and avoid adding the embellishments of the last twenty years. Though we're not twelve-bar blues either."
Certainly the Go-Betweens' interpretation of rock is now a lot punchier and hard-hitting that it was when the band began as an acoustic outfit four years ago. At that time, Forster was a failed arts student who wanted to form a band and so he taught his friend McLennan how to play bass. Together with temporary drummer Tim Mustafa they began playing occasional gigs around Brisbane. Their first single, Lee Remick, a light, infectious post-punk number was released on their own Able Label: and attracted enthusiastic reaction from the Australian and English rock press and led to an offer of a recording contract with American Beserkley Records which the band declined. They preferred to stay in Brisbane to perform and record their second single, People Say, after which Forster and McLennan went off to London in search of a recording contract. They were rejected by Virgin and also by Rough Trade, who at the time considered the Go-Betweens "too poppy." So they signed with the Scottish Postcard label which only had two other bands in its stable Orange Juice and Josef K. The Go-Betweens' first single for Postcard, I Need Two Heads / Stop Before You Say It, reached Number 6 on the alternative charts. But the pair returned home at the end of 1980 to rediscover their individuality. This was when they recruited drummer Lindy Morrison.
Since they've been back in Australia, a lot of their work outside Brisbane has been supporting Missing Link stablemates, Birthday Party and Laughing Clowns.
While the band admits to having a certain Brisbane naïveté they maintain the resurgence of interest in the Go-Betweens in England is due largely to the English success of the Birthday Party and the subsequent interest in the Missing Link label. Plus, McLennan adds, "We're a lot better now. Just a lot better." They felt it was time they did their own headlining, hence their farewell tour taking in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with support bands, Wildlife Documentaries and Out Of Nowhere.
Of their venturing overseas again, Forster says, "we've always seen the band as a means of travel. We'd also like to live in and tour Europe and New York. I think New York would be more of our spiritual home than London but that's the one we're going to have to knock down "
"Pay lip service to," McLennan adds.
At least the band seems well prepared psychologically for being thrown into the fickle English climate. "We have absolute confidence in ourselves," McLennan says convincingly. "And arrogance as well," Morrison adds.
Also in their favour, the band has refreshingly little interest in financial success which is why they have never employed a manager or a road crew. "I don't want to be a small business," says Forster. "If I did, I'd own a shoe store. Or something."
Adds McLennan, "We've been playing for four years now and we realise we're not the Rolling Stones and we're not going to be that big. It isn't going to be my life. But if you enjoy what you do and get paid for it, it's a pretty enjoyable lifestyle."