Anyone familiar with jam bands knows the biggest and most obvious influences: Phish and the Grateful Dead.
But Norwalk, Connecticut’s Goose turned things around a bit and found shocking success along the way. The band will headline two concerts at Legend Valley in Thornville June 10 and 11, for those up for a weekend about 30 minutes east of Columbus.
Goose’s sound has a strong indie rock element. Vampire Weekend fans might be interested to know that Goose was tasked with covering Vampire Weekend’s song “20:21” and jamming it for… well, you can guess. Goose’s next album drip fielddropping this later months, only increases the indie charm. But indie fans might be surprised to learn that fans will be coming from all over Ohio to attend Legend Valley dates.
We caught up with Zoom with guitarist and vocalist Rick Mitarotonda days after the band rocked 25,000 fans at the Sweetwater 420 Festival in Atlanta with a packed second stage that clearly should have been the main stage. The band has big things coming up – not just the Ohio gigs, but also a full summer this includes Red Rocks in Colorado, a date that sold out soon after it went on sale.
Mitarotonda’s onstage persona looks like a sage, and he lets cohort and keyboardist Peter Anspach keep the onstage banter going. Unsurprisingly given his vibe, Mitarotonda is a deep thinker who considers philosophies and approaches to music as much as scales and chords. But, surprisingly, he was more than willing to talk about everything from musical philosophy, to the band’s upward trajectory, to some surprising influences from his use of vocal effects like auto-tune, a controversial move for a jamband scene unaccustomed to such shenanigans.
CityBeat: Why should people on the fence in Cleveland make the trip to Thornville?
Mitarotone: Putting ourselves aside, there’s something special about being outside of your comfort zone, space, or city. Traveling to see shows and have an experience opens up a lot of doors that you wouldn’t otherwise find on the streets, that would be my two cents.
You have already played Legend Valley. Do you have any Legend Valley memories or experiences you would like to share at the location?
Every time we have been there it has been memorable. The first time we went there I believe was for Resonance (Music & Arts Festival) in 2018. It was a big moment for us. It was a memorable weekend and we became familiar with â I have a strange relationship with the word âfansâ. I feel weird saying “fans”. We met people who became, I guess, our fans. It was super memorable and then the two night run we did in 2021 was amazing. It was two really special days we spent there. It’s impossible to quantify or point to what precipitates a good show. I think it has a lot to do with being comfortable and relaxed and everyone being calm and feeling good. We really felt that during this two night race.
How did auto-tuning start and what is the inspiration? Of all the things you do, that’s what sets you apart the most from other jam bands.
There are a bunch of artists that I really like and find very inspiring. The people I consume, their work that uses vocal effects like that. I gave it a shot and tried it a few years ago. I think he has this really expressive quality. I think it’s an associative thing for a lot of people, an association that puts them off. I do not have this association. Using it as an instrument, I find it super expressive. It’s become this notorious thing, that’s what it is. I don’t like upsetting people or pissing them off.
Come on, it’s rock’n’roll.
Exactly. I like it. It feels good. If nothing else, that’s what it’s all about. I like the effect.
And when you talk about artists who inspire you, who exactly are you talking about?
The most obvious and main one would be Vernon (Justin, aka Bon Iver), for sure. He’s a huge influence for me, I admire most of the things this guy has done. There’s a band called PoliÃ§a in the same area, Minneapolis, that I think is so cool. There are a handful of others, but these two are the main ones in terms of influence.
How would you describe the influence of (Phish frontman) Trey Anastasio on your songwriting?
There was a period when this music had a much more tangible influence on my writing. Older songs we play like “Flodown” and “Tumble”. Some songs, it’s very obvious that it’s heavily influenced by jam bands. When I was in high school, Phish was the thing. This group is a fairy tale. It’s amazing what this band is, you know? There was a period around 2013, 2014 where I started to discover modern American indie folk songwriting, whatever you want to call it. And I started listening to a lot of jazz. All these guitarists like John Scofield, Pat Metheny, who were really influential, and Phish and Dead were a huge influence at that time. This is where my head was buried. Classical music. Otis Redding. Old reggae records, stuff like that. I was very disconnected from modern music. Fleet Foxes is really what opened the door for me. It was so moving, this music. It took me places. That’s music. The more you are able to transport or create a small world is what I think is the most interesting and exciting. (Fleet Foxes leader) Robin Pecknold’s early writing certainly did that. The eponymous album, the Sun Giant EP, the second LP, there’s also a lot of amazing stuff. This eventually led to Bon Iver and Father John Misty, artists who were kind of in this world. It was funny, it was kind of like a joke to a lot of other people. ” You are aware ? “Yeah, that was like five years ago, man.”
By thinking less about making art and more about what’s in store for the band, I think it’s fair to say that you’re experiencing exponential growth. The sold out Red Rocks. The Massive Sweetwater Concert. From this point of view, what challenges await the group and how do you intend to meet or overcome them?
I think greatness comes with a lot of challenges. And these are sneaky challenges. I think the biggest challenge is staying true to your original intent, your original reasons for doing what you’re doing. With success comes comfort, and with comfort you lose your edge. I don’t want to be too comfortable. Regarding the group, another challenge is that we have to remain friends. I see all these massive and extremely successful bands. As we come into the scene, we hear and see all these big bands hating and not talking to each other and all getting into their separate Suburbans and leaving. Sounds like a drag, you know? We’re not nearly there now, but I can see how it’s happening. The amount of pressure that comes with greatness, I can see that way. And reversing that path is an interesting challenge. These are challenges. Egos go both ways. Egos can become really full or empty, and both are problems.
People have strong opinions about Goose. There are people who love you and adore you. But on places like Twitter and Phantasy Tour, there are other people pushing back. What is it about Goose that inspires such strong opinions?
I tend to feel unqualified to answer that. I think we all do our best not to be affected by this stuff. Obviously, the last thing you want is for this to inform creative decisions. We have our strategies and our ideas on how we want to grow the group. All of that aside, how people perceive our music and how people perceive the band, I feel incredibly unqualified to speculate on this for some weird reason.
There is a certain irony in this, but despite being a member of Goose, you will never hear Goose. Physically, you can’t be in the audience when Goose is playing. It’s almost like I have no idea what Goose actually looks like.
One thing people have said about the spring tour is that there seemed to be longer jams, with fewer songs per set.
It was not a deliberate decision. If anything, it was the opposite. I had this moment over the winter where I kind of discovered Cornell ’77 (a legendary Grateful Dead show). I’ve known about the lore around Cornell ’77 for a long time, but for some reason never really listened to it. I had this assumption in my mind that this is what it is because there are monster jams, breakthrough jams. And I kind of dug into it a bit and was incredibly excited to find out that wasn’t really what made it so special. It was just a great show from a great band at a great time. They just slam all their songs. We talk about it from time to time to different people, but the jam scene at some point lately has become so âjust the jamsâ or the cover set. You know, where are the songs? Jams are best when they celebrate the song, almost. But for your question, it was unintentional. What I was getting at was that I had this revelation about Cornell ’77. I was really inspired by it. And, you know, we want to work on this concept in our own way. We want to focus on playing more songs and letting jams happen where they can’t seem to contain them, like they had to happen.
What is your most listened to LP of all time?
It’s so difficult, because it’s always phases. I feel like I mean ten albums right now. Alt-J’s debut album (An Awesome Wave), which I’ve listened to so many times. It’s a weird case because they’ve done some cool stuff since then, but none of that. There are bands reinventing themselves, like Radiohead and Bon Iver. Radiohead is one that the more time passes, the more I understand their language, and how their language has evolved. When I started listening to jazz, I started listening to a lot of Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery. I didn’t like it and I didn’t like it at first. And one of the times things started to click with that was when I started slowing them down and I got this amazing “slow down” software that slowed things down without altering the pitch. I slowed it down to 50% and all of a sudden it sounded like the most amazing jam I’ve ever heard, and I was like, “I get it now, these guys are just wizards.”
Below, watch the video for Goose’s song “Arrow”.
This story was originally published by sister newspaper CityBeat Cleveland scene.
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