On All Fours, the follow-up to their self-titled debut album, introduced the world to a more grown-up Goat Girl. Their confidence to experiment has led to a richly textured album that explores a softer, more electronic sound. In drummer Rosy Bones’s own words, now they make “songs long enough that you can dance to them.” The South London band have matured lyrically, delving into their own experiences of depression and anxiety while offering up sharp critiques of Western hypocrisy, capitalism and transphobia. I sat down with Rosy to discuss Goat Girl’s journey so far, the process of making On All Fours and why protecting independent music venues is vital to the health of the music industry.
When did you all meet each other and how did Goat Girl form?
Ellie, Naima and Lottie formed Goat Girl in 2015. Ellie and Naima went to school together and Lottie knew them because they're from similar places. I met them when I was about 17, at The Windmill in Brixton. They said they needed a drummer so I went to some practices and it kind of just went from there.
I was sort of in another band at the time, but it wasn't doing the kind of things I wanted to do, so I was pretty open to trying new things. Through just hanging out with them, we became really good friends and started writing music together.
How has playing independent music venues, like The Windmill, influenced your sound and shaped you as a band?
It gave us a real nurturing environment to grow without too much pressure and to be inspired by other bands around us. I feel like it's so important for new bands to have that, to have a place to go where you can fuck up and do things that you'll look back on and be like “yeah... that wasn't good.” You find what you want to do in those places. They're very important, but they're dying out which is very scary.
What were some of those early mistakes you think you might have made?
Some songs that we used to play are just quite funny, and we look back on them and think, “what was that about?.” But then, Holly Whitaker, who is our friend and who takes pictures, will always be like “play that song!,” but I don't even know how to play it anymore.
Also, we didn't come to the band being that great at our instruments. I'd had some drum lessons before, but then I feel like I really did learn from just playing with Goat Girl. I think likewise for everyone else. We had the time to kind of learn on the job and add our own personalities within our playing.
You signed to Rough Trade Records when you were all about 18. Is there anything that you know now, about being in a band or the music industry in general, that you wish you'd known at that age?
Looking back, I would have liked to have taken more time building a relationship with Rough Trade before signing... just having a complete understanding of what each party wants from each other. We have that now, but at the beginning we were quite impressionable young people figuring out how to stick to our guns. I would take it a lot slower.
Apart from bands who were playing at The Windmill, what other artists have influenced Goat Girl's sound? Do you all have relatively similar musical tastes or do you listen to different kinds of things?
We listen to quite a lot of different music, what comes out in the end is an amalgamation of all our inspirations. Holly and me are quite into pop music, Lottie and Holly are into their synth pop and Ellie likes all of her smooth nice-sounding jazz. Lottie and me like quite experimental stuff as well, so there's middle ground between everyone.
What was the experience of making On All Fours like compared to working on your first album?
It was really fun because it felt kind of more mature. With Goat Girl, we recorded the songs in succession of each other so it had that flow to it. Then with On All Fours, we spent loads of time perfecting the sounds that we wanted to be in it, just adding loads of layers and loads of textures. The songs now are much longer and I guess maybe have more of a standard song structure. That gave us lots of space to play around and add lots of different sounds that we liked.
When we were writing On All Fours, I was listening to lots of different variations of trap and I feel like that inspired my drumming. On the first album, I'd mainly play on the floor tom but then I was listening to lots of music where there'd be interesting hi-hat rhythms. I was listening to quite a lot of Rico Nasty and classical music as well as minimalism, people like Philip Glass and La Monte Young.
Where did the album title On All Fours come from?
It was from this book that our producer Dan Carey's wife had called Goat Boy. We'd just finished recording in Dan's studio in his house and we were having some drinks and celebrating. Then Jane got this book out and Lottie was reading different phrases from it. She read out ‘on all fours’ and then we were all screaming like, “Oh my God, yeah, that's sick!,” we were really excited. Ellie was on the phone at the time that we had this revelation. She came off the phone and we were like, “We've got a name for the album! On All Fours, On All Fours!,” we were chanting it and Ellie was like “hm, I'm not sure actually.” But then, after a few weeks, all three of us were still very set on it and Ellie eventually came around to it.
On P.T.S. Tea, you speak about your experience of being non-binary, I was wondering what sort of responses you've gotten to the song?
It's really sweet, people will say that the song really spoke to them and hearing that's just the best thing ever. Hearing that from people that are younger, like 16-year-olds who are kind of figuring themselves out, is just amazing. Quite a few people have said that the song definitely resonates with them. It's funny because it's quite a short line in it, I can’t really write long lyrics, whenever I write things it's always quite to the point.
Even though it's a short line, it feels really important, especially as there's very few references to non-binary identities in pop culture.
That's the thing, it's just like complete erasure of something that is very real. When people don't see it in the culture that surrounds them then they think it's this new thing but it's not really.
You’ve mentioned in interviews before that the political sentiment in your lyrics is often dismissed, or not taken seriously. Does that feeling sometimes demotivate you or does it push you?
It kind of lights a fire in my belly, because I'm thinking, “these people don't think anything of us, they think we're just these stupid young people that are angry.” But then we'll come and say something that actually resonates with loads of people. I like that catching people off guard kind of thing. I feel like it more motivates me, but it does get a bit tiring sometimes.
The past year has impacted all industries, with live music being particularly affected. Post-lockdowns what changes would you like to see in the music industry?
Anyone that's in a position of power within the music industry should definitely be reevaluating how it is, because it's not working and it's not fair. We did this thing with The Windmill and Doc Martens called Come Back Better: it was talking about how, when live music comes back again, it shouldn't just go back to how it was because it's not really a safe space for anyone that isn't a white cis man. Making sure gig venues are accessible and safe and that measures are put in place to make sure that everyone is welcome is very important.
The way that money in music is distributed needs to change too. Most musicians hardly get any money but there are people at the top who are millionaires. There should be a big redistribution of wealth.
Are there any venues or collectives you look to who are trying to make those positive changes?
Our friend Lenny Watson used to run this venue called Sister Midnight but then after lockdown they had to close. She's managed to find this space in Lewisham called The Ravensbourne Arms. I don't know how she's done it, but she's so driven and motivated and just gets shit done. The plan is to buy the pub and make it a community owned venue. It's gonna be somewhere that's completely accessible for everyone and serves the community, like not just live music, they'll have workshops and food distribution. It's something I'm really excited about.
Finally, what's coming up next for the band and is there anything in particular you're looking forward to?
We’ve just finished touring around the United Kingdom with our friend’s band Gentle Stranger who were supporting us. They’re amazing, weird and really good to watch. After the tour, we just want to have some time to write music again. We just haven't really had any time to come together with all of our ideas and write some new songs, so we want to get back to it.