The Go! Team is no ordinary band. It started out of mastermind Ian Parton’s kitchen in Wales, where he recorded the debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike from samples. The band then snowballed into a live entity, picking up members left and right until Parton had the line-up to match his samplerific recorded material. There’s a terrific hotchpotch, bratty energy in the band’s work, driven forward by brash sirens and immense percussion, and reproducing it on stage takes two drummers, several guitars, a keyboard, and a hell of a lot of stamina.
“There are songs where someone in the band would need a rest before the next song,” says the band’s frontwoman, freestyle rapper Ninja. “For me, when you’ve got three mad songs together, it’s killer with all the singing and dancing. But if you’re in the Olympics and you’re running a race or something, just because you’re tired it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to stop. You have to keep going, like I started at this level, so I have to continue at this level till the end of the show. I’m not allowed to be tired, I’m the gang leader and I’m leading the crowd into having a great time. When they see me dance, they want to dance.”
Ninja was declared the fifteenth coolest person in the world by NME a few years ago. And cool she is; her speech is fast, extremely confident and articulate: a lot like her onstage rhymes. Her enthusiastic voice draws you into the conversation just like it draws you into the Go! Team’s music. Just like the music, she’s vibrant and boisterous. And just like the music, she defies categorisation. Born to a strict middle-class family and expected to train as a doctor, she shocked her relatives by becoming a musician. If she had to classify the band, what would she say?
“I used to call every week and be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a word! How about... rainbow pop funk!’ ‘I’ve got another one! Okay... Electrunk!’ I used to call up every week with these crazy terms and everyone was like ‘You’re being silly.’... I think a lot of people just take elements of what they liked when they were growing up and turn it into what they like now. “We take elements of a lot of different decades, but it’s been made into something completely new. It’s not music from the 80s or 70s or 60s, but because of all of those influences, and because of the world we’re living in and the technology we have now, we’re making something completely unique.”
She prefers performing at universities to playing at bigger, more open venues. “I think we’re quite well known within the uni crowds,” she says. “And in America, as well, college students seem to love us. I think we just have a lot more fun - older crowds, you come out and you feel like they’re waiting to be impressed. But young people just want to be carefree and have a great time, and it’s going to be a great crowd. If it’s all uni stops on our next tour, then it’s going to be
Last year the Go! Team’s uni gigs included the May Ball at Trinity college. “Oh yeah!” Ninja exclaims delightedly when we mention it to her. “I remember! It was really strange, like, I don’t know, I’m a North Londoner, and I feel like as a Londoner I’m normal. The Cambridge ball was like another world, it was just loads of posh kids who were all like ‘oh my gosh, you guys are so fantastic’. We went to the food table, we were going around in our jeans... A couple of us went up to the fruit table and this lady came up to them and went ‘What are YOU?’ They came back to the dressing room with, like, half an apple, and told me and I said ‘Oh my god, I swear, if I was there and she said that to me...!’ She looked at them as if they were travelling monkeys or something, because they were in jeans and stuff, and she shooed them away from the food table like squirrels. Quite rude, but we saw stagediving and people there in really expensive ballgowns flying above a sea of hands, it was hilarious. When you just walk in there you can smell the privilege. I mean, we saw it at Warwick university as well, you could make the privilege into a fragrance and spray it on yourself and walk down the street and people would turn their heads.”
Creative force Ian Parton is also behind the Team’s videos, which are as kaleidoscopic and chaotic as their music. “Ian used to make documentaries and he’s really into Super 8 cameras,” says Ninja. “He’s mainly in control of the videos. He’s got loads of ideas about how he wants things to be seen. And just like the music is kind of quite choppy and cut-and-paste, the videos are like that as well. It’s got quite a vintage, retro feel to it, because we don’t go for the glossy videos.”
And that’s the Go! Team’s aesthetic in a nutshell: no gloss, just Frankensteinian, unconstrainable mayhem. Long may it continue.