Photos by Kevin Neal and interview by Danielle O’Neill.
Last week at Union Pool in Wiliamsburg, four young women, Naima Jelly, L.E.D, Clottie Cream and Rosy Bones turned indie rock music on its head with their high volume deadpan performance of unfiltered lewd riffs and angsty chants. All eyes were on South London’s unstoppable force that makes up the four-piece that goes by Goat Girl. Fresh off their stint at SXSW, the Rough Trade-signed quartet met with me to discuss how easy it is to cheat the MTA, the de-sexulization of pop music today and why their forthcoming album should be listened to from start to finish without interruptions.
Do you feel like you develop a specific energy with your stage names. Is it a Sasha Fierce thing?
Naima Jelly: I don’t think its that intense. We just did it like a joke.
Rosy Bones: Most people get those fake names because they are scared if they get too famous and people can find them on Facebook. We kind of wanted to develop characters but it never caught on.
Naima Jelly: We wanted to do alter egos but it was quite difficult to force.
Clottie Cream: When we do wear costumes it works better. Like when we were on tour we would sometimes put on pink cowboy hats and it felt like a different energy.
Naima Jelly: I think every Halloween we take it a bit more. Halloween gigs are always fun.
Rosy Bones: Halloween is literally the best time to see us cause we let go a little bit. That’s the best time to see us.
What did you guys dress up as this year?
Rosy Bones: I was Patrick Bateman. It’s a great costume.
Namia Jelly: I was Anne Boleyn.
How do you think your music is affecting young women in this post-Trump, post-Brexit culture where it seems as though more women, especially in music and film, are using their voice to speak out against oppressive bullshit?
Naima Jelly: There is more safety in doing it now.
Clottie Cream: It’s rare for all-girl bands to be talking in a political sense. A lot of the times people think that if you are a woman on stage you have to be really smiley and look like you are enjoying yourself. That’s what we were taught to do at the beginning but I don’t think we have that on stage now. We have a gender neutrality—we aren’t ultra feminine or ultra masculine. I hope that inspires girls and guys.
Rosy Bones: We don’t use the fact that we are girls as a novelty thing. We want it to be separate.
L.E.D: Yeah, just because we are an all female band, doesn’t mean we have to be feminists. I mean of course we are—because if you’re not than you are an idiot. It’s something we shouldn’t even be talking about. It’s interesting because we do have lyrics that have a feminist drive to them like “Creep on the Train” that portrays women who are feeling vulnerable and powerless which is how men make them feel. I think that’s important to share.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties there weren’t many all female bands that were making music at that time. I can’t recall a group I could get angry with—it was mostly all male bands. I feel like I had to go back to the nineties to get that fix.
Rosy Bones: We really relate to noughties music a lot. Music that we grew up with like Gwen Stefani and Rihanna. Looking back and growing up with that, having those role models was inspiring. I guess we kind of related to a pop sense because there wasn’t any guitar.
L.E.D: Also Kelis. To see women like that are so powerful and strong and doing their thing.
Clottie Cream: And talking about sex in kind of a conversational way and making it so it’s not a big deal to be having casual sex. I don’t think women are allowed to talk about it or then you are shunned into being a slut. They sexualized themselves as women but not in a bad sense.
L.E.D: More like a celebration of their sexiness.
Naima Jelly: I don’t feel like that’s so much of a thing now in pop music—especially pop music at the moment seems to be quite male controlled. The same producer gets different women singers and they are fleetingly in the charts for a week and then you never hear from them again. It’s kind of a weird turnstyle of women singers but none of them stand for anything which is fine, you don’t have to stand for anything but I feel like pop music doesn’t have that same empowerment as it did.
Rosy Bones: And they are dressing up as feminists and not doing anything to back it up.
L.E.D: In the Brit awards there was this girl, Dua Lipa who won the main award. She was kind of naked and singing on stage and apparently at the ceremony all of the women who were serving drinks were half naked. You could say its their choice and its empowering but is it really? It feels to me like, because I don’t think she’s that great, but it seems like as a women in pop music you do have to sell your body to sell your records.
Rosy Bones: Not all the time though. Who’s that girl? SIA. she was anonymous for so many years.
Naima Jelly: It’s funny, and its such a split argument but I do think it’s important to understand we do live in a patriarchy.
As someone who grew up in New York City when I hear your music I can picture life as a young woman growing up in South London. Although there are many parallels it seems like its very unique to your hometown. How do you think your music represents the demographic of young girls growing up there?
Naima Jelly: It definitely represents it. Especially when we were first playing those songs and when they first came out to the world, we were teenagers.
Clottie Cream: I think there is a lot of sampling in our lyrics from different experiences that we have had with protests. There is a common social awareness that’s something that can be applied to a lot of different cities like maybe New York as well. Gentrification, political relations—I think maybe it was like a subconscious filtering into the music thing. I know we are being coined as a political band but I don’t think we are necessarily just that. I think a lot of other things exist. We think a lot about harmonies and how we sing together. Its kind of like an accumulative music production as well as it being political.
What was the last big show you guys got to go to that made you scream until you lost your voice?
Naima Jelly: We don’t really get to go to big concerts, mostly smaller ones. We saw Frank Ocean in Helsinki.
Rosy Bones: They played with him.
L.E.D: Yea, we played guitar.
What?? Did you get to meet him?
L.E.D: He was kind of like a ghost. He was there but not saying anything.
Naima Jelly: it was quite scary actually. I was really scared of him.
Rosy Bones: We just saw Sneaks (at SXSW). She’s so good.
L.E.D.: She came to our show and I was like in awe of her. I told you she was like, “When I come to London, I really want to play with you guys.”
You can’t see people when you are on stage though right?
Clottie Cream: During the daytime you can.
Naima Jelly: I saw her come in just by chance and I was like oh thats her and got really nervous.
Clottie Cream: I prefer when you can’t see people though otherwise you can see they have an unexpressionable face and its like oh no they aren’t enjoying it.
The music video for “The Man” is how I dreamt high school would play out. What is it about “Hard Days Night” that made you want to play with gender roles to re create a modern visuals for this single?
Naima Jelly: We would love to be able to take credit for the idea but we can’t.
L.E.D: I think it’s quite interesting to think about how The Beatles were and how they still are—as these god like figures that everyone adores. And they are great, but it’s also like to put that into perspective where you see it flipped in gender—you kind of then see how bonkers it is. Why do you have to do that to see how mad it is?
It almost seems comical but I don’t know why.
Naimi Jelly: It’s because that stuff happened because humans have an ingrown need for an idol. That’s why we have had religions for thousands of years and that’s why people get so heavily obsessed with pop stars and with The Beatles—it’s the same thing.
Have you ever been to a show where men acted the way they do in your video? I haven’t but I’ve definitely been that way at shows watching male musicians.
Clottie Cream: That’s why it’s nice to have a space where men can exist like that. It’s interesting how it changes its meaning when fandom is turned to the opposite gender. But also the way they can experience being able to cry is therapeutic type for them because they aren’t really allowed to experience those things.
Rosy Bones: Yeah we didn’t want it to be making fun of the men in the video—it should be like saying, it’s okay for you to do this as well. But it was looking at the whole dynamic of fans and how they put a band right up here is kind of ridiculous. It was more about taking a piss at that.
You have a gift for producing entertaining music video’s. My dream for 2018 is to have a The Monkee’s inspired TV show called Goat Girl with “Country Sleaze” as the theme. Have any of you thought about getting into film?
Clottie Cream: Naima is in the new Harry Potter film.
Naima Jelly: Yea. I’m an extra haha. I’m one of the evil people in the background. I saw Johnny Depp which was kind of cool but it looks like its not going to be very good.
So are you guys working on other projects?
Clottie Cream: I’m in a group called Poo. Its me and my friend and we call ourselves Poo. But we don’t have anything online yet. It’s a work in progress right now. Look out for Poo.
L.E.D, I’ve been digging your Winter Warmers playlist lately. It feels therapeutic and hopeful for this point in my life right now. Do you treat your music as a cure, a political response to our cultural climate or do you just put it out there for our interpretation?
L.E.D: Personally I get comfort out of listening to harmonies and female vocals in general. I probably prefer female vocalists to male. Probably because I am a woman and I can relate more. It’s kind of healing as well. I would like to think you could cry to it as well as really angry and smash a tape as well.
Rosy Bones: Someone said that they had sex to it.
To your music?
Rosy Bones: Yeah [laughs] I can’t imagine—like imagine if one of us had sex to our own music. That would be so terrible.
Clottie Cream: It’s political I guess because it’s hard to not be political in a place like where we live. Not even applied to the government, like the political relations you have with people—like I think everything you do today is quite political but I think it’s emphasized in a place like London. It’s kind of hard to avoid.
Your upcoming album, Dance of Dirty Leftovers sounds like a soundtrack to a re-make of Thelma and Louise. It’s brash and melodic, infusing folk, blues and even americana with hard rock and insanely catchy hooks. In other words, I love it.
Clottie Cream: It’s kind of nice that you say that. Like it cant be applied to one genre. It can be applied to lots of different ones.
What do you want fans to take away from this album?
Clottie Cream: Maybe that—that we aren’t boxed into one kind of sound. That’s what we have experienced from the beginning and I don’t think we necessarily are. Just because we have guitars I think people have that stereotypical view that just because you have a guitar you have to be indie rock. We kind of show that we transcend that with our album. Like it goes into loads of different sounds and I hope that people can experience us for that.
Naima Jelly: I hope they feel emotional. It’s nice because that’s why you get into music.
Clottie Cream: I hope that they listen to it as an album as well. I know a lot of people’s attention spans exist for like singles.
I am guilty of hearing a note I’m not into and skipping to the next song too quickly . But that’s why I felt that this album seemed like a score to a movie in that each song melted into the next one.
Clottie Cream: We did that on purpose as well so that you can’t skip around, you almost have to listen to it straight through. You can’t come in when you want—I mean you can but it’s a different experience when you can listen to it on vinyl from start to finish, which people don’t do anymore.
Naima Jelly: I’m starting to do that more now, like listen to whole albums. And it’s actually really nice.
Naima Jelly: And once you do that you kind of realize that every album has some sort of flow and intention for being in that order.
L.E.D: I would tell them to listen to the b-side cause that’s the best side. Even though it flows from the a-side to the b-side, its my favorite.
What does Brooklyn have that London doesn’t? Besides pizza.
Naimi Jelly: We haven’t been able to try pizza yet, is it that good?
L.E.D: I saw someone eating a slice and it looked like hard, crunchy and wet. Not like sloppy though.
Clottie Cream: It’s so easy to get on the subway for free. I tried to do that when i jumped over the thing on the subway cause I had seen that in movies. But I got stuck in the middle and everyone was laughing at me, so I just went under.
Rosy Bones: It feels like you can get away with anything here.
Naima Jelly: Yea it feels a lot more freer. Except for drinking.
L.E.D: In Texas there were like bingo halls where you can still smoke inside. It’s the only place you could smoke inside.
Rosy Bones: Have you seen that Nathan For You where he makes it legal to smoke inside a bar? He makes it a law where you are allowed to smoke inside if its for artistic purposes so he pretends its a play and he has people come in and they are smoking and there are three seats and hired actors who can smoke. The play is called “Smokers Allowed” and the people that watch it are like wow, that was so good.
Goat Girls self-titled record is out April 6th 2018 via Rough Trade.