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March 1, 2004 | by  | in Features |
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The Future Looks Good

Gareth Thomas is pleased, but ultimately wants more. Talking to me by phone from an office at EMI in Auckland, Goodshirt’s bassist, keyboard player and part-time vocalist shares the judgment of many musicians in this country – if you want to do this full-time and make any sort of living – you’ve got to get out!

“Definitely exploring new territories really, Australia and the U.K for a start,” he explains. “We plan to do some shows in Japan and the U.K after heading to Texas.” The band is among seven other Kiwi acts invited to play at South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas, USA this year. A huge industry showcase ‘meet-and-greet’ affair, the festival plays host to A&R reps and ‘cigar smoking-industry types’ as well as hundreds of acts from all around the world. Artists are in a bid to network with other acts and conceivably gain exposure in foreign markets.

Goodshirt were fortunate in securing a place at the festival in March last year, although Gareth appears more optimistic at the prospect of performing this time around. “It went really well last year but we didn’t get a great slot,” he admits. “This time anything could happen, we’re playing at a much better time.”

The band was boosted into homegrown fame in 2001 with their self-produced debut album Good. This gave birth to numerous accolades at the 2003 Tui Awards (NZ Music Awards) including Songwriter of the Year and Video for ‘Sophie’, finishing up with Single of the Year with their radio release debut ‘Goodshirt’. “I don’t pay much attention to the radio,” states Gareth, perhaps thinking of a satisfactory explanation but deciding against one. “When I was told ‘Sophie’ had gone to #1 in the charts I was like, O.K. I didn’t really believe it.”

Gareth’s casual indifference seems odd at first. He began the conversation discussing the merits of building awareness overseas through the internet and the prospect of touring where many bands in this country never venture. Surely a #1 single (‘Sophie’ was written by Gareth) is an acquisition every pop band aspires to? “At the beginning we would have been happy to sell around 500 copies of the album,” he claims. “That’s pretty much what we expected. It just seemed to take off naturally on the radio though.”

In a way the Auckland four-piece lay somewhere less tangible than many within the spectrum of successful artists in New Zealand. Their ‘quirky’ pop-rock songs bare a patchwork-like quality of their influences with a fair bit of Goodshirt thrown in the mix. “Our sound is definitely eclectic…sort of fucked up really,” laughs Gareth. “Between us, we sort of listen to anything from Simon & Garfunkel to AC/DC.”

Yet the songs have a large-scale appeal with fans that ordinarily alludes to the DIY recording approach that the band has utilised from the outset. Good was recorded in the garden shed of the Grey Lynn flat shared by band mate brothers Rodney and Murray Fisher. When it came time for round two – their new album Fiji Baby – the band wouldn’t have it any other way. “We didn’t really see any point in going into a big expensive studio for a long period of time,” Gareth explains. “I mean, [the shed-studio] just seemed like the obvious thing to do, why change?” I soon learn that recording Good proved less of an expense than any of the four music videos Goodshirt made for the album.

If there seemed like a collective touch for Goodshirt’s first videos – then there is a reason. “We used Joe Lonie for all the singles from the first album,” says Gareth. “He came up with the ideas and we left it to him…He did consult us though.”
For ‘Buck It Up’, the first single from Fiji Baby, the band digressed from the familiar ‘one-shot’ style they were associated with. This entailed the employment and aesthetic skills of friend and multimedia artist Kezia Barnett. “She’s great, and we ended up with this fantasy type, school teacher thing,” Gareth adds.

The video is slick – albeit stylistically different. The song retains that eccentric cachet Goodshirt is best known for, as though they’re walking in a new direction with the same shoes on. If this is the case, then what can we expect for Orientation 2004? “It’s sort of 50/50 with one song we’re doing for our third album” explains Gareth.

Prolific and hardworking, Gareth claims Goodshirt have more or less written their third album before Fiji Baby hits the shelf. No strangers to the stage and many a catchy song, these guys made people move at the BDO in NZ and Aussie. Don’t miss their set at Orientation! It’s gonna be good.

Recommend Listening
Good (2001)
Fiji Baby (2004)

More info: www.goodshirt.com

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