The Go Betweens - Restful on the road again

The Go-Betweens have recently released their ninth album, Oceans Apart, and the single, ‘Here Comes a City'. They are currently touring Australia and are soon to play their first ever Tasmanian concert in late July. Naked Dwarf spoke with Robert Forster about the band and its current movements…


When most bands reach their twenty-fifth birthday, I think you can be forgiven for giving up on them without a second thought. They were probably crap anyway. However, once I'd worked out that the Go-Betweens had reached this milestone and beyond, I totally freaked and had to sit down and re-assess my whole life.


See, The Go-Betweens are easily one of the greatest Australian groups of all time, and they've stayed fresh enough through the years (helped by a twelve year break during which principle songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan pursued solo careers) for such a milestone to become irrelevant.


When asked about the relevance of the band after all these years, Forster is upbeat.


"We know there is a place," he said, "it is warm, organic and restful."


There are no better three words to describe the sound of Oceans Apart, and yet the album marks the first time the band has recorded using digital technology.


They relocated temporarily to London for the recording and were quite happy to leave the production to the experienced Mark Wallis (U2, The Smiths, Talking Heads, and The Primitives).


The album features two tracks by Forster about Tasmania and yet he has never set foot on the island.


"Grant has been there and told me stories of his travels," says Forster.


"My ancestors have lived in Tasmania so it's in my blood."


One of McLennan's stories inspired Forster to write the album's perfect closing track ‘The Mountains Near Dellray' (I can't help but think that this is a reference to Deloraine). He describes the song as having, "a sense of sailing out, a voyage, a soft voyage that will hopefully lead back to ‘Here Comes a City'."


Whilst The Go-Betweens are essentially McLennan and Forster, the band is completed by Glenn Thompson and Adele Pickvance who contribute freely to The Go-Between's sound.


"They have unfiltered access to our sound" says Forster.


"They can do what they wish, and they do."


McLennan and Forster write material separately, "except for the odd lyric", and it would seem that Forster doesn't change his solo style in anyway when writing for the band.


"Songs are songs, I see no difference," he said.


Forster cites Bob Dylan as a big influence on his song-writing but also takes his hat off to more contemporary artists such as Anthony and The Johnsons, Sleater Kinney, and Kings of Leon.


The band has been touring the world heavily since the release of Oceans Apart, which Forster mentions doesn't get any easier the more experienced they become.


He reports that they were particularly well received in San Francisco, Hamburg and also Glasgow; which is not surprising considering their Scottish past (in the early days of the band, they moved to the UK and played regularly with Scottish indie-darlings-of-the-day, Orange Juice).


Their current tour looks like it will be a treat for fans with the band's entire career being mined for material, although there will be a strong leaning towards the three most recent albums.


There are MP3s of some recordings from the current tour available on their website and I recommend checking-out them out for a taster of what to expect.


Finally I asked Forster if The Go-Betweens had another twenty-five years in them.


"Another 25 years and then we may do some more recording," he said.


We can only hope that he's joking, because they'd be really old by then and would probably sound croaky, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.


Ben Crothers

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