Interviews Music

Goldfish choose their own adventure

How would you recover from a gruelling US tour? Goldfish’s David Poole went surfing in the Maldives. Dom Peters, the Cape Town electronic duo’s other half, attended a music festival just outside his home town.

“That was probably the wrong thing to do,” Peters laughs on the line from the group’s studio. “I wore a hoodie, which helped, because everybody kept asking me what time I was playing.”

Similar situations are now likely to start playing out in North America. After a decade in which they’ve become celebrities in South Africa, Ibiza stalwarts, and regulars on the European club scene, 2015 is the year that they’re cracking the ‘States.

“I wish it could have come sooner, but everything happens at the right time,” reflects Peters, who, like Poole, has a university degree in jazz. “America has just taken to Goldfish in a big way,” he continues. “I don’t even know how many shows we’ve done in America this year — like 40 or 50 or something.”

The reason? Apart from their signature sax-saturated sound meshing with the current post-EDM wave of tropical- and deep-house, they’ve connected with the right management and booking agencies.

“All of these years I’ve kind of convinced myself that it’s just about the music, but I’ve realised over our career that you can have good music but you also need to have the right people and that’s finally clicked into place for us right now.

“We’re getting the correct festival bookings and festival timings which leapfrog you two years of backbreaking touring in the ‘States.”

One such event was Global Dance Festival at the legendary Red Rocks in Colorado earlier this year.

“It’s basically the coolest venue I’ve ever seen in my entire life, so far,” remembers Peters. “It was a real honour to play there — The Beatles played there. We got to sign the wall that’s been signed by every single band I’ve ever heard of and about 1000 other ones. I don’t know if we’re the first South African act to play there, but it felt really special.”

Almost as special are the North American club gigs, attended by teens who present the duo with home-made Goldfish signs — and their parents, turned onto the group several years ago by a TV ad featuring hamsters driving a car to the song ‘Fort Knox’. Playing gigs to 1000 frenzied fans in a packed club on, say, a Tuesday night in somewhere like Vancouver has re-energised the duo.

“We’ve been rediscovering Goldfish all over again for ourselves, because we’re playing similar types of venues we were playing in South Africa five years ago. It’s actually very gratifying going to a place where you’re new and almost having to win the people over, and then having that kind of response.”

Part of that response, reckons Peters, is down to the duo’s pairing live instruments with DJ equipment at their shows.

“There are a lot of acts who’ve done it before us,” says the keyboard player and double bassist, namechecking the likes of Faithless and Basement Jaxx. “But I think most of them were more like a band, whereas we look like DJs. The kids think that we’re basically like alchemists or something in the ‘States, whereas in Europe they’re a bit more used to seeing the live element,” he elaborates.

“When we go play in Europe, we get a great response but the American audiences respond to our accessibility. I think they enjoy the welcoming sound we have.”

Another upside to having live instruments on stage is the ability to jam — which can sometimes lead in unexpected directions. Like, the one night at The Belly Up in Aspen, Colorado when Peters spontaneously started playing the riff of Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’ on the venue’s Fender Rhodes. Poole, also a lifelong fan of the band, joined in on his saxophone. They decided there and then to record their own version — Peters describes it as “an homage”.

“It’s come out really nicely, so we’re stoked,” he says, highlighting the vocals of Julia Church who recorded her contribution just days before starting her scholarship at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

“An incredible new talent”, she’s the latest exceptional guest vocalist picked by the duo.

“There’s definitely no formula — it’s more instinct really,” says Peters of their selection process although, he concedes, the voice always comes first. “We like a vocal that’s unique — a lot of house music has that generic female vocal that we try to stay away from.

“But it’s also about who comes into our lives at a particular time. And it definitely helps if we get on well and there’s some chemistry.”

That’s exactly what happened with their previous collaboration, ‘The Storm’ (featuring Dimmi): they met the Parisian in Ibiza, spent a few days in the studio, and came up with a track that departs from their original sound — and opens up a new market.

“We’ve had a great response from all the DJ artists in our circles who’ve all told us they’re playing that track out. That’s always been a difficult thing for us, because we’ve kind of been a standalone artist and we’d been doing more ‘listening’ dance music that wasn’t really formatted for the dance floor,” reveals Peters.

So, in future, they’ll be trying to find the right balance between the living room and the club. “The sound’s on the dancefloor, so we might as well be there.”

Expect to hear the results on a new album due next year.

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