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POP MUSIC

Sounds like team spirit

The group's name evokes a pep squad. Its album features cheerleader chants. Riding a wave of excitement, the Go! Team brings its exuberant, beguiling sonic mix to the stage.

October 16, 2005|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

WHAT, no pompoms? No pyramid stunts?

Maybe that would have been a bit much to expect when the English band the Go! Team made its Los Angeles debut at the Troubadour earlier this year. But there's more to the group than the name evoking a sense of a pop spirit squad.

The debut album, "Thunder, Lightning, Strike," is a relentlessly upbeat affair that in places features actual cheerleader chants. Live, the chants were pretty much left to female rapper Ninja, but she had no problem capturing the feeling as the five other band members created the musical equivalent of a multicultural pep rally.

It's a bit of a surprise, though, when group mastermind Ian Parton explains the name's origin. "The reference is a story I read about plane accidents," he says. "The rescue and clean-up crew is called 'the go team.' "

Make note of that fact. It may well be the only downcast thing you ever hear in connection with this band. The very fact that the Go! Team could sell out two nights at the Troubadour months before the album was released here is typical of the group's story.

"We've got a lot to thank the Internet for," says Parton, genially soft-spoken and thoughtful over a pre-show dinner. "People telling other people. That's my favorite thing about this. We started on a modest label in the U.K., Memphis Industries. No big advertising campaign. When the album came out in September there was not even much of a ripple."

It's a classic word-of-mouth tale, spiked by media notice (influential online music site Pitchfork put the album in its 2004 Top 10) and a buzz-generating appearance at the spring South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, leading to a deal with the Sony-BMG conglomerate, whose Columbia Records recently released the album here.

Singular sensibilities

THE very existence of the band is a word-of-mouth tale as well. The album itself was anything but a team effort, but rather mostly a one-man show of Parton's.

Working with an '80s-vintage sampler, lo-fi tape deck and an engineer (his brother, Gareth), he started piecing together tracks about five years ago at his Brighton home. It was a diversion from his full-time job as a documentary filmmaker traveling the world to do shows for the Discovery and National Geographic channels, among others.

Parton brought in a few local musicians here and there to supplement his own playing and sampling, but there was no group. With a 2002 EP released on tiny Pickled Egg Records and then the 2004 album on the only slightly less tiny Memphis Industries, the sound was a hodgepodge reflecting Parton's singular sensibilities.

"I always thought, 'Why aren't people mixing things up more?' " he says. "The sound is sort of self-indulgent -- my favorite things. Car chase music, trumpets mixed with Sonic Youth, breakbeat, double-Dutch, Charlie Brown piano, wind-swept 'Midnight Cowboy' strings. How could I jam it together and make it new?"

But it wasn't until about a year ago that he needed to figure out how to re-create that all live. The move to the stage came when a booking agent arranged for the Go! Team to open for Franz Ferdinand on a tour through Sweden. Parton had just three weeks to put a band together.

Guitarist Sam Dook came in via Pickled Egg, having been in a band on that label as well. A third Brighton resident, bassist Jamie Bell, had e-mailed Parton after buying the first Go! Team release and offered at the time to help if needed. Parton then put out word looking for drummers and was led to two London women, Japanese-born Fukami "Chi" Taylor and German-born Silke Steidinger (who plays just about everything else as well).

The final piece came when 22-year-old London rapper Ninja answered an ad Parton had placed. Her earthy, youthful enthusiasm and poetry orientation proved a perfect fit.

"I didn't know I was joining a band," says Ninja. "I just called and he said, 'You want to do a show?' And then it was, 'Want to do another?' "

It wasn't that much different for the other members. "Since this started, it's been, we'd go do shows on the weekend, go 'This is amazing!' and then you go back to work on Monday," says bassist Bell, who was working as a draftsman for an engineering firm. "Then next week another show, 'It's amazing!' and then back to work."

In fact, all the band members kept their non-music jobs until just a few months ago, Parton included. That it has only recently jelled as a full-time entity showed in the cheerful looseness at the Troubadour. But all the live elements seemed well-integrated into the concept, a natural outgrowth of the music Parton put together for the album.

Guitarist Dook, wandering the Troubadour before the show, notes that the presentation is still evolving -- and that sometime the band may have those pom-poms after all.

"We might get this cheerleading group, Rhyme, to re-create those vocals live," he says, in all seriousness. "They're 16, wear matching outfits. We don't want to do the cheers with backing tracks. That would be cheesy."

*

The Go! Team

Where: El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

When: 9 p.m. Thursday

Price: $15.50

Contact: (323) 936-6400

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