“It’s quite a personal album this one,” says Leroy Macqueen of The Gooch Palms.
“Yeah,” says Kat Friend, the other half of the Newy indie-punk party band, “Leroy’s got a song where he talks about his big mental breakdown.”
The Goochies have been living in LA for the last three years and touring the US and Europe relentlessly, but have just moved back to their hometown of Newcastle in New South Wales. Kat and Leroy are also a couple, so it makes sense that they’re super comfortable with each other, even in talking about Leroy’s personal struggles.
“It was almost like, at the start of 2015 I took a deep breath and then I didn’t exhale for like two years,” says Leroy. “And it just got too much.”
In 2015, Leroy and Kat reckon they played about 130 gigs. Schedules don’t get much heavier than that for touring musicians, especially since they were doing everything DIY. This meant the two-piece were booking and managing their own tours, making and selling their own merch, doing their own PR and doing a shit-load of driving. It was a lifestyle of highways, hotels and roadside diners punctuated by high-energy live shows. Two years later, the workload caught up with Leroy.
“I lost my shit in Bordeaux in France, on tour,” Leroy laughs.
“We were in the middle of a European tour and he just went missing” Kat adds. “Everything was kind of leading to that and then we were touring with our friend who we lived with in LA and she was like, ‘Look, it’s good to talk to someone, I think you should go see a therapist and maybe go on medication.’” Kat was thankful that Leroy listened to their friend and was able to sort things out.
“Yeah, killing it,” says Leroy when I ask him how he’s going now. The pair have recently taken a bit of a break from gigging and moved back to Newy to finish off their upcoming album.
Punters in the know have already heard a couple of singles from the new album, one of which is “Busy Bleeding”, a comical and slightly graphic number about the monthly reality of menstruation. “Anything you can do, I can do it bleeding,” Kat yells in the chorus of the poppy feminist punk tune that aims to break the taboo around getting your period.
Kat explains that the music for the song had already been written when Leroy suggested she write some lyrics for it. “He’s like, ‘I don’t know, just make it one for the ladies,’ so I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got an idea,’” Kat explains. “I’ve had some feedback that when people are suffering with horrendous period pain they’ll whack the song on and it will make them feel a bit more superhuman, so they can kinda get through it.”
While “Busy Bleeding” has an important message—that periods are a totally normal part of life and needn’t be taboo—the film clip is pure fun: Kat cops a bucket-load of fake menstrual blood straight to the face. She made the blood herself by mixing red food colouring, golden syrup, cornflour, water and then some cake mix and pasta sauce for good measure. “It smelled so bad,” says Leroy.
“We had two of our friends throwing it at me and it went straight into my eye cavity and behind my eyeballs and up my nose and into my sinuses,” says Kat. “It went literally everywhere, it was in my underwear… it was pretty sticky and disgusting and stinky, but it was really fun. Like, I was waiting for that moment where it hit my face all day.”
The other new Goochies song is called “Marfa Lights”, another poppy track about the time they saw aliens in Texas. Leroy tells me he’s normally pretty sceptical about these things but when they were driving to Marfa, a small kitschy tourist town in West Texas, “there was a black orb, sort of egg-shaped sphere thing in the sky”. They were driving 110 clicks towards the thing for a full hour and it never got any closer or further away. “It was freaky, it was so weird. I can’t even explain what I saw,” he says.
That night they’d witnessed the famous ‘Marfa lights’, a well-known phenomenon in the area. Believers reckon the lights are evidence of extra-terrestrial activity, while sceptics claim they are atmospheric reflections of headlights or campfires. “I like checking out anything that’s a bit interesting and weird but I don’t really necessarily believe in aliens,” says Kat.
“I’ve now watched Unacknowledged on Netflix and my mind is blown,” says Leroy. “I’ll probably end up leaving The Gooch Palms like Tom DeLonge [of Blink 182] and becoming a full-blown nutter.” (DeLonge has been an alien conspiracy theorist for decades and left Blink 182 in 2015 to work on “non-musical endeavours”, a month later claiming he’d made contact with aliens.)
Of course, Leroy is taking the piss. As you might expect from The Gooch Palms, he and Kat make a lot of jokes during the interview. Like when I try to clarify that they’re in a relationship: “Yeah, we’re married but we’re also brother and sister. So we don’t talk about it because it’s just embarrassing to be related and married.” ‘Sort of like The White Stripes?’ I offer. “Sort of, but a lot weirder; a lot more illegal,” says Leroy.
There are more laughs when I ask Leroy about how he used to get naked at pretty much every show. “For the sake of just taking my pants off, it’s not worth it anymore, we can still have equally as much fun as we used to, without the penis,” he laughs. It used to be a common occurrence for Leroy to be stage-diving nude into a welcoming crowd of keen punters. But he and Kat both agree that times have changed. “There might be 20 boys in the audience who really want to see full frontal Leroy,” says Kat. “But then there’s the rest of the people going, ‘Oh, no thanks.’”
“If someone was like, ‘I didn’t like that’ and pressed charges, that’s it, I’m never touring America ever again,” says Leroy. This is obviously important because The Goochies will be playing a bunch of shows in Australia later this year, then an extensive international tour is on the cards for 2019.
“We’re hoping to do America and Europe as well as multiple Australian tours, so hopefully hundreds [of shows],” says Kat. “I’m stoked, I can’t wait,” Leroy adds.
“We played hundreds over previous years and were so burned out just from not taking any time for ourselves, but now we’ve taken some time for ourselves and we’re ready to start doing it again,” Kat explains.
The pair say they’ve got a new plan for how to better manage an ambitious tour schedule without burning out. Instead of doing everything DIY, they’ve now got a manager, a booking agent and PR company representing them, which means that on their upcoming Australian tour in October and November, they’ll have the privilege of simply rocking up, doing soundcheck and playing the shows.
“It’ll be the first time ever that we’ll do a lot of touring with help so we won’t have to deal with literally every single thing ourselves,” says Kat. “I’m sure it will be a lot more fun.”