Odd Band Out

2 May 2012 | 6:44 pm | Brendan Hitchens

More The Go Set More The Go Set

Forming close to a decade ago in Geelong, the surf and sand seems far removed from the traditional Irish sounds that make up The Go Set. Assembling bagpipes, mandolin and tin whistle in their line-up, the band have always been the odd one out and their current national tour is no exception. Last month playing a folk event in Canberra then following it a week later with a punk festival in Brisbane, their diverse sound is equalled by that of their audience's tastes. “We get a real mixture of people at our shows,” says the band's singer and guitarist Justin Keenan. “We literally have all the punks up the front and the older crowd up the back.”

Growing up listening to “'70s protest folk music and The Pogues and The Clash,” Keenan takes inspiration particularly from their lyricism. With The Go Set's new record comprising song titles including The New Age and Change The World, the chief songwriter of the band says it's an album of, “social conscience and political sentiment”. Though the use of bagpipes in a rock band may come across as a novelty, The Go Set take their art seriously. “I think all of us believe that when writing music we write to connect with people and make them think. The idea of writing songs with stupid lyrics to make people dance is not this band.”

Together with their lyrics, Keenan takes pride in the unique instrumentation of the five-piece. “Folk music is something that gets into your blood and it's quite a primitive, sensory experience. Instruments like a fiddle or bagpipes can't really be made digital. They're earthy and there's something primitive and tribal about hearing those instruments.”

Having previously released five albums in five years, the new release sees Keenan share songwriting duties with his bandmates for the first time. Daunted at first, he is conscious that the benefits far outweighed his initial anxiety. “It felt more collaborative and more like a band,” he begins. “Being creative is rate limited. What I mean by that, is one brain can only come up with so many ideas in a certain space of time. So if you want to make a pool of ideas more diverse and larger, then you either need more time or more brains involved.”

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Keenan too is frank in his assessment of the band and where they sit in the Australian music climate. “The people who like the band love the band, but we're not going to be playing the venues The Living End play,” he says. Getting on the front foot, the band will soon embark or their third tour of the UK and Europe, with their own headline shows and a number of festival appearances. “It's almost like an unfounded amount of success,” he declares, admitting the band have a larger following overseas than they do in their own country. “Within two tours of Europe we were already surpassing the numbers we were pulling to shows in Australia. For a Saturday night in Melbourne, we were doing the same in the Czech Republic on a Monday night.” Putting the band's international success down to their sound, Keenan pulls no punches. “It's partially due the style of music and partially the population,” he starts, before unloading. “Australian people are inherently lazy with going to find new music. The average Australian listens to triple j and the Austereo network, so what that means is there's not a lot of people going out to see bands they don't know.”

Once the record is out the band will continue full steam ahead with plans for a DVD and a solo record from Keenan. “The next step for us is to continue with Europe then embark on the USA,” he says, but not before their dues are paid at the Espy this Friday night.