Wasted Youth: Gooch Palms

Getting “shitty” and dropping trou’ with Australia’s Gooch Palms

Even with such a goofy name, the Gooch Palms are taking their lo-fi, self-described 'shit pop' very seriously. The Australian duo recently transplanted to Los Angeles, but have been touring across the States non-stop. According to Leroy Macqueen, the band's oft-nude vocalist/guitarist, ditching the island continent down under was a necessity if he and drummer/vocalist/girlfriend Kat Friend ever wanted to make it as musicians.

"Touring is not very big and there's not much money to be made, if you're not the one percent of pop stars in Australia," Macqueen explains over the phone. "You might only play like 30 shows a year, if you're lucky. We've already clocked well over a hundred shows this year [in America]."

In fact, Gooch Palms say they haven't had much time to relax since arriving in the U.S., as they try to stretch their visa for every mile they can. And it seems to be working. Already, they've shared stages with folks like Nobunny, Hunx and His Punx, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Thee Oh Sees and Shannon and The Clams. (Macqueen wryly says these shows were "really fun, because you get to see them for free.")

But even while Burger Records is re-releasing their debut album, Novo's, Gooch Palms are more than just a garage rock band—a label they don't feel accurately catalogs them. Gooch Palms borrows as much influence from '70s punk as '80s New Wave, which isn't surprising given Macqueen's favorite band in the world is KISS.

"I've always liked theatrical music—I like a show," Macqueen stresses. "I don't like to see four dudes looking super depressed and shitty, cause I'll just pop off and leave. That is so boring to me ... We just try and take the seriousness out of music, which I feel like sometimes people do too much of."

Novo's was recorded in nine hours in the band's bedroom, thanks to a lack of money. The name is slang for residents of Newcastle, New South Wales, where Friend and Macqueen met. However, the metro area (pop. 310,000) was less than positive inspiration for the band, who wrote tracks like "Hunter Street Mall" and the album's titular track about "another generation gone to waste."

Gooch Palms self-describe as 'shit pop,' a branding that fits their absurd name, which stemmed from wanting a Google-proof moniker and means "absolutely nothing." But if their latest two singles are any indication, their sound is evolving from their lo-fi dynamic. "Trackside Daze" is similar to the Ramones with a Pet Sounds flourish and "Slow Burner" even tosses some synths over the band's usual straightforward guitar and drums. Both songs sound more full-bodied and less like a cassette tape.

"A few people have kinda freaked out, like, 'Holy crap, what's next drum machines and dance work and all that?'" Macqueen says. "We kinda just wanted something a little bit refreshing, just like having a lemon sorbet between meals to cleanse the palate."

But unlike with Novo's, Gooch Palms are in no hurry to put out their still unnamed sophomore album, tentatively slated for a spring 2016 release.

"We're kinda doing the touring thing at the moment and Novo's just came out on Burger Records, so that's back from the dead for us," Macqueen says. "So there's no real rush to dump new material when people are sort of just accessing our first record in America."

With just Macqueen on guitar and Friend thrashing on a two-piece stand-up drum kit, Gooch Palms sound can be kind of minimalist, so they fill out the sound with plenty of stage theatrics and wild costumes. Macqueen says they're "trying to make up for the lack of instruments."

Sometimes it seems their wardrobe was inspired by a Miami thrift store post-Hurricane Andrew—other times, the pair resembles extras who escaped from a superhero-themed porn shoot. But sometimes, as a very NSFW Bing image search will reveal, Macqueen wears nothing at all below the belt.

However, over in the states, Macqueen is a little less willing to drop trou'. He says, "in Australia you can practically walk down the street naked and probably say, 'G'day' to the cop. But over here ..."

Macqueen admits getting deported for public nudity might be good publicity for all of five seconds, but would be "very disappointing, especially for Kat."

"And I think I would go insane if I was trapped in Australia for the rest of my life," Macqueen continues, laughing. "I started getting really bored of [onstage penis display] anyway. Especially in Australia, I feel like people were [expecting it.] I found other avenues. Actually, yeah, I got really bored of it. It was time to pull up my pants and put it away."

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