Before they took the stage this year at San Francisco’s premier Halloween event, Ghost Ship, the South African boys Dom and Dave of Goldfish sat down with us to share some insights into their hectic touring schedule, how Grunge music inspired them to produce their newest song, and what Dom’s nickname was when he was younger.
MyMusicIsBetterThanYours.com (MMIBTY): Welcome back to San Francisco!
Goldfish (GF): Thank you – we’re really stoked to be here! It’s been 26 hours of flying, before that we were in Prague and Portugal and Amsterdam and London, and we had four days off in Cape Town to see our family and friends and go surfing and mountain biking. And now we are in the midst of the craziest party we’ve seen in a while, so it’s good to be here.
MMIBTY: It’s our first time here too. What was your first impression walking into this massive event we call Ghost Ship?
GF: Well it’s an amazing venue first of all. We got here when there was no one here and we could check out all the rad art installations. Yeah it’s super cool. It was a cool anticipation with what was going to happen later with everybody here and guys shooting flaming tennis balls down there and just doing cool shit basically. It’s probably the closest taste we’ve had to that Burning Man feeling. We haven’t done that yet but it’s on our to-do list so I think this is a good warm up.
MMIBTY: We saw you guys at Northern Nights Music Festival, did you get to spend some time there or was it just in and out?
GF: Unfortunately it was just in and out. We were driving up there it was really amazing though, the drive was insane with the Redwood forests. We didn’t even know about it, then I was like… that is a really big tree! It was almost like we were walking in Berlin and we were like, “damn we can’t get around this wall!” But then we realized we were in Berlin and people were talking photos so it was okay. It’s basically like ambushed tourism. We get bunked down somewhere and then have it shoved in our face and it’s like a full barrage of sensory feelings and we don’t know how to absorb it all. We actually just want to come to San Francisco and spend a few days here. It’s very similar to our hometown, Cape Town, cold water, wine, great food, sharks. Pretty much all the things we’re in to.
MMIBTY: Do you guys have earthquakes in South Africa?
GF: Earthquakes we don’t have. We had one once, I think it was one for the million years, so we’re all good.
MMIBTY: Okay so let’s talk music. “Heart Shaped Box” – did you guys listen to Grunge growing up or what was the catalyst that made you say, “I gotta do this remix”?
GF: We’re obviously big fans, we were listening to Grunge back in the day – Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, all that kind of stuff. The catalyst was we were jamming at a gig in Aspen, at the Belly Up, a super cool little venue. They brought for that day this old school electric piano and we were just jamming for soundcheck and in the middle of one of these jams Dom started playing a little riff that sounded like the verse of “Heart Shaped Box”. And we kept doing it and doing it and we stopped and we said, “okay we have to do a remix of ‘Heart Shaped Box'”. It was like divine intervention, by a Fender keyboard.
MMIBTY: It was like the ghost of Kurt Cobain was calling out to you.
GF: Yeah hopefully in a very respectful dance-music-y way. And then basically by chance we met up with Julia Church who’s a singer and it all just came together, which is a beautiful thing. Because sometimes you struggle to make a song or you struggle to find a singer and this time it all just flowed together which is quite nice.
MMIBTY: So you chose to use the vocals of a new singer rather than the original Kurt Cobain vocals.
GF: Yeah definitely, how many times have you been at a stage and heard a DJ play a bootleg of a Nirvana track and it’s just kind of cheap? Sometimes in that way you know it just drops into “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or something. It was also a way of doing it differently, having a girl put her interpretation on it. Especially because the subject matter is very female-centric and suggestive. So it was cool to have a girl sing it.
MMIBTY: Are there any other takes from your Grunge music experience that we can expect?
GF: We think that’s it for now. That and some bad hair cuts and some terrible Doc Martins. Actually we did two songs with Julia as well, we did an original as well, that’s better than “Heart Shaped Box” and that will come out sometime. Looking forward to that as well.
MMIBTY: I was listening to your Submerged Sundays Mix. What was the vibe you were going for there?
GF: So we do a party in Cape Town every Sunday starting at the end of November called Submerged Sundays and it’s basically a crazy party on the beach, 2,000 people, every Sunday.
MMIBTY: So it’s got this beachy vibe, that’s what you were going for.
GF: Exactly. It’s this cool Summery vibe. You can go on our YouTube and watch a video of what it’s like. It’s under Table Mountain, basically Monday is a complete write-off, no one’s getting any work done on Monday.
MMIBTY: So it’s almost like a couple surfer guys playing music on the beach.
GF: That’s kinda how it started, but it’s gotten a lot more complicated since then. And simplified as well. And now I’m Back Man [says Dave wearing his Bat Man mask, on the back of his head, in honor of Halloween].
MMIBTY: Talk to me about how the flute fits in with dance music. I’m curious how you discovered it could work with your style of Electro Pop, Electro/Dance [Organic House Music].
GF: I think because we started out as musicians, so the move to that was actually quite simple. We were actually musicians first and then we started producing music and then we started performing live and mashing everything together. We decided we should do something live, because that’s what we always wanted to do. We were like cool, obviously we are going to take instruments – it would feel wrong not to do that – because we’re not going to just go push buttons – that would be weird. So it didn’t really make sense to do anything else. Which is quite strange because it is a little bit different than what everyone else was doing at the time. But that’s fine. Flute’s always fit in with a cool etherial vibe.
GF: Do you guys know St. Germain? That’s basically the reason Goldfish exists. That album, Tourist, and the song “So Flute”. I think I learned to play the flute because of that song. [Dom]: Dave didn’t even know how to play the flute until he was like 24. [Dave]: When I started playing for Goldfish I didn’t even know how to play the flute. It was sax and clarinet. [Dom]: I remember going to the studio one day and Dave was like, “I bought a flute”. And I was like, okay…. and then he busted it out at a gig and I was like “WOAH!”.
MMIBTY: So you were secretly learning how to play the flute?
GF: During the day. [laughter]
MMIBTY: Goldfish… the food.
GF: Yes, we’ve heard about that. We don’t actually have that in South Africa. Pretty big thing here though. Yeah they’re always smiling because they’re baked.
MMIBTY: You’ve heard this before.
GF: Yeah sometimes people get us mixed up on Twitter.
MMIBTY: A couple friends of mine who are big fans of yours want to know if you have a favorite flavor of Goldfish.
GF: [Dom]: No idea, haven’t actually tried them. [Dave]: Someone threw a packet of Goldfish on stage once and I was starving and I ate them. [Dom]: He was brave. [Dave]: I can’t really remember if I liked them because I was so hungry, I can’t remember why, we had been on tour and missed dinner or something, but they were great.
MMIBTY: One of our readers wanted to know where you came up with the name Goldfish.
GF: [Dave]: Goldfish the name came along because I used to make fun of Dom and his three second memory. His classic move was to leave his wallet on top of the car and then drive off. [Dom]: I only did that once. [Dave]: That’s a very three second memory, because you only had three seconds to do that. So anyways, he got the nickname. And then when we were looking for a name for the band, we were in a couple bands at the time so we needed something everyone would remember, otherwise it would be this is “Joe Joe and the Joe Joe’s” or something. Goldfish has got a catchy name, it’s easy to remember. [Dom]: And everyone loves Goldfish. And yeah I haven’t forgotten it yet so we’re off to a good start.
MMIBTY: What’s your favorite song that you have produced?
GF: [Dom]: Jeepers, that’s like saying “who’s your favorite kid?” [Dave]: I’d say probably our newest one because that’s the one we’ve heard the least. Like our older stuff we’ve probably played a thousand five hundred times each.
MMIBTY: So every time something comes out it’s fresh and new.
GF: I think when you’re producing a song and it’s getting to almost complete that’s your favorite song for a while, before it gets released. And then you put it out there. [Dom]: It’s sort of like song relationships. You have your honeymoon phase and then you have the five years of marriage phase and then there’s the “I never wanna see you again phase”. But we’re always surprised when you go to see a band and they won’t play their big track. It’s like what’s the point, it’s like they’re ignoring what made you, it’s a part of you.
MMIBTY: Do you feel like it’s the band leaving fans wanting more for next time?
GF: I think it depends on the situation. I’ve been to a lot of live shows where I’d be really psyched to hear one of my favorite songs and then the band only plays its new material. So we try to balance it with both.
HUGE THANKS to Goldfish, to Kat Baker at Get In PR, and to Lyja and Lucia at HushConcerts for facilitating the interview!