The Gooch Palms really love being The Gooch Palms.
Like really love it.
So much so that the charismatic duo, Leroy Macqueen and Kat Friend, moved from the suburban thralls of Newcastle to the big smoke of Los Angeles so that they could live out their dream of becoming touring musicians.
‘You can play nearly every night in America. We managed to do 130 shows over there. That’s something we thought we could never do. I don’t think we could play that many shows in Australia. Unless we were Slim Dusty.'
‘Being over there is another ball game. No one cares if we’re from Australia, it’s not a big deal to them. It’s gruelling and it’s made us such a better band.’
Even though the economic value of moving to Los Angeles was obvious, Leroy doesn’t possess any sense of being homesick.
‘We liked our lives in Australia. We had a house and a car, and crowds were kind to us. But we just felt it needed to be done.’
By playing a heavy slog of shows, The Gooch Palms earned their stripes on the American live music scene. For Macqueen, the American tour is an expanded expansive reflection of the Australian scene, something that has helped the band settle in quickly.
‘The internet has bridged the gap in a way that America doesn’t feel foreign. The music scene is strong in both countries. The only difference seems to be the amount of places you can play. The rest of the world looks to America. If you’re doing well there, you can make it in Europe or Asia’
Nevertheless, passion and tunes can only take a band so far. Even the sturdiest of rock stars feel the toll of touring, and this was especially true for The Gooch Palms.
‘There were times we were doing merch and people just felt sorry for us” says Leroy. But no one should, we’re living a dream and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. Like I couldn’t imagine doing this to ourselves and not liking touring that would be disastrous.’
‘Once, when we were about 3 shows into a 40 show tour, I got one of the worst flus of my life and I never really recovered. I just gritted my teeth and said, “screw it, I'll deal with it when we’re in LA”.
“But no one should feel sorry for us, we’re living a dream and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. Like I couldn’t imagine doing this to ourselves and not liking touring that would be disastrous.’
Does this mean The Gooch Palms, a renowned party band comprised of two wild showstoppers, are still partying like they use to?
‘Well you don’t have an option unless you want to be, you know, lame.’
‘But when you’re staring down the barrel of a 40 show tour and some kid says he wants to buy you shots and party till 6am. You’re just not going to make it for the whole tour’ Leroy elaborates.
‘You have to be on the road to be making money. The longer you’re not on the road the more that starts to dry up.’
Thanks to the internet, for better and worse, the vast majority of bands need to be on the road to make money. Leroy emphasised how The Gooch Palms depend on the heavy tour cycle for a living.
‘You start understanding why people do the things that they do. For example, when you do a corporate show for companies, they pay around $6000 dollars” Leroy explains.
“If you asked me two years ago, I would have turned my nose at it. But if you asked me now I would definitely say yes, as that’s 6 grand that we have to go and tour on. You definitely change the way you think about things.'
Being on tour can be drainers on band members’ personal lives. Bands are away from their families, and heated emotional moments on the road can have lasting scars on a band. However, Leroy and Kat are partners, and Leroy views this as an undoubtable strength for The Gooch Palms.
‘I’ve been in bands with people before and everything is always so passive aggressive and you never want to unleash what you’re really thinking because that’s how bands break up.’
‘I imagine it would be similar to being in a band with a sibling as you’re able to let all your feelings out. Whether a promoter is being dicky or you’re stuck in a traffic jam ten hours into a drive. You can say what you want to say’
‘It definitely helps with the homesickness. I mean it’s not easy, it’s just as hard. But you can kind of compensate on the music a little bit more than other people’s relationships and moods.'
For 2016, The Gooch Palms have some big plans. First comes a national Australian tour to kick off 2016 and then a new record, titled Introverted Extroverts, to be released this July. For the time being, Leroy is perfectly happy being that glam-rock garage band that look they’ve been teleported straight from a dirty nightclub from the ‘80s.
‘That’s made us what we are. We’ve always been so focused on us. We’ve never looked at another band and thought we want to be that. We just do what we do.’
“I don’t think we have gone too far away from our original sound on this record. I don’t think we’re ready to experiment yet. We put out a single that had a few keyboards, but the rest of the record is standard Gooch Palms.”
‘We wanted to have the live energy, so we just recorded with the same instruments we use on stage. It’s still raw, just a little more fi.’
Nevertheless, as the band continues to play live, Leroy feels that as the duo’s musical abilities grow, so too will the sonic landscape of the band.
‘I think that happens to every band. You become more confident. There are definitely things on this record that we wouldn’t have thought of on Novos, like different types of melodies.'
‘What was always a bit of a curse for the Gooch Palms was that ‘maybe we will get some more members’. But heading into this record we knew what we were, so we had a lot more confidence'
At the time of the phone call, David Bowie had sadly passed away the previous day. Bowie was a critical influence for many artists, including The Gooch Palms. As the interview drew to a close, I thought it would be poignant to hear Leroy’s thoughts and reflections on one of his favourites.
‘I like theatrics. I get bored by t-shirt and jeans musicians. I like being the guy that puts in the effort and that is always what attracted me to Bowie.’
‘Bowie’s song writing is insane. For me, he was my Mozart’
And what is Leroy MacQueen’s favourite era of Bowie?
‘Ziggy Stardust for sure’
Ah me too. Rock on.
Feb 04 - The Eastern - Ballarat, VIC
Feb 05 - The Curtain - Melbourne, VIC
Feb 06 - The Phoenix - Canberra, ACT
19 Feb - Rad - Wollongong, NSW
20 Feb - The Cambridge - Newcastle, NSW
25 Feb - Oxford Art Factory - Sydney, NSW
Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.