Aussie Duo Gooch Palms Headlines an International Rock Concert at Valley Bar

Aussie duo Gooch Palms' Leroy MacQueen and Kat Friend.EXPAND
Aussie duo Gooch Palms' Leroy MacQueen and Kat Friend.
Courtesy of Gooch Palms

Blend up some catchy garage pop, a punk-rock heart, some quirky sensibilities, and a heap of sincerity, and you’ll wind up with Australian duo Gooch Palms. Otherwise known as Leroy MacQueen and Kat Friend, these two – who are also a couple – have been working their asses off the last few years, touring as extensively as possible and continuing to build new dynamics into their already catchy and infectious sound.

The set-up is MacQueen on guitar and Friend on drums. MacQueen handles a hearty portion of the vocal duties and as their songs incorporate styles from doo-wop to New Wave; his strong voice shows both diversity and range. Kat also sings, with as much fervor and style. And when the two sing together, forget about it. It’s hook city. As hard as it is to get their songs out of your head, catch a live show and discover that their two-person weirdo party is a place you want to visit as often as possible.

Always clad in some nifty and spirited outfits, these two have an obvious blast as they energetically deliver their tunes, creating a palpable group energy. You can't not join in the fun. In June they released a new full-length called Introverted Extroverts, on Summer Camp Records, and they’re out on the road letting people get familiar with it.

As the pair gets closer to Phoenix for their show with Hinds (from Spain) on Thursday, October 20, at Valley Bar, we caught up with MacQueen to see how life in America has been treating them, the lowdown on their new release, and what the hell Gooch Palms even means.

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New TimesGooch Palms is one of those names that makes us feel like a dork for asking what it means, like we should already know. We’re asking anyway.
Leroy MacQueen: It doesn’t mean anything. It does seem to spark a lot of interest, and people are always very curious about it, which is cool. It’s not Australian slang or anything like that. We just wanted a name that would look good in a logo; two words that fit well together. We wrote out a bunch of words and palms and gooch just worked with one another. It’s unique. At the end of the day, it best explains what me and Kat and what we do.

So, last time you were in town, you had recently relocated from Australia to Los Angeles, right?
 Yeah, we did, but we haven’t been in one place all this year; it’s been kinda crazy. We were in Australia at the beginning of the year, then we did an American tour with Guantanamo Baywatch, and then we popped out of the country to do some festivals, and now we are back here touring. This will lead right into a European tour. It has been nonstop.

Have some things become easier for you since moving to California?
Definitely. It can be so expensive to come here to tour for just like three weeks. At the time, we’d gotten yearlong visas, so we figured we’d set up for a bit and tour. We’re also lucky that in Australia they give out tour grants. We wrote an application for one and got it. We were able to get a van and a backline and pay for a couple of months’ rent on our room. We couldn’t have afforded to do it without it, but now we’ve got stuff here and in Australia. It’s cheaper to live here and tour here and then go back to Australia to tour when we need to, instead of the opposite way around.

What are your audiences like, in comparison?
Doing what we’ve done has taken us from an underground band in Australia to being pretty well known on the Australian scene. We can play 300- to 400-person rooms and are being asked to do bigger festivals back there. I don’t think that would have happened without what we did here. It showed people that we were really serious. We’ve always had to work hard and tour a lot to prove that we’re the real deal and here to stay. Australia has really embraced us for getting out there and doing it.

And right now you’re touring to support your new release, Introverted Extroverts.
Yeah. It came out in June; that’s why we’re touring heavily. It’s cool, I love the momentum from being on the Australian tour, to being here now, and then next to Europe. It’s really exciting.

You really made a splash at Burger Records' annual festival last year. Tell us about that and what you think about playing festivals in general.
That was a crazy day. We were like the second band on, and we didn’t think there’d be that many people. It was the second day of the festival, and we figured people wouldn’t come in until later in the day. When we went on, there were more than 1,000 people there. We did our thing, and they were going crazy for us. The cool part about some festivals is that you can get in front of people who don’t know about you. That show really helped bring people to our headlining shows. It was a really cool day. The smaller, boutique festivals are especially great, because people are there that are really passionate about music. They’re not there to be part of a fashion show or to be able to say at work that they went. They want to see the bands, even the ones they don’t already know.

Did you record this new record in Los Angeles?
No, we did it in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

How come?
That’s where [engineer] Bill Skibbe works and lives. He’s who we wanted to do this record. He has done releases for a lot of bands we are into, like the Kills, Black Keys, and Jacuzzi Boys. He used to work with Steve Albini. Bill uses a rare Flickinger console (originally custom built for Sly Stone). We wanted to go from a lo-fi sound to a bit more mid-fi, so we went to him.

Do you ever have anyone join you on stage to play?
No. And at the moment, we probably won’t. I’d never rule it out, though, but I’d be more interested in the two of us pushing it as far as we could go with just the two of us. We started writing our next record already and we’re looking at some new options. Maybe we’ll try some loop pedals to keep the sound going and playing over top of that. Maybe more percussion for Kat. We are always thinking about how we can expand it. Maybe more amps. When we started, it was two crappy drums and the worst guitar amp imaginable. Now I run three guitar signals at once, and Kat is always tuning her drums, and they sound so good. We are always gaining knowledge and working on ways to grow. Our thing is, we don’t always want to be a lo-fi band, that’s just our set-up. We like the idea of being as loud and as big as a four-piece band, so we’re trying to figure ways out to do that. I’m a big fan of old and new. I love analog and digital. I’d like to explore as many options as possible.

Getting another member can also change the dynamic
As far as getting another member, we wouldn’t rule it out, but we’d probably exhaust every other method possible before we’d do that.

You don’t have anyone who goes on the road with you to assist you with driving or merch?
Not in America. We do in Australia, but at the moment, this is our only form of income so we can’t really afford to hire someone. In Australia, we do really solid pre-sales, so we know how many people will be at the shows, but it’s not like there here at this point. The crowds are getting bigger, but we can’t judge to budget for hiring someone.

You two are definitely in it to win it; you seem to be really driven, motivated, and ready to roll with the punches.
It kind of helps that we don’t really have a home. We have our room in LA. Newcastle is our hometown, but we don’t have a place there now. So, there’s no place to get homesick for. So we’re just on the road. Being a couple, it’s a life journey too, as lame as that might sound (laughs) but going through the tougher times, we can just chalk it up to a life experience. Like our show just got cancelled in Florida, so we decided to go camping in the back woods of Tennessee. If it was a van full of band mates, we’d probably go on to the next city and everyone would split apart for a break until the next show.

You guys probably want a break sometimes too, though, no?
Oh yeah, we screamed at each other this afternoon (laughs). We’re in a van together 24 hours a day, so of course. We decked it out to have a bed in the center of all the instruments, so that’s been a game changer. It feels like a home.

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Valley Bar

130 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-368-3121


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