Of all the artists I’ve interviewed, I truly believe Good Throb might be the one I’d
like to hang out with the most. They’re like if Beavis and Butthead somehow went to
grad school and started an angry, fumbling punk band along the way. Their 7″ hit me too
late to make my 2012 year-end lists, but shame on me, as this one is full of fire and
venom, sophisticated and stupid and mind-numblingly awesome. They’re a London group,
with members who’ve done time in more successful, “serious” bands, but who cares about
that when you’re as good as Good Throb? All four of the band’s members were nice enough
to answer a few questions for me, and while I am reticent to have them crash at my place
were they ever to tour the US (I’m no longer truly punk I guess, if I ever was at all),
there’s no way I could ignore their knock on my door.
How did Good Throb get started? You’ve mostly all played in other bands before, right?
Ellie (vocals): We were all mates through music and mutual friends anyway, and originally
started with the idea of people playing instruments that are new to them. The first practice we
did in Bryony’s garage, we did “Drink 2” and a Weirdos cover which I warbled along to, being
quite embarrassed and not knowing what to do.
Bryony (guitar): There was the vague idea of doing a band where we all play the instruments
we’d never played before. I had sung in a couple of bands before (one called The Sceptres
which Louis played bass in) but never played an instrument. Moving to a house with a garage
where we could play loud together without time pressure (which is very unusual for London,
which doesn’t really ‘do’ punk houses), I finally managed to break the seal on my endless
“fuck this it’s too hard” attitude towards guitar with said one-finger “Life of Crime” cover.
Ash (bass): Yeah, I think at first the main idea was to just try it out. I’d always wanted to
do a band, but figured i I was perhaps a bit too shy/inept for the whole process. A good
amount of peer pressure from these guys later, I caved and now have the best fun with these losers.
Louis (drums): Just want to say that I came up with the name! The band me and Bryony did before
was quite technically accomplished, and I think we both felt the drag of talking everything
to death in practice, which was certainly counter-intuitive to me and my idea of punk. I knew
Bryony had a guitar she wanted to learn how to play, and I was eager to have a go on the drums,
so doing a band that was constrained by ability but liberated to play whatever we could manage
seemed like a good antidote to past experiences of over-thinking the songwriting process. We
weren’t trying to ‘do’ a style, and certainly didn’t have a sound in mind, we just had a go
one afternoon and then enlisted two other enthusiastic individuals.
I’ve seen Good Throb described as “noise” or “stupid”, both meant positively, but I kinda
just feel like you’re a true punk band. Am I right or am I wrong? Why do other people think
Good Throb are particularly noisy or crazy or whatever?
Ellie: Haha, I guess the “stupid” thing comes from the simplicity and lowest common denominator
lyrics. Especially when we first started, we would turn up to practice and someone would say
“Let’s do a song about being wasted”, and we’d all be like “hur hur yeah that’s amazing” and
we’d just have loads of fun making really idiotic songs. We still revel in the vulgarity of
having cocks on our artwork and stuff like that, but actually all of our songs are also about
something – usually being fucking angry or feeling like sick people.
Bryony: For me, there’s an interesting line to be trod between taking pride in lacking any sort
of “technical” ability, to eschew the rockist tendencies still latent in a lot of punk, etc.,
while still harbouring a desire to be taken a little bit seriously (well, as seriously as any
other shitty punk band), or at least not having what you’re doing defanged as a cute or endearing
spectacle. We’ve not suffered too much with this, although it’s there, but getting described
as “sloppy / inept / basic / stupid” on flyers is always funny when it’s not necessarily sloppy
through choice. Overall I’m not too bothered, and if people say it’s noisy then at least I know
my pedal is plugged in! To follow on from what Ellie said, I didn’t actually think twice about
our collective love of innuendo and toilet humour when we starting playing, it’s only been
people’s shock or weirdly strong reactions to it that have highlighted the radical potential
of having refs to fucking, wanking, pubic grooming or other bodily functions in a couple of our
songs, which have probably egged us on to the brink of self-parody, ha.
Ash: Yeah, I think it always seems to say more about other people when we’re being described. We’ve
been called lots of nice things and a fair few nasty ones – I think we’d be happy to be called
stupid and noisy, those are easy obvious things to say. But yeah, I’d agree we aim to be punk,
and I think the way we sound probably best describes our collective definition of that. Of course
we enjoy the lowest common denominator, but we’ve got a conscience and that’s there for people
to hear if they want to; if not, it’s cool punk songs to dance to.
Louis: To be fair, I think we’re partially responsible for these sentiments as we’ve peddled a
self-image (through the Internet or flyers or record art) of being horrendous morons who
play terrible music! The truth is that pound for pound, this is the most highly educated
band I’ve ever been in, so make of that what you will. I like your idea of “true punk”
though (who doesn’t?). I think there has always been a cheeky playoff between clever/stupid
in the punk aesthetic, and maybe we happily continue this tradition: in as much as a bunch
of university graduates making songs about wanking and shopping can.
So would you say the basis for your lyrics are either stupid/gross humor, or anger towards
legitimate oppression? Do you ever worry people might not take you seriously when you are being serious?
Ellie: I guess they’re both; I certainly don’t see the two things as being mutually exclusive. Like,
it’s nothing new to say that a lot of the most fucked-up elements of society are also the
most surreal or hilariously idiotic. Like with the song “Bag” – for me and Ash, working in
retail at the time was shit and inane, so it seemed completely appropriate to make music about
it which is also shit and inane! There are obviously things that make my blood boil and get
me down, so I guess it’s good for me to shout about them and fuck those feelings off with
songs about sweaty collars and shitty pub toilets, but which also have an actual bite to them
in terms of stuff that matters. I’m not that bothered if people take it seriously or not, I
feel like the lyrics are mostly pretty self explanatory (maybe?!).
Bryony: Totally, there is crossover. I’m a big believer in the power of the snide. I also think
our delivery is reasonably straight, even when the subject matter might be less so, so perhaps
it balances out in a way it wouldn’t if we were a costume-wearing grindcore group, or hell,
I don’t know, a ska band. I also like to oppress people with my “creative” approach to tuning.
Louis: I agree with Ellie in that the two aren’t mutually exclusive – I don’t think our
band has a particular agenda, but we’re all fairly like-minded, and approaching legitimate topics
with a sense of humour allows (to my mind) a depth and credibility whereas sloganeering can seem
like a pose. I don’t particularly care about being taken seriously.
You bring up sexism within the punk scene in your lyrics… do you feel that most punk guys
don’t get that sexism is still an issue? Have you gotten much criticism for being so outspoken?
Ellie: I think, yes, there is an element of people rolling their eyes like “not this shit again”
when it’s brought up, and I think yeah, a lot of people have no sympathy or understanding of
how sexism effects people in small, everyday ways all the fucking time. That’s what the song
“Feminazi” is about; standing there on the periphery whilst blokes talk about who’s fit and
who’s not, and being made to feel like a killjoy arsehole for raising objections to bullshit.
As a band, we haven’t really had any specific criticism about our feminism but we have had some
amazing comments about being a “lesbian” band (none of us identify as lesbian, least of all Louis
who happens to be a man), and about how we’re generally terrible, haha, which may or may not be
related to gender. Obviously we’re not exactly breaking boundaries here, but I guess some people
do find our crude attitudes distasteful.
Bryony: I don’t know if you could call “that bitch needs a firework shoved up her cunt” criticism,
but it’s the tip of the wanker-iceberg, really. While there are those who might deny that
sexism still exists here, I’m just as if not more concerned by those who do claim to grasp
the issue, but are willfully blind to the fact that it’s their issue, too, rather than, I
don’t know, a fringe concern for lady lunatics and the queers. There’s also a particularly
British “don’t rock the boat” culture that is rife within UK punk, so a lot of heinous bullshit
goes unchecked usually in the name of “banter”. So yeah, it’s not something that Good Throb
came together to tackle or anything, but it is a thing I spend a lot of time/life thinking
about, and working on outside of the band, so personally I love that we do touch on it.
Ash: Yeah I think we get criticism and applause from men and women on both sides for bringing up
sexism and inequality within punk, and that’s generally a bit of a frustrating thing. To
me we’re just a punk band and feminism being a point of interest within our lyrics and attitude
is no different to any other topic we broach. Sexism’s obviously fucking dumb, and that
pisses us off so we talk about it. I find it shocking that people are awkward about it to
the degree that they give us this label and dismiss us so easily because we’ve brought up
this thing that can exist in bigger society but not within the punk scene.
Louis: I think it’s maybe a bit much to say most punk guys don’t get that sexism is still an issue.
I would say that by and large the scene (as I know it) is more switched on and PC than the
outside world, but it’s pretty depressing to me that it is so predominantly male. There are
naturally a variety of attitudes on this issue that range from the pretty fucked to right on.
I find it difficult to know how to actively challenge that – like it’s important to me that
more women play in bands, but as one of the people who put this band together, it honestly
never occurred to me that I would be in a predominantly female band, I just wanted to start
a group with my friends.
Are there any groups out there today that you haven’t personally met, but feel a sort of kinship
with? Any modern bands you’re listening to that you feel like share a similar wavelength as
Good Throb, even if not necessarily musically?
Ellie: I dunno about that, but I am eerily drawn to the brutally guttural vocals on the new
Atentado 12″; this is a woman I want to meet.
Louis: The quick answer for me is no, but that’s not to say I don’t find inspiration from people
I personally do know. For example, I feel that we share affinity with local bands like Hygiene
and Woolf, who take a scrappy and humourous approach to making simple punk that still sounds
thoughtful, unique and weird. I don’t feel like we’re a particularly popular band, but people
who I feel are repeatedly vocally supportive (at least to my face) include Nuria from Las Timidas,
Nick from Logic Problem and Matthew from Black Time/Wake Up Dead. It’s nice that these people
in bands I like like us too!
Bryony: For me, there’s definitely a lot of killer bands happening right now that I feel kinship
with, in that they’re doing punk feminist realities outside of all the tired old riot grrrl
paradigms… bands like Hysterics and Weird TV from Olympia, Displeasure, Livid, and Index from
San Francisco, Dark Times from Norway, La Otras from Barcelona. Pottymouth, Household, etc. etc.,
the list goes on. I went to a practice of one of these bands, called In School, from New York,
and can attest that they share our deep sense of the cruciality of arse/ass/butt/bum/bottom-related
jokes, which is obviously an ultimate priority.
Ash: I recently met The Splits from Finland and felt a bit of a kinship with them with the way
they said they started out just practicing together in order to learn and are now playing
simple, killer punk songs.
Have you played shows outside of England? Any plans to come to the US?
Ellie: We haven’t toured much at all. We’ve played in Scotland, but nothing outside of the UK
unfortunately. It’s something that would obviously be amazing to do if we pulled ourselves
together. Touring England and Scotland a few months ago with Hunger was fucking great.
Ash: Yeah, we would love to do a US tour (right?). I think it depends currently on whether or not
we get to practice a bit more, write some new songs, sort ourselves out with records, etc…
Then hopefully, fingers crossed.
Bryony: It’s been a big ambition of mine to play in the US ever since tagging along on one of
Louis’s other band’s tours there – it’s not something a lot of British bands do (unless
you’re in Hard Skin) but we’ve had some awesome, kind offers already, so as long as we can
put out a bunch of records that make it over, we’ll make it happen!
Louis: For some reason I can’t imagine us going down particularly well in Northern Europe, and I
think we would have difficulty booking a tour. I would really like to go to Spain though, and
playing in the US seems a lot more like a possibility at the moment.
How far can Good Throb go? Do you see the band existing a couple years from now, or is
it more of a lark?
Ellie: Good Throb is pretty much hard-wired into my brain like a relentless parasite, so I hope it
will continue for the foreseeable future! Everyone is pretty busy with doing their own thing
though – we don’t even get to practice as much as we would like, sadly. I’d like us to be the
cock-rock band of the future, continuing to play pub back-rooms to no one!
Bryony: Good Throb: The Terminal Lark.
Louis: Don’t we already play pub back rooms to no one?