That’s right, compadres. Over the course of two albums and a handful of EPs, Brooklyn’s Goes Cube have staked out their own course in music, combining elements of hardcore, post rock, and noise into a taut package. Last year’s In Tides and Drifts was a leap forward from their debut, Another Day Has Passed, and with a new booking agent, the band may be about to become a lot more visible on the road. On the eve of their Metal Insider-sponsored tour with Exotic Animal Petting Zoo, frontman David Obuchowski caught up with us about this tour, their third album, and bowling.
You just put out a brand-new 7” single on The End, who you’ve been with since your debut. How close is a third album to being completed?
Well, it’s almost entirely written. Or it is written, depending on how many songs we want on there and such. As for when it’s going to be recorded, it’s tough to say. We’re essentially looking at a few more tour opportunities (both North American and abroad) and trying to balance that with when would be best for us to get back in the studio. That said, we’re certainly hoping to record it sooner than later, as we think it’s our best material, combining a lot of the intricacies that you heard on the Coextinction Recordings EP we did, with a lot more of that raw brutality you heard on In Tides And Drifts (songs like “Safety Coffin,” “Thunderheads,” and the Story Is The Story trilogy).
You guys were announced as part of DV8 Bowling’s regional staff earlier this month, and I’ve read that you love to bowl with fans on tour. Why is bowling such a big thing for you guys?
It’s some combination of how we were raised and our love of tradition. Kenny and I grew up together in NJ, and we were raised bowling. Our fathers were definitely regular bowlers. When Kenny and I got back in touch after college, he was rolling at least once per week still. When we started touring, though, it was our original bass player—Matt Frey—who had the idea that we should just go bowling every day we could while on tour. That was back in ’06, I think. Anyways, it just stuck. We loved it. Perfect for when you get to town and you have a couple hours to kill. It’s not too expensive. It lets you stretch out after being in the car. It didn’t take long before we were tracking scores and all that. But I mean, in the end, I guess we just really like bowling. Everyday, at least three games a day, and we still leave wanting to roll one more game. Certainly wouldn’t be the case if we had tried golfing every day.
What other bands are you excited about right now?
I am so far behind on new music. The only new music I really ever hear anymore are new albums that my already favorite bands put out. And while I in no way mean this to sound pretentious, we spend so much of our time actually making music (in Goes Cube and in our other projects: Kenny is in Cleanteeth, and I’m in Distant Correspondent), that we don’t have as much time seeking it out. That said, being on the road gives us opportunities to hear all different bands, and that’s always really cool, even if it’s kind of like a one-time thing.
But I won’t leave you without an answer, and this is not a shameless plug: When this tour was being put together, our booking agent gave us the then-unreleased Exotic Animal Petting Zoo Tree of Tongues album, and I was just floored. I think the songwriting is really solid, and they manage to pull something off that I typically hate in metal: the whole screamy/melodic singy thing. That dude’s voice doesn’t sound all whiny and emo to me. Actually it sounds like Jeff Buckley or Paul Michel. It’s an awesome album that I had on repeat for 8 hours a day for weeks.
You guys had Jaymay sing on In Tides and Drifts, and after hearing Jarboe turn up on the new Hull album, I feel like there’s a lot of potential to have unusual guests with the NYC artist pool to draw from. What would some dream collaborators be for whatever you do in the future?
I’m going to answer for myself, and not so much as “this is the position of Goes Cube,” though it very well might be: There are endless musicians who I think are amazing. But we already have guitar and bass and drums. So I can’t think of any situation where I feel like “Hey, I want the drummer from Gospel to play drums instead of Kenny on this song,” or “Wow, Bundy from Naam is great at bass, so let’s have him sub for Matt on this song.” I think that would be weird. And, in fact, that’s why I have Distant Correspondent—to work in more of an experimental and collaborative way with whoever. I would hope my bandmates wouldn’t be like “Hey buddy, instead of singing/playing guitar, maybe we’ll have Aaron Turner do this one.” So, I would want to choose someone who brings something very different. I don’t like keyboards in metal so much, so with the exception of piano, I think we’re all good there. (And consider: Kenny actually played a bit of piano on In Tides and Drifts.) Cello could be cool, but I can’t really name a cello player who I would say “man, it would be a dream to work with that guy.”
I think Jaymay sounded amazing on our album and all her albums, and I just really love when there’s a beautiful female voice in heavy music. I think about when Julie Christmas sang on “Generation of Ghosts” by Mouth of the Architect, for instance. So let’s go with the female voice thing: I’d love to have Kate Bush sing on a Goes Cube song. Her music is actually an influence (not that it’s an obvious one), and her voice is incredible. Would love that. Kate Bush, definitely.
On the topic of British women singers: the “singer” of Meanwhile Back In Communist Russia. She never sang, but would do these awesome spoken word things. I think her name is Emily Gray. I could definitely go for a song where Emily Gray tells some story over part of the song. Also, what the hell, we’d love to have Dalek collaborate and do some rhymes, despite the fact that everyone should have learned their lesson from the Trespass soundtrack. Lastly, I’d love to have DJ Shadow either produce a track or just remix or, hell, just sample one of our tracks. So yeah, for me: Kate Bush, Emily Gray, Dalek, DJ Shadow. Oh, and maybe The Austerity Program’s drum machine. We used to have one (“the beating machine”), but it’s no longer with us. And theirs does better beats anyways.
Any plans to do a lengthier tour soon in support of a new record? It seems like you prefer to do more targeted tours with fewer dates.
We just got a new booking agent, and he seems to have us on his priority list. So right there, that should mean better tours and more tours. When we were younger and didn’t have families to support, we self-booked a lot of long tours across the country and into Canada. Those were amazing experiences that I will never forget, never regret, and were essential to the band we are now. But, and this should come as no surprise to anyone, those self-booked tours meant playing a lot of empty rooms with horrible or sometimes no bands. They made us no money, and not too many fans since a lot of times we weren’t really playing for anyone.
Touring became more and more difficult because of the finances, and there are times it’s insanely frustrating. I mean, you drive six hours to some town, load-in, open up for an interpretive dancer, and get told to turn it down three times before getting kicked off the stage for being too loud. That’s funny once. Or twice. But you have enough of those situations and you start getting really fucking frustrated. Well, anyways, we kept at it, but as two out of three of us became fathers, we had to be smarter about these tours, since the same money that pays for tours also pays for the food that feeds our kids. That’s why we have done less touring but better tours. With Helmet and Intronaut, we played for well over one thousand people in three days, which is far more people than we’d play for in three weeks on some of our self-booked tours.
So now that we have a booking agent, we’re looking to get the best of both worlds: more touring and better tours.After all these years, it seems somewhat reasonable, right? But we’re also looking to go overseas and all that. So even if you don’t see any months-long tours anytime soon, we’re hoping we’ll be going to more places like UK, Europe, Japan, Australia…maybe play with Flight of the Conchords in New Zealand (hey, add those dudes to our list of collaborators). Regardless, we love touring, and we want to tour. We’ve got a great booking agent now, and we’re always open to opportunities. We just have families to think about.
How do you make the band work living so far apart from each other?
Again, having a booking agent is kind of a glue. By blocking out weeks throughout the years for tours, we’re able to plan out what the next year or two looks like knowing, “OK, North American tour here, possible UK tour here, we have to record,” etc. As for writing, we write a good amount of our stuff remotely: I’ll come up with riffs and songs and email them, and we’ll work them out when we get together, because we do actually get together every couple months still. To a large extent, our philosophy has always been that we wanted to get the band to a point where it sort of could live and breathe and progress without us having to work at it all day, every day like we did in New York. Even back in 2007, we knew that we’d not live in NYC forever. So it was a timing thing: We lived in NYC, the band signed to a great label, put out records, toured a lot, and then we realized, “Hey, we don’t need to play NYC every three weeks now for the band to exist and not vanish.” And so, we let go of the wheel a bit, and by a lot of measures, it’s only improved things: better tours, clearer plans, and more time for writing Goes Cube music, other music, and of course the rest of our non-music-related lives.
Are there any circumstances that might lead to the band becoming more of a full time thing?
The band was a completely full-time thing, and I have a hard time not still thinking about it like that, as I still spend a good deal of time every single day on it. But I see the other side of if, which is that we’re on the road less and all that. So are there any circumstances? Hell yes. Actually, there are a ton of circumstances. We’ve always had the attitude that being in Goes Cube is not just a passion, but it’s also a job we love. It’s not a hobby. It’s “what we do.” So if we can earn more and support our families more from music, we’re going to absolutely do that. That’s the goal, actually. Look, the truth is this: behind the scenes, Goes Cube is full-time. Our activity in terms of records and touring is a function of opportunities. So when Coextinction came along and said they wanted to do an EP, we did it. When a guy named Alex called and said “I want to put you on tour with Exotic Animal Petting Zoo,” we jumped at the chance, and now Alex is our booking agent.
What are your thoughts on streaming services like Spotify?
I guess it’s okay. This whole side of things is so fucked up, it’s hard to know where to start. Back when we were teenagers, you could be in an underground punk band, sell records, and make a little money. And nowadays, you don’t sell nearly as many records. When our second album came out, it was downloaded from a single illegal file sharing site over 700,000 times in a week. Just one site. Just one week. We’ve never been afraid to admit: that pisses us off. It’s a bad situation when that happens because when people do that, they don’t buy the album. Low sales means either less money or you get dropped. No one wins.
And I know the argument about, oh, more people get to hear it who come to shows who buy merch. But I don’t think it’s that simple. When we were kids, it was a big deal to go out and buy a tape or a CD. Now I think there’s almost this sense of entitlement like, hey, I heard a song on a commercial, I should be able to get to the entire album right now for free. And I think with attitudes like that, people don’t really get as invested in a band as they used to. When I was a kid, I’d save up my lunch money and buy a tape every couple weeks. I remember buying Monster Magnet’s first album and liking it – not going crazy over it, but liking it – but being like “Yeah, Monster Magnet! I got their tape!” and I’d listen to it over and over. Now it’s like “oh that’s pretty good,” and we move on without really thinking about it.
I’d like to see a study done to see if there’s a correlation between illegal downloading and higher show and merch purchases. I think we’d see there is none, or it’s marginal. So to be clear, we LOSE money when we tour. We make NO money on record sales. So it’s not a whole selling out thing. It’s a hey, “buy the damn record so we can actually go back into the studio or back on the road” thing. That said, Spotify and Slacker Radio and things like that are an improvement, because musicians do actually get some royalties from that. I mean, I do like that there’s more access to music. So maybe that’s a solution that gives musicians some form of compensation, and gives listeners easier access. It’s aggravating, though: Someone put our entire album on YouTube. And yet if that’s not enough there are commenters going “where can I download this?” Um, how about iTunes or Amazon? It’s not enough you get to hear the whole goddamn thing as much as you want for free on YouTube? Glad you dig it, but since you do, buy it!