Artist Spotlight: Gooch Palms is a state of mind

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What are Gooch Palms? A pejorative term used in Belize? A shell company for a shady hedge-fund tycoon? A new Lori Loughlin sitcom on the Hallmark Channel? Gooch Palms is, in fact, a band from Australia, and they said they are bored with the mundane.

Singer and guitarist Leroy MacQueen said he does not like the usual music questions that come his way. MacQueen dismisses questions about origins or influences with an unequivocal “That’s boring.” 

When asked about what he and singer and drummer Kat Friend listened to as kids, MacQueen said, “We didn’t really grow up into music households, but we grew up in music households.” 

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Then he talked about listening to “mom and dad rock” like Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton and the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack. 

“The one that I really liked was ‘The Bodyguard Soundtrack.’ That one was tight,” MacQueen said. 

“The Bodyguard Soundtrack” was one of Whitney Houston’s best-selling albums in the nineties.

Gooch Palms’ music doesn’t sound like any of the bands he mentioned earlier, except maybe Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser” from the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack, a collection of classic American pop singles from the 1950s to the ‘80s.

MacQueen described their own music as “primitive rock ‘n’ roll,” which is only guitar and drums. 

“Try not to think about it too much. It is what it is,” MacQueen said. 

Jacob Sullivan, co-owner of Wooden Tooth Records, described the band as “low-fi garage dance.” 

“It’s definitely garage-y and punk rock, but it’s fun and upbeat. You don’t have to be into punk necessarily to like it,” Sullivan said. 

What Gooch Palms does sound like is an 8-bit illegitimate child of The B-52s and The Ramones. MacQueen sings doo-wop torch songs about love and living in the moment. Friend sings butane blow-torch songs about feminism like in the recent single, “Busy Bleeding.”

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Gooch Palms released the “Introverted Extroverts” album in 2016, and they toured the world extensively from their then-home base of Los Angeles. 

Standout songs from that album include “Eat Up Ya Beans,” a diatribe against the daily humiliations of work and authority; “Trackside Daze,” which could be a Frankie Valli song about passing time during those long hot summers by the train tracks, and “G.P.B.N.O.,” which sounds like a punk-rock version of the Metallica song “Ride the Lightning” but with a Gooch Palms twist on seizing the night before youth fades away. 

The band is now based in Melbourne, Australia, but they said they do have fond memories of their hometown of Newcastle. 

MacQueen met Friend at a local music venue, The Cambridge Hotel, before starting the band.

“Every Wednesday night it was $2.50 drinks, and you could just get plastered,” MacQueen said. “We didn’t close ‘til like the sun came up, and then even then there was a place called The Duck’s Nuts that you could go to after. It was pretty, pretty seedy.”

Their current “Slay the USA” tour is a warm up to their new album, “III,” being released by Rat Bag Records on May 10. Rat Bag Records releases other Australian acts like Skegss, Dune Rats and Totty.

In a Web 2.0 world where musicians are vying for attention and are posting millions of songs, MacQueen admits to being talentless. Why do they make music?

“Me and Kat ask ourselves that question everyday while we’re in a van,” MacQueen said. “We can’t really do much else. We can’t really hold down a couple of jobs.”

With those type of options, what would one do? Accrue student loan debt and work for a job that may not be secure in the long run? Or with a tiny chance of financial independence, make music and tour the world in a van? 

Gooch Palms may prove to others that life could be lived on one’s own terms. That could be a life well spent. 

Gooch Palms will play Wooden Tooth Records on Thursday, April 18, at 8 p.m. Cover is $5. 


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