We’re excited to premiere the newest video from Oakland band Van Goat (formerly Bear Lincoln) for their song “So” – a piece of veritable performance art that will have you rubbing your eyes. It’s a unique idea that is beautifully executed as each performer appears to sit on top of (think Photoshop layers) and move between four changing locations: a studio / warehouse, a church, an alley, and a goat farm, complete with interfering goats trying to eat gear and a goat-cheese coincidentally bearing the same name as the band.
Beyond the video lies a truly good song with a strong melody and infectious hook. The band’s surf punk sound finds apt expression in this track, into which we are welcomed by an eerie organ solo from keyboardist Ben Einstein. While they say it’s not a huge divergence from their existing catalogue, the band credits the surf and garage rock sounds emanating from their peers in the East Bay as well as working with other songwriters to craft the song into its best version with the “heavier and more concise” tone of this release and its companions.
“(O)n the last batch of songs, we brought in a lot of guest musicians and did all the recordings ourselves,” the band told us. “This time, we did the opposite. We played all the music ourselves, and brought in other people for the recording process. Our friend Brad Lincoln really pulled through on the engineering end, and AJ McKinley (of Battlehooch) sat down with us before we recorded and helped us deconstruct and rebuild them into better, sharper songs.”
Practicing 3-4 nights a week certainly helps the band, who plan to stick it out in the Bay Area through the current housing crisis. With family and friends still in the area, exciting bands inspiring them, and an easy jumping off point for West Coast touring, Van Goat isn’t leaving town anytime soon. You can catch them at their next show October 1st at El Rio in the Mission. It’s sure to be a high energy helluva good time. In the meantime, we caught up with the band for a little Q&A:
SFCritic: Okay, why the name change? And what was the inspiration behind the new name?
Van Goat: Well, we had a bad experience with a bear, and we found out some things about Lincoln that we’d rather not talk about. Goats, on the other hand, are the most widespread livestock and they arguably help more people than any other animals in the world. Also, we hope to own a van someday.
SFC: There are always bands that influence musicians that have no apparent bearing on the songs they make – what are those bands for you? (For instance, maybe you love Haydn’s concertos and they’ve influenced how you mimic melody on the keys)
VG: We got the idea for layering vocals from Queen, who built giant vocal harmonies by each of the three singers performing each others parts. They had like 18 vocal tracks at once on their records! Although I don’t think our music sounds much like Queen, we all think they’re awesome and we definitely used this tactic.
Also, one band we all love is Philadelphia-based Man Man. While I don’t think all our songs sound a lot like them, the way they construct a song with constant changes and unpredictable elements is something we are always working toward. They walk the line between experimental and pop music better than anyone else and I think this is our ultimate goal in our songwriting and live performance.
Other bands we love include The Pixies, Devo, Talking Heads, and The Squirrel Nut Zippers. We love all these bands for being both conventional and unconventional at the same time.
SFC: Whose vision is this video? The blocked-sections idea is really brilliant and unique. It’s got that innovative OK-Go flair to it while still feeling totally rock n roll to its core.
VG: The video was done by our good friend Alex Mallonee, who did all the videos for our previous band, Bear Lincoln. He came up with the whole idea, directed it, got the goat farm, and the crew. He came up with it and made it all happen. We like him a lot! Check out his stuff here: www.alexmallonee.com We asked Alex to explain the concept because he came up with it. This is what he says:
The concept is actually a really old idea that we had originally discussed for one of the very first Bear Lincoln songs, “Black Market Friday”, back in 2013. We even did some camera tests, but the logistics of the production were too difficult for us to pull off back then. When the band approached me about creating the first video as Van Goat, we discussed a lot of different ideas for videos before eventually settling on this concept.
Now for a technical breakdown of how we shot it. We broke the song into two halves – the first half ending after (bassist) Derek (Burle) goes for his walk and steps off the very left of frame. The second half began with Derek stepping back in on the right of frame and continues to the end of the song. We shot at four wildly different locations, at daytime interior, daytime exterior, nighttime interior, and nighttime exterior so each space felt unique from the others. Each band member had a 5ft “square” in which to perform and we set the camera up 15ft back from our center line. It’s not exactly perfect, but we honestly didn’t want it to be. Van Goat is anything from straight laced and I think this video perfectly embodies their manic energy and sense of humor. Couldn’t be prouder of the way it came out.
SFC: Where on earth is that amazing goat farm? And did the goats (sheep?) get an equity cut for their roles?
VG: The goat farm is called Harley Farms and its in Pescadero, near Half Moon Bay (Here’s there website: http://harleyfarms.com/). They do tours and sell goat cheese and it’s definitely worth checking out. They have an insane number of goats and two llamas. The people there were so nice and basically let us have the run of the land just ‘cause they love music. The goats were paid in nibbles of Taylor (Moxon)’s drums. Here’s what Alex had to add:
At first we were all actually pretty nervous about how the goats would react around us and the film/music equipment. Luckily (lead vocalist & guitarist) Aidan (Ward) has experience working on farms in Petaluma and was an excellent goat wrangler because he definitely piqued their curiosity. I believe the name of his technique was the “Hug and Hold” and it proved to be quite effective. They try to eat everything shiny.
SFC: How many instruments (if any) were harmed in the making of this video?
VG: Well, Derek smashed that bass but it was already unusable and not worth fixing. The goats definitely chewed up Taylor’s cymbals a bit, but it’s given them a wonderful sound ever since. Oh, and the cymbal we lit on fire was already junk and lighting it on fire and dropping it didn’t really do anything to it, anyway.