In a career spanning two decades, the Belgian band, GOOSE, has consistently reinvented a sound that blends the worlds of electronic dance and rock together. Undoubtedly a rare merging of genres, but one that has led to their ascent as one of Belgium’s most notorious musical acts. Now, they return with their 5th studio album, Endless, their most emotionally charged piece of work to date. Arriving six years since their last full-length release, Endless is the product of time meticulously spent creating a personal storyline and finding honesty within themselves, and their creative output.
Consisting of band members, Dave Martijn, Tom Coghe, Bert Libeert, and lead vocalist Mickael Karkousse, GOOSE originally burst onto the scene across Europe in 2006, thanks to their debut album Bring It On, via Skint Records. It was a release that encapsulated the music scene at the time, gone were the raving 90s, and what took its place were the sweaty warehouses that gave room for alternative dance music, a space in which the band would find their home. “That first album was motivated by our experience watching how crowds reacted to a DJ, dancing all night long, without knowing any of the tracks.” Karkousse explains, “They just felt the vibe and danced. We said we should be able to do that as a rock band, disco bands used to do it in the 70s.”
Bring It On gave the band the opportunity to leave their hometown of Kortrijk, and venture into a whole new world, where they could be unapologetically themselves. “To us, it was an escape from Belgium, to try and find clubs where we could play for people. That’s exactly what the first album did for us, we played warehouse parties, Fabric in London, all these places.” However, with the electronic scene quickly changing, engulfing the worlds of drum & bass and EDM, two sub-genres the band couldn’t connect with, GOOSE found themselves looking inward for inspiration.
A significant moment within the bands self-development and creative approach came when Martign worked alongside Belgian electronic superstars Soulwax, on their Any Minute Now tour. “That really opened our eyes to what you could do with a rock band.” Martign proclaims, “It’s possible to step out of Belgium and do something. Especially what they did as 2manydjs, inspired us a lot, they were playing rock music, but everyone danced.” Soon after that a close relationship was born between both bands, that saw GOOSE go on to support numerous times over the years. However, it was the early advice Soulwax offered that proved invaluable. “They gave us good advice when we were making that first album.” Libeert states, “Not necessarily about the music itself but everything around it, to not rush, to not listen to anybody else, a bit like older brothers protecting you. I remember they said, the music you create isn’t just for Belgium, it’s for the world. That was very motivating.”
Between those years and now, much has changed for GOOSE. After a string of releases on Skint records and !K7, the band chose to create their own label, Safari Records. That essence of independence and creative freedom was an instant game-changer, and now stands as the most important key to their success. “It’s always been important but even more so in the last few years. Safari Studios is a building where we have our setups, but it’s also where all the ideas are created, where everything starts.” Karkousse proclaims, “Every step along the way is us deciding what we’re going to do and who we’re going to work with. I think it’s a new and modern way to get your music out there. It’s not about having one guy, an old guy with a beard who’s been in the music industry for 40 years telling you what to do. We’re ready to do that ourselves.”
Such independence has allowed the band to continually challenge themselves, never repeating a creative statement, thus growing in the process. Their latest album Endless showcases exactly that. Tender and more emotionally led than previous releases, the band pushed the meaning of their music to the forefront. “We focussed more on the emotion. What’s the meaning of a track?” Libeert explains, “Not just it’s cool, it sounds good, people can dance. It was about asking the question, why does it exist? Each track we tried to purify the emotion.”
Fuelled by a will to produce something honest to themselves that could translate perfectly when played live on stage, the band soon put in to practise how to translate such emotion to listeners. As Martign says “An album gives you the space and time to create a new world. It really helps artists do something new.” That’s exactly what GOOSE does across 10 tracks, spending months portraying emotion equally between vocals and instrumentation, Endless sucks you into the band’s conceptual world. “A vocal gives direction which is cool because it’s honest and very direct. With an instrumental, as a listener you have more space to fill in the blanks and listen with your personal emotion as opposed to someone else’s story.
For lead vocalist Karkousse, Endless was new territory, it became a space where he could open up about his feelings and relations with people in his life. This was a step away from his previous output where lyrics simply aided the vibe of the song. It soon became a freeing experience. “With the album we wanted to do the songwriting first, find the source of emotion, and only afterwards did we focus on the sounds.” The artist explains, “It was a challenge for me to write stories that made more sense than the ones I was writing years before. Before I didn’t have the courage to be open and speak, it was more about being abstract and shouting. By writing in that way it helped me in melody as well. I’m happy I found the balance between the edgy, shouty vocals and the softer ones that allow you to be part of the story.”
Soon those vocals helped to translate the conceptual approach to the album. Thanks to the band’s meticulous approach to Endless’ creation, never rushing anything, a coherent story was born that translates between the everchanging sound of the album. “A lot of the time we have a visual idea around the album. For example, our second album Synrise was created as a soundtrack to a movie that didn’t exist.” The band states, “Now, as it’s more personal and emotional, we’ve found that each track represents a character you’d find at a house party, and the different moments that happen throughout the night. Emotions switching fast, a couple arguing etc.”
The finishing touches of the album were created at the infamous Motorbass studio in Paris, created by the late Phillipe Zdar, known for his highly acclaimed work as part of the duo Cassius. Drawing on the essence and unique spirit of the complex, GOOSE reached out to prominent French composer Victor Le Masne, to executively produce the album. Overseeing its final stages, which meant finishing a track a day, the high-pressure situation drew out the best in all involved. “We try to be subtle sometimes. But he was there to tell us, no, this is what the song is about, so don’t be afraid of it, and put it loud. Simple things, but exactly what we needed.” Coghe states, Karkousse then adds: “Musicians always want to do interesting stuff, but that’s not always what the track is about. You can really like that sound, but that’s not where the emotion is. He was very good at finding the balance between how to perfectly translate a track whilst having everything we are in it.”
With the bulk of the work done at Safari Studios, the band spent three weeks in Paris, drawing on the spirit of the city that over the years has had such an impact on the electronic scene. Being away from home, the opportunity to explore the city was a pleasant distraction, and often helped in the album’s final creation. “The tracks were in a good state already, he was just adding the magic of this studio, Paris, and the vibe that’s here.” Martign proclaims, “This studio did add a lot to what the album is, the space, the instruments and especially the engineers, who are like human instruments. It’s such a young team here, everyone’s involved. When we were doing the album is felt like there was six or seven of us making it. Everybody was excited.” Endless sonically draws upon much of the bands back catalogue, consistently jumping between the harder rock elements, and the softer synth led productions. What’s different about this album is just how personal it feels, which translates emotion throughout. It’s refreshing to speak to a band who avoid the pressure to constantly release music in the digital age. Undoubtedly that comes from their independence, void of any external pressures, GOOSE makes music when it feels right and because of that, the finished piece always stands out. Two decades might well sound like a long time, but I have a feeling that there’s still much to come from GOOSE, and if their back catalogue tells us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.