Thomas May discusses with what we can only presume is the closest thing the group has to a figurehead, the band’s insistence on secrecy, the commune that spawned their concept and freedom from individuality.
“Oh I don’t know, we call ourselves all, like, different things all the time,” the hesitant voice tells me from the other end of a struggling international phone-line. I’ve asked my anonymous interviewee how I should refer to him in the present article, a question that seemingly catches him off-guard. What I had thought would be a passing formality before our conversation really begins becomes a sticking point, a stifling atmosphere of awkwardness quickly emerging. “But you can call me…” He trails off to silence.
With the sole exception of Christian Johansson, who gave a handful of interviews in the band’s infancy, the identities of Goat’s members have remained veiled in mystery ever since they emerged into the public consciousness two years ago. Although, to refer to them as “members” is probably overly prescriptive. Supposedly hailing from a commune in the remote north of Sweden, Goat functions more as a continuum of ideas and musical activity than a strictly delimited group: a fluid collective of individuals coalescing – albeit temporarily, perhaps fleetingly – around a shared sensibility, a shared music.
“It doesn’t really have a beginning and an end, maybe, you know,” my interviewee tells me later, once our ungainly conversation has begun to flow more easily. His fractured English is spoken fitfully, the musicality of the Swedish accent straining against an unforgiving foreign tongue, his economical clauses strung together with heavy silences and verbal tics. “But it’s more of a way of… A view of the world maybe, a view of music, or of cultures, that everything belongs to everyone, you know? To be influenced from, or to enjoy all cultures, all music, everything. And Goat is mainly somehow a tradition, a tradition of how to live, maybe, how to view things, how to look at things. And that probably doesn’t have a beginning or an end.” Within Goat’s internal logic, the concepts of identity, of authorship and ownership, become irrelevant – if not totally meaningless – as the individual is subsumed and dispersed within the collective.
“You can call me…” Again, he pauses. Floundering, he eventually asks: “I don’t know, what did Rachel say?” By this point, only a minute or so into our conversation, we’d both chosen to ignore my catastrophic blunder of addressing him by his real name, which had been relayed to me by my PR contact Rachel prior to the phone call. (“Hi, is that X?” was my ham-fisted opener. “No… It’s not X,” suspicion palpable, I’d clearly miscalculated, “but is this, er, is this from a paper?”) His name now an open secret, the only option was to plow on in earnest. “Well, she told me to ask you,” I replied with pained and insufficient jocularity. Another pause.