After 30 years away from Brisbane, Brisbane’s new-wave and post-punk rockers, the Goths are back
The Goths were a post punk and gothic new wave band that originally formed in Brisbane and released three albums in the early 90s before calling it quits.
About two and a half decades later, it was in the 10’s that guitarist-vocalist Johnny Stowmarries reactivated the band after attracting interest from overseas.
Lovingly restoring the band’s back catalog and uploading it to multiple DSPs, Johnny now intends to form a new backing band to tour the Goths’ back catalog (original vocalist, bassist Percy Blakeney now lives in the Japan) as well as recording material for a possible new album.
What’s the elevator pitch for the Goths; what is the history and what is the future?
We’re an underground duo from Brisbane of the late 80s best known for our three albums: ‘Lost Art’, ‘Creature Feature’ and ‘Evocations’ – all original songs now available on Spotify plus more; songs we first performed at our nightly shows, the Bohemian, Bertie’s & Metropolis, The Sitting Duck, The Dead Rat, and as one of the opening acts at the Zoo.
The future is? I’m back, Johnny Stowmarries, and I’m working to get back on stage with a small backing band to showcase songs past, present, and future. Yes, I am planning a new album in the future.
What sparked the renewed interest in reviving the band, releasing the back catalog on streaming platforms?
In March 2015, The Goths were guest artist of the week by MuSlate for my song “Neck Romancer”. It gained 10 million views on YouTube, sparking renewed public interest in reviving the band.
This led me to publish our back catalog on mainstream music platforms, Spotify, Apple et al. Undertaking this literally took me years because every once in a while I do some DIY, unfortunately it ends up getting pushed aside from time to time. But perseverance pays.
Interest in the band now extends far and wide internationally; having people (fans as well as music industry) from Europe and North America still in touch with your music must be extremely satisfying?
It’s hugely satisfying to receive feedback, whether it’s from fans, social media or industry followers, record labels, radio stations or entertainment editors, it means recognition of our talent. artistic.
It’s been a big driver for me to keep working more behind our success to date. It’s beyond satisfying – it’s led to my releases with Wave in Brazil and Desdoble in Mexico so far.
Goths music is rooted in many ways in classical repertoires through punk, new wave and post punk aesthetics; what draws you to these styles?
Personality-wise, I think I’ve always been drawn to a certain level of gloom.
It makes me think, what effect did listening to something like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ or ‘Paint It Black’ have on you when you were a kid? At some point it becomes you, your favorite songs. We then evolve quite naturally towards the punk, new wave, post punk aesthetic.
It’s not exactly a conscious gesture. It’s more of an osmosis process. I’ve loved all music for as long as I can remember, and punk, new wave and post punk happened to me when I was a teenager.
The pride, novelty and abundance of art drew me to its particular styles and continues to draw me today. I emphasize the glamorous and escapist aspects, however, this period of popular music, from 1979 to the early 80s, contributed enormously to music.
With Percy now living in Japan, what is the future direction of the band; do you want to remain the only songwriter while creating a backing band that will allow you to tour the old catalog of Goths?
That’s the idea. I managed to get over 120,000 streams on Spotify in a relatively short period of time. I didn’t have to try too hard. My audience is booming in 2022.
I think putting on a show is the only logical way forward. But it will have to be a professional company this time. What I want to do is team up with a company in the music industry that is focused on updating my gear and image. I have plans for a new album which can work by re-editing my existing stuff.
Take us back to the band’s open-ended residency at the Bohemian Cafe; these moments must have been integral to the band’s rise to prominence at the time?
The success that Percy and I had at the Bohemian is comparable to the Beatles in Hamburg and the Cavern Club.
It wasn’t just about writing decent albums, it was about refining the sound, the image, the concepts, everything. It’s because we got out there with barely our boots on, and we started.
Before starting at Boho, I had made a demo of a few songs. I was totally green, but luckily those demos became classics and got us on the road to recording. During our first performance at Boho, we were just as green, but the integral moments started to come fast and well.
‘Raven’ was our first single, then ‘Quest’ was a hit with regulars, then ‘Crusade’ opened up a kind of fandom. Creating these numbers, and then becoming seasoned performers as a result of Bohemian fans becoming fans of our songs, set us up.
We have progressed towards transforming ourselves, and at Boho, we have become more adept at directing and improving our work. Our Boho audience became more responsive and drove more viewership, which led to our rise to fame.
Our timing was good. It made us more innovative, creative and inventive and gave us more know-how, confidence and confidence.
Who were some of your contemporaries during the original run of the group; How rooted were you in the local scene?
We had so little to do with other bands or the local scene because all of our performances were exclusive.
We have never appeared on a bill with anyone else, we have never supported any other law and no law has ever supported us. Purple Avengers played a gig a few doors down from the Bohemian, and it was pretty much all about meeting contemporaries.
Our roots in the local scene happened long before our first Boho gig in 1989. Percy and I went to see bands separately before we formed. Personally, I went to Amyl’s and the Tube Club a lot in the mid-80s.
There were an assortment of post-punk bands in Brisbane at the time. I consider it the greatest era of live rock in Brisbane history: Mystery Of Sixes, Vampire Lovers, The Black Assassins, The Screaming Tribesmen, Presidents 11, The Skeletones, The Go-Betweens, Pineapples From The Dawn Of Time , Batswing Saloon to name a few. Clearly, that pushed me to pursue music on everything from that point on.
It’s hard to imagine for the current generation of music lovers how different the scene was in the 80s and 90s in Brisbane for anyone who was slightly alternative; different tattoos, piercings, hairstyles and clothes could get you pulled over by the cops; I’m sure you have some crazy stories yourself; What are your memories of that time and how it fueled the creative passion of so many?
Luckily for us, when we first performed live at the Bohemian, we had just had the Australia-changing Fitzgerald Inquiry, and Labor’s Wayne Goss had just won the state election, so the whole wave of victimization of anyone was slightly alternative; tattoos, piercings, different hairstyles and clothes, began to spin.
Back when we formed in the mid 80’s, victimization by the police was all too common and it was normal. You could get pulled over by the cops. I was very lucky because when I was arrested the cops were frustrated that they never found any reason to approach me or arrest me.
But I consider myself lucky. It paid to hide in the shadows, so to speak, back then. How it fueled the creative passion of so many people, after Fitzgerald, I think is interesting. There has been a noticeable hollowing out of the movement of the groups I have just listed to begin with.
When we entered the scene, it felt like a post-modern equivalent of what had come before. It became the new beginning of a subculture that turned to art and media production, a somewhat more anti-corporate approach to music production. Shortly after we deactivated in 1993, bands like Regurgitator came to the fore.
In terms of modern technology, have you embraced the digital revolution, especially in terms of recording, using modern equipment?
I had demoed all of our song recordings on my Tascam Porta 05, and in 2013 started remastering them in a state-of-the-art studio.
I mean, it’s ridiculous looking back now at my bohemian-era rig. For effects, I had a 1986 Boss DD-3 and a 1983 Boss CS-3 which I replaced with a 1991 Korg A5. I had a 1989 Shure 48 and a 1987 Roland PR-100. through which I sequenced a Boss DR-660, which I mixed through a 1988 SoundLab 4-channel mono micromixer into my 1978 Roland Cube 60.
Almost every one of these individual takes, with the exception of ‘Arch’, was replaced or modified using a custom JNP Cubasis 2 digital audio studio in the 2010s. ‘Arch’ was different because I was working with Logic Pro on a Mac in Aldergrove. Live recording and using hardware is much simpler and works these days.
On the other hand, are there any old school techniques that you still use when you’re in the studio?
Clearly, I’m old school. For ‘Arch’ I used my 1973 Fender Telecaster Custom and my 1978 Roland Cube 60, as well as my 1969 Musicmaster bass.
I started with a piece of power-chords. I added a lead guitar part that was just a chord melody from the theme. Lay down a bass track, just the simplest common fifth. I doubled my voice an octave apart, added very basic drums and keyboards and a very basic thunder sound effect. The whole thing was done in an hour or two.
What’s next for the Goths?
Alright my idea is to put on a show. But it will have to be a professional company this time. This article should help all entrepreneurs understand what Goths stand for in the future. Making a show out of The Goths will involve a hot company to work with.
Thank you for your time; anything else you would like to add?
My pleasure; The Goths have played in front of hundreds, if not thousands, given our gig frequency, every weekend night, in many cases until the sun started to rise in our three active years .
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about it, books and short-takes articles. There are bound to be many who have seen us and remember us to this day.
We welcome readers to come forward and share their memories with us, and I would love to post more about us, in particular, share with our listeners our stories and the meanings behind our songs. I look forward to releasing more songs and other material soon.