The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ben Curttright of The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick. We discussed writing and recording the band’s new album, working with Count Your Lucky Stars, lyrical inspirations, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

🙂 👍

Your new album “Ways Of Hearing” just came out. Can you tell me about the writing and recording process for the album? How long did you work on it?

In total, it was a two-year process. A bit over two years. I demoed out the first five songs (meaning the first five written, not the first five on the album) in I think June 2018, June / July, and then I showed them to Sean, Becky, and Alyssa, and we started practicing as a four-piece that fall: Sean on lead guitar, Becky on keys, Alyssa drumming. Our first show was that lineup plus our friend Gabe on violin. The rest of it kind of came together a song at a time over early 2019. 

The goal then was to put an album together by the end of the summer, which, because I work in academia, meant practicing a lot and then finishing recording before September. Mike and Ana joined the band around that time. We did some DIY demos at Becky’s house and then did four or five days with Mark Watter at Headroom here in Philly. Everything was recorded a year ago, but then, you know, mixing, mastering, and by the time that was done, it’s March, COVID lockdowns are starting, and there’s another wait for Keith’s usual tape production plant to reopen and catch back up. So we started two years ago, finished a year ago, and then put it out last week.

Have you been pleased by the fan reaction to the album so far?

I mean, it’s been thrilling that there’s been a fan reaction at all, you know? When you’re just starting out as a band, it’s like, you don’t have that many avenues for promoting something like this; apart from touring, going around and hoping to build an audience that way (which we can’t do right now, obviously), you’re really just, like, throwing a paper airplane on a windy day and hoping it flies. I’m super grateful for everything Keith’s done to get the album in front of people: the Brooklyn Vegan premiere, New Noise, etc. And then, just, thanks to everyone who’s given it a chance after seeing it on a blog or Twitter or wherever.

You released the album with Count Your Lucky Stars. That label has worked with some really great artists. How has your experience been with the label?

You could count a ton of CYLS artists among my biggest influences: Joie de Vivre, Empire! Empire!, Kind of Like Spitting if you include the rereleases. I’m lucky to have messaged Keith when he was starting things back up this spring. I’ve been listening to his & Cathy’s music for a decade now, known them on some level for, like, five or six years, so working with CYLS on an album was a dream for a long time, and, I mean, there isn’t a nicer guy in music than Keith, so it’s been incredible.

“The Cat Stands On My Arm” is a favorite of mine from the album. Can you tell me about writing that song specifically? What was the lyrical inspiration?

I’m really glad you like it, thank you. That was actually the first song I wrote that was like, oh, this is part of a new thing, this is something I want to try to make a band to play. 

I hope your readers have the patience for the long answer, and if not, you can cut some of this. Part of it comes from, like, I was reading How Music Works by David Byrne from the Talking Heads, and he was narrating how he came up with lyrics for their songs: he’d record a demo to tape, put on his Walkman, and go for a jog, and while he was jogging, he’d make mouth sounds that he thought fit with the song -- only afterwards would he transcribe them and find real English-language words that fit the sounds he was making earlier. I didn’t actually go jogging, but reading about his process allowed me to create a distinction for myself between writing lyrics and all the other kinds of writing I do. There are a lot of lines in goalie songs that technically have a meaning or are allusions to stuff I was thinking about (like, a lot of the images in “cat” are very loosely from Ulysses by James Joyce, the lighthouse Stephen is living in at the start of the novel), but my primary concern was to come up with a vocal line that sounded nice and then to find some words that I could fit in there.

The other part comes from how my cat likes to hop up on my shoulders and look around from up there. He’s the one on the album cover with the little soccer ball.

“We Love You So Much” was the first single from the album. Why did you decide to go with it as the first single and the introduction to the album? 

You know, I actually had to be convinced that it’d work as a single, hah. We were on a Zoom call in September to plan release stuff, and my thought was, sure, “we love you” is a good song, but it’s also almost seven minutes long, it’s really just one chord progression and one vocal stanza repeated for six and a half minutes, do we really want to lead with that? I thought “olive” was a more natural choice as a first single. But Keith and Sean, if I’m remembering this correctly, their argument was, eh, might as well start with the best one and let people know what they’re getting into. I think it was the right call, though.

I think you have a really good sound. I’ve seen it described as “slowcore”. Can you tell me more about this and about your biggest influences?

I used to say, like, the goalie is for fans of Carissa’s Wierd, the Joan of Arc album Live in Chicago 1999, and the song “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads. I’m a huge Carissa’s Wierd fan; if COVID-19 had hit the United States a week later, I would’ve gotten to see them in New York on 14 March for the Ugly But Honest twentieth anniversary, my girlfriend and I had tickets and had been looking forward to it for months, but, well, I hope that show can somehow happen someday.

The main thing that keeps our songs interesting, though, is that everyone comes from different backgrounds and has different influences musically. Sean’s played in twinkle bands around the city for years. Alyssa is a classically trained marimba player. Mike, our bassist, after he saw this question, he wanted me to mention that his favorite band is Saves the Day. Ana had to skip our release day livestream because she had an orchestra concert. Whenever Becky drives me anywhere, she has this weird jazz radio station on in her car, I don’t know what it is, and then she also has some lo-fi stuff out that she’s written and self-recorded, and it sounds great but nothing like the goalie. The fact that everyone is so good at what they do means that I can write a really simple, really repetitive song like “we love you so much” and then we can work it into something that doesn’t feel its length, if that makes sense.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Just that, I’ve not actually done a great job with this yet, but: an organization I’m a part of, the Democratic Socialists of America, is in the middle of a recruitment drive right now, so, if your readers think that the U.S. is pretty fucked up right now and that the only way to solve our problems is by standing together as working people and saying we deserve better, they can join DSA via this link. I think if three of them do, I get a free hat or something.

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