My Goodness are the Seattle torque-and-stomp blues-fired duo of Joel Schneider and Ethan Jacobsen. Schneider's Verellen-amped guitar sound caves into Jacobsen's drums like a landslide. Jacobsen's totemic, ore-cracked cymbals, snare, and kick receive and reciprocate the landslide, hammering back the vibrations with sturdy balance and malt-liquored lilting. Schneider's muscle-toned vocals (See also: Absolute Monarchs) are a furnace of screams, but can switch to a bullet-in-the-heart croon in seconds. In Mississippi, there are three graves for blues father Robert Johnson, who is rumored to have had dealings with the devil. Why would a man have three graves? It's eerie and true, and Johnson is smiling upon Schneider and Jacobsen from all three places. My Goodness recently returned from their first UK tour playing five sold-out shows in support of Brooklyn band We Are Augustines. Schneider spoke; he doesn't even have one grave yet.
How was Europe? Five shows, right?
It went great—a good learning experience for us. We shared a tour bus with the WAA guys, and actually we played six times. We showed up at the Live at Leeds festival thinking we had the day off, but some female pop group called Stooshe apparently bailed, and we were thrown onstage during their slot. I guess they have a pretty big draw out there, because it was on one of the main stages at 7 p.m. The only announcements the festival made of the switch that I saw were above the urinals in the men's bathrooms, neatly typed up on computer paper: My Goodness has replaced Stooshe in the Main Room. I have a pretty sweet pic of it [laughs]. Basically, we started playing to people expecting Stooshe. Lots of the crowd quickly vacated. Our sound guy, Scott, made sure we were nice and loud so people outside the building could hear us. By the end of the set, we had a decent little crowd, so it was worth it. Thank you, Stooshe!
Talk about the drugs and the crazy after-parties.
There was this crazy after-party in Leeds later that night. Someone busted out a bottle of liquid GHB, and people started getting weird. We took it as our cue to leave after some guy started dry-humping some other dude who was passed out on the ground.
How was the GHB? Have you been listening to much Stooshe? I remember walking into the wrong room of an after-party, and a guy was injecting some drug into his eye. He was sticking a needle in his fucking eye. If weed is a gateway drug, what kind of gateway is eyeball injection?
Eyeball injection seems to me like a gateway to blindness [laughs]. Some guy tried to hand us what basically looked like a Nalgene bottle full of water. He said it was a mixture of ecstasy and rufilin in liquid form. I politely declined. Another guy took huge gulps after he was already tripping on acid. A few girls at the party were good sports and let the guy lie on the floor and lick their hands for about 10 minutes. It was weird to watch, but I think they knew it beat the alternative of letting this dude roam around the flat trying to touch and lick random people. This was the same guy who passed out facedown and got dry-humped later on.
How did the crowds differ from the crowds here?
It's hard to really say, since it was the first time for people in the UK to hear us. Both places definitely know their music, though, particularly their rock 'n' roll. I think being from Seattle, people have an immediate and sometimes unfair expectation for your band. I had a couple people come up after our shows and say things like "You guys must sell out huge rooms in the States?" I was flattered but had to say, "No, we are still a relatively small band." I almost felt like I was disappointing them.
In your song "Un Poco" you sing, "I need a little luck, I was lost in Mexico... Poca drogas por favor? I need 'em now." What's the story behind that song? What's your lyrical process? Where do your words come from?
I have written a couple songs based on stories my friends have told me that seemed just too good to not turn into a song. I had a buddy years ago that took an ill-fated trip to Tijuana. He and his lady friend were in search of a particular drug they thought you could find over the counter down there. Their travels took them from a pharmacy to a whorehouse to the waiting room at the local Tijuana jail. That's what "Un Poco" is about. Since it's a short, up-tempo song, I tried to keep the lyrics somewhat repetitious and simple and tried to find the humor in the story. It's definitely one of the more fun songs to play live.
What's tricky about finding words for the songs?
Growing up, I always used songwriting as a way to get shit off my chest that I was going through that I couldn't really outright say. It always seemed like there was less backlash if I did it through music—kind of my own personal therapy. I think I've continued that writing style. Most of my songs are about the ins and outs of relationships I've been in throughout my early 20s—some good experiences, some bad. The challenging thing for me is when I start censoring myself. Like I think maybe I'm being too blunt, or people might think/know a song is about them. Then I get all in my head about whether or not I should change things. Sometimes it results in me just stopping the writing process or starting over. It's gotten a little easier lately because I think that the people who know me best realize not to take things personally or literally. Just because I was feeling something when I wrote a song doesn't mean I will always feel the same way. Writing is very spontaneous for me like that.
What did you learn from doing your first recording?
We did our first record in about seven days, all to tape, no Pro Tools. We actually learned a ton about analog recording, as we had never done anything like it before. I loved the realness of it all. At first, there were parts of songs where I wasn't super-happy about how I sang a particular line or how we sped up a bit. Eventually, I actually started to dig it. It was a moment in time that was captured without any enhancing or cutting and pasting. There is something beautiful about that process. Like I'll always remember that full take where I finally felt I performed the song well enough to keep. I like being able to listen to the record and look back at it like that.
What will be different about your next recording session?
We will most definitely have more time. Also, I think we will have a few more ears in the studio and won't be afraid to add a little extra instrumentation here and there. We still want to make sure the next record keeps a nice warm and live feel to it. I do think the next record could use a little more polish on the production side of things. Having more time will help with that. Most likely we will be doing it to tape again.
Please break down some My Goodness guitar talk. What do you play?
I play an early '60s semi-hollow-body German guitar called a Framus Caravelle. Found it down at Emerald City Guitars a couple years ago. I love it. I knew I wanted something that had a big warm sound, so I was definitely going to go with a hollow-body of some sort. The Framus immediately caught my eye when I walked in the shop, plus it was also worlds cheaper than a Gibson ES or an American-made Gretsch. It's got this crazy floating bridge and this rip-off Bigsby tremolo bar that's actually incredible. I actually like it better than a Bigsby; it has more give to it. My backup that I use for a few songs is an Epiphone Dot I picked up in a pawnshop last year. Until recently, I used to just run a Fender Twin Reverb with an old external 2-by-12 bandmaster cab. Recently, I started using an ABY switch and running a second amp. Ben Verellen built me this badass all-tube 300-watt version of the Meatsmoke that has a built-in spring reverb channel. We called it a Good Smoke. It sounds massive. My pedals I've always kept relatively simple. Both are local boutique pedals. I have a Greedtone overdrive pedal and a Verellen Big Spider fuzz pedal. I also use a Holy Grail reverb pedal to add a touch of hall reverb to the mix. It smooths things out a bit, and makes the guitar sound way larger. That's it, though; I keep everything on throughout our set and click the fuzz on and off when I want it. I'm always kind of tinkering with things, though.