Interview with Common Goldfish
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
It’s always been brewing inside of me, having played instruments from a young age. Learning to produce about 6 years ago music was a game changer, and it meant I could really develop my song writing skills (playing multiple elements at once).
Until fairly recently I was working full time in something completely different – investing into renewable energy projects i.e wind farms and solar farms etc. Whilst interesting (and important!), I felt it was drawing me away from my music.
Then lockdown happened, and I suddenly had a lot more spare time on my hands, working from home and with nothing going on during the weekends.
I became a bit of a recluse and really honed in on my production skills. In that time, my production developed a lot, and I was starting to make music that got me thinking about moving into music full time. This gave me confidence to make the leap.
If I wasn’t doing music I would likely still be in my previous job – probably a lot less happy!
How long has your band been around?
The project was launched towards the end of last year, but it wasn’t until March when I released my debut single Feel the Fuzz. I’m actually a bit of a one-man band, which always surprises people. Formerly a producer, I generally record all of the elements myself.
I was previously a producer under the moniker J Love, working with a number of different Artists in South London. I was mainly working with R&B and hip hop artists, which was really cool and a different world to what I’m doing now.
I had a burning desire to create an indie project with more organic elements, mainly guitar, bass and piano. After spending a bit of time finding my sound, common goldfish was born.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
The project started in my studio here in Tottenham. Having grown up in South London, I’ve been living here for the past few years.
It’s a very creative place, with loads of artists, musicians, writers, producers etc. There’s a great studio community in Tottenham, and I’ve built a great network of local artists, some of whom I’ve started working with. Collaborating with other artists is always very exciting, as its not something I’ve done a huge amount of (as a solo artist), and so I feel like it has the potential to open up infinite possibility.
I think there’s a grittiness in my music, that definitely roots it in London for sure.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
For some reason a lot of my favourite artists have animal related names, such as as Gorillaz, Eels, Bononbo, Caribou, Tame Impala to name a few…
Wanting to continue this theme, I was having dinner with some friends, and we were scrolling through a complete list of animal species looking for a potential name. When common goldfish was read out we initially all burst out laughing. Then somehow that became the one I ended up choosing. What I liked most about it, was that it sounds fun and uplifting, whilst not taking itself too seriously, which I think captures my music. Its also very searchable too!
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I haven’t had too many to date, but recently played at The Water Rats which is a 200 cap venue in Kings Cross. It’s really old and absolute icons have played there before like Oasis and Bob Dylan. It was a packed house, and probably the biggest gig I’ve played to date. I just want to do it again!
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Having only recently started gigging I don’t think I have a “favourite” venue yet. I have played quite a few shows on top of my good friends’ houseboat, along the canals in East London. I played one a few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, whilst the boat sailed from Hackney to Camden. At one point we went past the Everman cinema at coall drops yard (near Kings X). There was a Wimbledon screening on ( I think Heather Watson was playing), and so it was packed out with more than 100-150 people wathcing the tennis. Before they were rudely interupted by me floating past playing a gig.
Luckily it went down very well and they were all cheering as we went past. I’m gonna be doing a few more boat gigs this summer so keep your eyes peeled.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Tame Impala, Primal Scream and Khruangbin
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Stick at it – it’s a long-term game, and so hard work and perseverance always pays off over the long run. Maybe try and secure a way of getting some part time income too!
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Fear nothing and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I spent a long time worrying what people might think of my music, or how it would translate live etc. I’ve realised people love authenticity more than anything else, so I now just create music that I like, and trust the process. I’ve found this helpful and I no longer worry too much about what people think.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I only have two songs out, but Shout Louder my second release is a good reflection of what I want the common goldfish sound to be.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
This is an easy one. Feel the Fuzz – It was my only single out until recently, and so the only song that people knew the words to! Hopefully that will change over time…
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I generally create music in my studio on my own. I always start with the drumbeat, which I usually make from oldschool break beat “one shot” samples. Once happy with the beat, I’ll stick this on loop. Then I’ll grab the bass guitar to find a groove. Something usually comes pretty quickly. With the bass and drums you have the spine of the track, its then about layering other instruments until the point you have too much – then start to strip back. My songs are all essentially grooves that have been turned into songs.
The software I use to produce is Ableton – which is more commonly used by electronic producers. I love it though as there is the “Live view”, which makes it really easy to loop stuff – it’s a very fluid way of making music, and you can get a lot of ideas down, before actually structuring them into a song.
I’ve been really inspired by the sounds of the early 90s. I feel that’s where my introduction to music started for me – It was the music that was big when I was growing up. I then been re-discovering lots of tunes over the past few years, and it just gives me a deeply nostalgic feeling. It’s this nostalgic feeling that inspires me to create more music.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Writing lyrics has never come as naturally to me as making the music.
I’ve now found a lyrical pocket which I think works with the music I create. Life is a struggle for a lot of people, everyone battling with their own issues. I think a lot of people have become a bit disillusioned with our society and way of life. With technology and consumerism playing an increasing role in our lives, we’re conditioned to be individuals rather than create communities – I think there’s a misalignment of values which can be a depressing thought.
I’m trying to tap into this feeling with my lyrics to tell it how it is, but also drum up optimism, that through togetherness, collaboration and community we can overcome anything.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Funnily enough I do actually have internal disagreements all the time! Haha usually if I’ve been working in the studio for too long, I lose the ability to know what sounds good. This is when the internal disputes occur, and you start questioning yourself!
When you reach this stage, best thing to do is to step out of the room, get a change of scenery and give your ears a break. After a break, you can jump straight back in.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’ve got another couple of singles to come out before the end of the year, which I’m really excited about. I will then look to release an EP towards the start of next year. It’s all 90’s inspired, bringing that nostalgia. I’m actually sitting on a lot of unreleased music which can be frustrating, but it’s always a balance for emerging artists between getting tracks out and not over-releasing and overwhelming people.
In terms of live stuff, my plan is to try and do as many gigs as possible really – I have an upcoming show for Kinda Weird Weekends on 18th August, and a few more things planned for September. I’m going to be doing more public gigs along the canals in East London so keep your eyes peeled if you’re in the area.