Interview – Goat Girl Coming Back Better With The Windmill Brixton & Dr. Martens

Goat Girl have teamed up with Dr. Martens and The Windmill Brixton to light the fire under the struggling music scene to Come Back Better than it was before and build an even brighter future. We caught up with them before their show at The Windmill on 30th.

Hello, introduce yourself to the readers, who are you and what do you do?

Ellie: Goat Girl is a band of four people (five or more when we play live) & we released our second album On All Fours via Rough Trade in January this year.

Tell us about your connection with Brixton Windmill, how has this iconic venue shaped you as a band?

Ellie: Since we started out as a band, we’ve been going to the Windmill as punters. When we were about 18 we got our first chance to play at the venue alongside friends Shame. It’s been a big part of our growth and community both as a band and as people.

Holly: Having joined GG later, I feel that I owe some of that to the Windmill. I used to hang out there a lot (and still do) but that’s where we first crossed paths. I’ve made a lot of unforgettable memories there and I feel lucky to have seen and met so many artists that have inspired me.

What are some venues around the country that you love to play and always look to book on each and every tour?

Ellie: The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds – always such a friendly crowd

Gorilla in Manchester – the staff look after the artists that play there very well, and we always get fed a delicious free meal. 

The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth is where we got our first mosh pit so it’ll always hold a special place in our hearts (plus Holly Hole the bassist is from Portsmouth).

Holly: Glasgow is a really fun city too.

Where we’re based we have a couple of venues that are the beating heart of the local music scene, many of the band’s that play there wouldn’t even still be band’s without them. Given the tough time we’ve all had they had to ask patrons to support them with a Crowdfunder just to reopen. Do you think the government should be doing more?

Ellie: 100%. It’s pretty offensive how the UK government treats the arts in comparison to other industries. For example, football officials’ ruling bodies are allowed to avoid quarantine in order for the industry to continue as normal, yet the music industry is swamped with rules & lots of musicians’ salaries are vastly lower than salaries of football officials. The inconsistencies are crazy. Furthermore, there is no specific government program to financially help musicians (an industry that often is low-income), so instead we have sought out help from charities like Help Musicians and PRS.

What can we do to help our local venues? As musicians and as patrons?

Ellie: Go to gigs and don’t feel too sore about paying slightly above the going rate for a gig. The distancing has meant that less tickets can be sold and everyone is getting paid less than normally. Everyone’s just trying to scrape along and pay everyone fairly.

Holly: As we’ve mentioned, it should be on the government to value and protect places of cultural significance that provide so much to their local communities. However, a good way for musicians and punters to help could be to organise fundraisers or donate things for an auction/prize draw if you’re able to. 

Should artists accept lower fees for shows for struggling venues or should venues only put on what they can afford to pay fairly for?

Ellie: Yes, unfortunately we have to and we have already accepted lower fees for shows. Everyone is trying to make the best out of a tough situation.

Holly: At a grassroots level the gig fees have always been pretty low. They might be enough to cover getting your equipment there and back if you’re lucky. I think most musicians are in this industry for the love of it and performing for people. It would be unfair for a venue to profit hugely from a gig and not pay the artists their fair share, but they have a lot of overheads to cover like staff, rent, supplies etc so it should be a balancing act of what works for everyone.

Do you think venues have a responsibility to be booking a diverse range of voices for their line-ups?

Ellie: Definitely! The music industry is white-washed and run by the patriarchy. Any wavering of the patriarchal ruling should be encouraged. There needs to be more space for marginalised people across all fields, including gender, ability, race and class/opportunity. 

How can they make sure they are doing that?

Ellie: Actively encourage people from marginalised groups to come to your venue. Make sure it’s accessible and safe for people with disabilities, make sure it’s a safe space for marginalised people & have a zero tolerance policy to anything or anyone that may try to infringe on that. 

The campaign is in reaction to a wave of male heavy festival line ups, do the same tips that apply to venue booking work for festivals too? If not how can festivals improve.

Holly: I think similar tips apply and in a lot of ways I think it’s easier for festivals to diversify their line-ups due to the sheer popularity of festivals themselves. In a way I think festivals like Glastonbury have a captive audience. They sell-out within minutes before the line up is even announced so I just don’t buy it when festivals like Victorious (in my hometown of Portsmouth) use excuses like… “that’s what our audience want” (a male centric line up). They should see it as an opportunity to champion relevant new talent from a range of different styles, genres and experiences. You never know… people might enjoy it.  

Are there actually less trans, non-binary, or female acts out there or are they just not being elevated with the same level of support and visibility?

Holly: There are so many incredible acts that exist outside of the long-favoured festival favourite genre that I like to refer to as ‘cock-rock’. It’s an absolute myth that the talent isn’t out there. I think to an extent the big festivals are still clinging on to their guitar roots, which alienates a lot of artists from marginalised genders in a way. (I’d personally much rather see Doja Cat or Charlie XCX headline Reading and Leeds than Queens of the Stone Age for the millionth time) It does seem that outside of the pop world (which contains a lot of the most successful female musicians) people of marginalised genders are struggling to gain support and recognition is a way that cis-men aren’t.   

What advice do you have for any young trans, non-binary, and female artists out there? What would you like to have known when you were starting out?

Holly: First of all, music is for everyone. All instruments are for everyone. Music tech is for everyone. I remember feeling intimidated as the only girl who played an instrument on my music course at college, or feeling like I couldn’t/shouldn’t play drums because it’s not a feminine thing to do. I was also terrified of the more technical side of things, like using DAWs etc because I thought it would be too hard or that I couldn’t do it. It’s total bullshit. Be true to yourself, make the music you want to make, have fun and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Don’t worry we won’t tell the sponsors, but do you own any Dr. Martens yourself? Do you have a special pair?

Holly: I’ve actually got quite a few pairs and we were given some recently for the photoshoot we did for this campaign (thanks!). At the moment I’m into these sand coloured utility boots, they’re a bit more casual than the leather ones. 

Tell us about Headboy, the band you have chosen to support you at the Come Back Better show on the 30th? What made them stand out?

Holly: The decision was made collectively with Dr. Marten and The Windmill’s booker Tim Perry, who narrowed down a lot of the applicants and presented us with the acts that he felt best suited the initiative. We really wanted to find an act that’s just starting out and that isn’t already a part of the scene around The Windmill. Headboy suited the brief perfectly and their songs stuck out to us as really interesting. We’re looking forward to meeting and playing with them on Wednesday. 

Press release and more details for the scheme, show, and more below.

“In the wake of a further delay to the full return of live music, The Windmill Brixton is joining with Dr. Martens to highlight the critical role independent venues play in supporting the scene at grassroots level with the launch of Come Back Better; An initiative to help more female, trans and non-binary artists make it onto the main stage post-pandemic.

The new support programme will see The Windmill – described as ‘the epicentre of the capital’s underground music scene’ – enlist the support of its creative community to provide unsigned acts with access to industry know-how and connections. From today, artists will be able to apply for a range of support, developed to rebalance the lack of development opportunities for emerging artists during the past year, including the chance to bag a support slot for post-punk heavy-hitters, Goat Girl, at a celebratory venue showcase on 30th June.

Developed in response to this year’s wave of male-heavy festival line ups, aspiring female, trans and non-binary musicians will be able to apply for a range of networking, mentorship and collaboration opportunities across the next two weeks, commissioned by Dr. Martens to help new artists propel their profiles. Celebrated graphic artist Raissa Padini – renowned for her portfolio of album and tour poster visuals for bands such as Idles, SQUID, and The Orielles – will offer her services designing original eye-catching artwork. Scene photographer Holly Whitaker (Squid, Liam Gallagher, Lynkz) will jump behind the lens to capture striking profile and promo shots. Slow Dance Records’ Maddy O’Keefe, will deploy her expertise managing and collaborating with artists including PVA to provide constructive guidance on profile-building and promotion in a one-to-one session. And finally, the acclaimed Goat Girl will hand-pick a support act to play at the Come Back Better live performance and Q&A at The Windmill on 30 June.

Accompanying this are a series of networking socials run by Vocal Girls, a collective and platform championing female and LGBTQ+ creatives. The Windmill will also open up demo submissions to the venue’s bookers and promoters for future gig opportunities.”

The Windmill and Dr. Martens collaboration continues the brand’s commitment to improving access to creative opportunities as part of its ongoing Tough As You initiative, which aims to support and raise awareness of the challenges faced by emerging creatives and grassroots culture.

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