The Go! Team’s front-woman and all-round superstar Ninja is still her high-kicking, larger-than-life on-stage self – even over the phone. I can tell from the first “HELLO!” that the on-stage antics are no more than an amplification of a natural born fun lover.
When I ask about her famous moves, Ninja is quick to stress that though they might sometimes try and pre-choreograph things: “It always just falls apart in the moment. I just go with the music…I just dance how I would in my bedroom, except I live in a really big house, and you’re all in there!”
Ninja joined The Go! Team after answering an internet advertisement for an old-school female rap-artist. At that point, the band was the purely instrumental project of Ian Parton, the man behind the samples, and he was later joined by Chi Fukami Taylor, Kaori Tsuchida, Jamie Bell, Sam Dook – and, of course, Ninja herself.
“The Go! Team was, and still is, about the music that Ian loves. We’re not one of those bands who sit around a camp fire with an acoustic guitar…”. Ninja goes on to describe the “tedious process” that involves Ian listening to “hours, no days” of “dusty old records”, finding the perfect little snippets of obscure tracks to form layers with the live instrumentation: “we never wanted to ride off the fame of one massive track”. It has, since the beginning, been Ninja’s job to make “proper songs” out of this melting pot of creativity.
Speaking of things to come, we discuss The Go! Team’s forthcoming single, ‘Buy Nothing Day’ (released here on 24th January), a collaboration with indie It-girl of the moment, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino. What made the band choose to work with the first lady of the stoner-rockers?
“We actually just found Beth’s music on the Internet. We wrote and recorded the song ages ago…and then Best Coast totally blew up. I reckon Pitchfork were stalking us…they knew that what we were listening to was cool!”
It’s certainly a different sound to the hyperactive, genre-bending party that the band bounded onto the scene with on 2004’s Thunder, Lightening, Strike, and I ask Ninja if this softer side to the band is a sign of things to come on new record Rolling Blackouts, due on the 31st of this month.
“There is definitely more use of contrast, of light and shade on this album – ‘Buy Nothing Day’ is definitely part of that lighter side. It’s not completely what people will expect from us.”
However, she is quick to stress that Rolling Blackouts will in no way be a complete departure from “what people know us for.” Taster single, ‘Tornado’, which was released last year, is a barn-stormer of big horns, even bigger beats and a military marching feel, a reminder that: “The Go! Team are BACK.”
Ninja tells me how excited she is to tour the new record: “Last year we played over in Moscow. I was scared absolutely every step of the journey, and when I finally arrived, I didn’t feel much better.” Why the uneasiness? I can’t imagine Ninja feeling anxious anywhere.
“People were literally turning their heads to look at me in the street. I definitely didn’t see any other black faces.” The nerves about how the band would be received continued to build, until the gig turned out to be one of the best, but most bizarre, sets the band have ever played. The gig was being held in the ruins of an abandoned industrial warehouse, with the military taking the place of crowd security.
With the tour beginning in a matter of weeks, Ninja has hatched a plan to both “stop her from going mad” on the road, and to make sure that she can record any other experiences as “mental” as her time in Moscow. Her blog, littlebrownninja.com, will be her distraction over the coming months. If the content is anything like as entertaining as Ninja herself, it’ll be “stuff” worth reading.