DS Interview: Matt Goud aka Northcote on His New Record “WholeHeart”
Matt Goud, better known as Northcote, has a new full-length out now, done in true DIY fashion. Inspired by Indian devotional music and a renewed spirituality through nature, this record gives the listener a more stripped-down, raw sound than what may have been encountered in previous Northcote releases. As described by Goud in our interview, […]
Matt Goud, better known as Northcote, has a new full-length out now, done in true DIY fashion. Inspired by Indian devotional music and a renewed spirituality through nature, this record gives the listener a more stripped-down, raw sound than what may have been encountered in previous Northcote releases. As described by Goud in our interview, “there’s less of like guys playing a band, it’s more of almost like I performed the song live and then everyone jammed on top of it.”
You can almost feel the sporadic nature of the record, and can appreciate that even more than something so methodical and planned out. It plays right into the folk narrative of authenticity and simplicity. Although this record comes off less methodical than ones previous, the music in no way suffers. I found myself enjoying these tracks in a different way than I had previously when listening to full-band songs such as “Bitter End” or “How Can You Turn Around”.
Interviews like this are the reason I enjoy writing for Dying Scene so much. Matt Goud’s distinct blend of Americana and folk, paired with truthfully sincere lyrics that are almost therapeutic in nature have had probably the largest influence on both my songwriting and obsession with Americana music (I credit Northcote with leading me down a path to the likes of Tim Barry, Seth Anderson, Dan Andriano, and many others). Pairing this interview with the one I just did with Roger Harvey gives you a pretty solid look at how my music taste has started evolving as of late.
What made this interview even cooler were a couple of the coincidences that emerged right as we started talking. I noticed we were both wearing the same Bouncing Souls hoodie that I got down at Fest in October. I then mentioned having seen Northcote play with Dave Hause in Nashville at the historic Bluebird Cafe, Northcote’s only time playing here. He then held up a Bluebird Cafe mug from his trip here. Just a couple little coincidences that got our conversation rolling and assured me that this was going to be a good one.
Keep scrolling for a link to the brand-spanking-new record, a list of tour dates, and my super awesome chat with Matt about the new release, influences, hockey, and a whole bunch more cool shit. As always, thanks for making it this far. Cheers!
(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake because a good chunk of this interview was just two guys shooting the shit.)
Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): Hey man, thanks so much for sitting down with me. Before we get started man, I just want to say it’s really an honor getting to talk with you. You’ve been probably the most influential songwriter for me over the years and your music has helped me through a lot, specifically Hope is Made of Steel. I saw you back in, I wanna say 2018, it was that tour you did with Dave Hause where you came down to Nashville. You weren’t playing the date, it was at Bluebird Café, but you still got up and played a couple songs and that’s what first introduced me to your music. I’ve kind of followed along ever since.
Matt Goud (Northcote): Right on well that’s cool to hear. Weird coincidences right with the mug, I had no idea where you were based out of.
Actually I took my brother to that show, that was his first concert ever and we were sitting right side stage, had a great view. It was awesome. That’s still today one of my favorite shows ever. That was such a cool show.
That was a good trip, that was 2018 or 2019. I came down there, just maybe did a week or two. Sometimes he invites me to do that, where else did we play on that? One I remember going to is Richmond and maybe Boston was on that one too. That was fun, those are special times going to hang with Dave.
Oh yeah, that was the first time I got to see him, now I’ve seen him three or four times since. I actually just saw him a couple months ago across town at a different venue. So let’s go ahead and get started man, I really wanted to talk about the new record, out March 17. What was the meaning behind calling it WholeHeart?
The idea of the album art kind of came to me in a dream almost. I had a dream where I was sitting at kind of a campfire with a friend and there was a big scene around the dream where there were kids there, police officers and the president of the United States, my dad was there, and my grandparents who have passed away were there. And there was like a feel and we’re looking at the campfire, me and my friend, and the campfire was kind of like an atom or like a ball, like the earth almost. And just that oneness, the feeling I had of looking at that campfire made me think of whole heart. This also comes from the devotion I feel over the years from singing, it’s kind of what I’m trying to do in my music, the devotion to singing and practicing, meeting people, to give it your all.
You mentioned the artwork, do you do all your artwork for your singles and your full lengths?
Over the years my friend John Gerard has done the majority of the artwork: Hope is Made of Steel, the self-titled, Gather No Dust, Let Me Roar. This one though, a friend from town named Alex Murray was available. John just put out a book and said he was kind of busy at the time I was looking for a piece. Alex Murray did the artwork, we were on a recreation soccer team together.
Were these recorded near you in British Columbia?
The material was written in ‘21, recorded May 2022 and will be released March 2023. So a long process. It was made here in Vancouver Island with Colin Stewart at a place called the Hive, and they’re pretty famous for kind of fuzzy indie rock, they’re kind of the most well-known studio out here for that. Colin’s partner did Japandroids in the same studio, so there’s that West Coast kind of indie rock thing. That’s what he’s all about, he had never recorded a scream, like I have a guest vocalist from my favorite hardcore band on track 2, it’s called “Man Inside the Glass” and he had never recorded a hardcore scream. He had been making records for 20 years, that’s kind of funny, that was a fun day.
So on your website you talked about exploring Indian devotional and chant music with this new record. Can you kind of elaborate on that a little bit because I know nothing about Indian devotional music.
Me neither *laughs*. Well I set out to write these songs and I was writing in a similar way that I had always done, go with the verses and the chorus and try to come up with something catchy. Meanwhile, during the pandemic I had a bunch of changes in my life. I had found some spirituality that I had been missing for a few years and that was helping me feel a bit more relaxed and I just had a sense of calmness and easiness. Some of what I found was, I went to a cloud meditation class and the teacher gave one verse from the Bhagavad Gita, which is an Indian spiritual text, and she was teaching this verse and I was sitting there, this is my first time I’ve ever tried anything like that, and it was just word by word learning this chant. And I kind of got the hang of it and I would say it to myself and I noticed that when I’m going to play my guitar, I was doing more chanting than songwriting. And so it just kind of started to take over my jam time and so then it just blended together.
So you mentioned exploring Indian devotional chants, but you also mentioned this record bringing you back to your days of playing with Means.
Well this record is gonna be DIY for me, what I mean by that is just putting it out with help of friends and family, like no record label or booking agent or anything, and because of that, I’m not as concerned with the business of the album. I need to make some money to pay off the album, but other than that I don’t have my eye on a single or radio campaign you know. This is the first interview I’ve done about it actually. So I knew that going into the record because I was exploring some spiritual things and there’s some screaming on the record. It reminds me of a Means record called Sending You Strength. We had that whole record planned out before we went to the studio, I had the track listing planned out, the artwork, I had the transitions, there was a spoken word song I had, all the riffs, but I couldn’t really visualize it. With WholeHeart I really could visualize what I wanted to feel, what I wanted the vibe of the record to be. Before, I was more collaborative like with the drums, guitar solos, making it more Americana or something, which is great, I’m glad I got to try on that. But there’s no songs that are gonna be big in Nashville on this record.
I mean I’m not too fond of a lot of songs that are big in Nashville anyways *laughs*.
The dream I had to be a songwriter is kind of over, I’m really trying to be a singer you know. The chanting music has really brought a new facet to my singing which I could not see coming, it reminds me of hardcore screaming kind of too. The way it feels and my body, it’s like I’m tired after I do it.
That actually kind of relates to my next question, what do you think is the biggest difference with this new record? I mean your last record came out during COVID, there are several artists I’ve talked to where it’s kind of the same thing, where their new releases are post COVID and they talk about it being such a drastic difference because COVID was such a dark time and now it’s kind of back to normal. So would you say that that’s kind of the biggest difference between Let Me Roar and WholeHeart?
I think with Let Me Roar, we had a tour with the whole band like we had full drums, there was a full bass, we wanted to go and play in theaters and with the band. But we didn’t tour, so we made a concert movie with the band. This record, there isn’t really a band on the record you know all of the Northcote people helped me make it, everyone. It’s not DIY because everyone helped me out with it, but like Mike never played a snare drum or high hat, he played like a concert bass drum, a standup bass drum you know. A lot of the bass guitar was done on a Wurlitzer. So there’s less of like guys playing a band, it’s more of almost like I performed the song live and then everyone jammed on top of it. It’s kind of like if we were hanging out at your basement there and I was like ‘hey guys here’s the new song “Can’t Stay the Same”‘ and Mike grabbed the bass drum, and Steven grabbed the guitar, and Eric sat at the piano, it’s more like that.
You can almost appreciate music like that more sometimes because sometimes you hear that everything’s so planned and everything’s so methodical. You can sometimes appreciate being sporadic and just jamming over top of something. That’s awesome. So with your first two singles for this record, is there a type of theme? It seems the outdoors is kind of a main focus with the first two.
Oh cool, I’m just putting this together in my head because I’m not sure what I would say in an interview yet. But I will say that I live in Vancouver Island, and we had this thing during the pandemic here, it was a big protest about the logging industry. And there was like the police, and the protesters, and the logging industry, and the government. There was this big protest essentially about it. I went to one of the rallies and listened to an Indigenous speaker and he was saying something to encourage the crowd to kind of find their side of themselves which connects to nature. It wasn’t about the money or the cops or any of the politics, he encouraged the crowd to think about who you are, like where do you come, where were you born, and how would you fit in with nature and water and trees. I thought that was so profound because, as a white guy, I don’t always think of myself as like coming from nature. Indigenous people become one with the land almost, it’s really important to them. But me, I’m a farm kid from Saskatchewan, I don’t have that connection, I don’t feel like I know where I come from in that deep way. So I think a lot of the poetry on the record will have nature as an influence.
That kind of really intrigues me because that’s kind of the type of journey I’ve had the past 2-3 years. I was living in and going to school in a small town in East Tennessee, a lot of nature around, and I kind of started finding that spirituality in nature. So I wanted to kind of talk about your upbringing a little bit. With you growing up in a small town, what music were you introduced that kind of led to you being in Means and ultimately brought you to where you are now with your unique blend of kind of Americana folk music?
I’m the oldest sibling, but I did have older friends who introduced me to punk rock and hardcore, that was probably grade 8, grade 7. You know the first time I heard Nirvana and NOFX, I remember I was in grade 6 and I rode in a car with some older kids, we were going to a hockey school, that’s the first time I heard NOFX and Nirvana and the fast drumming of NOFX that blew my mind. So it kind of went from there I mean I always liked kinda pissed off political punk quite a bit, but I like Christian hardcore stuff too. Christian rock, I like that. I mean I grew up in that culture and I would say when Means got going, we were all pretty devout, we were all from devout families of faith, but we all wanted to play music with everybody and being from Canada there wasn’t a big Christian hardcore scene. So we just grew up playing with everybody, my favorite tours were with Shai Hulud and Misery Signals. Then when Means broke up, going into country music or Americana music, it was kind of a hard transition because a lot of my influences were indie rock, but my simple, more folky songs seemed to get a better response. So I think as I went along my songs got a bit more simple.
I was interested to hear your answer because it’s kind of a weird transition, going from Christian hardcore to what you’re doing now.
Yeah what else can I tell you about that … well I mean coming out of the hardcore scene, I knew that Means did well, like I was happy and I loved that band so much. But when the band was over, I wanted to see what it was like in different genres, like we never played in the bar, we never played with indie rock bands, we were way too heavy. So it was a challenge at first and it was a novelty too to play in coffee shops and bars. Then once I got a few tours, then I started having fun, like meeting people and drinking and getting into the bar scene, then I started getting to travel around the world and it kind of got rolling. And now I’m back at the start.
Currently, I think I read in your bio you work as a mental health worker?
The reason I ask that is because, for me your music is very therapeutic. Hope is Made of Steel, that record helped me through a really rough time right after I discovered your music, after seeing you live. With your music, is that kind of a goal, is it kind of therapeutic to help people or is it more of a reflection of personal experience, is it maybe a mix of both?
I think it’s therapeutic to help. I mean I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of my music, like sometimes when my songs come on in the car, like if my wife is playing it or something, I feel embarrassed and I switch the track. But making the songs, the process of writing them or whatever, I think it’s helping me, this is what I like to do to and it’s a part of my identity. This is how I spend my time. I’m not trying to be any therapy thing, I was trying to get a hit song so I could buy a condo *laughs*. So somewhere in between that yeah.
Are you still currently a hockey broadcaster now?
This is the first year I’ve got to do that and it’s hilarious, it’s for the University of Victoria.
Gotcha, so do you have an NHL team you root for, are you a Canucks guy?
I cheer for Edmonton, because I grew up in Saskatchewan so I grew up pretty close to Minot, North Dakota. So that’s the zone right that I’m from, or Bismarck, that’s like 3 hours, 4 hours away. So you could cheer for Winnipeg, Calgary, or Edmonton, those were the close teams.
I’m happy hearing that because I’m a Blues guy, I’m from Saint Louis, so Winnipeg is no good and then Vancouver knocked us out a couple years ago, one of my buddies is a big Vancouver guy so he was rubbing in my face and everything.
So we’re kind of winding down here, something I always like to ask with songwriting in general, for you do lyrics come first or does music come first? Something I kind of always struggle with in my own songwriting is finding what’s gonna come first.
I think the answer for me is kind of like music with one line. Oftentimes when I journal, what I journal won’t make it into the song, but it’ll give me a start. Like “Can’t Stay the Same,” that was kind of just like a thing I would just write down, I just had it in my head. And so it took me a while to find the right music, but once I found that, the chorus opened up and the song opened up. So I would say music usually with one word or a line.
That’s a new one, I haven’t heard that one yet. So you said you weren’t able to tour at all for Let Me Roar, I mean it was during the height of COVID. Do you have a bunch of dates scheduled to do some support for the record, or do you have something in the works for that?
I do, yeah. I’m self-booking shows in Western Canada, so I’m just gonna run out from Vancouver Island back home to Saskatchewan, turn around and then come back. So it’s just 14 days, then from there I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I would love to go overseas again maybe, but I’m just trying to get one tour under my belt because of booking it myself. Once I get that going then maybe I will see how it goes.
Well I can’t wait to see what happens. That about covers everything I think. Lastly, I guess I’ll ask where does the name Northcote come from?
It kind of means the North shelter. At the time I was living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, which is an Arctic town. It kind of was inspired by a poem about just a shelter, like a birdhouse, inspired by that. I have a lot of birdhouse and I just like the Northcote thing. Of course, now I like it because of an actual coat, like now when I think about the name, sometimes write it C-O-A-T because I’ve been made fun of enough times. Some of my friends called me Cote. And then I met the singer Craig from The Hold Steady and he told me I should lower a giant coat from the ceiling when I go on stage *laughs*. Like lower a giant coat and just put it on before I do my Americana classics. So it was inspired by where I was living at the time and I liked shelter part.
That’s awesome. Well we’re about out of time on this call, this really was so awesome getting to chat with you. Have a good one and we’ll talk soon.
Thanks so much Nathan.
4/13 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Vancouver @ 8:00pm, Vancouver, BC, Canada
4/14 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Vancouver @ 8:00pm, Chinatown De Vancouver, BC, Canada
4/15 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Kelowna @ 8:30pm, Kelowna, BC, Canada
4/16 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Penticton @ 8:00pm, Penticton, BC, Canada
4/17 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Nelson @ 7:00pm, Nelson, BC, Canada
4/18 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Calgary @ 8:00pm, Calgary, AB, Canada
4/19 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Lethbridge @ 7:30pm, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
4/20 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Regina @ 8:00pm, Regina, SK, Canada
4/21 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Saskatoon @ 8:00pm, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
4/22 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Edmonton @ 5:00pm, Edmonton, AB, Canada
4/27 Wholeheart Album Release Show Victoria Lucky Bar @ 7:00pm, Victoria, BC, Canada
4/28 Vancouver Island Tour with Vince Vaccaro @ 7:30pm, Duncan, BC, Canada
5/6 Vancouver Island Tour with Vince Vaccaro @ 7:00pm, Tofino, BC, Canada
5/11 Vancouver Island Tour with Vince Vaccaro @ 7:00pm, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada