Goya going big 

Vancouver band charting course for breakthrough

WHO: Goya

WHAT: Alternative Concert Series

WHERE: The Boot

WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 14

They may not be going about the music business in the traditional Canadian manner, but Goya’s mix of youth and experience, confidence and guidance may be the right combination for success.

The Vancouver band is banking on American management, tours south of the border and remix after remix to help lift it above the mediocrity where so many Canuck bands come to rest.

Although the band’s core members – drummer Cam Belter and guitarist Gord Anderson – hooked up about three years ago in the now defunct band Fell, Goya’s present lineup – with Jeff Mathers on vocals and Erik Neilsen on bass – only came together about six months ago. While the present members all appear to be keepers, several changes over the years have also meant several versions of Goya’s debut CD A Struggle In Silence .

"Jeff was a friend of our old bass player who has since left. There was the three of us with this record that was done with this old bass player’s parts on it. We said ‘We can’t have that’," explains Belter. "I made a call to an acquaintance who was just in Grade 12 at my old high school. I had seen him play. I have a recording studio and I had recorded his jazz band and thought ‘Holy crap, this guy’s good!’

"I phoned him up and asked if he wanted to play on the record. He said ‘Mom, can I go play bass?’ and luckily she said ‘sure.’

"We couldn’t find a permanent bass player and since Erik already knew the songs from recording we asked him if he wanted to play a few gigs. He’s just on fire for this thing! This kid is nuts. He’s Flea from the Chili Peppers, but he’s only 18."

The song lineup has also changed to include old tunes that had been put on the backburner. Goya’s previous vocalist had been insistent about singing his own lyrics, so songs like Nothing Ordinary, written by Anderson, never had the opportunity to shine. Aptly sub-titled Version Two – "version one is somewhere in the jam space" – the acoustic ballad was originally written in the heavier style of Goya’s other songs. But the final product, with its stripped-down and jazz-influenced sound, shows off the band’s versatility, Anderson’s thought-provoking lyrics, Belter’s hidden piano talents and Mathers’ vocal agility.

The present recording is actually the third go-round for A Struggle In Silence , and it won’t be the final product for distribution. Since version number three was laid down, Goya has signed on with N Focus Entertainment (NFE), a label based out of California. There were about 500 copies of version three pressed for sale at live shows, but as NFE has recently secured ties with EMI Music for distribution, Goya has decided to head back into the studio one more time to spit-polish the songs before they hit record stands.

"When we’re done here in a month or so it won’t even be comparable (to the present one)," Belter says. "The songs themselves really haven’t changed, and that’s why we got our deal was for the songs, not necessarily the quality of the present recorded sound. We’re retracking the drums and bass on a few songs and they’re going to be a lot bigger and better. We’ll just be taking more time. Changing drum heads every tune. Really doing it the way you’re supposed to. I’m the first to admit I’ve learned a lot in the last year. And I keep saying to our manager, if we have the time to make it better, why wouldn’t we do that?"

It’s a humble observation for someone who has already dedicated so much of his time and energy to the project, or should we say projects. Belter is responsible for more than just percussion on A Struggle In Silence . He also takes care of production, engineering, mixing, layout and design. And Belter’s efforts shouldn’t be discounted. Production on their first radio release, Wear You Down, is both original and mature, his many years spent experimenting behind the controls obvious.

Belter has also been in charge of Goya’s creativity until now, but he sounds confident as the band falls in with NFE. The independent label allows the band to maintain a hands-on position while offering a leg up.

"We told them straight up that we want to be told what to do and when to do it. We need that," Belter says honestly. "But they’re very much into letting us put our heads together, even on stuff like posters. Then they hand it over to EMI and EMI either uses the idea or makes them better. The very cool thing is that we’re not the 81 st band on an 80 band roster. We’re one of five right now and they give you a lot of attention. And you can phone up and talk to the president. He made the trip up here just a few weeks ago to meet in person."

Admittedly, the band hasn’t been rigorously pursuing the live venues in the Vancouver area. They book themselves into bars like Studebaker’s on occasion to stay practised. And NFE isn’t pressuring them otherwise. A Struggle In Silence will forgo the smaller and more saturated Canadian market in favour of an American commercial release and supporting tour. NFE likes to do its demographic homework and will pinpoint the major markets to begin Goya’s distribution and live gigs.

"I know a lot of bands don’t think about starting that way. But think about it; there’s almost as many people in California as there is in Canada. You just think about the American money and go holy cow! You can go down there and just get really big in one state," Belter enthuses.

"It hasn’t really set in because things are moving slowly and it hasn’t been released yet. There’s another band signed to NFE that just released their CD on Oct. 9 and to see all the work that is going into that, we’re just itching to get it done and get it out and to see if we can really do this based on the strength of our music."

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