Goth Tech

Alone together

Text by Felix L. Petty

Photography by Rosaline Shahnavaz

The internet is the new wild west: an ungovernable, barely policed frontier-land populated by digital outlaws and those seeking quick and easy fortunes panhandling in the cyber stream. And Goth Tech are the in-house cowboy band. Not that they’re channelling Johnny Cash or Dusty Springfield – it’s more that Goth Tech use the web not just as a tool for distribution, but in the very form their music takes. Their sound, aesthetic and ideas are all entwined with the internet: each thumping, melodramatic house track is immovably embedded within a specific web page.

Holly White and Josh Grigg conceived Goth Tech as a year-long project while hanging out in Josh’s studio in Waterloo, where he was making 150bpm house and garage tracks in his time off from working at a video games company. The pair became “obsessed with these niche YouTube subcultures”, Grigg explains, “and the underlying emotions that we could see in them, in Furries and Kandi and teens who want to be werewolves”.

“I’d been thinking a lot about the ways that music could have such emotional weight,” White says, “how personal it could get, yet so public and shared. My work up to that point had often used existing lyrics with singers and music as a raw material, or had been about that, but it had never actually been it. To make music seemed like the inevitable next step. We’d been talking about making this slow, meaningful techno, and one day we were in the studio and watched this vlog about this girl defending her werewolf crew and it just started from there.”

Their music reflects on the confessional Tumblr aesthetic – a performative loneliness and hypersensitivity – as well as the sense of belonging through subcultures that the internet affords. That dichotomy – alone but together – is at the heart of Goth Tech, who tread a fine line between humour and sadness, with song titles such as “Mainly Sad Notifications”, “Cry” and “Online Dating”. “I’m not sure there’s anything self-indulgent about sadness and the confessional; I think that misconception is something that Goth Tech kind of challenges,” White says. “It definitely pushes the sadness and the confessional quite far. Sometimes Goth Tech is funny because it’s too sad, but also sad because it’s too honest. I think we want that emotional honesty to be very present, even if it’s also funny, or kitsch, or satirical.”

But Goth Tech’s real innovation is to marry the extravagant emotional displays of online life with the equally extravagant emotions found on classic house records. “I think the starting point for Goth Tech was really about that shared experience of music in a club that has so few words,” White explains, “but is so true, and it makes you feel so much, and you’re sharing that experience with everyone there that night, but you’re also alone in your heartbreak.”

“I think, for me, Goth Tech just slots into any club music that tries to make you ‘feel’ something when it’s 5am in a dark club,” Grigg adds. “I used to be obsessed with ’90s rave lyrics, diva voices screaming ‘Your Love’ looped over minor-key stabs. I started hearing similar vocals in techno but over these dark, bubbly atmospheres, and I wanted to hear that, but even slower.”

It’s this that proves so successful: the duo’s forging of an emotional link between two very different art forms. By connecting them, Goth Tech not only free the house element from its recent tendency towards highbrow pseudery, reclaiming it as something joyful and shared, they also take a non-judgmental interest in the margins of web-based teenage life. Instead of mocking those melodramatic tendencies, Goth Tech soundtrack them with a classic 4/4 thump. §

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