For the past seven years, Dominic Peters and David Poole have molded their passions into the Goldfish identity. It was not long ago that both friends from Cape Town, South Africa were music students who spent their free time surfing and honing eclectic instruments. They both decided to combine their expertise in saxophone, flute, keyboard, bass, and electronic production to form Goldfish. Shortly following Goldfish’s inception, the duo quickly became the most sought after live act in nightclubs and house parties around the nation, centering their musical style on an instrumental and tropical vibe they term “Organic House.” Fast forward half a decade, and now that Goldfish name is recognized by house music enthusiasts across the planet. They have frequently broken the number one spot on dance music charts, sold out venues in every corner of the globe, fostered an audiovisual animation brand on Youtube, and acquired a residency to dream about at Ibiza’s famed Pacha Nightclub. There’s nowhere for these two to go but up, and everywhere they go they’ll be bringing the energy of summery Cape Town with them. I had the good fortune of catching up with Goldfish just before they performed a packed out show at New York City’s Highline Ballroom. Read through our conversation below to get a glimpse of what life is like for the accomplished musicians.
Goldfish is currently on an extensive US tour for the next few months. How’s it been so far? And do you notice a unique response from American crowds compared to crowds around the world?
Dom: I think we’re on the tenth city of fourteen, and that’s fourteen cities, fifteen shows, and seventeen days across America so that’s been pretty full on. We’ve had an amazing time, every show has been absolutely packed and there’s been highs and lows, smiles and frowns, and a few tequilas.
David: Yeah I mean crowds are obviously different everywhere you go. Firstly, some songs are more prevalent in certain places, and some crowds prefer different styles of music. For instance I think America still likes things a little more energetic, so we play a slightly more energetic set when we travel around America compared to what we’d do in Paris, where it’s more deep and melodic.
Do you ever get nerves before coming on stage?
David: Dom should be nervous today cause I did the soundcheck for him. *laughs* But it becomes like a second nature, it’s more really you get nervous with the technical stuff if anything’s causing issues.
Dom: Yeah and Dave and I know each other backwards, so we can trust each other, it’s when we have to trust other people who we don’t think we can trust. That’s when things can get stressful.
David: Or when you put your saxophone down, and don’t remember that it’s still attached to your belt and you walk off and the sax falls and breaks on the floor right before a big show. We were running around Amsterdam looking for a replacement.
When you both formed Goldfish, did you visualize the band would come to fruition as it has now?
David: We always hoped, and we never had this plan. But when we started out we had a massive response right from the get-go, and it was kind of extraordinary, cause I’ve been in a ton of bands before where you had to go around begging people to come to your gig and most people would be like “Yo I can’t.” Then I started doing Goldfish and within six months of playing gigs my phone would blow up with people saying “hey man I hear you’re doing a show tonight, can you hook me up with tickets?” It was this complete changeover and it was like wow we’ve finally got something.
Did you begin by playing all the instruments you do now, or did you pick some up over time?
Dom: What Dave and I were doing then is exactly what we are doing now.
David: I think within six months we added the flute and that’s about it.
Let’s just say that Goldfish never took off and never got the popularity that it’s received. What would’ve been your plan B?
David: Definitely surfing more. My life would involve a lot more surfing and I would still be playing a lot of music, I just wouldn’t be traveling like this.
Was there ever a specific show or moment since the inception of Goldfish when you had a surreal experience where you felt you “made it”?
David: I don’t know if I’ve ever had that feeling but maybe when we played the CD “Perceptions of Pacha” live. We had literally just launched that CD so no one really knew those songs yet, but playing them live people would catch on and start singing along. I think we sold over 900 CDs in a day or something ridiculous, and that’s when we felt like something was really happening.
Dom: Another side of that as well, being from South Africa we’re very geographically far away from everything else, so we were really just having a great party in Cape Town for a long time before we actually made it over to America, so in some ways it’s like a rebirth of Goldfish for us as well. We’re sort of doing these shows that we would do a few years ago in other parts of the world and it actually feels good to go down and play a club for 500-1000 people. You feel like you’re going to jump because you’re converting people who have heard about Goldfish and they bring their friends, and then after a show there’s no better feeling than feeling like you’ve converted those 500 people into lifetime fans. That’s what keeps us doing this every night. It’s that feeling like it means something. We’re doing something different and the music we’re doing is not like everybody else. It’s got elements of dance music, it’s got elements of live music, it’s got elements of deep house, melodic house, tropical house, organic house as we’d like to call it.
But at the end of the day, we’re something you’re not getting anywhere else, and that’s a good feeling when you’re sticking to your own story and your own brand and sound and you move people in your own way.
Yeah I think that’s an important thing, being able to share a positive energy and attitude with other people and having them understand what you’re putting out.
Dom: Yeah people can pick that up on stage anywhere, I think our personality kind of shines through. Everyone’s got their own style of performing, but our performance becomes an extension of our personalities as well, and you can kind of sense who we are to a certain extent.
I love your animation style in your music videos. Where do you find the inspirations to put the videos together?
Dom: It’s a pure collaboration between us and a couple of really talented animators. The first one being Mike Scott, who contacted us fairly early on in the career of Goldfish. We were actually on tour in Ibiza at the time. He emailed us and said “hey man, I really like your music I listen to it all the time, and I’d really like to make a music video for you guys.” And obviously when you get a call from someone out of the blue you’re a bit hesitant to hand over control to someone to make a music video for you. So we had him send over a demo of what he’d do, and he sent over this 15 second video of a fish jumping out of a fishbowl and walking past the toaster and jumping out the window, which was the beginning of our first video “Soundtracks and Comebacks.” We were like, “This is awesome, we should do more of that.” From there, the videos became its own monster. The Youtube community really embraced it in a kind of underground but really passionate way. They would follow it like a series, and their input would actually influence the next video. It became a collaborative thing between us and fans.
How do you incorporate that anime and happy, positive musical vibe into your live performance?
David: We smile a lot!
Dom: We do actually have a goldfish man suit back home, it’s about 9 feet tall but it’s hot and you’d burn up inside of it.
Do you incorporate that vibe with visual projections?
Dom: Well when you’re watching our video, you’re watching a video. You don’t necessarily want to have the video the whole time behind us because it distracts from the live performance. We try to straddle a line, because it does add a cool personality, but it can end up being like you’re watching TV, we don’t want that.
You term your music Organic House. What makes your house music so organic?
David: It’s mainly the inclusion of organic instruments, traversing house music with real instruments.
Dom: It’s like analog versus digital.
Should we petition for your organic house to be played at Whole Foods?
Dom: We can put a mark-up on it, it’s worth more! $2 on iTunes, organic music!
So speaking of organic, you both just dropped the Organic House Mix a couple weeks ago. What did you hope to showcase in this mix that would get people excited to come out to shows?
David: Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head earlier, it’s about bringing in the sun really.
It’s all about a feeling, and the emotions you attach to a kind of sound, and hopefully we can bring that feeling with our music to people in their lives.
So the mix is more about capturing that, and letting you play the mix while you’re driving or going for a run, whatever. But it’s really just about that vibe and just giving you that feeling of the summer, which is really important for you guys cause it’s so cold here. Your ears are in summer and your feet are in winter!
Goldfish was temporarily signed to Universal Records before you got out of the deal, but there’s always the chance you will sign on to another major label in the future. How does being within a major label influence the type of music you want to put out? Is there any pressure to bend your creative expression under the eyes of the label?
David: That just depends on the label I think really. If they have good A&R guys and have a good support structure then it can be amazing, but if you’re at the wrong label it can also be stifling.
Dom: Yeah we’re not gonna be rushing out to do a collab with an R&B star or super popstar. We try to keep things coming from our vibe. It can sometimes be luck of the draw. You sign to a label and you just have a personality clash with an A&R guy or somebody from the label, we’ve been through that, and at the end of the day, Dave and I are very focused on what’s right for Goldfish. They’ve got their interests, and we’re all working together because they might have their agenda, which is making money, but at the end of the day we just want to make cool shit, so if that can work hand in hand then perfect, but if not we’ll just do it ourselves.
If you could choose any artist you would want to collaborate with, who would you pick at the top of your head?
David: Well it just so happens, we have a collaboration coming up in a month or two with a young French guy called Demi, and later on in the year we have a collaboration coming up with Bakermat, a young Dutch guy who you will definitely be hearing more from.
Dom: As far as other collaborations, Dave and I grew up in a history steeped with jazz so people like Miles Davis, he was a pretty hip guy collaborating with a variety of different artists and is pretty revolutionary for what he does. Simply hanging out with a guy like that would be amazing.
David: Yeah we’re always on the lookout for an interesting voice, and someone who’s unique.
Are there any artists that you believe are on the verge of discovery?
David: Well if I told you then they’d be discovered so there’s not much point.
If I told you I’d have to kill you.
Dom: Here’s two examples. There’s two artists we’re currently collaborating with. Demi from France, and Bakermat from Holland, and those are two artists you will definitely be hearing about over the next few years. We’re seeing the way dance music is changing around America and around the world. EDM will always be a strong part of the scene but it’s not gonna be the only part of the scene and certain other areas of the scene are starting to rise from the floor. The melodic house, organic house, tropical house. Those kind of sounds which are a bit more musical as opposed to a kind of aggressive drop, which we’re happy about because with EDM there’s no where left to go. I don’t know how you can make that drop “harder” than it already was.
Lastly, do you guys spend much time partying after your sets these days, or are you more focused on working hard and leaving partying to the side?
Dom: Before we started this we were just professional musicians, so we were doing session music for a bunch of bands. We’ve been in a bunch of bands, so we kind of got that out of our system already in certain ways.
David: Or being a professional musician you come into this knowing how to take advantage of free booze. We kind of pick our battles, there’s been occasions where we have really amazing parties at the right times, but I think the main thing is to not do it so much where you can’t sleep and then you have to travel for eight hours and then play another show the next night and then do it again, you know? That will just put you down.
Dom: Also to add to that, I think it may be a little trickier to do when you’re on your own, cause you only have yourself to keep in check. But Dave and I have each other to look out for, and that really helps. We keep each other in check, and keep an eye on each other, and that’s really what you want when you’re traveling around the world and on the road so you don’t party too much.
Words and interview by Julian Rodriguez