“I find encouragement in the fact that I’m able to be productive in the times that I’m not sick. People like to romanticize the periods in which, for example, someone like Van Gogh was suffering, but it was actually because he was sick that he would go outside and see a cherry-blossom tree and be struck by its beauty. It would make him realize, ‘This might be the last time I see this, I don’t know when I’ll have this snatched away from me again.’” That press release quote from Kenny Becker, frontman/guitarist of L.A. alternative rock outfit Goon, very much echoes their uplifting and shadowy music. That bright-yet-dark effect is a striking blend to achieve, and they do so in both tone and verse on their new debut album, Heaven Is Humming (which just hit shelves today). If you can sense something intense in the ups and downs of the record’s emotive sound, note that it was written during brief periods of optimism while Becker soldiered through a rare medical condition that dulls all of his senses; one that chronically impairs his ability to smell, taste, and hear.
While working on Heaven Is Humming, Becker underwent an operation to treat this debilitating sinus condition, and although it was a success, “he has to consider going back under the knife in recurring intervals in order to repeatedly clear things up again,” as Goon’s website states. “That’s the thing, it’ll always grow back,” shared Becker openly. “They’re just polyps – it’s not cancer, but it’s sort of similar in that they just grow back and nobody knows why.” In a recent interview, he expanded upon how this affects his creativity. “The times I get really sick, I just can’t do or sense anything. It’s unproductive and drab.” Knowing that backstory, the moments of light he experiences amid such frustrating darkness must be stunning, because Goon’s brew of lo-fi, mellow grunge rock has a certain silver lining that brings extra warmth to the record.
The contrast that fuels Heaven Is Humming is even perceptible in the visual components; Becker himself painted the awesome album artwork (as he did for Goon’s prior releases), recently affirming that the diverging vibes in his paintings feed right into their sound. “I’ve always really liked having a strong, simple icon, like the little Goon bot monster. Having it look slightly menacing but at the same time kind of not, and confusing in a way that when you listen to the music, it isn’t always mean or heavy, but can be similarly intriguing.” Becker also directed the lyric video for album single “Black Finch,” which includes lively, smoky footage of the band. “I came up with ‘Black Finch’ after being inspired by the feeling of being happily stoned at dusk,” he said, “walking around outside looking at the birds on the telephone wires, with, for those three-ish hours, not a care in the world.”
The eleven tracks that make up Heaven Is Humming, while diverse in mood and tempo, are tied together with a common thread of capricious riffs, warm vocals, fuzzy DIY grit, and thoughtful lyrics. Goon – comprised of singer/songwriter/guitarist Becker, singer/guitarist Drew Eccleston, bassist Caleb Wicker, and drummer Christian Koons – are part of the Partisan Records family (don’t get us going on our IDLES obsession). They started work on the album in 2016, simultaneously gaining a cult following on the strength of their first two EPs, 2016’s Dusk of Punk and 2017’s Happy Omen. “Check Engine Light,” another single and video released from Heaven Is Humming, has more of the cool push-and-pull tension they’re so good at creating. Goon’s everthing’s-gonna-be-fine kind of melody wrestles with lyrics that seem to speak to depression: “Don’t wanna make plans tonight / might be my check engine light?”
“When I listen to the record, I can’t help but hear the last three years,” Becker shared on Goon’s site, which discusses “a transformative time period in which he himself got engaged and drummer Koons had his first child.” “The fact that they call it an ‘album,’ as in a ‘photo album’ – it’s a documentation,” explained Becker. “Usually what people mean by that in the musical sense is that you went into the studio for a week and a half and you documented exactly where you were in that pinpointed moment. So this was like that, but for a chapter – a huge chapter. The album has been a crazy journey of recording in many different places, re-recording a lot of it at my own apartment, and really just not knowing when to stop. But I’m grateful for what it led to.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart