INTERVIEW: The Mountain Goats

Although long-associated with lo-fi, folk, and indie rock, The Mountain Goats have gone somewhere unexpected: goth.

Spiritually, the John Darnielle-helmed project is now somewhere closer to London’s legendary Batcave club on their newest record, Goths. The album takes on its titular subject matter with both humor and compassion as it muses on one’s relationship with a deep, often teenage subculture as the band themselves move forward in their lives.

Allston Pudding spoke with the band’s drummer Jon Wurster about his relationship with goth subculture during both his formative years and now.

Allston Pudding: What is “goth” to you?

Jon Wurster: Well, to me, as a child of the late-‘70s finding his way in the ‘80s [through] music, it’s a form of music. It’s kind of like gothic rock, the likes of which played by bands like Alien Sex Fiend and Sex Gang Children. Bands I had no connection to back then.  I was like a punk rock, kind of indie rock guy. Honestly, for me, I don’t really have a connection to it. So this record was kind of me doing a little bit of research into it and trying to put my mind into the mind of an early-‘80s, black clothes-wearing goth rocker.

AP: And where do you find yourself now after that research and the album?

JW: I feel like I have a little bit of a better understanding. Like I said, that wasn’t really my scene back then but it gave me an appreciation for it. Because when that was happening, I can’t say I looked at it like it was crazy or weird or anything, it just had no connection to me. I was into stuff like The Replacements or Hüsker Dü or R.E.M., so it just seemed like a different kind of world to me.

AP: Who is “goth?” Or, who is “a goth?”

JW: I don’t know. It’s like that definition, I think given by a senator on pornography back in the 80s, who said “I can’t describe it, but I know what it is when I see it.” I know who they are when I see them!

AP: Where is “goth?” I suppose that could be a time or a location.

JW: I think it still exists. I think kids are still into it. I guess the heyday was in the early-to-mid-‘80s, that Batcave scene that is referenced in some of the songs. But, like any genre of music, there are still people that live it and champion it, but it’s just not as prominent anymore. Goth is in the heart, I guess.

AP: When is “goth,” for people? Is that a thing for youth?

JW: I think so, yeah. I think it’s something that…my memory of those days is that it was kids and young adults just like me. Same age, late teens/early twenties. It’s kind of a hard look to maintain as you get older, you know what I mean? Not a lot of makeup wearing in your late-20s, early-30s going on.

AP: Does that make KISS true goths then?

JW: Oh, I think if you’re still maintaining that look and living that lifestyle, yes. I tip my hat to you. You’re a full-on adult goth for life.

AP: I guess Robert Smith [of The Cure] is still doing it too.

JW: Oh, he can afford to!

AP: Why “goth?”

JW: Well…I think you could ask that about genre, any look, any subculture. Kids are still dressing rockabilly. Why are they doing that? I think it’s something that connects with you really deeply, and you pursue it to that level where you’re really dressing it. You’re dressing the part. You’re driving a vintage car, if you’re like a rockabilly dude or woman. It’s just something that speaks to you on some deep level that you go all in. So, I think that’s the big “why.” It connects with people on a very deep level.

The Mountain Goats will play the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion tonight as support for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Their new record, Goths, is out now via Merge Records.