By Izzy Yellen
It’s been a busy few weeks for The Goat Wizard. After releasing their debut extended play (EP), playing their first live show and finding a new drummer, the members took time out of their busy schedules to sit down and talk with me about their music. The Goat Wizard—which, of my knowledge, is Lawrence’s only progressive rock band—features junior Will Patton on bass and vocals, junior Luis Gonzalez on guitar, senior Greyson Sztuczko on guitar and vocals, junior Alex Kurki on guitar and vocals, and sophomore Liam McCarty on drums.
Blending meticulous and experimental sound design with high energy playing, The Goat Wizard strives to create an atmosphere that is both fun and enjoyable, be it in front of an audience or just during rehearsal. This was evident in their first show at Sinfonia a few weeks ago, as they got everyone head banging, dancing or still with awe at what would happen next.
With this sudden inclusion into the university’s vast music scene, it is important to say that the band has been a long time coming. The core members—Patton, Gonzalez and Sztuczko—started jamming their freshmen and junior years, respectively. When Patton took a year off, Gonzalez, Sztuczko and Kurki founded Luis & Whose Army, a post-punk band who played several shows last year.
However, the three’s desire to create the band they have now did not die out in that year. Over the school year and summer, the three began creating and recording “Are These Demos?!?!!,” consisting of five original songs and a humorous bonus track, chiefly composed by Patton. The EP was made long distance and while it did not include the talents of Kurki and McCarty, they joined near the release to complete the live band lineup.
The Goat Wizard’s EP is a fascinating glimpse into their sound, but compared to the even tighter and experimental sound they now have live and with the two new members, “Are These Demos?!?!!” lacks that level of energy. I might sound crazy when I say that, especially if you’ve listened to the EP, but if you ever see them live, you will no doubt hear what I mean.
Despite the EP sounding incredible and the live shows even better, the six songs are a delicious pu pu platter that gives the listener a taste of the unique sounds and noises prevalent throughout all their music. All of the band’s members cited effects pedals as primary influences, inspired by the wide variety of sounds they can produce. They often use the pedals as instruments in addition to their main instruments. Between the five of them, there are currently 34 pedals, so the sky is the limit.
The reason I was so excited to focus on The Goat Wizard for this column is because the musicians all have a heavy involvement in the Conservatory, save for Kurki. Gonzalez and McCarty are both majors on their instruments while Patton and Sztuczko are majoring in euphonium and trombone, respectively. With this knowledge alone, it does not seem likely that these five would create a band such as The Goat Wizard, yet they did.
In probably the most serious segment of our 30-minute discussion, the four Conservatory students opened up about why they love creating this music and also why they stick with their original academic paths. They wholeheartedly agreed that playing in The Goat Wizard is more fulfilling than their majors. Mainly because it pushes them to try crazy things musically that they are passionate about and can see themselves doing in their future, as opposed to playing with the heavy classical emphasis the Conservatory demands
They all acknowledge and appreciate their majors or involvement in academic playing. “We all play an instrument or style that got us into the Conservatory so that we could be around the people to do this,” Patton shared, and was immediately backed up by the rest of the band. Sztuczko added, “This is kind of a stepping stone—the major or the degree—to get where we really want to be as musicians, to be able to do what we want to do.”
They in no way denounced their academic pursuits—they shared with me how they benefitted from them—but this intricate music full of complexities and oddities is not something one can learn from books or teachers, at least for them. The Goat Wizard plans to record and play more shows throughout the rest of their time here at Lawrence. With no specific plans besides to see where it takes them, their raw, experimental and unbridled sound will no doubt be heard by many on campus, and hopefully beyond.
You can download their EP for free on Bandcamp, and keep your eyes peeled for future concerts.