In 2010 I found myself at the front of Crystal Castles’ set at Reading – since then Gothic music has had me a tiny bit enthralled. I’m now sat round a table with Sarah McIntosh, her brother Hamish, and George Hinton, aka The Good Natured. Gothic is what they do. Only it’s fused with a style of pop that effortlessly ranges from light to loud and has a lot of people talking.
Being signed to EMI subsidiaries Regal and Parlophone puts them alongside names like Coldplay, Blur, Tinnie Tempah and Lily Allen. “They’re just a really great record label, we’ve been with them for a year and a half now, and all that time we’ve had time to develop and write an album and record it the way we want.” A lot of the artists don’t have such kind words for their label, but Sarah’s sound honest. “It depends who you sign with; we’ve been doing this for nearly 5 years so it’s taken us a long time to find the right record label. We didn’t jump into it, we played a lot of shows and fortunately for us we found a label that really supports us.”
Five years ago The Good Natured looked a little different. Sarah McIntosh was the sole member, writing songs on “an amazing old keyboard with loads of cool drumbeats on it” found at her grandmother’s house. “I started writing on that…to begin with it was just me singing over drum beats, playing really simple stuff – I didn’t really have a vision for it then”.
Aged 17 her EP ‘Warriors’ spread round the blogosphere, also receiving plays on BBC Radio. That led to shows, for which Hamish was recruited on bass, and when Sarah met George at university 3 years ago he joined on drums. A vision for the project began to take shape, and Sarah cites Swedish producer Patrick Berger as important in helping them realise their sound. “I ended up writing with him and that was when all our ideas really came together – he’s very creative with synthesisers and he just made it come alive”. The result isn’t easily classified: “It’s pop, it uses a lot of electronic sounds, it’s kind of got a punky edge to it as well,” but its dark emotions and gothic dimension are perhaps what give it its character.
“Bringing those dark emotions to a ‘pop’ place” seems to come easily to Sarah. The subject matter is serious without worrying about being serious, thought-provoking without thinking too hard. It conveys a sense of detachment reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen, or The Cure’s earlier work, but in a way which is far more direct and, well, pop. I think that detachment is conveyed by working the dark emotions it entails into a sound often associated with light-heartedness and fun.
They’re out to achieve a mainstream presence, and after supporting bands like The Wombats can’t deny the appeal of playing arenas –big shows are something they definitely feel “you can get used to”. And a debut album is now finished and mastered for which “the sky’s the limit”. That’s lucky, because when it’s released I think there’s a very real possibility it will explode. And Sarah isn’t worried by any mainstream stigma potential success might bring. “Katy Perry we all love, we listen to a lot – we always say we’re like The Cure crossed with Katy Perry”. Whatever your opinion of Katy Perry, I think you’ll struggle to deny this is impressive stuff. I guess I’m still a bit enthralled.