Interview: The Go Round (performing at Woodlands Tavern)

Tomorrow night at Woodlands Tavern, Brooklyn-based The Go Round make their inaugural performance in Columbus though it won’t be the first time that singer/guitarist Brandon Whightsel has set foot on a stage here in the capital city.

Back in Donewaiting’s infancy, Whightsel was a behind-the-scenes player, helping get the site off the ground and, on occasion, contributing to the DW message board using the name Charlie Tokyo. He was also an amateur folk musician who had just started writing his own songs and performing them live whenever given the opportunity at places like Andyman’s Treehouse and the St.James Tavern.

Whightsel moved to NYC for grad school 6 years ago and in that time hooked up with some likeminded musicians to form the folk-rock act, The Go Round. With a full-length album already available and an EP coming out any day now, The Go Round have embarked on their first tour, attempting to cover 8,000 miles in 45 days.

The Tuesday night lineup includes: The Whiles (9pm), The Ginger Lees (10pm), and The Go Round (11pm). Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

The last time I saw Whightsel, he was getting me drunk at the White Horse Tavern in NYC. Now, a few years later, I’m interviewing him. Weird how things work out, isn’t it?

Which came first – the beard or the band? You were doing bearded-folk-rock while Iron & Wine and Fleet Foxes were still sporting five o’ clock shadows. You dropped off the scene for a number of years before resurfacing with The Go Round and now, unrightfully so, may be accused of hopping on the bearded-folk-rock bandwagon. Are you jealous of the success that others have had performing the style of music that you were playing at Andyman’s Treehouse in 2003?

I am just relieved beards have become fashionable again. It was hard for us simian men back in the 00s with the whole metrosexual thing. My waxing budget was through the roof. And I can’t really claim to have invented acoustic guitar folk songs with heartfelt lyrics and a slightly country flavor. I think that honor goes to ZZ Top.

While still in town, you had to beg to open for Mrs. Children, you played for free, you worked through frayed nerves to make it through a 30-minute set without having to restart a song because you either forgot the right chord to play or the words. Now you’ve got a band, a full length CD, a video (A VIDEO, FOR GOD’S SAKE), and are undertaking a pretty massive tour for somebody with a day job. Did getting out of Columbus allow your musical creativity to explode?

Yeah, but not because Columbus was stifling my creativity or anything. In fact the music scene here was really supportive and inspirational at the time. I was really happy to have so many friends who would let me play with them and come to my shows. It seems people still look out for each other in Columbus. I reconnected with some of my old friends and they are still rocking and still supporting. In fact, Joe and Chris from the Whiles, aka Mrs. Children, are playing with us Tuesday night. My productivity did go up when I left, but only because I had quit my job to go to grad school. That left way more free time for songwriting as I could skip class more often than I could call in sick to work.

Is it a dog-eat-dog world in the NYC music scene? Are you having to play Tuesday night gigs at 1am to “pay dues” or have you gotten in good with any clubs where you’re offered prime slots?

I should probably paint a picture of a sharp elbowed NYC music scene to make me sound tough, but I’d be lying. There are supportive people there too and there is so much great great music to enjoy. When I moved to NYC 6 years ago I found a great open mic scene at Bar Four which was organized by a group known as Local Correspondents which is a kind of collective of performers and songwriters. The open mic was fantastic and the perfect place to get my musical bearings in the big scary city. Before I knew it I had a band and was playing the heck out of Brooklyn and touring and whatnot. We had a 3 month residency at Pete’s Candy Store this summer that was great fun. I thought maybe Manhattan was where all the cutthroats were, but we had a tour kickoff show at Piano’s on the Lower East Side that went great and they invited us back. There must be some mean musicians out there somewhere. Maybe Wall Street or the U.N.? If there are, I haven’t found them yet.

As a solo artist, you can hop on a bill, show up at an open mike night, etc. at a moment’s notice. With other band members, more advanced planning has to happen. Are you still out doing solo gigs and/or do you continue to work on solo material or is your time completely dedicated to the band?

Nope I am completely dedicated to the band now. Sometimes Rich and I will throw some solo material into a set of we have something new we are really excited about (or we need to fill up a 3 hour set). But the band and the recording and the touring and everything is so time consuming, I just don’t have time for a solo career. But it’s not like the band thing is very different from what I used to do solo. I am still playing songs I wrote – they just sound better now with my bandmates playing along. And it’s less lonely.

Here are a few things that have happened since you left Columbus – Little Brothers and The Treehouse have closed. The Whiles have gone from a band that played regularly to a band that is now playing annual or bi-annual shows. CD101 has moved on the radio dial to 102.5. I don’t want to point any fingers or anything BUT …

Well we knew it would all go to hell when I left. What can you do?

On the positive side, there used to be a guy named Charlie Tokyo who posted on the Donewaiting message board and of this guy’s 46 posts, quite a few were about 84 Nash, a band that happened to reunite and play a show last weekend. What do you know about this Charlie Tokyo guy and was he in any way responsible for the 84 Nash reunion?

Ya know, that Charlie Tokyo is a jerk. I used to ping him on Facebook or whatever and he never writes back. My advice is to shun him. I am sure Columbus and 84 Nash are better off without him. Sorry I missed that 84 Nash show though. Those guys rock.

You’ve got a new EP coming out next week. I don’t suppose it’s a concept EP but pretend like it is and tell me the story that it tells. Also, when a Hollywood director comes upon the EP and turns it into a screenplay that is then developed into a movie, who will the leads be?

The movie will star George Clooney and Johnny Depp as zombie pirates – but they are like pirate detectives and they don’t really like each other. Depp is the young rookie assigned to Clooney after his old partner gets eaten by a squid. But then they get into some sticky situations and learn to work together. Just then they both fall for the same lady pirate. I think she is played by Joanna Newsom. It’s her acting debut. But then a robotic shark played by Dwight Yoakam plots to detroy their ship but someone saves the day. Not sure how. It’s not important. Just know this (spoiler alert) they were all DEAD TO BEGIN WITH. Freaky plot twist huh?

You were instrumental in helping with the launch of Donewaiting – at least with moral support. What do you want your place in the Donewaiting history books to be? When Duffy finally stops renewing the domain name and becomes a site you can only access on, how do you want people to remember you?

I should probably start distancing myself from Donewaiting if Duffy is planning on letting the domain name slip. Popular websites instantly get bought up by porn sites – and not good porn sites either. I don’t want to have credit for designing the first version of a bad porn site.

How are you celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nevermind’s release?

I will come as I am.

You’re playing Columbus on a Tuesday night. I don’t care if you’re Def Leppard, Tuesday nights are tough ones to get people to come out. So, here’s your chance to pimp the show. I know you’re a designer and not a salesperson but put that salesperson mentality into play and SELL THIS SHOW like it’s the most important event in Columbus in 2011.

Kapow! (big explosion resolving to a zombie pirate ship yawing into a strong gail)

The Go Round has embarked on their first national tour, covering 8000 miles in 45 days, playing over 30 cities. Watch out because now they are coming to your town!

On Tuesday, September 20, they will grace the stage of Woodlands Tavern in Columbus along with local favorites The Ginger Lees and The Whiles.

Doors are at 8PM. Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

Bonus plugs:
We just completely redid our website where I have been posting a tour diary. Yesterday we snuck into a music school in Fredonia, NY to do some rehearsing and made a little video:

Finally, we have a Kickstarter Project ongoing which will hopefully fund the tour. Half way there! Check it out. We have lots of great rewards and we wrote a Kickstarter song and made a video: