On a recent Monday afternoon, members of rising juggernaut jam band Goose are sitting in a dressing room on the second floor of The Mill & Mine in the Old City district of Knoxville, TN.
There’s a fierce thunderstorm outside, ultimately signaling the end of winter and ushering in the impending spring in Southern Appalachia. Heavy raindrops hit the roof of the popular music venue in an almost rhythmic-like fashion. A stiff wind butts up against the brick walls of the structure.
With an impending sold-out performance that evening, Goose readies itself not only to hit the stage but also to enter this next, bountiful chapter of its promising career of unknown opportunities and possibilities.
You see, the notion of a sold-out gig is somewhat commonplace for the Connecticut group lately, especially throughout its nationwide tour this past winter, alongside its latest, highly-anticipated new album, Dripfield—due out June 24—and far-reaching summer tour just around the corner.
Breaking into the national scene is something of an inevitability for the young ensemble, at least to the mob scene of rabid, overzealous fans packing out each show. But, the pace at which it’s happened over the last few years is something, perhaps, a tad elusive to grasp for the modest, affable quintet themselves, who initially came together in 2014.
It’s almost as if each musician in Goose is trying to hold steady to their seat on the rocket ship trajectory the band has taken since the live music industry has slowly emerged from its paused, “to be determined” state of being during the pandemic and shutdown.
Back in the dressing room, lead singer/guitarist Rick Mitarotonda, 31, and keyboardist/guitarist Peter Anspach, 29, relax into their chairs, occasionally glancing into the large mirror taking up most of one of the walls—as if taking inventory of the “here and now,” of the moment at hand they find themselves in, where their wildest dreams are now beginning to come true. (Note: conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Live For Live Music: What do you make of where Goose is right now? Since last summer, it seems like things have just kind of skyrocketed.
Rick Mitarotonda: You know, it’s tough to have perspective when you are kind of just in it day-to-day. But, things seem to be going well. We’re just trying to keep our heads down and keep working.
Peter Anspach: It’s been really awesome. We haven’t played headlining shows on the West Coast until this past tour. So, seeing all the people out there, and just how excited they are all are that we’re finally [on the West Coast] after all the craziness that’s been going on for the past couple years—the energy is so high.
And we have our new album coming out, Dripfield. But, besides that, we’ve had a bunch of new songs we’ve kind of put into a rotation on this tour that aren’t on the album, fresh ideas and a lot of fresh material that we’ve been cooking up.
Live For Live Music: Why Dripfield? What’s the concept behind it?
Rick Mitarotonda: It was kind of a concept that started with a song from this jam session, which sort of evoked this imagery of a dripfield, so to speak. It evolved into the concept of the subconscious, like a saturation level on a piece of earth or land. The saturation and the water level rising up to the surface, being some type of metaphor for your subconscious, your creativity, even processing trauma, things coming closer to the surface—deeper parts of our minds coming closer to the surface.
Live For Live Music: Well, I would say that—subconsciously or consciously—that’s pretty on the money right now with where we are as a society.
Rick Mitarotonda: Yeah. I mean, in a way, it’s the attempt or the pursuit of bringing your truer self to the surface, shedding layers of superficiality, things like that.
Live For Live Music: So, how does that play into a band? You’re gaining a lot of attention. Do you find with a more magnified light put on you guys from the public that it’s harder and harder to be yourself?
Rick Mitarotonda: Yeah, I do think so. It becomes something you need to work at, a more conscious effort into being authentic as things evolve around you, all these types of opinions about what you’re doing swirling around you—it’s definitely harder.
Peter Anspach: It definitely feels like there’s a swelling of attention and energy surrounding the band. And especially all this external stuff that’s coming at us, it is difficult to navigate the storm and stay true to yourself when there’s all these things being thrown at you, all these different opportunities.
And you know, we’re very grateful for all of it, all the craziness that’s coming with the attention. But, at the same time, it’s important to stay focused on what we originally tried to do, which is go out there and just play some music.
Live For Live Music: So, does that put more emphasis on that? Because sometimes that can get lost in the noise as things get bigger and wilder, this effort of trying of keeping this thing contained ideally to what fits the band.
Rick Mitarotonda: Yeah. It’s something you have to be super vigilant of. The bigger it gets and the more noise there is surrounding it, the more you have to do your best to block it out and stay solely focused on the original intent.
Live For Live Music: Is it a little surreal now, where you’ve busted your ass on the road for a while, to where now you’re selling out big headlining West Coast shows as an East Coast band?
Peter Anspach: It’s totally surreal. I think the biggest thing about it, for me, is that there was a time where I knew everyone in the crowd. And now, it’s quite the opposite, where I only know a handful. There’s a lot of people [in the audience] I don’t know and I won’t get the chance to meet. So, it’s definitely strange to have all these people you don’t know buy tickets. But, they know you a lot better than you know them, so it’s an interesting situation.
Live For Live Music: And that’s got to be a weird feeling, seeing as all of you guys are big music fans and you must feel that same way when you’re in the crowd at a show.
Peter Anspach: And I think about that, too. Because I go to a lot of concerts, and for a lot of bands that I love, I love everything about them—whatever it may be. And I think we’re kind of creating that same experience for people, giving them something to latch onto.
Rick Mitarotonda: I definitely relate to that, in terms of going to shows and just having that perspective of someone attending a show versus our perspective or the experience of being on the other side of it now, it’s definitely really strange to think about.
But, as far as the bigger picture goes, in terms of the ride and the surreal nature of what’s been going on, it seems like the [pandemic and shutdown] elongated that place of being in this “new thing,” where a lot of people on this tour are seeing us for the first time. First-time people are able to come to a show. First time we’re able to play these shows on the West Coast. So, it feels like we’ve been in this raw, new place for two or three years.
Live For Live Music: And it probably feels like there was a step missing in “all of this,” because where the band was before the pandemic is way different than where you stand once things started opening up again.
Rick Mitarotonda: Totally. It’s a weird situation for a lot of reasons. That’s kind of what’s weird about right now, at least personally, where there’s a lot of moments of: “Where are we landing? What’s going on?”
Peter Anspach: Right before the shutdown, we were on tour opening for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong on the West Coast. And there were people showing up to see us, which was a new experience.
And we had a really successful fall of 2019, where we had sold out a whole bunch of shows we never expected to be selling out, these 200 and 300 capacity bar-type club. All of a sudden people were buying tickets. Things were looking good, where we were selling out an entire spring [of 2020] tour of 700 and 800-capacity rooms, which got totally canceled and wiped out.
Live For Live Music: And within all these changes currently happening, have the expectations changed at all? Because it seems like now the sky’s the limit, was that always the attitude?
Rick Mitarotonda: When you’re young and going for this type of thing, you kind of have to be like a little naïve. Because, along the way, you’re [experiencing] failure after failure, wall after wall. You just have to be naïve enough to just keep going. And I feel like, in a lot of ways, if I thought too much about where we’re going [back then], it might even have thrown everything off—you’ve just got to ride the wave.
Live For Live Music: What really sticks out about those early years? I mean, how many years has it been now?
Rick Mitarotonda: Well, it’s sort of a little convoluted. There was a number of years where we started playing bar gigs and I went back to school to finish my degree. We didn’t really start touring for real until 2017. And that was a pretty formative year, in terms of figuring out what direction we wanted to go in. Peter joined at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, and that’s when we started to really move in that direction [of constantly touring].
Live For Live Music: What do you make of all that when you think about how much has been thrown into those five years?
Peter Anspach: It’s so funny. Even just being in the band for four years, it feels like it’s gone by so fast. It’s like a flash in a lot of ways, because there was a lot of changes. Things have been constantly changing since I joined. I have different perspective probably on it than Rick, because I had never played keyboards in a band before, learning how to do that, looking over the four years of my growth as a keyboard player.
Live For Live Music: There’s this whirlwind around you of these wild audiences during the live shows. But, at the end of the day, it’s just the band itself within that bubble of improvisation. Where do you go in that space?
Peter Anspach: I definitely just try and listen very closely to whatever everyone else is doing. A lot of ideas I get in jams are literally coming from maybe one little phrase that somebody else played and I like it. It can be a little rhythm that the drummer plays or just a melodic line that Rick plays.
I love it because you just never know where it’s going to go. Sometimes it feels like we enter this space and we’re all kind of searching or floating around, and then all of a sudden something grabs and it takes off—those are really special moments. And allowing the space to find those moments is really key. I think we’ve gotten better at being okay with nothing happening right away, and then slowly getting there. And we’ve been developing some really cool ideas lately.
Rick Mitarotonda: It’s a sense of discovery at the end of the day. It’s not easy to do, especially night after night and as much as we do it, and we do it a lot. It’s definitely weird, you know? Sometimes you just want to play songs, but it’s so integrated into what we do. What keeps driving it [for us] is that sense of discovery and the magic of not knowing what’s going to happen.
Live For Live Music: There’s a fearlessness to it.
Rick Mitarotonda: And there has to be. I mean, that’s not to say there’s not any fear. It’s just a matter of overcoming the fear of, “Where is this going? What are we doing?” And it’s gotten a little bit more challenging, just coming up in this jam band environment and there being a lot more people [at the shows now], where you’re like, “Oh man, is the jam going to be good?” But, for me, there’s such an irony to it because that mentality goes directly [against] the philosophy of it—it’s not about being good, it’s about you exploring.
Live For Live Music: Your recent Goosemas show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in February. What was that experience like, to return back to your home state and sell out your first big arena show?
Rick Mitarotonda: I definitely had some butterflies at that one. I usually get a little worked up when there’s a million people we know [in the crowd]. And a lot of those big moments always creep up on me. Like, “We’re going to play this arena. Cool. Sounds good.” But, then you get there and it’s kind of weird to stand in this huge arena now that you sold it out.
Live For Live Music: What did that experience, and the culmination of your experiences onstage thus far, teach you about what it means to be a human being, in terms of your role as a musician and also what you’re creating?
Peter Anspach: Music for me is so cathartic, especially writing. So, given everything that’s happened in this band, I’m so grateful to have that opportunity to play music and write music as a living—it’s such a gift.
Rick Mitarotonda: Sometimes we get messages from people. And that hits in a different way. Like, we’re talking about the shows and the bigness and all the things going on, these big achievements and stuff like that. And that’s all super cool. But, at the end of the day, it’s sort of just scenery, you know?
And the feeling I get when one person sends a message saying, “This [music] really helped me, helped changed my life, helped me get through some dark period” or some injury or sickness, whatever it is—that’s the realist thing. That’s the stuff that puts to rest any doubt of where our energy is going and why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s what seals the deal for me—that it’s all worth it.
Goose kicks off a spring tour at Firefly Distillery in North Charleston, SC on April 28th. For tickets and a full list of tour dates click here.