The Go! Team: Going for gold

The Go! Team pilfer pop's past to reap a bright future. Alexia Loundras meets them
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Parton is recalling The Go! Team sextet's role as Cinderellas at last month's Mercury Prize ball. Shortlisted for their sonic fire-cracker of a debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, this vibrant and distinctly un-starry motley crew had a good crack at winning the prestigious album of the year award. But right now, sitting on scratchy office chairs in a drab training room, the glitz of the night before really must feel not only "once in a lifetime", but also a whole lifetime ago. In fact, says the band's German multi-instrumentalist, Silke Steidinger, the whole experience was so fantastic, it still hasn't sunk in.

Despite being pipped to the prize by Antony & The Johnsons, their spirits are still soaring. The London and Brighton-based band are here at HMV's Oxford Street store to play a free gig. Later they'll cram themselves, their keyboards, guitars and two drum kits on to a tiny stage and deliver a fiery and energetic, 25-minute set to a visibly thrilled, generation-spanning crowd.

In the year since their album was first released, constant touring and festival sets have helped The Go! Team amass a glowing reputation as an effervescent live act. Swapping instruments between songs and jumping about like school kids at Disneyland, they mirror the frenetic energy of their genre-defying songs; their charismatic frontwoman, Ninja, infecting even the most lethargic crowd with her enthusiasm. For particularly special shows they reel out high-kicking, cartwheeling dancers who add to the dizzying energy-quotient.

With an hour to kill before the show, all the Go! Teamers except Ninja are accounted for. Parton shows off his purchases: a Public Enemy Live video and some second-hand vinyl. Kitsch vinyl is Parton's livelihood. Thunder, Lightning, Strike may sound as though it was made by The Partridge Family after a day spent frolicking on water slides, but it was painstakingly created by Parton after his day job researching archaeology documentaries. Nearly every note was sourced and scavenged from his record collection before being tied together with the band's searing rock 'n' roll. Parton has a way of re-cycling forgotten sounds - overlayed, blaring trumpets, Glen Campbell strings, and plinky-plonky, Charlie Brown-esque pianos - into a glorious, messy and unique noise.

The Go! Team's mastermind isn't a comfortable talker, but when conversation turns to his music the words tumble out. "This music is all my favourite things stuck together," he says. Parton has stacked together everything from skipping chants to white noise, Bollywood sounds to what he calls, "car-chase energy", to build unique, primary-coloured towers of irresistible, uplifting pop. "I wanted it to sound like a multicoloured city," he adds. "It's a Sesame Street film sound-tracked by Sonic Youth, Wichita Lineman and choppy old-skool hip-hop."

The Go! Team was never intended as a solo-venture. "The plan was always for it to be a gang of lots of people doing lots of different things," says Parton. He put out word that he was after top musicians to help finish off the album and bring it to life on tour. Band member requirements were simple. If they got the music and could play, they were in. Dook and bass-player Jamie Bell e-mailed Parton after hearing a single. The drummer, Chi Fukami Taylor, was recommended by a mutual pal. Steidinger and Ninja replied to the ads.

"It was like that TV show, Faking It," recalls Dook. "We had a deadline to blag it as a band." But in the same way that Parton fuses foreign sounds, his randomly rounded-up bandmates made for another fine concoction. When Ninja arrived late for the first rehearsal she misunderstood. "I thought they'd all been playing together for years," she reveals when she joins us.

The Go! Team's haphazard components - both musically and in terms of personnel - complement each other surprisingly well. The word of mouth success that greeted the record has been replaced by exponential record sales since their Mercury Prize nomination. Critical acclaim and hype in the US has meant the band have had to re-record un-cleared samples so they can release the record there too in time for a tour.

But this band's ambitions are modest. Signed to a genuinely independent label, Memphis Industries, they'd rather play the indie festival All Tomorrow's Parties than headline Madison Square Gardens. And The Go! Team are taken aback by the speed at which their fortunes have changed. "Autographs are a funny business," shrugs Bell. "It's just my name on a piece of paper. Why would anyone want that?" But if the throng of fans who cluster round the band as they finish their set is anything to go by, the notion of scribbling their names on paper is something they're going to have to get used to.

'Thunder, Lightning, Strike' (new edition) is out now on Memphis Industries

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