Goon’s singer turns his strange medical journey into art on debut album
The cover of Goon’s debut album, “Heaven Is Humming,” looks how the L.A. grunge-gaze quartet’s music sounds: It’s at once vibrant and sinister, reckless and pensive, with a blue, halo-capped monster imposed over a fiery, ominous landscape.
Its creator, Goon frontman Kenny Becker — also an accomplished painter — has a penchant for that kind of vivid dynamism, which has marked both the sound and artwork of his band’s recorded output since 2016. Much of that spirit, however, stems from a time in Becker’s life consumed by dullness — namely, a rare medical condition that intermittently impairs his ability to hear, smell and taste.
“The times I get really sick, I just can’t do or sense anything,” Becker, 29, explained. “It’s unproductive and drab.”
“Heaven Is Humming” is a document of aspiration and yearning, the lonely hunger for familiar sensations often kept just out of reach. Recorded and refined over three years, the album — due out July 19 via Partisan — captures Goon’s evolution from isolated bedroom solo project to full-fledged band, whose expansive, psychedelic punk has earned the four-piece a reputation as one of L.A.’s most exciting live acts.
Rounded out by Drew Eccleston (guitar), Caleb Wicker (bass), Christian Koons (synth) and Andy Polito (drums), the Glendale-based Goon departs from the indie hipster conceits and surf-punk irony that have marked much of L.A. rock in recent years, instead offering a rich Southern California melancholy in the DIY folk-punk tradition of Elliott Smith and Wand’s Cory Hanson.
To mark the album’s release, Goon will play a release party at the Echoplex Thursday evening with local cohorts Draag, Kevin and a surprise special guest. We spoke to Becker earlier in the week.
You first wrote much of the album years ago, but redeveloped it as the band got signed and took on a life as a bigger project. What have you taken away, looking back on it as a whole?
It feels a lot to me like the record is unintentionally about creating a record. I very much wanted it to have a start and end point, but it ended up more giving me a sense of what I’d been through.
You had major surgery leading up to the album that significantly restored a lot of your senses. How did that change how you made music?
I definitely feel way more in touch with the world. Every time I have a surgery, I’m like, “Wow, this is what it’s like for most people in life.” In the period immediately after the surgery I wrote and recorded almost the entire “Happy Omen” EP, which shaped a lot of the album, and I was able to go back and add elements — electronic breakdowns, stuff like that — I couldn’t get in touch with before, emotionally or otherwise.
What role does your artwork and painting play in the collective creative process for the Goon project?
It’s definitely a big part of it. I’ve always really liked having a strong, simple icon, like the little Goon bot monster. Having it look slightly menacing but at the same time kind of not, and confusing in a way that when you listen to the music, it isn’t always mean or heavy but can be similarly intriguing.
How does that aesthetic reflect the spirit of Goon to you?
I find myself really drawn to primary colors. Yellow, red and blue. They almost operate the same way that black and white do, where they have the highest possible contrast, and they’re very direct. Musically, that tends to be what I aim for — a solid sense of self-realization, confident chord progressions, decisive chorus transitions. But also trying to maintain a sense of atmosphere.
Goon with Draag, Kevin and special guest. $10 advance / $12 day of show. The Echoplex, 1822 W. Sunset Blvd., 8 p.m. Thursday.
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