By Ryan De Freitas
One of the first things you learn in music writing is that email interviews suck. Often no reflection on the band, emails tend to be dull, characterless and completely devoid of humour. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be, but it seems like Californian pop punks Goodwill Hunting are determined to be the exception to that rule.
When asked about their hometown, guitarist Robert Sesma responds with a cribbed Wikipedia summary. Every other question is answered with a knowing wink and a barrage of weed jokes. Usually, that’d make for a nightmare interview, but as the band also provide an alternative set of ‘serious’ answers, it’s actually kinda endearing – in fact, it captures perfectly what the band’s debut self-titled record is all about. Sometimes it’s goofy, sometimes it’s a little more earnest, but it’s entirely charming from start to finish.
Take a first listen to it below, then read a little more about the band while you listen.
Childhood friends Sesma, Cole Berggren (guitar/vocals), Tuesday Jensen (bass) and Reid Riegelsberger (drums) formed Goodwill Hunting while they were still in high school. It was never supposed to be a serious band – and even on the verge of releasing their debut album, they’re quick to point out that it still isn’t. When asked about their motivation to juxtapose bummer lyrics over upbeat music, Cole suggests that “because of our bohemian Cali lifestyle, we all feel like the band is a good outlet to take a break from our sunny, avocado-ripened, easy going West Coast attitudes and experience profound and deep riff sorrow… If you can’t tell, we don’t take this band terribly seriously but we all very much agree that the music is fun to play and playing music is a really good way to FRIENDS.”
But you’d be wrong to assume that a band who don’t take themselves seriously are also not passionate about what they do:
“I wrote a four song EP with my longtime writing partner Alex Lefkort to play at our local, beloved, and now burned down pizza parlour, Love At First Slice,” says Berggren of the band’s start. “That was the best and only place to play music in our little suburb of Fremont. We wanted to play the first Sad Fest (put together by Sam Kless of Just Friends and now Snooze), kind of as a joke, but after it was all said and done, my friends and myself really fell in love with the music. So, I took those songs, wrote some new ones and put together a band to play them.”
From there, they practised with battery-powered amps in local parking lots (“We’ve been shut down before, however it really helps that our guitarist Robert has a lot of very intimidating tattoos and a booming terror voice” adds Cole). Then half of the band moved to the other side of the country.
“I think Fremont was a great place to grow up as a musician,” Berggren continues. “But we’ve all moved out of Fremont to chase new and different ideas, be that musically, career wise, or, more than anything, just life itself. Reid moved to Anaheim, CA for a while to pursue culinary school, Tuesday moved to Santa Cruz to study fish (Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz) and be edgy, and I moved to the East Coast with Robert to pursue music and being an asshole (respectively).”
Despite that distance, Goodwill Hunting have stayed together and now, finally, are releasing their debut record. And it’s a damn good record, too, with hints of Joyce Manor and Weezer all over it (both bands that Berggren admits to ‘worshipping’). But, even now with that ‘real band’ feeling that comes with releasing an album, Goodwill are grounded about who they are and what they do.
“We take the band in a pretty light hearted manner and the songs certainly reflect that,” Berggren explains. “By and large the songs aren’t too serious but at the end of the day they’re pop songs and, to me, a pop song doesn’t need to be based on a single true story or derived from any crazy experience to make you feel something. You take from what you know, write simple to-the-point lyrics and in the case of a pop song, sometimes that’s the best way to get a point across.”
“More than anything,” he concludes, taking stock of what his ‘light-hearted’ band has managed to achieve so far, “ we love the way that playing music in a DIY community has led us to meet some of our favourite people and continues to take us to the coolest fucking places.”
This unexpected moment of sincerity is short-lived.
“I would have never been to the state of Idaho if it weren’t for this band.”