Stab Magazine | Brothers In Goons
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Brothers In Goons

Ozzie Wright and Vaughan Deadly recount 15 years playing in a punk surf band. 

style // Mar 11, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fifteen years is a long time for any band to stay together, especially when its members work other jobs, have kids, and didn’t know how to play an instrument before embarking on their sonic crusade.

But such is the case for The Goons of Doom, a punk surf band that features our current Guest Editor Ozzie Wright and his three childhood friends from Sydney, Australia. 

Vaughan ‘Deadly’ Blakey is one GOD member you might already know.

Brother to WSL commentator Ronnie Blakey and a surf industry legend in his own right, Vaughan’s (along with Ozzie’s) brainchild Doped Youth set the stage for the band’s comical beginnings – but we’ll get to that in a minute. Also in the band is Tim Cooney (AKA Killerwhale), who works as a stonemason and was the only musically gifted member of the crew before they conjoined in 2005. Lastly is Ryan Cowell (AKA Cowboy), who makes boutique furniture for a living and rounds out the Goons’ hodgepodge squad.

In an interview below, we speak with Ozzie and Vaughan about how Goons of Dooms started, where it’s taken them, and what’s the latest in their 15-year run.

Spoiler: they’re going on an east coast Aussie tour!

Stab: So boys, how did the Goons come to be?

Vaughan Blakey: You remember Doped Youth, right? Well Oz had the Battle of the Bands idea, so in the making of that film we bought all these instruments and amplifiers and everything from cash converters. As soon as we finished the movie, we just started bashing all the instruments that we’d bought, and we – it was me, Ozzie, Killerwhale and Cowboy living together at the time – just started telling everyone we were in a band. We called ourselves The Goons, and that was literally how it started. We started as a make-believe band and the next week we were a “real” band, even though none of us could play instruments except for Killer, who is legitimately sick.

Ozzie Wright: Ever since we were kids, we used to work on paintings together and then we got into making a couple of surf movies. That was just another form of just hanging out with your friends and making fun stuff. Vaughan, Killerwhale, Cowboy and myself were all childhood friends from primary school. Then they were all living in my house at the time, and we had all the instruments, so it just kind of happened. 

Where did it go from there?

Vaughan: So we told people we were in a band, and Volcom was like, “Oh you’re in a band? Sick, you can play our next party!” We literally couldn’t play, so we forced ourselves to learn a few songs then played in a hotel room and totally sucked. It was the best time ever.

How long have you guys been together?

Ozzie: It’s been a long time. I think we are about 26 or something when we started – so 15 years at least.

Screen Shot 2019 02 24 at 4.10.42 PM

The Goons of Doom – married by music.

Is it still the same four of you in the band today?

Vaughan: Yep, we’ve had a few people come and go but the core of the band is still the same.

Oz, how does being a rock star compare to being a pro surfer?

Ozzie: The whole Goons of Doom thing, I mean, it’s such a novelty act. We’re serious about it, but we’ve never been great musicians or anything. I do think we write good songs – especially the other guys in the band, not me [laughs]. It’s more of an excuse just to get together with our friends, and do some work together that we really enjoy and just have a good time. It’s really not a serious thing at all, even though we love talking about it. It’s just a fun thing to do with your mates.

Vaughan: For a long while the band was a real focus in all our lives. It was always a hobby – like it was never at the very top of our things to do – but it was always something we committed to and gave a lot of energy, because it was super rewarding. And it didn’t take long to get to a point where we were playing really good shows and having a blast. The energy is what always got us over the line, more so than the musicianship, if that makes sense. 

You said that the band was really rewarding. Does that apply in a financial sense as well as the “spiritual”?

Ozzie: No, the money is terrible [laughs]. Occasionally we get paid for gigs and things, but we tend to spend it all on drinks or whatever that same night. I bet if you added up what we’ve made and what we’d spent, we would’ve spent way more. We’re basically pay-to-play. Most bands say that – you’ve got to pay to play. 

If we were a little more inclined to the business side of things, then we could sell merch at the shows, but we’re the kind of guys that will create merch and be like, “Look at these shirts. These are great. Okay, sick.” We’ll have a whole box going to the gig and be like, “Who’s going to take them from the car? Nobody. Who’s going to sell them? Nobody. Okay, just leave it in the car.” We’ll just leave it in the car and not even try to sell. We’re more into having a good time.

Vaughan: But we’ve had opportunities that are fucking ridiculous. We’ve overachieved so heavily. We’ve done something like 15 world tours, 20 tours of America – we’ve played everywhere you can possibly play from festival crowds down to empty rooms. It’s pretty weird considering we’ve never had a hit, we’ve never had a radio play – it’s always been underground. But it’s super rewarding because you get to have all these experiences with your best friends who you went to school with. But I don’t know what we’ve got to show for it other than skulls full of dead brain cells.

Do you guys practice a lot or… ever?

Vaughan: Never, man. Never. I reckon our practising to live gigs ratio is 15-to-1 in favour of live gigs. Just lately we’ve started thinking about practising because we’re really happy with the songs we’ve been making, so we want to make sure they sound really sick when we’re playing them live. But I don’t think it’ll change the ethos of the band too much – practising, that is [laughs].

Tell me about the upcoming tour

Ozzie: We’re about to head out on an Australian Tour. I think we’re doing Queensland, New South Wales– actually I don’t know exactly, it’s on our Instagram. But it’s only just a small tour. We’re trying to get over to America, Europe, and maybe even Japan later this year, but we haven’t really planned it because we’ve all got kids, and it’s a nightmare to travel [laughs]. 

Do you guys try to surf on these tours?

Vaughan: That was always the dream – to surf during the day and rip at night, but it all depends how many shows you’ve got back-to-back. Because it’s pretty hard when you finish a show, party all night, then get in the bus, sleep while it drives to the next joint, then do it all again. But if we can get waves in we do. On an east coast Aussie trip we’d surf for sure.

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Somewhere on the Aussie east coast, perhaps between Goons sets.

Photography

Jason Corroto

Vaughan, any funny Ozzie stories that you have from being in the band?

Vaughan: Ah, there’d be thousands, but the one that comes to mind is when we did a support tour with Pennywise, and their crowds just fucking hated us. You could almost not hear your guitar over the boos every night. Then one night, in a room full of 2,000 people, Oz just went fucking schizo. For whatever reason, he just hit this sort of manic rock-n-roll energy zone and went so ballistic.

At one point he was climbing along the pipes on the roof and swinging upside down, and the mic stand happened to be just perfectly level with where his mouth ended up, and he was singing his whole song upside down. He literally won over one of the most militant, loyal Cali-punk band fans of all time just by going so psycho. I guess he was performing that night similarly to how he surfs – full emotion pouring out of him, going absolutely mad. 

I also think Ozzie is one of the best songwriters of all time. If you take the time to look at his lyrics… I mean fuck mate, he is just such a genius poet. And the way that he links that into the little melodies he comes up with on guitar – he’s no slouch. It’s not just ridiculous, silly music. He’s got tons of heart and he knows how to put a message in his music. I think that’s something that will be realized a bit later, once people start listening a little closer.

Go and listen to “Fleas.” It’s kind of inspired by Andy Irons – when Andy had died – but it’s not about Andy. It’s just about having people wanting your energy all the time. The lyrics in it are properly on point. It’s pretty sick to be able to transfer thoughts and emotions into that sort of medium, and Ozzie is so good at it.

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