As the city slowly comes back to live music, each week we seem to be welcoming back bands and performers that we haven’t seen for months. This weekend sees the return of The Goldilocks Zone, one of those all-original bands that Phnom Penh seems to toss up every year or so, who will play on Saturday night at Oscar’s on the Corner. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Jack Dodd had time to sit down with LengPleng over a few draughts to talk playing, band history, pandemics and Phnom Penh.
Originally formed in 2016 under the name Complicated Business, The Goldilocks Zone is a band that thrives on live performance. “Playing live again is the thing I’m most excited about at this current moment,” says Jack. “Ever since I first started playing music it was always my favourite part. I like the rehearsals, the recording, everything that goes with being in a band, but for me it all culminates in that live moment, whether it’s good or bad, that’s what it’s all about for me. I’m really looking forward to that again.”
A big change occurred at the end of last year with the (entirely amicable) departure of founder member Ruadhan O’Deasmhúnaigh. “That was a big one, he’d been there from the start when it was me, him and Ronan [Sheehan]. He wrote a lot of the songs, he was a big personality in the group. Ruadhan and Ronan complemented each other quite well, because Ru had the more husky singer-songwriter voice, the voice that can tell the stories in the songs, and Ronan has this power. But he wanted to do other things in his life, like travelling, and he’d been in Cambodia five years and felt his time had run its course. He went to Australia for a bit, and now he’s back in Ireland.”
“When Ruadhan left we knew who we wanted to get in: [keyboard player] Pavle [Vizintin]. He really added to the band. It very much feels now that the band is growing towards having its own definitive sound. When we first started it was very much learning as we went, bringing in all our different influences, putting so many songs forward – particularly Ronan and Ruadhan wrote so many songs. ”
Jack Dodd, Original Sessions, Meta House, January 2020
Jack is one songwriting performer who prefers to stick with the band rather than pursuing solo options. “I’ve been fully focused on Goldilocks and seeing where that can go. At the moment I’m content with the way things are: Goldilocks is my solid relationship. I’ve written songs that don’t much fit in, and maybe something will happen with them. Sometimes I can take a song in and the boys will adapt it and it becomes a Goldilocks song; other times I hold it back, and I know Ronan does the same. Since I was about 14 or 15 I’ve always had to be around music, writing it, playing it live. When I don’t I feel like something’s missing.”
The pandemic situation this year has thrown up challenges but also opportunities for musicians, Jack notes, such as the Woodhouse Sessions set up by their drummer Jesse Ricketson for which The Goldilocks Zone contributed a half
hour set. “Jesse set up his Mee Cha Records and the Woodhouse, and he’s has been having a lot of different artists around, hand sanitiser all over the place – he made sure that he had everything set up good to go. It worked out really well in the end. There was definitely a bit of post-production on our livestream. It was good fun.”
Ronan Sheehan, Original Sessions, Meta House, January 2020
Other opportunities included the chance to work on new songs. “It takes me a long time to get a song finished, because I over-think things and get all perfectionist, whereas the boys would be, hey, just bring it into the rehearsal room and we’ll sort out the blemishes. Having a lot more time at home, having guitars to hand all the time, and being able to pick something and go at it.”
Jack grew up in a small town in the English Midlands, an area that gave us bands such as Black Sabbath and Slade. “Not too far away from Birmingham and Wolverhampton. My dad played in a variety of bands as a guitar player and a singer. He loved his hard rock, like AC/DC, but then he loved The Beatles and the more melodic stuff like Paul Weller. And that was what I was brought up on. I always saw guitars around the house but didn’t really understand them. What is that? It looks too big, too hard. Dad never forced it on me – you should play guitar or you should listen to this – he just let it naturally happen. Then I think I was 13, 14, and started getting into things on my own. Classic stuff, like the first time you hear Nirvana.”
“I played in quite a few bands in the Midlands/Shropshire area, then I moved to London and was in a band, Carlito, for about two and a half years. We did relatively okay. We were named after the movie Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino. A Colombian keyboard player in the band, who joined after the band had already been named, said, you know, in Spanish, Carlito is like John or Dave…”
Jack visited Cambodia for two weeks in 2015 at the urging of a friend, and after a period of agonising moved here in 2016. First point of call was Show Box, and The Irish Place, and before long he met Ruadhan, then Ronan. And so it began.
Hansley Bikhari, Original Sessions, Meta House, January 2020
Jumping forward three years, a recent highlight for the band was their performance for the Original Sessions in January of this year at Meta House. “When I first walked in it was almost like going into a really small chapel or something. A different sort of gig, a different sort of energy. We had to sit down and re-analyse the songs. I was pleased how it went, because I guess that’s when you know whether a song holds up or not, when you break it down to its bare bones. We’ve played a lot of loud chaotic gigs, and they’ve been great in their own way, but it was nice to properly hear all the vocals, all the different parts.”
Excited by the return, Jack hopes people will be coming out in numbers. “It feels like the train is starting to roll again. A lot of people are saying “I miss going to shows” – and not only fellow musicians. So hopefully people will appreciate us – even it’s only for a week or two.”
The Goldilocks Zone play Oscar’s on the Corner on Saturday night from 10 pm.
Jesse Ricketson, Original Sessions, Meta House, January 2020