The members of Goose came of age in the same Northeast corridor that has served as a prime jamband incubator for decades. But when asked to pinpoint the crest of the quartet’s current wave of success, the band’s guitarist/ vocalist Rick Mitarotonda cites a gig decidedly south of his current home turf.
“There was this group of friends in Kentucky, one of which checked out our album online and really dug the tunes. He rallied his group of friends, and they came out and had so much energy. They were stoked,” Mitarotonda recalls of that particularly memorable set at Covington, Ky.’s Octave club. “At that time, we were playing these little clubs and having zero expectations, but these 15 kids were just amped up; they even knew the words to some of the songs. We were like, ‘Woah, this is cool!’”
Two weeks later, Goose returned to Octave and were surprised at what they found. “The place was considerably fuller and that was the starting point of a new thing for us—a new ethos or something. We went back that June and did a two-night run at the same club. It was a very legendary moment in the Goose story.”
And, while they are currently at the vanguard of a classic jamband revival, Goose weren’t without their salad days. Before the outfit coalesced around 2014, Mitarotonda was playing around the admittedly “weird” Connecticut bar scene alongside Goose rhythm section Trevor Weekz (bass) and Ben Atkind (drums). That band—dubbed Vasudo—quickly fizzled out, and it wasn’t until Mitarotonda graduated from the Berklee College of Music that they “got the itch” to give the project another shot.
Naming themselves Goose— after an amorphous inside joke from when Mitarotonda worked at a taco shop in Colorado—the four friends started playing locally and, eventually, worked up enough material to begin circling New England.
“We were just playing a couple times a month at bars in Connecticut and, at the same time, we tracked our first album, Moon Cabin, pretty early on,” Mitarotonda says. “But there wasn’t a lot of movement with the band until 2017.”
That movement only came when Goose linked up with an agent, hit the road and, in Mitarotonda’s words, “got more aggressive with it.”
“That was when we started learning lessons faster and honing in on what kind of band we wanted to be both musically and with how we operated and traveled—what mattered to us and what didn’t,” he explains.
Goose added Peter Anspach on vocals, keyboards and guitar in 2018, solidifying their current lineup. “I grew up in the same hometown as Rick and Trevor: Wilton, Conn. We were all hanging out in the same music area, so I knew of them and they knew of me,” the multi-instrumentalist recalls. “Right before our holiday show, Goosemas, Rick called me up and said they were looking for a new member. I jumped at the opportunity because my other band was slowing down and it was just a natural thing for me to do.”
“Finding the right people that you really jive with—really connect with—can be tricky,” Mirarotonda adds “I’m super grateful to have arrived at the place we did at that point.”
This past summer, Goose truly crossed over on a national scale, thanks to fiery summer sets at Summer Camp, Resonance, Domefest and, especially, The Peach Music Festival. The fans they picked up at those gigs, along with their growing, road-tested repertoire, helped the quartet sell out a marquee show at New York’s Mercury Lounge on Halloween well in advance. And the band is already confirmed to headline both New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg in January.
Yet, the members of Goose always make sure their music remains fun, even as it continues to become more adventurous. The Connecticut quartet—and many of their fans—celebrate “Mustache Season,” by sporting ‘70s-era facial hair through the warmer months, and often don Hawaiian shirts, which Mitarotonda uses as a tribute to his late uncle.
“There could be two feet of snow outside and he’d be rocking a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and be drinking a Schaefer,” he chuckles. “Generally, I’m the serious one, but it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. Music is a very intense thing to me. At the same time, you need to still have fun, especially doing what we’re doing. We’d lose our marbles if we didn’t do that.”
“When you’re playing 100 shows a year, you have to bring in the rest of your life,” Anspach adds. “The band time is a big part of it. All of these [silly] ideas are just brainstorms we have on the road, and we’ll just attack it.”
For now, though, their main focus is playing as many shows as possible.
“Recently, I had this interaction where somebody had found our music and was basically like, ‘Your music saved my life,’” Anspach says. “That’s incredible. Stuff like that is certainly a ‘pinch-me’ moment. I’ll be out at a regular show and get recognized. It’s wild.”
Mitarotonda has his own “pinch-me” moments on a regular basis, but perhaps none greater than the fact that an underdog bar band named after an inside joke could make their mark at major festival stages across the U.S.
“I was just like, ‘Let’s be Goose at these bar gigs,’” he laughs. “I certainly didn’t envision it turning into what it is now. There were definitely a couple times along the way where I was like, ‘Alright, I think we need a real band name now,’ but we just couldn’t shake it.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more subscribe below.