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14th October 2014

Interview: These Ghosts

We spoke to These Ghosts about refreshing iTunes, Radiohead comparisons and their musical influences

Norfolk-based indietronica trio These Ghosts are finally heading back on the road again, after spending the last few years taking their time with the recording of their long awaited second album. Still the Waves, which was released a fortnight ago, is already garnering critical praise, and went straight into the iTunes Electronica Top 10. Ahead of their first ever Manchester show supporting Tall Ships next week, The Mancunion spoke to drummer Harry Hall.

“We can’t believe it, really. It’s been a long time coming; we’ve been working on it for over two years while we’ve been at university, and so for it to come out and go straight into the iTunes at number 6 is kind of mental,” Hall says, “it was a crazy day, just refreshing that and watching it go higher and higher! People are really enjoying it, and that’s really important to us.” By all initial accounts, Still the Waves has been worth the wait, building on their electronic rock formula with increasingly intricate arrangements and polished production values. Hall states this is due in part to the time the band spent away from each other. “We went to three different universities – Exeter, Reading and London – and so we were far away, basically. So we used the holidays that we had, which everyone knows are very long at university, to go into the studio with Johnny [Cole], our long term producer. We’d take ideas we thought of at uni, and Callum [Duncan, vocalist] would share a lot of stuff on WhatsApp or Skype or whatever, and pass around all these ideas, and it just meant because we were apart for so long that we had way more time to reflect on the stuff that we’d done. So I think this album, we all agree, is far more thought out than anything we’ve ever done before, and that’s why the process was so long, but also why we’re all so proud of it.”

With their soaring falsetto vocals, complex drum rhythms and rich guitar/synthesizer interplay, Radiohead are a band often touted as an influence on These Ghosts’ music, though Hall says they don’t mind these constant comparisons. “We’re incredibly flattered to be constantly compared to people of that kind of scale and quality, and we’re really grateful that people think we’re capable of carrying that sound.” He is quick to note, however, that the band’s list of influences runs deeper than the Oxford legends: “We’re also into things like Jon Hopkins, and a lot of dance stuff – Callum’s just got back from a festival and said that he didn’t actually watch many bands there; he was really engaged in all these electronic artists, which is really great. Also Mount Kimbie and The Invisible, who are close to us because Matthew Herbert [Still the Waves’ co-producer] produced their first record. And just a whole load of eclectic stuff really, our tastes are so varied in the sense that we’re constantly listening to different things. There’ll be Sigur Ros on at one point, dance music on at another, electronic music or something really abstract. It’s really eclectic, which is definitely exciting.”

‘Coat of Feathers’, the first single taken from the record, exemplifies the band’s ethereal, otherworldly sound. Describing how that track came about, he explains “we built it up in the process, so Callum brought the melody, and the guitar line, and this really haunting vocal – which is one of my favourite vocals on the record actually – it’s got this weird kind of lullaby, drone-y effect that a lot of people have picked up on. It’s haunting while also quite driving. In terms of percussion, we didn’t really think it needed much. It’s quite a subtle number, it’s very simple. It’s three parts. We stuck on this kind of four-to-the-floor bass drum effect just to really drive the track and to keep it moving, which I think works.”

With such a complex, layered sound, These Ghosts’ music is not the type you would think easy to replicate in a live setting, though they seem unfazed. “We really enjoy that challenge, actually. We’re big fans of being able to say ‘Okay, that’s the recorded version, let’s do a live version, let’s mix it up’, and it’s enjoyable to be able to make changes and stuff, trying to duplicate it live and adding other sections, working on intro pieces and interludes. We love taking things from studio to the stage.”

These Ghosts play the Soup Kitchen on 8th October

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