Interview: Elliot & The Ghost
Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:49:40
When you hear a true original, you know it. There's an indescribable and inimitable feeling that comes from listening to a genuinely unique artist, and there's just nothing like it. Elliot & The Ghost conjure up those kinds of emotions after one spin of their EP, Is this Love. [iTunes] Vibrantly painting with sonic colors spanning Nick Cave-style cinematic musings, surfed-up post-punk guitars evocative of The Smiths and The Clash, and eerily danceable beats, the songs prove instantly magnetic. Still, descriptions don't do it justice. You've just got to let Elliot & The Ghost haunt you.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, singer and guitarist William Thompson talks Is This Love, what Elliot & The Ghost means, and so much more.
What threads the Is This Love EP together for you? It feels like there's a distinct flow.
That's really great to hear. It's interesting because some of the songs were written really far apart from one another. I think the subject matter probably has a lot in common even though the music might've been written at different times. The subject matter may transcend some of the music. It's funny. The guitar player and I have been together for about two years writing back and forth for a while. One or two of the songs was conceived during that point. When the band really came together just this year is the moment we really came together and wrote a bunch of songs. For example, "Red Handed" was written right when I moved to New York from Austin, TX. That's one of the old songs. It's last on the tracklisting. As soon as the band got together, that's when everything genuinely started. Now that these guys are in it, it's become its own thing. At this point, I feel like we've established the sound of the band. It's good to hear the EP flows accordingly. It's not like one song pops up out of nowhere.
There's definitely cohesion, but you're pulling from a myriad of influences.
Yeah, we listen to so much music too. We'd been in bands. In my previous band, we all listened to the same stuff, especially while growing up, and so there was never anything different brought to the table. Even though I'm the one who's sitting down and writing lots of the music, it's obvious when we're together that different influences of what everybody's listening to come together. For the bass, I know Connor Waleko was influenced by a lot of jazz, theory, and things like that. I had never been a part of that so much and might've even been a little scared to go that route with music, but I love that he was able to create these signature bass lines. They're subtle of course. Not a lot of people really honed in on the bass so much I'm assuming. I get a kick out of it, because I'm used to more punk rock-style bass. That's totally super fun. Everyone brings his own style and flavor. It's great.
You converge on this one midpoint that is the band...
I think that's probably what made the band. Maybe that's why it sounds a little bit different, which is a cool thought.
What's the story behind "Red Handed"?
I tried to write it vaguely. It's actually a little bit dark. It's sort of about my brother. He has troubles as far as drugs and things like that. It's been something within my family for so long. At the same time, I didn't want to really give it away like that. The song could also be about a person in a relationship or anything like that. Deep down, it's about family love.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
Definitely! As far as the lyrics go, I really love old country music. My favorite part was hearing these stories. From beginning to end, you get a book read to you. You're hearing this campfire story. I loved that in old country songs. I was trying to put that in rock music, in a way. At the same time, keeping it in a pop rock structure is challenging because you just want to go on forever. At some point, you decide to finish the story. It's always pretty interesting doing it that way.
You also don't pander to any styles or trends.
When you got that route, the sound changes. It's like you're trying to get into the crowd you're not supposed to be a part of. Having been in past bands, we got all of the teen angst out. It's a nice point to be in. We're not aiming at anything except for doing music that we like making. There's never been a feeling like, "We have to do this for this reason". It's always been natural. I love it.
How did "Sucker" come about?
The whole recording process was pretty crazy. It's one of those stories I feel like I'll be able to have forever. We spent all this money and trying to do a full-length in the past. Of course, when we felt like we were finally ready and had the songs, we were out of money at that point. So, we had to get creative with pretty much everything on the record. Without any money, we recorded all over the city in these weird environments. For the horns, a friend of a friend was like, "I have some guys in mind, but they're on the road with the circus". I said, "I'll wait until they get back from the circus and I'll reach out". It ended up working out perfectly with the timing. They came by, and they definitely knew what they were doing. They came up with a few cool lines and knocked it out of the park. It was really funny. We were in this apartment that had this huge open space with these wooden floors and walls. It created a great acoustic vibe and a big sound for the trumpets. We all met there. Knowing that these guys were clowns out of their makeup playing instruments for us was really funny.
If you were to compare the EP to a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
I would love if some of the songs were in Mystery Train. I love that movie. I think that Jim Jarmusch has a really great sense of color. The colors are quite similar if you wanted to look at it like that. That's a good question!
What artists shaped you?
I love The Clash. I love The Rolling Stones. Lou Reed's lyrics are amazing. That's still what I listen to all the time. I'll listen to The Clash every day. It never gets old. For some reason, I discovered Gram Parsons at this weird age when music hit me so hard. At the same time, I found this record by him, and I became obsessed. Through him, I started listening to other things as well as folk music. When I first came to New York, I was trying to make a folk band because I was going crazy with Bob Dylan. From there, you listen to all the crazy things they listen to like The Monroe Brothers and Townes Van Zandt. I love that music a lot as well.
Where did the band name come from?
Before I was even thinking about doing another band, I had this weird concept of doing a demented kids book. I wanted to write and illustrate a little ten-page book. When I came up with that name, I thought it could be a cool, weird story like this little kid is friends with a ghost. I never did the book, but I remembered the idea when it came time to do another day. It fit with the songs. The name stuck.
Have you heard Elliot & The Ghost?