MU­SIC

The mem­bers of Dead Ghosts have been keep­ing a low pro­file, but the Van­cou­ver band is very much alive

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > BY KATE WIL­SON

Hav­ing re­vi­ously recorded on a Craigslist 8-track and in a de­crepit Lad­ner barn, DIY dar­ling Dead Ghosts is back in the stu­dio.

De­spite their rep­u­ta­tion as dar­lings of the Van­cou­ver un­der­ground, the five mem­bers of Dead Ghosts have re­cently be­come, well, ghosts on the lo­cal cir­cuit. But there’s a good rea­son for the band’s quiet­ness.

Formed nearly a decade ago in North Delta, the garage-rock group grew out of founders Byran Ni­col, Drew Wilky, and Mike Wilky’s de­sire to hang out and play mu­sic with a “bunch of skaters and cool peo­ple”. Af­ter the trio up­loaded a few demos to Mys­pace—this was 2008, af­ter all—a pro­ducer from Iowa reached out and asked if they wanted to do a sin­gle. He turned out to be un­com­monly well-con­nected, and traded the re­sult­ing 7-inch with a num­ber of distrib­u­tors un­til the record ended up in the hands of a la­bel. Then came the group’s first full-length al­bum, the self-ti­tled Dead Ghosts.

“We got re­ally lucky,” Ni­col, the group’s front­man, re­calls on the line to the Straight from a Van­cou­ver back al­ley. “When we started play­ing, we were just mess­ing with record­ing, and gen­er­ally goof­ing around. We had no vi­sion at all. We maybe wanted to play house par­ties or some­thing—that was the limit of our as­pi­ra­tions.”

De­fy­ing their own ex­pec­ta­tions, by 2015 the group had re­leased two more al­bums—can’t Get No and Love and Death and All the Rest— and em­barked on a num­ber of lengthy tours across Europe and West­ern Canada. Play­ing a dis­tinc­tive brand of swag­ger­ing, blues-in­fused lo-fi rock, the five-piece quickly won over transat­lantic fans and scored fresh fod­der for their lyrics with their punk-rock an­tics.

“We were in Torino in Italy,” Ni­col re­calls. “We ran into this band called Movie Star Junkies, who are an Ital­ian rock ’n’ roll garage group. They took us out on the town to all these crazy, off-the-wall places. One of the first spots we turned up to was an il­le­gal bar where they made bizarre, high-al­co­hol drinks which were to­tally not le­gal. They just gave you a plas­tic cup and you dived right in. I don’t know if there were hal­lu­cino­gens in these drinks, but you had one sip and your whole body was just throb­bing in pain. Then we set off walk­ing around the town, drink­ing this in­sanely strong shaman drink. It was ba­si­cally this re­ally fun night. We ended up at a rave in a park. That was the ba­sis for the song ‘Drink It Dry’ from Love and Death.”

Tour­ing was a con­stant for the group in its early years, with the band try­ing to cram ex­pe­ri­ence in be­fore, as Ni­col sug­gests, its mem­bers stopped be­ing so young. Now shift­ing its fo­cus to play­ing in Van­cou­ver once ev­ery three months or so, the group has a rea­son­able jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for ton­ing down its live sched­ule.

“We’ve started work­ing on our new al­bum,” the front­man re­veals. “If we want to play a show, we have to stop that rhythm of do­ing a bed track and per­fect­ing the song. So far, the record is sound­ing re­ally good. We’re still fig­ur­ing out a clear vi­sion for it, but we have 12 songs that we’re re­ally stoked on, which are all re­ally, re­ally dif­fer­ent. It’s def­i­nitely sound­ing a lit­tle more poppy in a sense—a lit­tle cleaner. But also way weirder. We’re get­ting more com­fort­able with the record­ing process.”

Even more than the band’s pre­vi­ous al­bums, its new of­fer­ing will spot­light a strong DIY ethic. Ni­col re­counts the group’s past ex­pe­ri­ences of lay­ing down its sec­ond al­bum on an 8-track picked up from Craigslist, and putting its third on tape in a freez­ing, fall­ing-down barn on the site of a blue­berry farm in Lad­ner. Those un­ortho­dox record­ing tech­niques, he sug­gests, are why he’s sur­prised that the band has so many fol­low­ers—but he’s quick to point out that Dead Ghosts makes mu­sic pri­mar­ily for it­self.

“We’re re­ally record­ing our­selves on this al­bum,” he says. “The first cou­ple were half done by us, and half done by stu­dio en­gi­neers—when­ever we’d get money we’d go in. Early on, we didn’t know enough about what we wanted so we needed some­one who could push the but­tons and con­nect the ca­bles. We still don’t know ex­actly what we’re do­ing, but Drew has a stu­dio now, so we go there. We’ve got a lot faster.”

De­spite its new­found record­ing chops, though, Dead Ghosts won’t be trad­ing in its gritty, dis­torted vo­cals and ’70s-in­fused gui­tar washes any­time soon. Still in­flu­enced by Crypt Records’ sem­i­nal Back From the Grave com­pi­la­tion se­ries, Ni­col’s manic en­ergy and gui­tarist Drew Wilky’s ear­worm riffs are a wel­come throw­back to a mu­si­cal era that fo­cused less on pro­duc­tion than solid song­writ­ing. Tak­ing to the stage as part of Fester­val—a mul­ti­v­enue, three-day minifes­ti­val billed as “loud and fuzzy mu­sic for weirdos”—the front­man is ex­cited that this show will be one of the group’s last be­fore it drops the new al­bum.

“We’re on with Meat­bod­ies from Los An­ge­les,” Ni­col says. “We played with them be­fore at a Tofino Brew­ery party in front of about 500 peo­ple. One of the guys had a mas­sive beard, and was shav­ing it off while crowd­surf­ing. At the end of their set, the whole stage was just soaked in beer and cov­ered in beard hair. It was a pretty in­cred­i­ble mo­ment. I’m ex­cited to see them again.”

Dead Ghosts’ up­com­ing new al­bum will fea­ture 12 songs that the band proudly de­scribes as both “a lit­tle more poppy” and also “way weirder”.

All of My Bod­ies (Heavy Lark)

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