“I think we were a lit­tle em­bar­rassed by lik­ing these records by The SOS Band and Chaka Khan. Disco wasn’t cool then, it wasn’t hip, and we didn’t know any­one who was in to it”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

THERE ARE sec­ond acts in pop mu­sic. Back in the early years of the last decade, New York­ers Nick Mill­hiser and Alex Frankel were mem­bers of Au­tomato, a hip-hop group that en­joyed some suc­cess with its one and only al­bum be­fore it all fell apart. A band formed when the mem­bers were at high school, Au­tomato were never des­tined to grad­u­ate.

Such an un­der­whelm­ing end didn’t put Mill­hiser and Frankel off, and they started work­ing to­gether as Holy Ghost! That was in 2006 and now, five years on, they’re pre­par­ing for the re­lease of an­other de­but al­bum.

Holy Ghost! are about su­perb pop tunes with a de­li­cious disco drag to the grooves. There’s an old-fash­ioned charm to tracks such as Hold On and Do It Again as they snare you with in­fec­tious melodies and warm, glit­ter­ing hooks.

The al­bum fea­tures a star turn from Michael McDon­ald. “I’m friends with a girl whose fa­ther played bass with Michael in the ’80s,” says Fran­kle. “We’d writ­ten Some Chil­dren, and the only way I could sing it – be­cause it was a lit­tle out of my range – was to use a fake Michael McDon­ald voice. We were talk­ing about hav­ing some­one else sing it, so we de­cided to go for him be­cause we kind of had a con­nec­tion to him. It was a long shot, but it panned out.”

When Mill­hiser and Frankel, who met as seven-year-olds at school in New York, swapped hip-hop for disco, it was a good move. “We got into disco dur­ing Au­tomato,” says Frankel. “We were search­ing for sam­ples, and we re­ally got in to re­leases on la­bels like Sal­soul, West End, TK Records and Casablanca that we found in a re­ally great


record store right by our house.

“Even­tu­ally, we started lik­ing the songs and the pro­duc­tion for more than just their suitabil­ity as sam­ples. At the time I think we were a lit­tle em­bar­rassed by lik­ing these records by The SOS Band and Chaka Khan. Disco wasn’t cool then, it wasn’t hip, and we didn’t know any­one who was in to it or knew about it. But James and Tim were en­cour­ag­ing us in that direc­tion, and ex­pos­ing us to a lot of that sound and made us feel okay about it.”

James and Tim are James Mur­phy of LCD Soundsys­tem and Tim Goldswor­thy, the pro­duc­ers who set up the DFA la­bel that Holy Ghost! now call home. DFA re­leased their first sin­gle, Hold On in 2007 and waited for them to come good with the al­bum.

“We took our time; we didn’t ever con­sider rush­ing things,” says Frankel. “A lot of that came down to the fact that the la­bel never re­ally pushed us to get the al­bum done or get it out. They left us to do things at our own pace. It was the op­po­site ex­pe­ri­ence to Au­tomato. With Holy Ghost!, Nick and I are in con­trol from the very start, and we get to call the shots with ev­ery­thing from art­work to day-to-day op­er­a­tional stuff. It’s to­tally our pro­ject and DFA is very much the op­po­site of a ma­jor la­bel.”

That said, Frankel be­lieves the prob­lems for Au­tomato were to do with per­son­nel rather than pres­sure from a la­bel. “We were very young. We were 16 when that band started, and the oth­ers were also teenagers. I think the blame has to ap­ply to the peo­ple in the band and not the peo­ple we worked with. Ma­jor la­bels are ma­jor la­bels.”

Holy Ghost! have paid a lot of at­ten­tion to their live show, which “has taken time to come to­gether”, says Frankel. “Our first live

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