Hailing from Norman, Gentle Ghost is an indie rock band in the vein of Arcade Fire, Cursive, Criteria, and the White Octave. Their music is spacey and reminds me a bit of My Bloody Valentine.
This interview was conducted with Seth McCarroll via Facebook June 9-16, 2011.
Dave: How did the band get together?
Seth McCarroll: In the winter of 2009, I showed some tunes to my friend. They were really, really rough. Kinda terrible actually. But, I guess he saw potential in them because his reaction was “show me those chords. Okay, now we’re a band..” and it is was serendipitous from there. We had friends that loved us, loved the potential of the songs, agreed to play and so the band just came together. I feel like it should have been harder than that, but it wasn’t.
Dave: For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?
Seth: There’s definitely a lot going on, as there should be in a band with three guitars. I can tell you that I draw some heavy influence from Cursive, Criteria, Mogwai, Broken Social Scene, Arcade fire, Desaparecidos, and endless other acts. I won’t say that we’re ripping anyone off, we are our own, fresh expression but I also am acutely aware that there’s nothing new under the sun. No artistic expression is clear of the shadow of influence. I could get really deep with this answer (and am open to doing so with anyone who is interested) but in the interest in keeping this brief interview just so, I will keep it at that.
Dave: You released Family through Nice People Records. How did you get hooked up with the label? Why did you decide to go with a digital and vinyl only release and forgo releasing the album on CD?
Seth: Nice People took an interest in the band in our earliest stages. They went out on a limb with us, making our full length release their first release, which was also a vinyl release with a digital download. That was huge for us, to have a label see our vision, agree with it and then support it. I personally don’t like CDs. I don’t buy them; I think as a means of conveyance they’re ugly, awkward/ cumbersome. Nice People supported this decision and allowed us to make an LP.
Dave: What on your thoughts on digital versus physical releases for music? Do you think it is better for artists to go digital only or to still produce physical records (on vinyl and CD) for fans?
Seth: To continue on from my previous answer, I will say I prefer the sound and surface area of a vinyl release. It allows the album layout room it needs to breathe and speak its part. We Die-cut, screen-printed, and assembled all of the packaging by hand. So, it was a pretty DIY endeavor. I can’t say that we’ll do it with future releases (due to the almost insurmountable amount of labor involved) but I am quite pleased that we undertook the process for our initial release.
Dave: Do you have a specific songwriting process for the band?
Seth: That’s been a process that’s been ever evolving. Because all of the songs are teeming with layers of parts and melodies, it takes a lot of work to get the songs completed. We’ve mostly narrowed it down to a step system; two of us start working on the skeleton, then bring in a third member, then introduce the whole song to the rest of the members where it then often becomes something with a different personality altogether.
Dave: Have you had the opportunity to tour much outside of the region (OK, TX, KS, etc.)? If so, where have been your favorite places to play? What are your favorite places to play locally and favorite bands to play with?
Seth: We’ve mostly played regionally in the states you’ve mentioned. It’s interesting for me, I’ve been in a few bands that toured nationally but the plain truth is, we’re getting older. We’re a band of best friends that have domestic and fiscal responsibility. So we’re careful with our choice of out of town shows. We had the good fortune of opening for Los Campesinos! of the UK at the Granada Theater last fall. Because we’re all older, I think we are …how can I put this, smarter about how we book our shows. I’ve played endless shows to no one in small Texas, Kansas and Missouri towns when I was younger. I don’t feel like we have to do that. Play less and enjoy it more has been the mantra so far. We really enjoy playing all of the local venues we’ve had the fortune to play at. We always enjoy sharing the stage with Broncho, Riley Jantzen, Legs Dead and Well, and countless others.
Dave: What are your thoughts on the music scene in Oklahoma?
Seth: I’ve been playing shows and been involved in some facet of the Oklahoma music experience since I was a teenager. I am always encouraged by its growth and how the bands continue to help one another. If I had to choose to wag my finger at anything, it would be a sense of entitlement that some people saddle being from Oklahoma. Your expression is its own entity and deserves to stand on its own integrity, not stand on the periphery of another musician’s success.
Dave: This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, TV shows, and books/authors?
Seth: I love/ hate/ love these questions. Hold onto your butt.
(please note that none of these are in any sort of descending/ ascending order)
Bands: 1. Discordance Axis 2. Botch 3. Low 4. White Octave 5. Evangelicals
Albums: 1. Times of Grace—Neurosis 2. Pinkerton—Weezer 3. The Ghost of Tom Joad—Bruce Springsteen 4. Broken Social Scene—You Forgot it in People 5. Jane Doe—Converge
Movies: 1. Chinatown—1974, Polanski 2. The Man Who Wasn’t There—Coen Brothers 2001 3. 2001: A Space Odyssey—1968, Kubrick 4. Dead Man—1994, Jarmusch 5. Jesus’ Son—Maclean
TV Shows: 1. Lost 2. Dexter 3. Walking Dead 4. Friends 5. Mad Men
Books: 1. Windup Bird Chronicles—Murakami 2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being—Kundera 3. My name Is Asher Lev—Potok 4. No Country for Old Men/ The Road—McCarthy (tied) 5. Middlesex—Eugenides
Dave: What’s next for Gentle Ghost?
Seth: Oh, lots. We’re currently working on new tunes for the next record, Are in the midst of tracking for a new 7 inch ep. We’ll be playing a few out of town shows later this summer. I dunno, I guess this band will continue on as long as there is something worth expressing coming out of its well. And that seems like that’s going to continue for a while longer.
Dave: Any final thoughts?
Seth: Thanks Dave for the opportunity. Please respond to this message with your answers to “What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, TV shows, and books/authors?” I love hearing those. Keep up the good work!
Dave: Well since you asked… :o)
Bands (all-time) –
1) ALL; 2) R.E.M.; 3) U2; 4) 7 Seconds; 5) Dropkick Murphys
Bands (current) –
1) Drag the River; 2) Chuck Ragan; 3) The Replacements / Paul Westerberg; 4) The GC5 / Doug McKean; 5) Avail / Tim Barry
Albums (all-time) –
1) Breaking Things by ALL; 2) Rattle & Hum by U2; 3) Out of Time by R.E.M.; 4) Walk Together, Rock Together by 7 Seconds; 5) A Juvenile Product of the Working Class by Swingin’ Utters
Movies (all-time) –
1) The Lord of the Rings trilogy; 2) The Star Wars trilogy (the original one, not that blasphemy Lucas called prequels); 3) Say Anything; 4) The Breakfast Club; 5) Clerks
TV Shows (all-time) –
1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer; 2) Alias; 3) Mystery Science Theater 3000; 4) My So-Called Life; 5) The Vampire Diaries
1) Terry Brooks; 2) Steve Alten; 3) Leslie Simon; 4) Amber Benson; 5) [tie] Michael Scott and Charlaine Harris
Read more of Dave Brown’s interviews and thoughts on his political and culture blog, Oklahoma Lefty.