The Kaje talks “Photographs” to Ghostlight

Al White started working towards the group Ghostlight back in 2008. With the help of close friend Thomas McCann, the group was soon completed and a relocation to London undertaken. Having built up a great live reputation and won many fans over on the internet, Ghostlight are preparing for their release of their debut album. In the meantime, we took a few minutes to ask Al about “Photographs”…

So first things first, how did you all meet?

Well Thomas and I had been good friends since Uni and we had spent some time recording some stuff at home and playing some open mic gigs and that sort of thing. Tom then moved to London and we bumped into Jason when we were getting ready to record our first studio tracks, we hit it off with him immediately and he was such a brilliant sound engineer, producer and guitar player that we just kept coming back to him for help and advice. He then introduced us to his old school friend Patrick who was this amazing drummer, but we weren’t really sure where we were heading at that point musically until my little band SMDGE. was asked to play with Sparklehorse on tour and that was what gave us the excuse to rope Jason and Patrick in full-time.

Ghostlight is an interesting name. How did you come up with it?

To be honest, and this will sound really corny, but I woke up with it in my head one morning. I’d been struggling to think of a new band name and I must admit I go through sporadic bouts of being heavily into researching the paranormal; ghosts, ufos, and things like that. I had spent the night before up until about 5am just trawling through hours of footage on YouTube of sightings and I guess something stuck.

Who would you say have been your shared influences?

It’s funny as collectively there’s very few bands that all four of us love. But I think, I hope, that’s something that can make the tracks a lot more interesting. We each tend to inject our own tastes into proceedings. Occasionally we have to reel one of us back in, but usually it works well. Particularly on the later album material. One night at about 2am during recording the album at Realworld we did make the discovery that all four of us love the first SOULWAX album.

You toured with Sparklehorse after they spotted you on MySpace. What did you take from the experience?

Well that was just a surreal experience in particular for myself as Sparklehorse had been my favourite band for about 13 years at the time. I was cheeky one night and e-mailed him on MySpace to ask if he would be interested in doing some vocals for my electronica project SMDGE. and his manager got back to me saying that he’d played Mark my stuff and he loved it and wanted us to tour with them in the UK. As I said before – we didn’t have a band at that stage so we only had 3 rehearsals and 2 weeks to get ourselves ready! It was a terrifying and exhilarating experience and one that still feels like a dream. It ended up being the birth of Ghostlight though as at the time I had stopped writing indie music and was writing electronica in the vein of The Notwist and Lali Puna but we didn’t have enough material rehearsed for the tour so we ended up playing half and half! After every gig you’d have the people who would come up and say they loved the indie and we should dump the electronica and then vice versa. So that was when we realised we needed to come up with a new name and a fresh start for the indie stuff. It also helped us learn what was sensible to drag onto stage with us and what wasn’t and it gave us a boost of confidence. By the end of the tour we were playing to rooms of about 1000 people when just a few weeks prior Tom and I were still doing acoustic gigs (and Sparklehorse covers I should mention!) to about 20. So it was a pretty steep learning curve. Obviously in light of his tragic and untimely death earlier this year it all seems even more surreal and precious.

How do you think Sparklehorse have helped your career long-term?

As I said, we weren’t actually called Ghostlight at the time so it didn’t help us necessarily in that sort of way. But it was absolutely invaluable as an experience. We learnt so much from technical things to where we should be focusing our efforts and obviously – what the band needed to be.

Clearly the internet has been beneficial career wise. Do you see the internet as the only future for the music industry?

I hope not! Bottom line is that the internet’s a tool and it’s a fantastic one. Up until about a year ago I’d say that everything positive that had happened to me as a musician stemmed from the internet and in particular – MySpace. It’s an incredible way to make the world smaller and help you to get your stuff out there. But on the flip side of that it’s made it even more competitive than it used to be as now everyone and their dog can post their music up online and vie for attention. It makes it so difficult to be noticed. As a form of distributing music sales it’s also incredibly disheartening for a writer as piracy and money aside – it helps create a world where the album no longer matters. People just dip in to grab whatever tracks are most immediate and this is creating an industry that only reacts to albums that are composed of single-style songs. Which isn’t what a record should be about. When you’re pouring blood and sweat and emotion and money into something it’s really painful to see it then pulled apart so it’s rarely judged as you intended it. But it’s an unavoidable space to be in at the moment. Hopefully people will gradually realise that convenience isn’t as important as having something to hold. To relate to. To put on their bookshelf and lend to their friends and to create memories with.

How reliant as a group have you been on the internet?

Like I say, it’s been incredible to us as a tool. Without the internet we’d probably still just be sitting around in our garages playing music for ourselves and our pets. We’re about to try out a bunch of things actually that are internet based. Things that really genuinely interest us and are personality driven. People might hate them and if so then that’s cool, they’ll just ignore it or post something mean on our site. But the important thing is that the internet allows you the possibility to express yourself and see what happens. Sometimes something twigs with others and a connection is made. Even though you’ll probably never hear from them or meet them. And that’s something really special.

Since then you have been in the studio focusing on your debut album. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Sure. Our debut album is called “Somersaults” and it’s out next February. I’m pushing for a 14th release date as that was when I was meant to be born! I wrote about 40 songs for the album and we trawled through them and picked 11 that we all liked and we thought might show some different sides of our styles and personalities but hopefully still work as a coherent album. We recorded 3 of them first at Realworld (“Photographs”, “Fireflies”, and “Mathematics”) and then returned almost a year later to finish them and record the other 8 tracks. When we returned we were in a different place to before and we had a policy to try to be as brave and creative as we wanted to be on these last tracks. I was keen for all of our different personal influences to shine through a little. So there’s touches of everything from The Notwist, The Go Find, to Pavement, The Pixies, Deftones, Mew, Nada Surf, Straylight Run, and even Kate Nash. Of course there’s also some Sparklehorse style production ideas. We always get compared to Snow Patrol and Coldplay and that’s definitely valid. I love both of those bands and admire their abilities greatly. But I think people will be surprised when they listen to the whole album rather than just the initial singles. There’s quite a few flavours on their. I can say that we’re really quite proud of it.

“Photographs” is the lead single off the record. What made you choose it?

This is quite funny actually. We all wanted a different track to be the lead single. All four of us in the band and then also our manager and our pluggers too. So we batted it back and forth for quite some time getting in a few heated conversations until eventually we decided that we’d just put the names of the 5 songs we’d all chosen into a hat and pick one out. We didn’t have a hat at the time though so we used a mug. To our manager’s delight his pick “Photographs” came out. That’s partly why our next single out in January is going to be a double a-side!

Can you recall your inspiration for the song?

A close friend of mine had been in love with a girl for years and years, really doting on her and she was always playing hot and cold with him. It was really painful to watch. Anyways, eventually she ended up running off with his best friend which was a real blow to all of us. Seeing my friend go through the depression of losing both of them, with no warning or explanation really upset me and reminded me of a similar experience I’d had when I was younger. “Photographs” literally just fell out of me. I remember writing it one day and then he came round in the evening and I sat him down and played it to him. He really loved it. He was telling me the other day how surreal it is to have something so personal about him go from being sung to him on acoustic guitar in a living room to now being played on Radio 2. I hope he’s ok with it really!

Last year you decided to allow fans to be in your video, how did you find the experience?

It was great! If a bit of a nightmare to sift through and edit. We just put up an ad on our website and on MySpace and to be honest we didn’t expect anything to come back but we were amazing with how much we got. Although a large percentage of the photos sent were of people out drunk with their friends in a club somewhere having a great time! Which wouldn’t have fit all that well in the video! We also had a few inappropriate ones which was pretty funny. We focused on a few and asked for a couple of the people to do a bunch more for us. It was another example of the benefits of the web. That just wouldn’t have been possible with it or indeed without MySpace. Wow, I sound like their ad agency don’t I?!

Comparisons with other bands are inevitable, so if you could choose who to be compared with, who would you choose?

The Gypsy Kings.

On the same note, what’s the oddest comparison you have ever heard?

Oh we’ve had them all. They all seem odd to me to be honest! Everything from Counting Crows to obscure wonderful little bands like Jr Corduroy. We were compared to The Guillemots which I don’t quite see. Perhaps oddest was when someone came up to me after a gig and said that we really reminded them of The Cure. Which was weird as I was a massive Cure fan throughout my teenage years but they were certain not a band that I’d ever say was either an influence or that could be heard in our stuff. But I love it; the weird comparisons. You write these songs and you record them and play them and in your head they’re a certain way but every single person who hears it hears something different and that’s a fascinating and wonderful thing.

Finally, what can we expect from Ghostlight for the remainder of 2010?

We are up to so much over the next few months it’s ridiculous. We’re just about to go into production on our next two music videos for our double a-side singles “Fireflies” and “Fingerprints” both out in January 2011. They both really different from each other and I’m directing the first one so I’m really nervous and excited about that! We’re about to start doing monthly online gigs which we’ll be advertising all over our MySpace, Facebook and official page so keep checking back for those. We’re revamping our sites a bit and adding loads of cool little secrets and games and stuff. We’re just finishing up recording little ukulele versions of the whole album and we’ll be releasing those one-by-one during the lead up to Christmas and then you’ll be able to get the whole disk of them as a companion to the album if you pre-order it at iTunes or from our store which will be opening soon. We’ll have t-shirts up soon and already have badges and stickers to sell and giveaway at gigs. We also do a movie podcast over at MOVIEMURMURS.COM which we’ll be tying Ghostlight stuff into with some competitions and exclusive giveaways of tracks and videos and odd things like coming to a closed rehearsal. We’re also looking at doing some little videos or possibly live online acoustic gigs at haunted locations around the UK! That’s something I’m pushing for! And of course we’re setting up more gigs around London and are in the midst of trying to organise a mini tour around the UK. Basically just sign up for our twitter, keep visiting our MySpace, official site and listening to our podcasts at MOVIEMURMURS.com and there’ll be loads and loads of stuff going on. Thanks for the interview!

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2 Comments

  1. Salut! Can I quote piece of the information from your blog if I provide a linkback to your website?


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