GHOST BOX ORCHESTRA

12 Apr

GHOST BOX ORCHESTRA

“Not A Ghost-Bloodied Country”

If you’re still looking for a reason to attend Austin Psych Fest 4, the opportunity to see Ghost Box Orchestra should be enough to get your RSVP. Last year, the Boston-based band of multi-instrumental gypsies released a stunning debut album, “The Only Light On.” Immediately appealing in its mixture of half-cracked, haunted drones and surgically-sharp hooks and howls, the largely instrumental “The Only Light On” sees a band setting up camp in a less-than-settled sonic terrain, negotiating aural knife-fights between Morricone and Mudhoney, poised for a future where the lack of law is the law of the land.

If that’s not enough for you, bear in mind that by attending Austin Psych Fest 4, you are putting yourself in the position of becoming introduced to a band that will play Austin Psych Fest 5. At last year’s festival, we found ourselves in friendly conversation with a long-haired fellow who had come down from Boston for the three days. Soon after, he handed us a sampler CD for his band, Ghost Box Orchestra. Just shy of twelve months later, we’re excited to be approaching an Austin Psych Fest 4 with Ghost Box Orchestra on the bill and pleased to present this interview with guitarist, vocalist and long-haired fellow, Jeremy Lassetter.

When it comes to orchestras, how does the Ghost Box compare with, say, the London Philharmonic? How about the Electric Light? Which one would you prefer to collaborate with in the future?

My brain would explode at the chance to work with a full orchestra. Having that many different instruments at my fingertips would be a dream. As someone who loves drone, that moment right before an orchestra goes live: when they are tuning up, hitting the same note, and everyone chimes in on the drone … that long pulse … gets my heart pumping every time.

If one were to describe Ghost Box Orchestra’s sound on the excellent album, “The Only Light On,” as being a mix between Ghost from Tokyo, Japan, and The Box Tops from Memphis, Tennessee, what would your reaction be? Elation, confusion or perhaps consternation?

Hell yes! Ghost is amazing. And I can vividly remember my dad singing “Loooonely days are gone, IIII’mma goin’ home” when the Box Tops came on during cars trips as a kid. “The Letter” really is such an intense, dark, dramatic song. That’s great! I’ll take it!

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When it comes to location, what does the band being from Boston lend to your sound? What does it lend to your personal musical interactions – shows to see, records to hear, people to meet, etc.? The film “This Is Spinal Tap” reminds us, of course, that Boston isn’t a college town.

I’m not sure. I think me being from Texas certainly informs a good amount of the sound. In a way it’s a sound that keeps me from feeling homesick. I think as a music fan, Boston is a great city to be in. The college radio stations here are fantastic and have been very supportive of us. I’ve met some of my heroes here: Thurston Moore, Frank Black, Josh Homme … guys whose records I have absolutely worn out from playing all the time. And as a band we’ve been able to play with and meet some really great bands when they’ve come through. Wooden Shjips, Asteroid #4, Moon Duo, Prince Rama, Spectrum, MV & EE. Hell, our record release show was an after party for the Dead Weather show. It was incredible.

How long will we have to wait before Ghost Box Orchestra covers The Standells’ “Dirty Water”?

Strange things can happen when you’re on tour …

How did Ghost Box Orchestra come to be? Was there an original concept for your music to be largely instrumental, or did it evolve over time?

It started from a handful of home demos of mine. Creaky, front porch stomping, acoustic tunes to try and break a creative block I was having. Very mellow, lazy blues stomp songs that sounded like imagined seances made for the illustrated monsters in children’s books. (specifically, “Where the Wild Things Are”). I wasn’t interested in trying to control the narrative of a song with lyrics, rather let the parts and frequencies just pass through me and plateau out on a vibe.

As a band though, there’s never really been a hard and fast rule about songs being instrumental. We try to treat vocals like any other instrument … if it works and adds to the song then we’ll do it. Mainly, I try to know when to shut the fuck up and not get in the way of a good song.

What are the characteristics of the other members that you feel contribute most to Ghost Box Orchestra’s unique sound?

Chris (guitar) has a great sense and talent for taking a part from ambiance to a wash of shoegaze to sounding dense and huge. He’s a tone surfer. The guy can make anything sound brilliant. Marty is a great drummer and has a natural inclination for arrangements. He innately knows when it’s time to get big and how to bring the song back down, which is amazing during jams. Nazli has the widest range of tones, I think. Mellotron sounds, she can play guitar, percussion, anything you put in front of her, really. Dennis is a scientist when it comes to bass. He can take a simple idea and carve it into an airtight lock between him and the drums. Marty and Dennis definitely have some kind of telepathy going – watching them work out parts is pretty incredible.

How has your own musical experience contributed to the sound of Ghost Box Orchestra? What other bands – if any – have the members written or performed with, coloring the sound of Ghost Box Orchestra?

Well, Marty played in Lockgroove which had a great following. And more recently, both Marty and Dennis played in Broken River Prophet. I think all the guys have played in different projects before.

This is really my first go at a proper band. Previously, I had stuck to home recording and playing with weird tape loops. I’m very accustomed to writing alone and really only ever shared bits of it with close friends. So the experience of interacting with four other people and hearing the songs sound as huge as they do now with the whole band has been very energizing. We are very much writing as a band now, shaping up jams and other drones into new songs … I’m really looking forward to the next record.

At the risk of offense, we’re going to go ahead and assume that you – and the other members of Ghost Box Orchestra – are in fact what are commonly referred to as “record geeks” or “music nerds.” Guilty as charged? Or guilt by association?

Guilty as charged. All of us. You should see the library of records and CDs at each of our houses.

Part of what leads to this conclusion is the knowledge that you traveled from Beantown to the city that keeps it weird for the third Austin Psych Fest. What made you decide to take the trip? What are your memories ?

Well, I’m from Texas and having lived in Austin for awhile, any opportunity to go back is a good one in my book. I love that city dearly. I thought Daughters of the Sun were the standout last year. Great fellas – they put on a mind-blowing show and their records are some of my recent favorites. The Raveonettes performance of “Aly Walk with Me” sounded huge, especially with some of The Black Angels fellas playing tom/snare backups. Hearing the new Black Angels material was a cool surprise. And I remember there was a guy walking around from one of the bands that looked exactly like a young Leon Russell … right off an old album cover … it was jaw dropping how much he actually looked like Leon. I’ll never forget that.

What is the most epic journey you have ever taken for the love of music, either performing or attending, or both?

When I was 19, I couldn’t afford a badge, but I slipped into the conference part of SXSW and talked my way into a session where a panel of “record industry people” would listen to your demos. Tapes, CDs, whatever you had – you threw it in a crate and they’d randomly pick one, listen to a song and give you feedback. It was exhilarating … for one, being a teenager and finagling your way into something like that and two, the feeling of possibility in the air. Thank God they didn’t find my tape!

And now – Ghost Box Orchestra will be a part of Austin Psych Fest 4! What bands are you most excited to see, among the bands that you have not seen before? Who are the “can’t miss” repeat viewing for you?

Tobacco and Black Moth Super Rainbow, Weird Owl, Cloudland Canyon and Daughters of the Sun are all top on my list. And I’ve actually not seen A Place to Bury Strangers yet, so I’m looking forward to catching them.

What’s next for Ghost Box Orchestra?

We have a busy couple months ahead of us. We are playing a few dates with the Curious Mystery (K Records) from Seattle. And then we are headlining night one of the Deep Heaven Now 3 Psych Fest in Boston on April 15th. A week later, we hit the road for a two week tour down to my home state of Texas to play the Austin Psych Fest 4. After that, we’ll tour back home and finish working on some new material to start work on the second record this summer.

Ghost Box Orchestra

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