Cambridge/London based band Ghostlight return on Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2011 with two brand new sparkling tracks ‘Morning Lights’ and ‘Fingerprints’, taken from their forthcoming album ‘Somersaults’. that will be released on March 7th.
Lead singer and songwriter Al White answer some questions about the band and the new release.
For anyone who doesn’t know Ghostlight, give us a little background:
Ghostlight started off as myself and my Uni friend Tom McCann just being self-indulgent really and recording some tracks and playing some gigs under a different name. We met Jason, our guitarist, in the studio where he engineered and helped produce our first independent recordings and then in time he introduced us to his friend Pat who’s our drummer. We did lots of recordings and a little tour together and afterwards decided to start up a new, more focused band and to give it our all. We’re completely self-financed and really love to do everything ourselves from producing the tracks, to making the ads, websites, covers, directing the music videos and even editing them. It doesn’t always turn out the way you might want but it’s important to us to get to experiment and to have that freedom. We released our first single in 2009 and then went off and recorded the album last year which is out on March 7th 2011.
How long have you been involved with writing & performing music?
Well it sounds so cheesy, but personally I’ve always written music, ever since I was a little kid. I used to go to sleep singing songs to myself that I was just making up as I went along, which was probably quite irritating for my parents. I joined my first band when I was about 16 and then started up my own one when I was 17. We were called Broken and used to do some acoustic gigs around my hometown Cambridge. Then when I went to Film college and met Tom – that was when we started performing properly, doing open mics and setting up gigs at local venues. It’s been a long process that’s for sure!
How would you describe your sound?
Agh! A trick question I’m sure! Well, in all honesty there’s obviously some heavy influences of mainstream widescreen indie in there – plenty of Coldplay and Snow Patrol and such. But hopefully if people take the time to listen to the production we did and the non-single tracks on the album then they will hear a wide eclectic range of styles and flavours. It was really important to me to try to squeeze in as many of the styles of music that I love onto the record and we all worked really hard to make it a real treat for the ears if listen out for the little moments with headphones on. But at the end of the day – I guess I hope we just sound like us. We’re always trying to walk the line between homegrown and honest and bandy and then something more professional and beautiful and enriched with production. I’m not sure we’re there yet but we’ll get there!
What is your creative process when writing songs as a band? Does everyone have their own specific role?
We try out plenty of different ways. I always write the song first on acoustic guitar or piano but then it can go a number of different ways. A lot of this album I did full demos for with guitars and bass and production and programmed drums etc, but it’s merely done to show the guys what was roughly in my head. Then we throw it all away and they interpret it their own way or completely scrap it and come up with something a million times better. It’s the most exciting time for me – when I write something at home and bring it to the band and they just do their own thing with it and make it so much better than I had ever imagined. They’re all a hell of a lot more talented musicians than I am so it’s really a gratifying process. When it comes to recording it’s a bit different – we tend to do half the recording in a great studio and then Jason and I take it all home for a few weeks / months and brainstorm it all day and night until it’s done.
Do you enjoy performing live? How do you know when you’ve had a good gig? Any memorable live experiences you could tell us about?
Yeah we love performing live of course, there’s nothing like the immediacy of seeing a crowd of people hearing your stuff for the first time and when they’re enjoying it, or knowing that people have actually left their homes to travel to see you play. It’s quite humbling. Personally I always feel more at home when recording, that’s the process I enjoy the most, but live shows are the bones to a band – if you can’t play live then it’s all for nothing. It’s always hard to tell when you’ve had a good gig or not though – there’s been plenty where we thought it went horrifically but everyone came buzzing up to us afterwards saying it was our best yet. It’s always a different gig on stage to off stage that’s for sure.
What the best piece of praise you’ve received so far?
Wow, that’s a tough question! Oddly for me it’s less been the praise and more the little things from the people I respect that have meant the most to me. Such as when the now very sadly late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse asked me personally to do a UK tour with him – that meant everything to me. Or when Cenzo Townshend said he wanted to mix our album – that was a great moment. I remember when we took him the last song on the album to mix – PRIMER; it was my personal favourite song and it culminates in a big choir of voices made up purely by our friends. We wanted it to be as raw and honest as possible and not to sound professional but when we were sitting there in his studio and he’s all quiet and we’re playing it to him for the first time I started to get really panicky thinking ‘This isn’t good, we’ve just brought one of the greatest mixers in the world a track with a bunch of our friends singing very loosely, and fairly out of tune on it and we’re going to ask him to mix it, this isn’t good!’ But he absolutely loved it. That kind of commendation – from people you respect is the greatest praise of all. Knowing that they look at you and think you’re worth spending time with means everything.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
It’s happening right now – crawling uphill in a market that’s just crumbling around us day-by-day. The music industry is in such turmoil it’s genuinely terrifying and deeply sad. I love the online world and I’m happy things are so easy for consumers these days but when it means no-one listens to whole albums anymore and great bands and labels are collapsing due to piracy and the only way to really make any money anymore is through films, games and advertising – it’s a sad day for musicians. I really hope people will start to realise soon that their tiny actions affect entire industries and I hope fans will begin to appreciate the whole interaction and relationship that the public can have with an album and its artwork and its physicality once more. Being independent offers so much freedom but it’s an incredibly hard job to do and it’s a real challenge to keep holding onto it each day.
What kind of music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
As a band our tastes are incredibly diverse so I won’t try to vouch for the others. I love all types of music. There’s not really any genre that doesn’t have something to give but some of my very favourite bands are Sparklehorse, The Notwist, Loney Dear, Wheat, Johnny Foreigner, Coldplay, Why?, anything released on Erased Tapes label, oh and I’m really, really into Darwin Deez these days. I’ve actually done a whole album under the name Bloodied Wolves influenced by his style, which will be out later in the year.
How do you promote your music?
Any way we can! The problem is that people don’t seem to realise that whatever a movie costs these days to make, or an album – the marketing costs so much more. So when you see the budget for something you don’t really realise that the majority of that money was spent on advertising. Being independent means we can’t afford that which causes problems because there’s no point making something if you then have no way of telling people about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s dreadful or the best thing in the world – no-one will notice either way unless you can somehow get it into their heads and hands. Online is obviously a big thing – you just try to point as many people in the right directions as possible. Videos are hard too as there are just so many these days, so we decided to just make sure each of our videos is completely different from the last one and each one embraces the fact that we’re independent and can’t afford to make big glossy videos. Other than that it’s mostly radio and reviews. Nothing can help more than someone just talking about you on one of those mediums and helping to spread the word.
You’re releasing your new album in March; what can you tell us about it?
The album is called SOMERSAULTS and is 11 tracks long. The title is down to the giddy, tumultuous feeling of falling love and the heady highs and scraping lows that can bring with it. The album talks a lot about the different stages of longing and desperation and of course – unrequited love. We recorded all the main instruments over an amazing 10 days at Peter Gabriel’s studio at Realworld and then brought it home for a few months to work on before Cenzo mixed it for us. As I said – we really tried to stuff it with as many little audio treasures as possible so I hope people will have a listen with headphones on if they can. There’s also a few different styles on different tracks that catch some people by surprise. But we just wanted to do what made us happy so at the end of the day we have an album that we would like to listen to and are proud of at the very least which I think we’ve done.
And lastly, in addition to your new album; what’s the plan for 2011?
The plan is to set up a little tour or two around April / May and to then have our next single 6 YEARS LATER come out in late April. We have a pretty amazing video being made for that as we speak which I’m excited about! Then we want to go back into the studio to record a single called ANIMALS, which we will release in August for a charity to help save tigers. Then we’d love to get the opportunity to be back in the studio in November / December to record our second album for release in 2012 – we’ve got about 50 songs to try out and pick from so we’re incredibly eager to try some new styles and angles with the band. But it all depends on how well this debut album does really and the singles surrounding it – so we’ll just have to wait and see I guess! Just keep checking our website at WWW.GHOSTLIGHTTHEBAND.COM to keep up to date, we have a great little video called We Are Ghostlight on the front page that plays out little preview clips from every track of the album alongside video footage. And follow our twitter at WWW.TWITTER.COM/GHOSTLIGHTMUSIC for the latest info on the band.
Thanks so much for the interview!