It’s a question that marks the beginning of casual campfire conversation, often escalating into a sleepless night for its participants. It’s also a question that I find fitting for an afternoon with the band The Future of the Ghost. I like to think, sitting in a deserted Nobrow Coffee & Tea, surrounded by band members Will Sartain, Cathy Foy and Tommy Nguyen, that I can evoke some of that campfire excitement. Come on: They, like—yoiks!—have the word “ghost” in their name.
“There’s a ghost in our practice space,” Nguyen says.
“Yeah, Tommy saw a ghost there—some sort of dark shadow,” Foy adds.
Sartain is a skeptical: “I don’t know,” he says, shaking his head. “There aren’t ghosts there.”
A haunted practice space seems right for a band who is trying to shake up old spirits. After the breakup of Stiletto, Foy—who played drums in the all-female Salt Lake City group—called Sartain (of The Tremula and solo fame) to discuss a new band over coffee. Describing her apathy about a music scene that was relatively … er, dead, the two recruited Nguyen (The Rubes) to breathe new life into it. But how does a band subvert a scene that each member’s past band had a part in creating, or, what makes The Future of the Ghost different?
“I want to be a punk band,” Sartain says. “But not in a traditional sense. I want to be interested in society. I think that a lot of bands now are shallow. I want to be in conjunction with the real world and a band that can be amazing on a social level.”
“You have to respect the people who come see shows,” Foy adds. “We can do our part: We want to make more of a dialogue between the band and people who come see us.”
“Will and I have talked about this philosophy of punk,” Foy continues. “I remember the bands I would see five or so years ago, playing at Kilby Court. I didn’t go to be critical, I just wanted to move and be moved. We want to recapture that spirit, the heyday. We want to light a fire under everyone’s ass.”
“I just want to rock,” Nguyen says.
It might sound ambitious, but consider their track records. In just six months, the three have already written half of a second album before they’ve released their first, the scary-good Freak Out. Oh, and they’re also planning a six-month tour.
“We’re definitely ambitious,” Sartain says.
“But we’ve all been in bands since we were 17, and we kind of know the deal,” Foy finishes, referring to her band’s uncanny ability to gel—a chemistry that propels their music. Freak Out combines the professionalism of seasoned musicians with the erratic spontaneity of a band willing to risk everything to save the music they love so much. Mixing the right amount of garage-punk, rock, pop with some dark undertones and socially anxious lyrics, Freak Out could be this year’s most eccentric, self-aware rock album—and a thick slap in the face to all the up-and-comers who sacrifice originality for hipster cred; interesting sound for predictable, slick production (Freak Out is also a completely analog record; no computers were involved). It will indeed light a fire under your ass.
And, whether or not they buy into the whole supernatural world, they have a whole lot of exorcising to do before they can safely deliver Salt Lake City’s music scene from arguable evil.
THE FUTURE OF THE GHOST with Deerhoof @ In the Venue, 219 S. 600 West, Saturday Oct. 6, 7 p.m. All-ages. 24Tix.com cw
The album's other acts include The Books [fronted by Jose Gonzalez], Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, My Brightest Diamond, Kronos Quartet, The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, Grizzly Bear, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beirut, My Morning Jacket, Dave Sitek, Buck 65, The New Pornographers, Yo La Tengo, and others.
"I want to come off as pathetic, grasping yet gratified on every level. That’s the kind person I want to come across as.” nFor all intents and purposes, bassist Cris Kirkwood’s parting words over a telephone conversation should be taken with a heavy heart, seeing how his band The Meat Puppets are the reason shows like Behind the Music exist. Back in the ’80s, the semin...