Time For A Spring Clean: An Interview With Ghosting Season
Simon Jay Catling
, June 14th, 2011 06:05
Simon Jay Catling talks to the duo formerly known as worriedaboutsatan about their new project Ghosting Season
"We're not bothering watching any of Live At Leeds this year," says Gavin Miller, one half of Ghosting Season (formerly worriedaboutsatan.) I'm meeting him and his band mate Thomas Ragdale on a sunny Leeds day just across the road from where this year's northern all-day venue crawl is about to begin, at Leeds Metropolitan University. It's an oddly appropriate time to meet; as I discover later in the day, the city is teeming with enthusiastic but slightly limited 90s-indebted grungey scuzz, four-pieces who take the airbrushed linearity of rock heritage as staple and seek to inject fresh blood into it. Which is fine, of course, but my subjects exist on a wholly different plain; and when you've persevered in the area for some five years, have crafted something that evokes such nocturnal beauty and graceful poise as the pair's 2009 debut album Arrivals, yet still find it a struggle to muster up so much as a support slot in the place you should be calling home, then it's clearly time for a change.
That change has led to Ghosting Season: same musicians, same equipment, same creative processes... and yet a different result. Whereas worriedaboutsatan's material moved stealthily in the dark, creeping up on its listener unannounced before unfurling itself in dark waves of great sound, Ghosting Season adds a more defined rhythmical palette and - if the washes of beguiling textures emanating from debut track 'Far End Of The Graveyard' are anything to go by - seeks to find light amongst the black, its techno-based foundations acting as a propellant from which the pair seek to move in wholly more euphoric circles. Since forming in 2006 there's always been a hint of the outsider to Ragdale and Miller. But while Ghosting Season isn't exactly an attempt to push themselves into the fold, it is a bolder sound, something that seems to have a greater sense of clarity. Not that the pair's transformation is entirely black and white; indeed, with worriedaboutsatan plans still afoot as well, The Quietus has to ask – just who are we introducing here?
So chaps, Escape Velocity tends to sees us reaching out and covering an artist for the first time. Until a few weeks ago we were going to be talking to worriedaboutsatan, but now you're the wholly different Ghosting Season! So, who are you and what's brought on the change?
Thomas Ragdale: We're Ghosting Season for the time being, I suppose. We wrote an album as worriedaboutsatan and had a listen back to it in full after it was mastered, and thought we'd done something different. It was kind of an accident; it wasn't worriedaboutsatan, but it was still good and we wanted to do something with it. So we just thought, why not do it as a different band? It was just dancier, less ambient and brighter, so we thought we'd start something fresh.
Gavin Miller: I think it was good to start again as well.
You've been worriedaboutsatan for about five years, did you feel the need to change?
GM: It's just been quite cool to drop some of the baggage that 'satan brought with it, [because] a lot of people put us in with another music scene just because of our name. They had pre-conceptions of us being goths or Christians or something, so it was cool to strip that back and pick something a bit more sensible. It's been good though. We were worried that having released a load of worriedaboutsatan stuff then switching to this people might think it was ridiculous - so far, most people have been on board with it, though.
What heralded the change in musical direction?
TR: I've been going to different places, different kinds of gigs and seeing people like Moderat and that sort of crossover between band and club act. Their sets are really seamless without being repetitive. We've seen people like Mount Kimbie and Walls, and I think people are ready for that sort of crossover now.
GM: When we were working on Arrivals in 2008 there weren't – without blowing my own horn or anything – a lot of bands doing the whole live electronic thing. Your Pantha Du Princes and Gold Pandas hadn't really taken off on the 'indie band' circuit, I guess. We were wondering where to go and what to do with ourselves, because we were stuck in the middle a bit.
I've seen you in support slots a number of times and that time of evening just didn't fit the music you were making as well – was it hard to portray yourselves live in such situations?
GM: The background we've come from is a rock guitar-based thing. We used to play in rock bands but then did a glitchy post-rock thing, and we've slowly moved onto this new electronica techno stuff – and it is late night stuff, it's not really 8pm in the evening, yet when we started it was perfect. It was just one of those things.
TR: We played with Shackleton at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester and that was a late one. It definitely made us realise that that's what we wanted to do. And it made us decide we want to move to Manchester as well.
GM: In Manchester we can be main support for Shackleton - in Leeds we can't even get a gig, so we thought we might as well move.
Why is there that struggle in Leeds, do you think?
GM: I think the scene here is a lot different to us. A lot of the more experimental and electronica stuff has moved away so a big percentage of what comes through here is your likes of Brew Records and your Pulled Apart By Horses. I guess they're more up for it here than anywhere else, which is perfectly fine, but it's just not what we're doing.
TR: It's just the way it's going. We've been here for five years and I think we've done all we can in Leeds. We don't feel like we're being pushed out, we just feel like we want to try something different.
Sonic differences apart, is there any way that you can separate Ghosting Season completely from worriedaboutsatan live?
TR: Well it's the same equipment. It's us two, we've visuals – different from 'satan, but still visuals – and we look the same. Our presence is the same, it's just sonically we've changed it, and because of that we're playing different nights. We're being asked to do ones we'd never get to do as worriedaboutsatan. We've been asked to do some club shows and those guys would never have heard our other stuff.
You've got an EP to come under your new name as well, tell me a bit about that...
TR: It's four tracks, the lead track's already on Soundcloud, we've got one interlude and then two more beefy tracks.
GM: We're excited. If we'd just said to people 'Oh a new 'satan EP's coming out,' they would've gone 'oh, that's cool.' But now it's a new band and a new feel, it just feels like it's made more of an impact - like it's fallen into place a bit more.
To play devil's advocate a bit, what would you say to people who say there's a cynical nature behind the name change? That it's an attempt to maybe change your image in order to get greater exposure out of it?
TR: We've had that; it's caused some confusion and people asking us why we've done it, but we're planning on starting another band and more on top...
GM: I don't understand why people would really be against it, it's different music and it's just good to have a fresh start. It's nothing new, even Caribou changed his name. I don't think we saw it as a massively big deal. I just thought it was nice to strip away some of the more negative stuff, especially with the pre-conception stuff and people lumping us in with things we sounded like nothing like - people weren't checking us out as a result. It was like a spring clean, stripping out all the baggage and starting again.
What made you move away from more conventional rock music? Did you find it limiting?
TR: It was quite a natural thing.
GM: We're both very restless with music. We get bored easily with genres or scenes or whatever and wanted to look at other stuff, so we got into like electronica and more techno stuff. We didn't really want to be doing metal riffs anymore, like 65daysofstatic stuff, and that grew into Arrivals. We just became exposed to different types of music.
Do you think that sort of reinvention helps keep you together as writing partners?
GM: Yeah, we still love rock though.
TR: But do we have a desire to lug a bass cab up and down the stairs? I'd rather just press 'play the bass!' I think straight rock bands are OK, but you need to be doing something really good for it to work – Pulled Apart By Horses go crazy on stage, but it's only that energy that makes them a good rock band.
With regards your own show, how do you react to some people's notion that a laptop on stage sets a barrier between audience and crowd? Do you try and compensate for that?
TR: We always try to have the laptop screen facing the crowd so everyone can see what we're doing. And we've got drum pads and guitars, we're not looking at the screen really. We do press play and the set runs but we have control over the sounds, and I hope people can see what we're doing.
GM: I think there's a lot of resistance to seeing electronica live, because in the past it has been just one person looking like they're checking their emails or something. People doing it need to realise that if it's in a live environment it's completely different, and you have to engage with an aspect of it and it make worth going out to watch. If you are just stood there tapping your keyboard, it does create a barrier.
How long do you envisage Ghosting Season lasting for?
TR: [Jokes] About a month. As soon as the EP's out that's it, forget it. We've an album coming out winter time, so at least six months. No, as long as possible I hope. We've already started another band too.
Haha… which will differ again?
TR: It's going to have no real instrumentation; it's going to be beefy, purely industrial. But we've got 'satan plans as well, haven't we? We've got an album with that.
So you're not canning it completely?
GM: No, I think we'll have to put it on the back burner this year whilst Ghosting Season's going, but hopefully next year that album will see the light of day.
Do you feel a clear switch of perspective as you move within each group?
GM: I think when you're making songs you feel where they're going, they either head towards one direction or another. If there was a tune that straddled both them then … I guess you'd have to flip a coin.
TR: We should do a remix album, Ghosting Season remixing worriedaboutsatan.
GM: Or maybe we'll just do another band and do a mashup album of both...