Ghost Guilt are built around the songwriting duo of Cat Black, shouts and keys, and Jonny, guitars. They’re joined by drummer Ellie and bassist, Andrew “Stevo” Stephenson, also of Pale Kids and T-Shirt Weather.
Cathartic, no-nonsense, high-octane DIY-punk. It’s tempting of course to throw out comparisons to fellow North-East-punkers Martha or T-Shirt Weather, but like most bands their influences probably stretch beyond just their mates. There are certainly nods on Ghost Guilt’s debut EP to the energy of The Undertones and the pragmatic anger of The Lovely Eggs.
Ghost Guilt are from the somewhat surprising heart of the UK DIY-Punk scene, Durham. With a population of just under 50,000, Durham is perhaps most famous for its 11th century castle and Normal cathedral, together designated as a UNESCO world heritage site back in 1986. There are numerous famous Dunelmians, as well as many more people who passed through its world-renowned university, famous musical residents have included Prefab Sprout founder Paddy McAloon, legendary producer Trevor Horn and inspiration for numerous warmongering songs, Tony Blair.
Ghost Guilt only formed at the very end of 2016, and are releasing their four-track debut, EP1, this week on Frux Tapes.
Like a lot of great art, Ghost Guilt’s music comes from a place of very raw introspection. Christmas 2016, singer Cat Black found herself slipping back into a depression she thought she had seen the back of, “I found myself regressing into a nasty depression with anxiety & obsessive thoughts. I was devastated after a relatively successful recovery through CBT for some very deep rooted depression/anxiety a few years previous”. Cat’s decision with how to deal with these issues was to attempt to find some positives in writing, as she, “decided I would try to write everything down or document the things/events that had lead up to the point where I sought professional help.”
The result of that was the birth of Ghost Guilt. Cat’s partner Jonny is a regular on the Durham scene, a promoter, record label boss and bassist, Cat, “inspired by all the amazing women in bands that I saw”, approached Jonny and they decided to start putting Cat’s words to music. Initially they thought it might be a one-off show, but after recruiting Ellie, the girlfriend of an old roller-derby acquaintance, it all went a bit better than expected, and thankfully they stuck at it.
Their debut EP, recorded at Rocking Horse Studios in Durham, might be just four tracks long, but it manages to deliver a hefty slab of energy and emotion. Lead off track, Billy Liar, instantly sets the scene, unashamedly rambunctious, it always walks just the right side of chaotic. The vocal interplay is superb as they weave in and out of the lead role and recount the tail of the song’s protagonist and his dark web of secrets, “Billy Liar, Billy Liar, there’s no smoke without a fire, Billy Liar, Billy Liar, you left a trail with your service provider”.
Elsewhere, Creepy is a tale of odd balls who sit next to you on the bus and abusive older men, infused with an anarchic almost playful rage, courtesy of it’s almost childlike keyboard sound, while closing track This Girl Can’t leaves the record on a melancholy ending. From a minimal intro it explodes into life, as Cat recalls her struggles with depression and self-doubt, repeating the chorus line, “the counsellor said be your own best friend, but my head won’t mend I’m my worst best friend”.
Probably the finest moment here is Heavy Weather, displaying some Sauna Youth-like art-grunge leanings, the track serves as a pre-warning to any potential romantic suitors, “don’t walk with me, I’m heavy weather”. It explores social anxiety, feelings of not being able to fix your mental health issues, and the ever-present worry that you’ll be a burden on the ones you love. Honest, sincere and for a sub-three minute punk song, a little bit heartbreaking.
Perhaps Cat sums up the great joy of the band best, “Ghost Guilt has been such a positive place for me, I never thought I would have the courage to stand up and scream everything out in front of people!”
If you don’t like energetic, danceable punk, then Ghost Guilt probably aren’t going to convert you to the cause; but if, like any sensible person, you do like energetic, danceable punk, then this a thrilling introduction with enough new ideas and fresh energy to get us very excited about where they’re going next.