Quite possibly the best band to ever come out of Falmouth, PNKSLM Recordings signed quartet, Holiday Ghosts are set to return this week with the release of their second album, West Bay Playroom. The record was created following, and in some ways inspired by, the closure of their former musical base, Troubadour Studios. The studio’s sad demise saw the band relocate to the childhood home of band member Sam Stacpoole, in nearby Maenporth. The band took to Sam’s childhood playroom, cobbled together their own recording set-up, and set about a making a record with the complete autonomy that only a home studio can provide.
The setting seems fitting for the record it produced, there’s a playfulness and primitiveness to the songs that the three different songwriters in the band have brought to the album. Discussing the process, the band have suggested they all take contrasting approaches to songwriting; whether that’s gazing inward or tackling world issues, getting the music perfect before starting the words or creating musical moods to match what they’re trying to say. The approach of everyone contributing also gives the record a charmingly ramshackle quality. Without ever disrupting the flow of the record, the tracks are always capable of shooting off on a musical perpendicular; as with musical contemporaries like Terry or Imaginary Tricks, there’s a magpie like collation of the best bits of music’s past.
The diversity of the sound is evident throughout; recent single, Just A Feeling has a bar-room country swing, Booksmart a flamenco flourish, Slipstream a surf-y strut. The whole record is held together by the consistency of the energy they wring from the tracks, the manifold ideas held together by the lo-fi production and constant sense of joyous creativity. There’s a certain retro feel to some of the tracks, yet it never trips over into pastiche; the bluesy B.S. Porsche shows a genuine love of the genre, like those delightful early White Stripes records, the cinematic Cobra feels lifted straight out of the 1960’s, yet has a winning freshness. West Bay Playroom is a huge step forward for Holiday Ghosts, a band embracing creativity, putting their own spin on the multifaceted beat that is rock’n’roll, and, by the sound of it, having a great time doing it.
Today ahead of that release we talk to Sam from the band about Falmouth, sharing 45s with Rockabilly DJ’s and why he think the MP3 player needs to make a comeback.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Holiday Ghosts?
Katja Rackin, Charlie Fairbairn, Ryan Cleave and me Samuel Stacpoole. Four keen ping pong players who enjoy a bit of rollerblading with a side of ramen.
FTR: Your new album, West Bay Playroom is out next week, what can you tell us about recording it?
I recorded this album mainly at home in the West Bay Playroom. For this record I set the Microphones with some distance to try to capture the sound and feel of that room. We recorded the majority of it live without vocals all together with no isolation, then layering vocal parts afterwards. The reason for choosing this style of recording was that Holiday Ghosts’ sound was born in that room, numerous different lineups over the years, always sounded best when we practiced there. There is only one track “the Dodger” which was recorded live in Troubador Studio (my second spiritual home) before it was sadly shut down.
FTR: The album’s coming out via PNKSLM Recordings, how did that come about?
PNKSLM put out our first album in 2017 after seeing us play a gig in The Old Blue Last in London. We were real pleased with the way they released our last so it was a natural thing to ask again.
FTR: It’s only been 18 months since your debut album, were you conscious of wanting to get more music out quickly?
Yes , we are very keen to not leave too long for new music to come out. Mainly because, there are 3 song writers in the band, we write at a very fast rate and if we don’t get our music released as quickly as possible, we end up playing a bunch of unheard of songs at every show because they are what is most exciting to us to play. It’s important to play songs that people already know live, but it is much more exciting for us to try out new stuff.
FTR: Your sound could be described as quite retro, was that a deliberate creative decision, or just something that came naturally?
I agree that we sound pretty retro. The recording gear I use is almost all retro, our instruments are all old and i think we all mostly listen to music that is at least 20 years old. This stuff all informs us. It is not however a conscious decision to sound retro, i am not against sounding Futuristic. We just do what comes natural and try not to think too hard about direction.
FTR: We’ve not featured many bands from Falmouth before, what’s the music scene like there? Any bands we should be looking out for?
Falmouth is a bloody great place. I think the reason that it is so good for doing music and making a band is that it’s a really small place with not a huge amount going on. I think this really inspires creativity, whether it be music or any other form of art. The place is full of artists. It’s also a very beautiful place naturally which is good for the creative mind. Also you don’t get a hell of a lot of touring bands coming down, so the bands that live there can build their own scene very easily by just playing all the time. It’s such a fun place to be.
In terms of music people to look out for from around there, you get a lot of Uni bands coming down in cycles every 3 or so years, they get so numerous I actually find it hard to remember who they are after 27 years of living there. My all time favourite musician in Falmouth is Charlie Murphy. He has made about 15 bands from Falmouth including Red Cords, Planet Jazz, Murph and the Gazorpos, M. Rutt… the list goes on but its PUNK PUNK PUNK. currently he is in the band “Internal Credit” which just released their first EP which is most excellent. Alongside running his own website “Monitor Shocks” which gives him an excuse to make as many new aliases as he wants under that one umbrella website. He is relentless and getting better and better daily.
FTR: What are your aspirations for Holiday Ghosts? Do you see music as a viable career?
We’re just happy to continue making our own records and for them to reach larger and larger audiences would be a great thing. We’d like it to remain being as fun as it is for as long as possible.
FTR: Who are your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote West Bay Playroom?
Our influences are pretty diverse between the 4 of us. Speaking for myself, at the time of making this album I was listening to a lot of Jazz and things like Alex Chilton, R. Stevie Moore, The Kinks, Chain and the Gang, i’m always very into whatever Tim Presley is up to. Also at the time of making this i was hanging out a lot with Big Vern Burns who is a great rockabilly DJ , he gave me a load of mixes of 45s that i heavily indulged in for a while.
FTR: Why do you make music? Do you have any other creatives outlets?
The actual reason i personally make music is kind of unknown to me. It is something that i just feel very urgent about. besides eating , sleeping and personal relations, it’s almost all that is important to me. the other members of the band have other creative outlets aswell , Kat is an illustrator, Charlie is a videographer, and Ryan takes photos.
FTR: The album’s obviously coming out on vinyl, are you attached to physical formats? Do you see streaming as a good thing or a bad thing for the music industry?
I am attached to physical formats yes. It’s great to have your music out on a big ol’ record, and have to fill the space with art and such. Also it gives the real fans a commodity that sets them a cut above. I hope that new records last as well as the old ones because it also makes a really good way of buying old stuff cheap. Digging through piles in record stores is much more preferable to me than a blank search bar on a macbook pro.
Streaming is definitely a positive thing for obvious reasons. I much prefer though, downloading music and putting it on an IPOD rather than having spotify on a phone. MP3 players need to come back in, you wouldn’t waste so much smartphone battery life and memory if you still had that dedicated device. Also you can then have access to your old catalogue a lot easier.
FTR: We read you all shared song-writing, do you ever write songs for each other to sing? Or do you stick to your own?
Normally we just sing lead on the songs that we write individually. Recently Kat and I have been both singing at the same time on a lot of stuff. I think I am gonna sing a couple of Charlie Murphy’s numbers from when he was in the band next time round.
FTR: What’s next for Holiday Ghosts?
We are heading out on tour around the UK in March , going all the way up to Scotland which is always exciting. Then we will continue writing and recording new material!
West Bay Playroom is out February 15th via PNKSLM Recordings. Click HERE for more information on Holiday Ghosts.