Holiday Ghosts – In Their Own Words

Rewind back to the start of 2019 and, at that point, Falmouth-based retro rockers Holiday Ghosts were the talk of the town. That was around the release of their excellent second album, West Bay Playroom, an album recorded in band member Sam Stacpoole’s childhood home. It was littered with playful memories and a certain unspoken nostalgia for the way things were. The subsequent two years have been a period of major upheaval for Holiday Ghosts, with changes of band members, record labels and even their home, as they relocated to the comparably huge city of Brighton. The result of all that change is their stunning new album, North Street Air which is coming out this Friday via FatCat Records.

Listening to North Street Air, it is not just the circumstances that have changed for Holiday Ghosts, the band’s sound and outlook also seem to have gone through something of an overhaul. While on previous records they took on predominantly personal topics, on North Street Air they seem to take a wider view, querying the world around them with both a weariness and a knowing sense of humour. Whether Holiday Ghosts are calling out absentee landlords, the near-universal creep of the advertising industry into every aspect of ours lives, or the choking effect capitalism is having on creativity, throughout the album they seem to look out at the world around them and ask if it’s working for their generation or against it.

As well as the wider world, the band’s new home of Brighton is also a key factor in the record’s feel. Even the title, North Street Air, is named after one of the cities busiest shopping streets, with its polluted air and hoards of weird and wonderful human lives being led. While quick to stress they love living in their new home city, the faster pace and more stark interactions they have experienced through city living bring the inequality that is present in the world into sharper focus throughout.

It’s not just thematically but musically that North Street Air feels like an evolution for Holiday Ghosts. While it still nods back to acts like The Velvet Underground or The Kinks, there’s a more modern edge here as well. Throughout the record they dip their toe in a variety of styles, channelling a similarly eclectic array of stomping rock’n’roll thrills to acts like The Goon Sax or the more wonderfully wonky moments of Cate Le Bon’s back catalogue. A particular stand-out is the record’s penultimate track, Glue. The track combines luxurious two-part vocal harmonies with a meandering guitar line which is so effortlessly brilliant, The Wave Pictures would be proud of it.

North Street Air is the sound of Holiday Ghosts growing into their place as one of the UK’s most exciting guitar bands. A gem of a band ready to be discovered by a much bigger audience. Ahead of the album’s release Sam and Kat from the band spent some time answering my questions, discussing recording in a 15th Century Abbey, the sad decline of one of Falmouth’s key creative hubs and the joy of making music.

FTR: For those who don’t know who are Holiday Ghosts?

Sam: We’re good fun, we hope. Just a rockin band trying to do things in our own way at our pace. Kat and Myself (sam) have been the main constituents for a while but we also have Moth Lloyd Matthews and B Spanks in the band right now, and Charlie Murphy in the studio.

FTR: You’re about to release your third LP, North Street Air, what can you tell us about recording it?

Sam: It was recorded in the nick of time before the pandemic hit. So it gave us something to be getting on with from home during the 1st lockdown. That was a massive blessing. It’s another home made job, which we did over a few different spaces between Hove and Cornwall. Some of the tracks: Mr Herandi, 3rd Dream and Making A Fool were carried over from the demo version that we made in Mr Herandi’s property. But most of it was recorded/ re-recorded in an AirBNB in Lelant, Cornwall. A 15th century abbey! You’d think it would be spooky there but it genuinely felt blessed super welcoming. Live-in recording is the best!

FTR: What did you do differently with this record compared to your previous releases?

Sam: The main difference between this and the last record is the personnel I guess. Our second album (West Bay Playroom) was recorded at a time when we had a well honed touring band (feat. Charlie Fairbairn and Ryan Cleave) and we wanted to capture our live sound as a group as raw as possible. This time round it was mostly made between Kat and Myself (sam) layering things up on our own or with our band mate from the 1st album – Charlie Murphy. Much more like the way we made our first album. We were a lot more freed up to try out using new instruments and different ways of starting songs off. May i introduce the Casio DG-1 Digital Guitar.

FTR: This is the first album since you moved from Falmouth to Brighton, what made you make the move? Do you think it has had an influence on this record?

Sam: It was kind of an exodus of a bunch of our mates and us at the time we moved. All 7 of us ended up in the same house. I can’t really speak for everyone here but it felt like my time as a musician in Falmouth had kind of run its course at that point. One of the main reasons for that was the closure of our shared studio “Troubadour” which had kept me hanging on to Falmouth for ages. It was this amazing waterfront warehouse that had been single handedly transformed into a recording studio by the great Chris Gray who is one of the most amazing people i’ve met. You could do anything there! It was almost like a time capsule of how things might have been in the 70s or in the squat punk scene.

This pompous, Etonian, massive cock named Dicken Rogers who runs a shipping company called KLM decided that the other 7 docks he owns across the country wasn’t enough for him and just had to take over one of Falmouth’s best creative hubs. It was really sad to see this whole warf of art spaces , boat workshops, studios and Troubador just closed down with no shits given. I’m pretty sure that due to the nature of Dick’s work, there is literally no way he can even put that old space to use. any way i could ramble on …

Also having been in Falmouth all of my life, it felt like it was important to get some new experiences. shorten those tour drives!

FTR: The album is coming out on FatCat Records, how did that come about?

Sam: We just sent in an email with our album and Alex got back to us! We were thinking it would be really great to get on a label in the town where we were living, because it makes things so much easier with communication and a lot more personal. you know, we can go and sit in the office and have chats / hang out which is great. FatCat has always been a really great label, they have a really diverse rosta which is something I definitely dig. Not saying that’s bad when labels have a unified sound cos that’s useful and cool also but i’ve never really wanted to be jammed in a specific scene. Music is such a vast thing for me. I really don’t have a favourite kind.

FTR: There are themes of societal inequality, and a certain anger about it on this record. Was it a conscious decision to make a record that looked at the wider world?

Sam: Yeah I suppose there are. It wasn’t like, let’s make a concept album but having just made a move to a city, a pretty drastic change in the pace of life is gonna inspire some different thoughts. I’m really glad it had that effect! Myself, I always get triggered to write from real life experiences that I go through and I think it’s always easier to write a song from a feeling of dissatisfaction in a way. i.e the shitty landlord or manipulative boss at work etc. Dunno why this is easier than writing about the joys. I suppose I did get pretty disillusioned by a lot of the things that people do in cities, mainly consumerism, incessant shopping and also it felt pretty overwhelming at times with the sheer volume of people around.

Kat: I do want to make the point that despite the themes on the album, we do really love living in Brighton, but I guess what’s interesting is that we felt a lot more face to face with some of these issues when living in such a fast-paced environment – though they’re not exclusive to cities. I think for me, I’ve grown up in a very political background and a lot of issues of inequality which I write about outside of music naturally seeped in to the songs this time.

Photo by Dinomoves

FTR: Do you think it’s important for musicians to speak out about political issues? Do you worry about the reaction of doing so?

Kat: I don’t ever worry about the reaction of speaking out, no. It’s important to have a stance and be unafraid of voicing it. I also don’t think music has to be a political platform, but I do think it’s important for everyone to engage in politics in some way and be aware of the way our societies function. But that doesn’t have to be expressed through music. I wouldn’t say that our album is overtly political either, though it does touch upon a lot of societal inequalities.

Sam: Music is a really good platform for getting across an idea politically or not and it could be seen as an opportunity in that way to be taken seriously. But I think it’s important for musicians to speak about whatever they want to. Like I said, music is not for one reason or purpose. It does get hella boring and kind of kills a song for me hearing about things such as “I don’t know how I feel” or writing lyrics about songwriting. Though I’m sure I’ve been guilty of both . It’s good to paint a picture or speak about something you do know.

FTR: Who are your influences as songwriters? What were you listening to when you wrote this record?

Kat: I was influenced by a couple of books when I was writing for this album. I wrote the last song on the album after reading The Yellow Wallpaper, and was so moved by it that I wrote it straight after. Even though the book is set in the 19th century, the themes felt so current and deeply personal as well. I was also reading some Virginia Woolf, and her style of writing inspired me to write a song in a stream of consciousness style, which is how ‘Blood Orange’ came about.

Sam: I think i was listening to the “Boys Don’t Cry” album by The Cure a whole lot at the time we wrote this. Some reason it just fitted in with me perfectly at that time. I used to think it was mixed like shit, but actually I was totally wrong it’s got a super refreshing light sound for a rock album.

Seeing the band Terry from Melbourne Australia when we played with them in London definitely made me wanna steer away from the sort of retro vibe that we had been keeping up for a while.

Bob Dylan is my favourite songwriter.

FTR: It’s obviously a strange world to be releasing the album into, how has the pandemic affected your plans?

Sam: Yeah, it’s balls. It’s definitely affected our live touring side of the band. We’d very much like to be doing that but who can say anything else about it?

To be honest, on the band side of things there have been many upsides for us. We managed to score the label in this time, we had an intensive period of songwriting and mixing and demoing. Also we needed to train up a new band which being in a pandemic with no gigs has taken away pressure and allowed for the incubation time for that. We could do a gig now and feel like we’ve been together for years even though we’ve only had 2 gigs so far!

FTR: What’s the best way for people to support musicians at this time?

Sam: Buying stuff on bandcamp? Sending some encouraging fan mail ?

FTR: Once you can get back out on the road, what can people expect from the Holiday Ghosts live show?

Sam: Big wide grins. multi coloured merch tables. New bassist and guitarist.

FTR: Do you have any other creative outlets beyond music?

Sam: I like to paint and draw stuff occasionally. Cooking. I love cooking new dishes.

Kat:I do a lot of drawing and I write a lot – often poems which turn into songs, and also the odd article about things I feel strongly about. I also have a knack for propagating house-plants, our living room is slowly turning into a jungle. I’ve also very recently taken up surfing, Sam’s doing his best to teach me how to balance.

FTR: What are your ambitions for this record? Is music still a viable career?

Sam: Being in a band is kind of a different thing from a career. It takes up as much time as a career and effort but the rewards are different. Your kind of in it for the satisfaction it comes with. it’s very fun. A lot of people would say no it’s not a viable career but that depends what you want from life. having very little money to show from something like this is kind of besides the point. My ambitions for records are always just to finish them and be happy with them. which I am. The rest is a bonus.

FTR: What’s next for Holiday Ghosts?

Sam: Keep on Rockin in the free world? We’re gonna make loads more music. Writing stuff at the moment.

North Street Air is out May 21st via FatCat Records. For more information on Holiday Ghosts visit https://www.facebook.com/holidayghostsfalmouth.

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