From Trash Country: The Hungry Ghosts
The Hungry Ghosts are taking over with their slaughterhouse blues and trash country one city at a time in their trusty blue van, The Mothership Fuurthermore, with cans spilling out at gas stations along the way. They're everything we love about rock and roll and will soon be everything you love about rock and roll. With their new 7 inch being released on 4th August, and you can hear it live and in it's full glory at The Crofters Rights, Bristol with Captain Süün and Insomnichord for Bad Luck's next gig. How did The Hungry Ghosts story begin?
The Hungry Ghosts began with Billy Ollis and Joe Joseph writing songs and recording them onto an old tape machine as good cousins should – hating bands and never with the intention of letting these songs about jealous lovers, vengeful ghosts and bodies raised from the dead ever seeing the cold light of day. Eventually we started to play a handful of shows with the reel-to-reel tape machine in place of a drummer and preaching the word of the new genres of Slaughterhouse Blues and Trash Country, but this could only last so long. We moved from rooms above our local record shop to a unit in Digbeth that we call ‘The Mausoleum’ or ‘The Maus’, becoming a full band and having changed the lineup over the past couple of years, we have been blessed to find Emily Doyle, Jay Dyer and Rich Burman to become the gang we always wanted to be.
There’s no doubt a distinctive image and sound surrounding you guys. Is that a conscious thing you work on or just natural from the music and art you surround yourselves by?
It started in a very natural kind of way with Joe and Billy listening to bands like The Gun Club and the Cramps along with old Blues and Country records, we always looked and carried ourselves that way even before the music and we were always going to wind up making trashy Americana. We’d definitely say it has now become more conscious and gives us a very clear map of the territory for the music we make. Putting yourself in a box and framing what you do in that way strangely gives you an enormous amount of creative freedom. Too many options can become oppressive, mixing too many colours can very easily just muddy up the palette and it hopefully means we don’t stray too far off course.
How’s the Birmingham scene?
Our lockup neighbours Black Mekon and Table Scraps are the best. Give them a listen if you don’t already know them.
You’ve been working hard on some new material recently, Lazaro and Amerika sound fucking great. How’s that been?
Thank you. We’re glad you like the new songs. Billy recorded and produced the record and in terms of songwriting it has been a jump off the cliff into new aspects of Americana that we had previously ignored, musically and lyrically. For these two songs we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from gunfighter ballads, trail songs and the music of Ennio Moricone. Moricone as an influence is particularly interesting because his work was all composed and recorded in Rome for the classic Westerns of Sergio Leone. These soundtracks that have become synonymous with the deserts and wide open spaces of the American West combining the sounds of whip cracks and mission bells with 50s Surf guitar sounds, completely unrelated to the music of the time that they evoke, were all made in Italy. That is very interesting to us as a band from Birmingham, England making the music we do. We’ve tried to reflect these influences in the music video for Amerika by making our own four and a half minute Western for which we took notes from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s masterpiece El Topo.
Your artwork is really cool. Who does that?
The posters are all by Joe and are all collaged and painted by hand. The record covers are by our friend and painter Tom De Freston and start life as oil paintings on enormous canvases in his studio in Oxford. You see more of his work at - www.tomdefreston.co.uk. All of our badges, shirts and new Hungry Ghost western bowties are all designed, screen printed and hand made by Joe. Emily has some hand embroidered shirts on the way and some great new designs, keep your eyes open.
What exciting plans do you have for the future?
We have a six song EP on its way which is almost all recorded and which will be out soon. Again, Billy has taken the reins on recording and producing the record. Musically Billy has tried to take things even further to make it sound like everything from garage Tex-Mex to the slow dance at the creepy prom at Creepyville High. In terms of songwriting Joe feels like he’s getting there with being able to sing old man emotional Country songs. It’s definitely a record for lonely hearts, in an unsettling kind of way.
Frank Sinatra once said this about rock and roll, “It smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons.” How would you respond to that?
We would agree with Old Blue Eyes that our take on Rock and Roll is phony and false. Everything we do is completely fake but at the same time entirely honest. We are from the Wild West Midlands and have created our own world of Southern discomfort, but we’ve built our own theatre and a stage on which we can take apart all of the musical formulas, imagery and archetypes of American Blues, Country and Rock and Roll and rearrange them and let them play out to present our own truth. We might be goons but we’re certainly not cretinous - we know exactly what we are doing.
Vinyl or cassette?
Vinyl at home, cassette on the road.
Whiskey or Rum?
Check out The Hungry Ghosts' brand new video for Amerika below and come catch them at the Bad Luck party at Crofters Rights. Cheap tickets can be bought in advance here.