Ghost Light

Fri Nov 22 2019

9:00 PM (Doors 8:30 PM)

The Independent

628 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117

$18 ADV - $20 DOOR

Ages 21+

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Ghost Light

  • Ghost Light

    Ghost Light

    Jam Bands

    “I think of this album like a bunch of abstract paintings,” says Ghost Light’s Tom Hamilton. “We present the songs as a series meant to be experienced in a certain order, but at the end of the day, whatever that series makes you feel is totally up to you.”

    In that sense, Ghost Light’s brilliant debut album, ‘Best Kept Secrets,’ functions much like the band itself, drawing beauty and strength from both its complementary pairings and its unexpected juxtapositions. Formed in 2017, the group brings together five consummately talented artists from across the musical spectrum—guitarists/singers Tom Hamilton and Raina Mullen, pianist Holly Bowling, and drummer Scotty Zwang—and thrusts them into a wholly new context. The result is a record that transcends the sonic contributions and background of any single member, a collection that’s at once gritty and refined, sprawling and restrained, straightforward and psychedelic.

    “When we started this band, all I wanted to do was make the most original sounding music we could possibly come up with,” says Mullen. “Everyone’s tastes and histories were so different from each other that I was really excited to see where the five of us could go as a group.”

    Hamilton and Mullen began writing the core of the album in the spring of 2017, focusing solely on instrumental arrangements at first as they chased new sounds and experiences with a little bit of chemical assistance.

    “We wanted to see what would happen if we opened up some new creative doors, so we got a whole bunch of LSD,” remembers Hamilton with a laugh. “Twice a week for a few months, Raina and I would eat acid and just work in the studio all night.”

    The songs they wrote during those sessions were epic and immersive, influenced by a broad array of stimuli from the tense American political atmosphere to classic cinema. They drew on seemingly incongruous influences ("What would it sound like if Sufjan Stevens made a Soundgarden album?") and composed with a filmmakers’ eye, scoring the dynamic scenes in their heads with vivid detail and deep emotion. While many of the tracks would ultimately end up being fleshed out with lyrics, several tunes remained fixed as instrumentals even on the finished album.

    “I wanted to approach creating our own world the way a director would,” explains Hamilton. “Most of the songs have lyrics and those are sort of like the dialogue in a film, but in between those moments, you have these instrumental tracks, which are like long, lingering landscape shots. Those are just as important to telling the story because they’re all about context and understanding your surroundings.”

    One at a time, the rest of the band began visiting Hamilton and Mullen to delve into the process of fleshing out those early demos. Lyons and Zwang developed bass and drum parts, respectively, and Bowling brought some of her own compositions to the table in addition to contributing keyboard arrangements. The process of artistic cross-pollination proved to be a rich one, and it helped break new ground for all involved.

    “It was kind of like working with a new medium or a new palette of paints and starting to figure out how the medium works and what it can do,” explains Bowling. “Our understanding of each other as musicians and what we each bring to the band was falling into place at the same time each of these songs were taking shape.”

    With a vision for the album coming into focus, the band headed into the studio in the fall to begin official recording sessions, working out of a 4,000 square foot former Chrysler factory in Philadelphia. The sessions marked the first time all five members had ever been in the same room together, and they leaned into the spontaneity of it, setting up in a large circle to record everything live.

     “We were chasing something perfectly imperfect,” explains Mullen. “I’ve always believed that the imperfections in any recording are what make it real.”

    “You look at the classic recordings that stand the test of time, and they’re all about the band,” adds Hamilton, who produced ‘Best Kept Secrets.’ “It’s that human element that makes you feel what you feel when you’re listening. There’s a vibe and a mojo you can only get from musicians being present in the moment, creating together and reacting to each other.”

    The record opens with the eerie “Elegy,” a scene-setting instrumental tune that experiments with classical guitars and orchestral production underneath a haunting, wordless melody. It’s a bold way to begin an album in this oversaturated age of digital streaming and diminished attention spans, but that’s what makes it such an ideal introduction into the ambitious world of Ghost Light. The music commands your concentration and swallows you whole. The rousing “Don’t Come Apart Just Yet, My Dear” twists and turns through unexpected changes as it flirts with arena-ready classic rock before giving way to Allman Brothers guitarmonies, while the stirring “Diamond Eyes” hints at Fleetwod Mac with its infectious chorus, and the intricate blend of traditional and progressive on “Isosceles” traffics in shades of Fairport Convention. Songs often find Hamilton and Mullen trading off verses only to come together on the chorus, offering up multiple perspectives within the same track.

    “We wanted to embrace that duality,” explains Hamilton. “We’d cut our vocal takes at the same time in the same room so we could feed off of each other’s energy.”

    That devotion to reading each other’s energy is central to the band’s identity. While much of their album is laser focused and airtight, the group’s live shows are a far looser affair, with songs frequently blossoming into extended improvisational journeys dictated by the emotional temperature of the room on any given night. Performances turn into wordless conversations between all five members, a tide-like give-and-take that makes each show wholly engrossing and utterly unique.

    “An album is…a document and snapshot of a particular moment in time,” Hamilton told Live For Live Music in a recent interview, “but when it comes to taking that album and bringing it into the live arena, that’s when we turn ourselves back into the improvisers that we all are. We get to really see what these songs can do and where they can go and how they can change and grow…We just want to get out there and try to do something beautiful and interesting every night.” 

  • Andrew St. James

    Andrew St. James

    Alternative Rock

    “When people ask what’s going on with the San Francisco music scene, point them in the general
    direction of Andrew St. James.” – Aidin Vaziri, San Francisco Chroncle

    Andrew St. James was born the accidental child of The Rolling Stones’ tour caterers. After riding the
    Voodoo Lounge Tour in utero, he was born somewhere in Northern California, and taken in by a family
    of political lobbyists in San Francisco. Considered a vocal prodigy, St. James developed an early interest
    in baroque classical music, touring internationally in choirs and by age 11 was singing for the San
    Francisco Opera. Following the death of his biological father, St. James, then 16, recorded a solo album
    with a handheld recorder while hitchhiking the Pacific Northwest. The recordings found their way to
    veteran Bay Area producer Jim Greer (Foster The People, Galactic, Geographer), who in turn began
    working with St. James on his first proper release. Doldrums, recorded during his senior year of high
    school, was released September 2013 to critical acclaim.

    After briefly attending college on the east coast, St James headed back to California on a motorcycle
    where he joined Greer to record his second LP The Shakes, released in 2014, which according to
    Pittsburg In Tune “cements St. James’ status as one of the most promising young artists around.”
    Followed by several years of touring he eventually landed in Los Angeles where he capitalized on his
    talent as a songwriter and started collaborating with some of LA’s larger acts such as Cold War Kids and Mark Foster.

    Born out of time visiting and creating in Los Angeles, The Big Ole Veronica Apology Record, released in
    2017, is a commentary on flat mass culture, American indifference, and a self expressed “millennial
    malaise.” Despite its subversive undertones, “The Apology Record” is an upbeat collection of songs the
    Bay Bridged refers to as “lyrically charged folk-pop […] with gorgeous harmonies, indelible hooks and an
    infectious high energy.”

    Andrew St. James currently lives in San Francisco, where he continues working with long time producer
    Jim Greer. His latest release, Liberation Music.! For Boring People was recorded in November of 2016.
    Written in the aftermath of the presidential election, the songs are an exploration of national tension
    and personal turmoil.

    Liberation Music offers exactly what music needs right now: a voice for those cerebral members of the
    new generation, out there hiding in plain sight, observing and relating on the level we should all expect
    from our troubadours. St. James’s lyrical subversion and musical vulnerability explores just that,
    revealing the very core social values and personal ambitions of today. "Boring People" is about all of us,
    how we are brainwashed by the media, having to work ten times harder to keep up with the onslaught,”
    says St James. Filled with catchy singles such as I'm Ready, Inside The Mess You Made, and the gorgeous
    Forever Waiting, Forever There, his sly look on life translates onto this record. If "Liberation Music"
    could be best summed up in a lyric, it would be from the records breezy pop song, Inside A Wonderful
    Mind: "While you were looking for the answers, I was looking at the dancer..."

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Ghost Light

Fri Nov 22 2019 9:00 PM

(Doors 8:30 PM)

The Independent San Francisco CA
Ghost Light

$18 ADV - $20 DOOR Ages 21+

Please correct the information below.

Select ticket quantity.

Complete the security check.

Select Tickets

Ages 21+
limit 8 per person

Delivery Method

Will Call

Terms & Conditions

This event is 21 and over. Any Ticket holder unable to present valid identification indicating that they are at least 21 years of age will not be admitted to this event, and will not be eligible for a refund. Support acts subject to change without refund.