Cave Dwellers

A few weeks after the release of Ghost Wave’s debut EP I spoke to Matt Paul about his expanding band, dealing with music critics and his relationship with label mates Surf City.

(EMJ) Ghost Wave started as a one-man electronic noise project, can you tell me about how the band evolved into a four-piece guitar band?
(Matt) As a youngster I was always interested in making music in any style, be it solo or with a group. I was studying for a few years but wasn’t really into what I was doing, and thought it was better to leave than study under, like, a false pretence or whatever.

Fast-forward to playing shows to various crowds around Auckland via friends bands and touring a little by myself… meeting Eammon and Rikki was pretty important to the evolution obviously, and now Mike. It was sort of like a small thing that just grew to a point where we became a stable band unit. Jobs sort of fizzled away and we started working on recording, practising and hanging around a lot.

The band has grown in size gradually, but more recently you’ve trialled a number of different people on guitar/bass. Has it been a hard process finding the right person and have you finally settled on a line-up or do you think it might still change?
Not really, it’s always just been a matter of what works for whoever may come into the band. I think we try and keep it an easygoing thing. Everyone just does it because they are keen.

We started out as quite a loose sort of thing where we would have various friends jam with us when we played, so having a few bass players just seemed like nothing too surprising I guess. The three of us were all pretty decided on doing something solid with the band, so I guess it was good that Mike was interested in pursuing this kind of goal as well, as he’s fit right in.

How much input do the other band members have in Ghost Wave, because am I right in saying it’s primarily your band?
It’s not my band any more than it is the other dudes’ band, I just happened to have had a few demos to start us off with. It doesn’t interest me to claim those kinds of rights because everyone is essential to the mix. I guess you could compare it to a four-piece puzzle in some ways – it’s an even split.

Your debut EP was released last month, who worked on the album and where was it recorded?
Writing and recording was an internal process… we spread the sessions between my old garage on Sandringham Road, and Rikki’s place in Kingsland which has become our hideout for the past year or so. Around Christmas time we sent the jams to Murray Fisher for some mastering, who coincidentally lived right between our places. It was cool to have the recordings come together with a   “down the street” feel.

How did you become associated with Arch Hill Recordings and how have they helped you so far?
We spent a lot of time making the record. In January, when it was done, we were figuring out ways we could release it ourselves. Davin from Surf City passed on the recordings to Ben from Arch Hill, who we met up with in late February. It seemed like Ben knew where we were coming from as dudes as well as musicians, so we decided it would be cool to put the record out together and look to doing stuff in the future as well.

Do you have plans to follow your Arch Hill label mates Surf City and Street Chant to the US?
It seems like that could be a possibility. Even before we signed to Arch Hill, we had a feeling that that would be something we’d do, whether it was by ourselves or via a label. I guess New York would be the obvious choice, but it’s not stuff we’ve thought about too much. Mostly we just focus on the day we’re in and what we can do inside of it.

You’re quite good friends with the guys from Surf City, have they shared their experience with you? What advice have they given you that’s been particularly helpful?
Yeah, I have been friends with them for about three years. There was sort of a good understanding of each other as well as similar musical taste and intention. I feel like we have supported each others’ bands, which has been good in Auckland, where it can get a bit cold. It has been good to see them heading out a lot recently, touring their new record. We keep in touch, but it’s more joking around than getting advice. That said, it’s been sweet to have friends who are kind of in the same loop as you – a few of the hits you take are a little less surprising. So yeah, knowing them has been good in that respect.

“The Clean comparison is like ripples in the water for me…”

At one point, a few years ago, you told me that you’d had enough of the New Zealand music scene and planned to move to Miami. Has your attitude towards the local music scene changed?
Yeah there was a possibility of playing some shows in Miami via some internet correspondence. But I was always lacking the funds to really do it. These days I’m quite happy to be coming from Auckland, and I think for anyone making music, it has to be a good thing. There is definitely a lot more going on in terms of garage music, and that is rad.

Several people have criticised Ghost Wave, saying you sound to much like The Clean (or other like-sounding Flying Nun bands). Do you think it’s a fair criticism or is it more of a coincidence?
I think it would be weird to expect everyone to like your music. The Clean comparison is like ripples in the water for me – we just make the music we make and it sounds how it does. We like the Flying Nun bands, so maybe it comes through a little but sometimes. I think the comparison is just like, a little lazy on it. That said, I’ve only been playing guitar seriously for like a year and a half, so  whatever, it’s just something I have fun doing and like the sound of. I don’t really think about it.

What were some of the influences behind the EP and the evolution into a guitar band?
Alice Coltrane’s Journey To Satchidananda was an important record to come across, though I’m not sure it necessarily translates into our sound in an obvious way. Stereolab, Love, George Harrison – All Things Must Pass, Spectrum. I think the band was just something that we all needed, and luckily it transpired in an easygoing way.

How big a part of your life is Ghost Wave now, and how far do you hope to take the band?
Yeah I think the band takes up a major part of the four of our lives. Pockets are empty most of the time, but we can pay our rent and grow the music over here for a little while. I think it can be a little dangerous to think too far ahead, especially in music, but I guess as long as it stays kind of challenging and fun we’ll try to push ourselves along.

Support acts seem to be what a lot of bands aim for here in New Zealand (you guys just supported Cut Copy). Do you personally see it as much of an achievement?
I don’t think it’s something we’ve aimed for. We keep ourselves a bit short-sighted just to concentrate on the music. That seems to have worked so far. Support slots are always going to be good for young bands though, but I think overall we’d be more interested in getting out on the road and touring.

The EPs been a success, so what’s next?
We started recording our album this week, and it’s been going pretty good so far. Playing a few shows here and there. I’m really not too sure, we’ve just been sort of getting ready to record and hibernate again as well.

You can purchase Ghost Wave’s debut EP from Arch Hill Recordings’ website

Posted by Nick Fulton under Auckland, New Zealand
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