Their music might be spangly and busy of synth, but New York electropop duo Ghost Beach have a distinct Big Apple aversion to overcrowding. They contemplated stripping back their live show to ‘just two laptops’ in order to do away with the ‘complications’ of band members. It was the scheme of technocrats; technocrats who once commandeered an electronic billboard in Times Square (‘so crowded you don’t want to be seen there’), not to give the band a plug, but to stir an intellectual debate about the ethics of online piracy.
It’s not like people would say, “wow, Ghost Beach – that resonates with me for no particular reason. I’m going to put that into my phone and download it
Anonymity snatched from the jaws of fame, Culture or Trash wonders? ‘What, next to a big Doritos sign?’ hoots guitarist Eric ‘Doc’ Mendelsohn. ‘You don’t gain anything by putting your name in a billboard unless you’re huge already. It’s not like people would say, “wow, Ghost Beach – that resonates with me for no particular reason. I’m going to put that into my phone and download it.”’
© John Marshall Mantel, originally featured in The New York Times
Doc doesn’t actually have a PhD, but he and vocalist Josh Ocean have evidently spent a lot of time contemplating human psychology, and concluded it has a certain predictability in common with the mechanical gadgets and gizmos for which the former confesses a longstanding nerdiness. It takes little for either of them to discourse on a great era of musical gadgetry and innovation. Is now that era?
That’s not true. We do use old synths, but it’s through the lens of a modern band. Nothing we do is about looking to the past
‘Look thirty years back,’ says a wistful Doc. ‘The advent and mass production of digital electronics, and inception of synths: that development changed music’. Lo, Blonde, Ghost Beach’s debut album, which kicks off with ‘Moon Over Japan’: a crusade of synthesisers, ‘Man in the Mirror’-era bass squelchery, and no small level of throwback disco joie de vivre.
‘Everything’s already been done,’ explains Ocean. ‘That’s not true. We do use old synths, but it’s through the lens of a modern band. Nothing we do is about looking to the past’. There follows an impressive disquisition on the modern technological tools used to dish out, for instance, the intensely danceable ‘Miracle’. Culture or Trash isn’t clever enough to follow this, but tentatively posits that 2014, then, is an exciting time to be manning the machines again. Yes, it is.
As we’re in the heart of London’s touristville, the guys acknowledge the band’s many British influences – Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, The Police – all of them canonical to Brits, but sometimes deemed ‘a bit quirky’ in the US. ‘Sometimes, in the States, they just won’t get it,’ they lament.
But therein lies the eternal problem for any artist, however fluent in the language of numbers and programmes: how to deal with that fickle, unknown quantity? For Ghost Beach, the challenge will be in sustaining the summer wave. Ocean explains that while Blonde came together slowly, as a piecemeal ‘collection of singles’, the sophomore is well on the way. ‘This will be a more cohesive album. We’ll definitely be curating a sound.’
It’s a surprise, because Blonde already has a ‘sound’; its shortcoming is that the latter tracks have, in fact, too unified a feel to them. That said, there are worse sounds to ‘curate’ than buoyant new wave, with oodles of slap bass and worldly flavourings. ‘On My Side’ is the prime example of their self-styled ‘tropical grit pop’, and when the fatefully-named Ocean describes the residual pull he feels towards his surfing hometown, it all makes sense.
‘We never meant to write summery pop songs, but that’s just how it turned out,’ grins Doc, intimating that there’s a still lots of healthy man-made chaos amid the gadgets and gizmos. They make a fun pair, them and their machines.
Listen to Blonde below, via Spotify