Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The pitiful pleas of a man wanting so badly to get into heaven are what we first hear on Lawrence band Ghosty's session here. This character's thumping against the restrictive pearly gates of exclusivity, the fists upon metal clanging hollowly over the whiteness and cloudiness. The lights are off and no one's coming to answer. He's desperate and grabby. He just wants it so bad - to be where he thinks everyone else having a good time must be. He calls himself a hayseed and that usually means there's some naïvete, some shyness and a lot of inexperience with social suaveness. Being on the outside is the last place that he wants to be anymore. Lives, the ones that get slumbered through for lack of courage or bravery, do tend to melt in your hands.
He's felt this for as long as he can tell - the news that he'd died didn't even come as a shock to him for he's felt non-existent for a long enough time already - and he'd be damned to now be facing eternity and more of the same bystander treatment. Ghosty, led by lead singer/guitarist Andrew Connor, is a tempered and agreeable form of the rebellious spirit of the outcasts from all over, of every shade. Most of his elegant narratives are rife with the sorts of inspective modicums that come from those chronically overlooked, though no one gives them the credit for thinking those various, insightful pieces. The outsiders are believed to be so for a reason - they choose not to be included - but in truth, they're dying to crash the party and to be allowed to stay, to pull up a chair like an old, lost chum.
The band has a new album out called Answers and maybe it's just the hopeful conclusion to an endless search mission for all of the big reasons that things get stuck into neutral, that people - like the friends on "Quell The Hunger" are devils just looking to throw some lead fishing tackle sinkers down another's gullet and watch them sink without remorse - turn out to be sour on the inside. The answers are the jokes without punchlines, just sucker punches to the guts, that make you double-over and see birdies. What's heard immediately in Connor's singing voice is the glorious nuances of Elvis Costello and it's almost as if he's asking what's so scary bout peace, love and understanding, not to mention throwin' a guy a bone once in a while, a response to the continuing saga of the underprivileged and the galactically bored and stagnant.
Often, the band makes sounds that feel like saunas. Just the other day, I was told that one of the new fads in Japan involves vats of water filled with tiny fish that are bred or trained to nibble at and remove calluses from the bottoms of peoples' feet. It's disgusting - for the fish - and a weird practice all-around, but coupled with the sauna feel of Ghosty's music, there's a little of that in there too. It's music full of escape and still full of rationality. There's typically no getting around the unfair and superficial limitations that underdogs go through so, the frustrations are blatant and yet subdued because - well, these characters didn't get to be underdogs for nuthin'.
The band is similar in its relative obscurity, living in Lawrence, like so many great indie bands of recent years, and hoofing it to get somewhere that's got just a couple bars more of the limelight. They've shown that writing golden melodies is like falling out of a boat and hitting water for them. Not difficult at all. What they're looking for now - just like the protagonist hayseed in the song "Let Me In" - is a way to get a bead on someone who will flip the outdoor lights on at those gates, groggily peer out from behind curtained windows, recognize them as worthy gents and stumble outside in slippers to swing open those gates. They are so needed. They are so wanted. They need to feel that.