[INTERVIEW] Rocket & The Ghost
By: Lauren Labadie, Nicola Lyon
Rocket & The Ghost are a New York-based band of the indie rock calibre. Kiyoshi Matsuyama was formerly in the well-established Brooklyn band, The London Souls; his stylistic direction and taste changed and from this Rocket & The Ghost was born. The band consists of members: Kiyoshi Matsuyama (songwriter/vocals/guitar), Brian Kesley (bass), Stuart Bidwell (drums), Sean Gavigan (guitar), & Alan Markley (keyboards).
They recently played a slue of showcases at this year's CMJ Music Marathon in support of their recently released [November 5, 2013] self-titled EP . We caught up with the band to get to know them a just a little bit more.
You recently played at CMJ Music Marathon. What was the band’s highlight of this year’s event?
The highlight of this year's CMJ for us was getting to meet so many great people in our backyard. We were about to release our first EP as well so it was exciting to be playing to some packed crowds before we even had anything out yet.
Was attending ‘New School’ influential in your decision to form a band?
Newschool was very influential in a lot of ways, but the idea of forming a band is a bit of a rebellion as far as the school is concerned. Over there they teach you that you should be able to play in any style in any setting in any time signature with different people 7 nights a week. What we did instead was start a band where we honed our sound around each other and what we had to work with.
Kiyoshi, you were previously in The London Souls. From your experience, what was it like to leave and pursue a new creative direction with Rocket and the Ghost?
Kiyoshi: At the time I didn't really consider how drastic of a change it would be. To be honest I thought it would be much easier than it was. I tried to use the same tactics for this band and many of them don't work the same way. It's a different machine with different moving parts. I learned that ever situation is it's own thing and that previous experience can only take you so far. I also learned that if it's too easy it's probably not worth doing. Doing something new might have been the best decision I've ever made.
What bands continue to inspire you?
Any band that isn't a flash in the pan success. One that built something in a smart way. We love so many different kinds of music new and old. The ones that are still going and continuing to kill it are the most inspiring.
What has been one of the most rewarding moments that you have shared as a band?
When we create a new song and we are all really happy about it that feeling is always something so special. So each time that happens it feels like there's a method to our madness or a purpose to what we're trying to figure out.
Is there a writing ritual for each song, or do the lyrics and melodies seem to come to you?
Each song is different. Keith Richards says the songs write themselves and for the most part that seems to be true in this band. The one method we try to always maintain is to not force something based on what's hot right now. It's a balance of modern touches and old methods.
Over the summer you held a 5-week long residency at the Living Room. How does a residency compare to a routed tour? Did you tend to see similar faces at the residency, or was it varied for each performance?
With a residency there are a handful of people that come for most if not all of the shows and the rest are new faces. The point of a residency is to have a time and a place where you can all meet up again and people know where to find you. The other point is for people to tell their friends to come next time.
How did the collaboration with Lily Claire [of Lily and the Parlour Tricks] come about?
Kiyoshi: Lily is an immense talent in the New York scene. Her writing style is very similar to mine in a lot of ways and it came pretty naturally to us. When I was in the process of leaving The London Souls she helped me by having something for me to work towards and when I was able to find my stride she stepped back. She's the best.
What advice could you offer to aspiring musicians just starting out?
Work on your band everyday. The things that you haven't gotten around to yet, pick a date and just do it.
If you could compile a dream tour of bands to tour with, who would be your top choices?
Any of the bands that follow under the question 4 category. Here's a short list though: Arcade Fire, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Neil Young.
You had the pleasure of working with Wilson Brown. What was it like to work with him?
Wilson has great taste and great ears. He made us feel very at ease in the studio and he was the most productive producer ever. He really helped us carve out these songs in ways we didn't know were possible.
Congratulations on your recently released self-titled EP. How was the experience of recording live at Excello Studios?
Thank you. Recording at Excello was great. Huge live room and excellent gear is a must for us.
What are Rocket and the Ghost’s plans for 2014?
We're going back into the studio shortly. Other than that we plan on playing out of town as much as possible and releasing quality content online. Check us out at www.facebook.com/rocketandtheghost for all the scoops!