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Q&A: Roadkill Ghost Choir

| Monday, September 1, 2014

web roadkillSara Shoemake
Roadkill Ghost Choir, of Deland, Fla., just released their first full-length album, “In Tongues,” last week and soon are taking their show back on the road after an eventful summer with appearances at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and other festivals. With unsettling, powerful American rock and awesome shows inspired by the likes of Tom Petty and Radiohead, Roadkill Ghost Choir definitely is a band to watch. Scene was able to ask frontman Andy Shepard a few questions about the new album and life on the road.

Jimmy Kemper: What were your biggest influences on “In Tongues”?

Andy Shepard: There’s always been a core sound we’ve liked. Radiohead’s always been a big one production-wise, especially “In Rainbows.” And definitely Incubus, that’s always a big influence, especially going into the study. I know we’re listening to a lot of that new Kurt Vile record; that’s a big one as well.

JK: How have things changed since the “Quiet Light” EP to “In Tongues” for you as a band and sonically?

AS: The EP, that was the first batch of songs that I have ever written. Those were when we were still figuring out our sound and which direction we were going in. The sound on the EP was kind of all over the place, honestly. But it took a few years to develop the full length because we were touring pretty much nonstop. That gave us time to kind of figure out where we wanted to go as a band and what direction we really wanted to take and kind of hone in on that. I think it was mostly — it was just time between the releases to grow and just figure out what we wanted to do for this record.

JK: With this album, you have previously said in interviews that a lot of it was about touring in emptier venues and not getting the pay you guys want. Can you talk about that?

AS: Yeah, that’s definitely a theme throughout a lot of songs throughout the record, the bleakness of being away from home. Especially when you’re playing for empty rooms and stuff like that. I remember our first tour was terrifying just because you don’t know what you’re getting. We had absolutely no idea that every show we would just be playing for the bartender, and no one was going to be there. We’ve been lucky enough to have really great opportunities. Now we go on tour — there’s at least a few people there beforehand, and we can always count on that. That was definitely a thing early on in the writing process: dealing with being away from home and friends and family and trying to do this whole music thing. That was definitely a theme, the loneliness of the road I guess.

JK: What was the songwriting process for this album? How did this all come together?

AS: There’s a couple songs that I wrote right after Quiet Light. I don’t write much on the road because it’s kind of hard for me, kind of weird to get into that head space. … Everything else I did in my room when we got back. We actually wrote a lot of songs together. Six months before we recorded the album, we found some space and just jammed on stuff and wrote three or four songs, which we’ve never done before like that. This record was definitely a different experience writing-wise. It was kind of all-over, rather than just strictly being in my room. There were some different things going on this time.

JK: I definitely noticed some different things, like electronica sounds on “A Blow to the Head,” that we hadn’t seen on the “Quiet Light” EP. How did that kind of new stuff come about?

AS:I’ve always been into a lot of electronic music. I actually used to try to make it when I was 15 or 16 and it was kind of terrible. But I’ve always been into Boards of Canada. I love them. I love their record. … I’ve always been into the old record artists. I love synthesizers and getting weird noises and textural stuff. I wanted to make that a bigger part on this record than it was on the [“Quiet Light”] EP, just having different sounds coming in and out of songs. It just made a lot of sense for a lot of songs we did on this record. It just kind of happened.

JK: You recorded part of this album in Athens, Georgia. Were you all inspired by the college rock bands like REM and the B-52s and indie rock bands that have come out of there?

AS: Not really. Just being there in Athens — that’s always inspirational. We just moved there like three weeks ago. We just love being there, and it’s a great place to make a record. I don’t think we tapped into the Athens classic bands too much. Just being there was good for us.

JK: What’s the most challenging part about being Roadkill Ghost Choir right now?

AS: I don’t know. That’s a good question [laughter]. You know, we’re lucky enough right now that there is no big challenge at the moment. That could change in the next few months though. We’re getting ready to go on a tour, and we just got the record out. That’s kind of a hard question for me to answer I guess because everything’s all right.

JK: What about the best part then?

AS: The best part is just being able to be about to go on tour, to be able to play with a lot of friends, bands like The Eastern Sea that we’ve toured with in the past. We start the tour in September and we’re going to be playing a lot with them. Just having the ability to do that with friends and to have good shows on the road — that’s been pretty positive.

JK: What have you been listening to lately on the road?

AS: We’ve been listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen, and we’ve been getting deep into Marc Maron’s podcast, “WTF.” Those have been the big things for us so far. Oh, and that War on Drugs album, “Lost in the Dream.”

JK: One last question: What advice would you give to new artists who want to take their music to the next level?

AS: Get at it. You have to work the local scene and bust your [expletive]. It’s going to suck, but you’ve just gotta keep working at what you’re doing. We got lucky; it just takes a lot of hard work and a lot of luck.

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About Jimmy Kemper

Scene writer, Economics major, and Seinfeld enthusiast

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