Allyson Baker and Tony Sevener working on Dirty Ghosts’ second album.
In the present day, San Francisco’s Dirty Ghosts comprise singer/guitarist Allyson Baker, drummer Tony Sevener, and bassist Erin McDermott. But their history is a complicated one: the band’s 2012 debut release Metal Moon was a long-in-gestation work made by Baker and bassist Carson Binks, and produced by Baker’s then-husband Aesop Rock.
Metal Moon is an eclectic collection of songs tied together by Baker’s powerful voice and distinctive guitar playing, and she was the face of the band for their debut video “Ropes That Way”:
I was immediately obsessed with Metal Moon on its release. As the next two years went by it seemed to be taking forever for new music from this band to emerge, so thanks to this blog, I finally caught up with Allyson Baker via phone to talk about the band’s evolution since the first record, and the progress they’re making on the second. She filled me in on some history:
I made the first record over the course of five years, and it wasn’t really intended to be a band, or even a release; but that’s sort of what it became, and once the record was going to come out I thought, “Well, I’d better turn this into a band and make it something people can watch.”
It wasn’t until these songs came out that I had to deal with being a frontperson. That whole role was very new to me, and that was after the record came out! The way this band has operated has just been very strange.
There’ve been rotating members of the band, because people were coming in to just play these songs live, and I don’t know how much fun it is creatively to just come in and do that. But then [drummer] Tony Sevener played a show with us, and he stuck around, and became a big part of the writing process, and beyond being a full-time member of the band, he became a writing partner…so the second record is different, it’s more of a band effort, it’s less like me sitting there and putting the songs together by myself.
The lyrics on the band’s first album Metal Moon are abstract and impressionistic, and they reward multiple listens; there’s always an odd turn of phrase that catches you by surprise. For Baker, though (to my surprise), the lyrics were almost an afterthought:
On the first record, I did not spend much time on lyrics…I’ve never been a singer, and even as a music listener, I’ve never been heavy into lyrics; I’ve always paid more attention to the music…I interpret lyrics in music as rhythms.
So a lot of the lyrics on the first record were composed based on the rhythm of the words, more than the meaning. I still write that way, but this time I spent more time putting meaning behind what I was going to say….now it’s been a while, and I’ve gone through some stuff. I think I have a lot more to say on the second record than I did on the first; I didn’t have a lot of personal experience I wanted to speak about before, but on the second record I do.
Dirty Ghosts are now recording their as-yet-untitled second album under the guidance of Phil Manley (Life Coach, Trans Am, The Fucking Champs). It’ll be out on Last Gang Records, and they’re looking at a release date in the spring of 2015.
I can’t wait.