Ghosts At Sea's Charming Duo Wanders in the Mists

Black metal takers Ghosts At Sea will be releasing their debut album in the coming months. They've been recording it, mixing it, tweaking it, remixing it, re-recording it, tweaking it, and it's almost to a point where they are happy with it. Duo bandmates Jon Luick and Tom King discusses the band's current and only single "Wanderer" as well as the band's start and upcoming activities.

1. Can I get a backstory on the band/ band biography?

Jon:  I've been in bands since high school.  I've been in punk bands, hardcore bands, metal bands, stoner metal bands. I've been into black metal since the later half of the 90's. I've been playing guitar now for about 18 years.  I moved to Evansville in 2009 because of my job.  I used to live in Chicago.  So moving to the southern most tip of Indiana was a little bit of a culture shock.  Moving from a big city to a smaller almost southern town really limited the amount of people that I could talk to and play music with. I finally met Tom when the band he was in at the time came to play a show in Evansville (he lives in Lousiville). A few months later we started to hang out and the idea of making music together started to take shape.  Last summer was when we really started working on this band.  I already had 4 of the 6 songs written and demo'd on my computer. So it was just a matter of relearning the songs, creating a few new ones, and teaching Tom the material. The goal 6 months ago was to release an EP.  Shortly after that, we realized that we had enough material for a proper full length. It's been super awesome working with Tom on this album.  He is great at handling the things I'm not that great at. And I can do all the other things.

2. How did you guys come up with your band name?

Jon: We tossed around names for a few months while we were recording the album, but I came up with the name after looking through my vinyl collection. The back of the second disc of Burzum's Filosofem album has an etching on the vinyl. It's a ghost  on a ship, hence the name of the band.

3. Why did you want the band to be a two-piece act?

Jon: It's not that we wanted this band to be a two piece, we have a goal of actually playing live, but to do that we would need to recruit another guitarist, and a drummer. I also don't want to hire musicians to play the material.  If anyone is going to join this band, it's because they are going to help with the business side of things, and help musically.  With where we live though, it's hard to come across enough other musicians to do that though. I would say that we happen to be a two piece now, but that can change at any moment.

Tom: We didn't want anything to cause a roadblock with production, so it just happened to work out as a two piece for this album. Whether we add to the line-up and start performing live or just remain a two-piece for the next album is anyone's guess at this point. The worst thing we can do to ourselves is let these things become a problem for us. We hope to always keep with the same focus on that: to not let these things keep us from what we're wanting to achieve.

4. What lyrical theme do you guys use in your music? What message do you want to send?

Tom: We draw a lot of influence from personal experiences. Since this is a black metal record, naturally a lot of lyrical content is about things that frustrate us or that we don't quite understand. So we write about these frustrations to hopefully gain perspective and move past the issue. Some of the songs on the album aren't even about our own experiences, some are more about an idea rather than an actual person we know. We want the listening experience to be personal, so if someone wants to come up with their own interpretation, we want to encourage that, even if they're wrong.

Jon: Our meaning isn't what's important. Obviously it's important to us, otherwise we wouldn't have written the words. But what is important is that people make their own interpretations to our music.

5. What bands have influenced your band and its sound?

Jon:  Wolves In The Throne Room, Darkthrone, Burzum, and Ulver

Tom: As far as black metal influences, all of those. I'm also a fan of Mirrorthrone and Winterfylleth.

6. Tell me about the song Wanderer.

Jon:  Without giving too much away, it's about being the last living person on Earth. I don't want to get into the mindset of why I wrote it (lyrically). Musically, there are at most 4 different guitars going on at any time. Sometimes 3, just depends on the part of the song.  There is bass, vocals and drums to go along with it.  I would much rather listen to music and bands where the singer uses his vocals as another instrument.  While I think someone is capable of hearing all the instrumentation and vocals, I don't want the vocals to be too loud in the mix. One of my favorite parts in the song is right after the blasting drum part.  It goes into this riff that is really long and drawn out. Like holding out the chords for a pretty long time. Because of the guitars I used, those notes/chords really sustain, and to me it just sounds awesome. The tension from the previous part just kinda goes away, and you're able to catch your breath.  I also like how the song ends. Sometimes when you are listening to an album, you'll notice the same style of songwriting  Like every song ends with a fade out  or every song starts with just a guitar riff, and then everything comes in. We tried to vary some of those elements on the album so not every song will sound the same.

7. Where are you in the recording process of the new release?

Jon: Everything is recorded, now we just have to finish the mix and the mastering. It's really close. I'd say we're 90% done with the album.

8. Who is producing the album? How has the producer aided the recording process?

Jon: We don't really have a producer on this album. It's all being done by ourselves.

9. Where are you recording this release?

Jon: I did all the recording in my apartment. I'm also doing the mastering. I have a bunch of recording equipment, and it's just cheaper and more convenient to just do it all ourselves.  People say it's best to get another set of ears on the material.  But that costs money, and I spent all my money getting the gear in the first place.

Tom: We threw around the idea of hiring a professional to mix and master the album, but ultimately decided against it. We feel it's more personal that way. So now we get to say, "Here! We did this. This is who we are."

10. How would you describe the overall sound of this release?

Jon: We both love 90's black metal, but we don't want to sound like a 90's black metal band. There are a ton of black metal bands out there right now that sound like they threw an answering machine in their rehearsal space. I hate that. Decent recording equipment is not that expensive these days. I want people to hear the songs. So I'm working really hard to make sure that people will be able to hear everything in the mix. I want the production to be clear, but still sound DIY.

11. Did the band have any definitive goals they were shooting for before the recording process began?

Tom: Being on a limited budget without a label is very difficult. You're limited in quality and resources, so we had to learn to work with what we had available to us. We had to get creative and research some tricks to make the mix sound better since we didn't have that kind of funding or available resources other than the equipment we already owned.

12. Are you using any new instrumentation you've never used in the recording process before?

Jon:  No, we didn't use anything new. Unless you figure in some of the equipment we used on the recording. I got some awesome new plugins from Slate Digital that make the recording process sound much more analog, and less digital. It's really amazing.

13. Can you go into one or two tracks on this release? If so, can you give us the track title and brief description of how the track sounds and how it came about?

Tom: I can't take much credit for most of the songs on the album. Jon had a lot of the ideas brewing for the band before asking me to join him. Some of the material he had even demoed. I did some new things here and there, but overall, the recording process was very smooth for me. However, one song that sticks out the last track on the album. That was the most recent song we wrote, I think. I don't want to get into the specifics of the meaning behind it, but I will tell you it's a song that's was influenced by a story. It deals with the psychology of the character and was probably the most difficult song I've ever written lyrically. Jon took what I had and laid down the vocal tracks in a way that made sense. I'm really happy with the result.

Jon:  Here is the track listing to the album 1.) A Fitting End to Human Suffering 2.) Wanderer 3.) Decay 4.) The End of Days 5.) The Weight of 1000 Suns 6.) Through The Shadow That Binds Us

14. How is/was the vibe in the studio?

Tom: Early mornings with lots of coffee, and a lot of late nights with a lot of alcohol. Mostly the latter.

Jon:  We had fun tracking the instruments, but beer, whiskey, and rum totally helped.

15. When can we expect the new album to be released?

Jon:  We don't have a set date yet, but we are expecting it to be done and available sometime this Spring. We are hoping that people will download the single Wanderer off of iTunes and Bandcamp so that we will get some funds that will help pay for the actual CD's and merch. The album will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and a long list of others.

16. What made you guys decide to form a band?

Jon: I moved to Evansville from Chicago a few years ago, and I've been trying to find other musicians. I've met a few, but no one with the same vision that I have...enter Tom.  Like I said earlier, I've been playing guitar for a long time.  Before doing this band with Tom, it had been probably 6 or 7 years since I've done anything musical with other people.  It was a lot of me setting up a mic in front of my amp and recording ideas and creating songs.  The reason I stopped working with other people is because I hated being the person directing everything.  It was always me scheduling practices and shows.  It wasn't always that way.  But it's always the worst things that stick out in your head.  Being a retail store manager, I have to deal with that enough at my store, I don't need to worry about it in a band that's supposed to be fun.  Being in a band that actually wants to do something and get their material heard is very hard.  You can't just expect people to come to you.  You have to find them.  And the best way to do that is to be a person that is a self-starter.  You have to go out and make your own following.  It's been great working with Tom in that aspect.  He always has a lot of ideas, and it takes a load off of my mind, because he'll just go and do it.

Tom: I've been playing for years, but nothing ever really worked out for me for one reason or another. I'm probably difficult to work with because of the expectations I put on myself, which tends to rub off on others, so that probably has something to do with it. Practicing was always a pain in the ass for me. I've had a few good experiences, but most people would say they wanted to get together to jam, but most of the time jamming usually wouldn't happen. Sometimes I would schedule things and people would flake the day of. So a band that actually DOES things is something I have no problem investing a lot of time in, even if it is a two-piece. For me, it's about being productive. I don't see the point of being in a band if nothing's really going on.

17. What can the fans expect to see from you in the future?

Jon:  Expect the unexpected. The man goal of this band is to create the music that we want.  While we have some ideas for the next few releases, they will be revealed in due time.

18. Have any last words?

Jon:  Diarrhea.

Tom: He drinks a lot of coffee.

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