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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Sweet Ghosts

Sweet Ghosts, Bandcamp, Interview

Sweet Ghosts has been playing folk music out of Tucson for a little over two years. The duo of Katherine Byrnes and Ryan Alfred releases its debut album, Certain Truths, on April 19 and plays Plush on the same night.

The Spec caught up with Ryan Alfred about Sweet Ghosts’ new album and upcoming tour, read what he had to say, below…

Tell us a little about yourselves…
Our live band is usually a five-to-seven-piece affair, but for our first tour we’re heading out as a trio, guitar, bass, keys, and vibraphone, with all three of us singing.

How long have you been making music?
Katherine and I have been making music together for about two-and-a-half years, but individually we’ve both been playing since we were very young. I had a drum set when I was three and moved onto violin in third grade, and Katherine has been singing her whole life, and professionally since she was 12 or so.

Who/what are your influences?
As a band, we’re influenced by a lot of different stuff. I’d say the lyrics and basic songwriting comes primarily from a country/folk/singer-songwriter place, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Simon, and such. We’re also huge fans of ambient music (Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Harold Budd), so some of the tunes get some of that treatment, either with synthesizers or heavily effected electric guitar. Maybe one of the most direct influences is the Daniel Lanois-produced Emmylou Harris record Wrecking Ball… the way those very simple, classic songs are presented was very influential to our overall approach.

What is your favorite song on the new album and why?
Probably, “Not Quite December“…it satisfies me as a songwriter because it gets across what I’m trying to say in a very simple fashion and the mood it achieves with the sparse arrangement and constant Iron and Wine style harmony communicates the song nicely.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
We’ve got a new batch of songs that we’d like to record, maybe release a 7″ in the fall. We self-produced this album and I mixed it, and we’d really like to explore working with an outside producer and mix engineer for the next one, to add their perspective to the process.

If you could no longer be a musician, what would you be or do for a living?
Depends on why I was no longer able to be a musician, haha. If I could still be in music, I would probably shift my focus back to FOH engineering and tour management (which is what I did from about 2007 – 2010… I still tour manage a few bands). If it had to be completely unrelated to performance, I’d probably try to be a writer.

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
So many. I don’t even know where to begin! Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Flying Lotus and James Blake because they’re making music that seems genuinely fresh, very unique. Kris Kristofferson is a hero of mine for his ability to communicate a mood and a story in a very simple song. It feels a little odd to say because I’ve been working with them in various capacities for almost five years, but Calexico is one of my favorite bands ever, and doing hundreds of shows with them, both as FOH and later as their bassist, has taught me so much about music. I definitely look up to those guys!

Why do you make music?
I make music because it’s fun and satisfying. Why I try to do it for a living, I couldn’t say, haha.

Anything else you’d like readers to know that we haven’t asked you about?
Nope. I just hope they listen to the music and sign our mailing list/like us on Facebook if they like it.


For more on Sweet Ghosts, read our Viva Phx Q&A with the band.

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