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Spirit Ghost Interview

( Photo by JB Bergin)


Rapid-fire Questions

1. What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Todd Rundgren, Cut Worms, White Fence, Broadcast, and this song “I Guess I’m just a Little Too Sensitive” by Orange Juice, that song is a fricken hit.

2. If the band had to open a restaurant with your current cooking abilities, what would be on the menu?

- Italian Grinder for $10 (comes with limonata San Pellegrino)

- Basic Breakfast 2 Eggs 4 strips of bacon 4 pieces of toast comes with coffee $8

- Chicken Parm

- This pureed Garlic soup I know how to make

- Pizza

- Cacoila

- Caldo Verde

- Chourico and peppers

3. Which Regular Show character would each band member be?

JB would be Pops/CJ

Billy would be Hi Five Ghost/Low Five Ghost

Tim would be Skips/Muscle Man

Alex would be Mordecai/Benson

4. What is your favorite bit of local history that isn't well known beyond the place where it happened?

It’s not history, but the former mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci has/had (he’s dead) his own pasta sauce and that’s just always been really funny to me. I wanna try it. I’m sure it’s good.

5. Do you think Julian Casablancas would be nice to me if we ever met in person? (Specifically if I was asking questions like these? )

Yeah I feel like he’s a nice guy and someone who genuinely understands he is not famous if he doesn’t have fans. I think some people forget that, but I don’t think he has. Also I feel like you’re the type of interviewer that wouldn’t ruffle his feathers, not like that Narduwar interview.

6. If you could have any fictional character listen to your music, who would you choose?

Hank Venture

7. Lately I’ve been looking for a bull riding place so I can finally cross that off my bucket list. What is something that you’re terrified of, but would still like to try?

I’m afraid of flying so I think if I could learn to fly alone and be okay with that, that’d be awesome. It would just make life a lot easier.

8. Y’all think I can do more pushups than Julian Casablancas?

I think so. He’s aging like fine wine, but I don’t think he exercises regularly.

9. Do you think the name Born Loser Mag hinders me from PR companies using me for their press Blurbs? What’s a better name for this site?

PR companies are the worst and your name is awesome so who cares.

But! If I had to pick another name it’d be “The website dedicated to the music that I think is cool and if you like one artist I like, maybe you’ll like more things I like. I don’t know. It’s all subjective really and who can say?! No two tastes are ever the same, but you’re still reading, so you’re in! Maybe! Again, I don’t”

10. Any local Austin bands that you think everyone should check out?

brother sports, brother sports, brother sports, Mind Shrine (Houston), Hey Cowboy and a lot of others. Austin has a lot of very talented people floating around.


Isaac Gutierrez for BL Mag: Can you introduce yourself for those who may not be familiar with you? And then ROAST them for not being familiar with you. (You don’t have to roast them.)

( Photo by JB Bergin)

Alex Whitelaw (Spirit Ghost): My name is Alex Whitelaw(he/him), I am the creator of Spirit Ghost. I have been writing, recording, and releasing songs under that moniker since the early 2010’s. I’m from a little town just outside of Providence, RI and that’s where Spirit Ghost was started.

What first sparked your interest in music, and what has your musical journey looked like this far?

I first got into music after seeing the movie Drumline (so like 6th grade). I wanted to be in a drumline after seeing that movie so badly, they make it look so cool, and as a young kid I thought Nick Cannon was the coolest person alive. I started off playing drums at 13, but I eventually switched to guitar after about two years of drums and then I just became obsessed with it. I’d rent live DVD’s of concerts like The Led Zeppelin one with the desert cover or “A Hard Day's Night” or “Help” and I would practice the three notes I learned that week over and over again, while watching The Beatles run around on tanks and trains. Also growing up with separated parents and living with my mom allowed me to become more interested in music. I think if my parents had stayed together I would have been pushed more towards sports and things I didn’t really have any interest in. She is always singing and humming and she loved the Beatles growing up. She was so excited when I started to like them that she bought me almost every CD of theirs one year for christmas and I listened to them religiously. And whenever we’d drive somewhere we’d listen to them and she’d tell me which Beatle was singing lead on which songs. I think that did a lot to train my ear.

I read that you moved from Massachusetts to Austin with friends from Spirit Ghost and Sasha and The Valentines. Was that move specifically to pursue music?

Yeah, we had all been doing music in Massachusetts for a while and I think at a certain point we just decided it would be a good idea to try somewhere else and to give music our full attention. We didn’t want it to be a back burner thing or something we only did on weekends or at house shows. We wanted to actually try and be musicians.

Was there anything in particular that drew you to the Austin scene?

We just didn’t really get to play as much as we wanted to in Massachusetts and we all couldn’t really afford to live in New York or Boston. I think Austin is great for welcoming new artists and because there are so many bands and venues you can kind of just always be playing. It’s a great way to practice if you can play out multiple times a week for a live audience. It's also nice because everyone here is so good it makes you practice that much harder. You just don’t wanna get up onstage and look foolish. I think I also wanted to live somewhere that didn’t have such harsh winters for some part of my life. That being said I don’t think I can do too many more Texas summers.

You’ve been making music for a few years at this point. You’ve been a part of a few different music scenes. What is the most important thing you’ve learned since then as far as music goes?

I think I’m learning to be more confident in myself as a musician and artist. I think for a while it was a struggle for me to think of myself that way at all. I don’t come from a musical family, at all, my dad was a postal worker who worked six days a week and my mom was a stay at home mom until she went back to community college at 40 to become a nurse. So I think believing I could be someone people think of as a musician was very foreign to me, and still is. I just know I like making songs. I’ve been learning to put value on the things I make and to acknowledge the time and effort I spend on them. I used to wanna give things away for free all the time, and I still do, but I don’t know. It just feels like I know what I want out of music at this point in my life. I think I’ve learned that from watching other artists in Austin; how seriously they take it. I like that. I like seeing people try and I like sincerity in music.

I know that everyone that plays in Spirit Ghost also plays in Sasha and the Valentines! Is there any kind of shift in mindset when switching between both projects?

Yes and no. I think Sarah (Sasha) and myself have both developed a method of writing which is, write the song you want, start to finish, drums, bass, guitar, melody, all of it, get the whole foundation set, so you know you have a good song, then bring it to the band and see if they have any input or nuance that you didn’t hear. Sarah and myself are never gonna be as good a drummer as Billy so at a certain point it just makes sense to defer to him for drums. Same goes for Tim and JB. I think Sarah has had an easier time with that than me. She comes from a collaborative background. I felt like I made Spirit Ghost so that I never had to depend on anybody or wait around for anybody. I just wanna make music when I want to make it. I hate waiting on people. I went for a while where I wrote and recorded and played all the parts myself because it was a point of pride so it took a little longer for me to trust other people to do what was best for the song. This newest batch of songs is the first time all the instruments aren’t all me and I think the album is my favorite for that reason. But I still like writing all by myself, I don’t think I can ever really collaborate in the earlier stages of songs. I just need to be alone so I can fail and rewrite over and over again.

Congratulations on your new single,“No Future”! I’ve listened to it all week. Can you give us some background on the song?

It’s the first song I wrote during the Pandemic. I think I wrote it in April of 2020. I just felt pretty hopeless and defeated. We had plans to play SXSW, we had plans to go down to Mexico with brother sports, I had plans to go see my dad who I hadn’t seen in years, and it all got canceled for an indeterminate amount of time. I just kind of felt terrible about everything. I just kept having this thought that I’m getting up there in my 20’s, I have been trying to do this music thing for about ten years, and it’s all going away from something that is so far out of my control. I just have no future really. No skills, no impressive career history. I tried to be optimistic at the end though, with the plural chorus, because I looked around and saw a lot of my friends and people I admire and respect were in the same boat.

Can we expect an EP or album anytime soon?

Yes, an album, very soon, “No Future” is the first single from it.

What is the most important thing for you when it comes to creating a song?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I used to like these big unexpected changes or shifts in rhythm, but now I am super focused on melody and harmony layering. I’ve been trying to write a 30 minute song a day and it’s been helping me to break out of some old habits. I think right now it’s melody and lyrics. I love the lyrics Max Clarke (Cut Worms) writes or my friend Mike from Holiday Music writes these really effortless lyrics. They’re always seemingly disjointed but come together in some intangible way. I think melody and lyrics are really what makes or breaks a song. I’ve written so many cool instrumentals that just get all fucked up when I go to write the lyrics and melody.

Where do you normally draw inspiration from?

Movies, television, other artists, work, conversations with friends, I journal everyday and sometimes I get ideas from that. I’ll learn other people's songs and then vamp over their chords and try to write a different melody. It helps to remind my brain that hey “someone else used these chords to make a song, so you can too” I sometimes also just take very very long walks, which is a nightmare in the summer in Texas but I’ve found some good hiking trails that have shade and make it less daunting.

Do you have to be in a specific mood or environment to write a song?

Alone. I just need to be alone. I leave my phone out of the room and I’ll disconnect my laptop from Wifi. I just need to be isolated and free to fuck up lyrics and songs and melodies while I’m trying to figure it out. I also can’t feel like I have to be in there for any set amount of time. I just have to go in, try it, if I make something great, if not, I’ll try again tomorrow. I write so many bad songs in between the ones I like.

I saw that you released a split with brother sports earlier this year! How did that come about, and what was it like getting to work with them?

We did one song together, and we just liked the way it came out, I’ve always loved them and respected them. They’re the first band in Austin that I fell in love with. Have you listened to “I’ll Wait For You”? It’s a perfect song. It was just easy. I don’t know, I like hanging around them and being so far away from home it’s nice to have people that can make you feel comfortable and cared about. They're some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. It kind of just made sense. I wish we had had time to do more, but I was anxious to finish it so I could get to this Spirit Ghost release. Who knows though, maybe we can do more in the future, people seem to like that EP and I’m really happy about that. It was mostly them, I kind of just got to write verses on these already really good songs that they had made.

What can we expect to see or hear from Spirit Ghost in the near future?

You can expect a release and I hope people who have been listening to Spirit Ghost for a while feel rewarded for being so patient. I am really proud of everything that’s about to be released, so I hope it doesn’t let anyone down. I was also able to get back into film over the pandemic so I’ve been directing and editing a lot of the music videos for this new album with my new friends Lucy Owens and Vincent Piccarelli. I’d also love to be able to tour and press vinyl this time around. I’ve never loved one of my albums enough to self press vinyl but this one is special to me. It’s just expensive as shit and takes so long lol, so we’ll see when that happens. I hope we get to do some touring. I miss playing for people and I miss going to different small cities and meeting folks. People are so nice.

To wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?

No, just thanks for getting all these questions over and for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it. I’m really appreciative that there are people running blogs like this and people like you who run it. It’s nice that you don’t have to have a PR person to get in touch with someone (because PR companies are wack)

Thanks Isaac!


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