Fresh off the release of their latest single, “Dumb Disco Ideas,” DFA’s Holy Ghost! are just about to hit the road once again for a live tour across north America, leading up to the release of their highly anticipated sophomore album (titled "Dynamics"). From festivals, small clubs, to supporting New Order on their next tour, the New York duo consisting of Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser have quite the schedule ahead of themselves. It’s pretty exciting to know that the album is complete, but it’s even more exciting for us in LA since we have the guys in town for two performances. They’ll be playing a live show with Classixx at the legendary Troubadour on May 20th, and then DJing the following night at Dim Mak Studios alongside Cosmic Kids. Although I interviewed these guys a couple years back, I figured it would be nice to catch up with Alex before him and Nick hit LA for their two performances.
As far as the lyrics go - theyre more immediate, personal, and self aware. as far as the production goes, I think it sounds like us but much wider and more spacious. Less cluttered.
What’s up Alex, how are things going?
Well, thanks. And you?
So you have been laying kind of low while working on the new record. What’s the status of that now?
Would you say that the single you released a few months back, “It Gets Dark,” gives us a good idea of the direction of the new record?
Well, it's an album, recorded over an extended period of time, so there are some dark moments and some lighter, more airy ones too.
Now that Holy Ghost! has a couple years under its belt as a full on live band, what are some of the biggest things to consider while preparing for another tour that you may not have thought of previously?
You never stop considering flight overages on luggage. Don’t think that ever changes. But mostly, it's just about utilizing the great guys who tour with us to play the new songs and old songs with as little computer help as possible. From the beginning - but now especially that we have 6 guys on stage - we've tried to have every note played on stage be played by hand, the same way we do it in the studio. It’s always a challenge when you use so much old equipment in the studio that's too fragile to take with you on tour and you have to go, "how are we going to play this stuff around the world without the original equipment?" It’s a testament to Nick's engineering skill and the band's talent that we can pull it off.
Has your writing and recording process changed at all since the last record? In what sort of ways would you say you’ve both improved? Do you feel that increased confidence about performing live plays a positive role in the studio?
Two major changes. One is that on the first record we were still learning how to get things to sound the way we wanted, and that become such an arduous process. Often times a song would be written and then recorded over and over and over again over a period of years. This time we had improved enough as engineers/producers that getting the sounds was not the issue so we could move quicker and think more about the songs themselves. I think the result is a more emotional and immediate album. The second change, at least for me as a singer, was that after playing 300 shows or whatever we played on the last album, I got pretty comfortable knowing where I sing best and how to control my voice and stuff. We had never played a show as Holy Ghost! live when we recorded the first record, so this time it was a lot more natural to assume the role of "singer." I think this resulted in a more personal album.
As far as lyrical content, how would you compare the new stuff to the first LP? What are some of the major themes and what are they a result of? Holy Ghost! has a defined trademark sound, do you plan on sticking to that sound while still being able to grow?
As far as the lyrics go - they're more immediate, personal, and self aware. as far as the production goes, I think it sounds like us but much wider and more spacious. Less cluttered.
I’ve noticed you guys have been taking little breaks from the studio to do brief runs of DJ dates. Apart from them simply being fun, do you think taking a few days off to DJ every once in a while is helpful and contributes in a good way to your workflow? What are some of the best parts of being able to take on DJ dates in the midst of band stuff? Is DJing still something that is equally important to Holy Ghost!?
We love DJing. Love making people dance and trying out new combinations of songs. Part of why we make the music we do is because we used to go out and hear this amazing music friends and DJs were playing and got really turned on. Guys like DJ Harvey, James Murphy, Jacques Renault, and Tim Sweeney really got us hooked on disco - or made us feel it was ok to like disco! It’s always good to step out of the studio and get reminded of your influences and have a bit of fun. It’s also a way for Nick and I to play new music for each other. If he plays something I haven’t heard I usually ask what it is, then we might reference it when we are back in the studio. It’s a way of building a mutual musical language and improving your musical vocabulary.
What have been some the biggest challenges with putting this record together? Are the band mates still the same people from the last tour? I think last time I spoke with you guys, you mentioned you were making your own studio space specifically for Holy Ghost! stuff. How is that going?
Same guys plus a few new ones. They’re the best. We kinda just built up the studio at Nick's house to a place where we can pretty much do everything there. So not a new physical space, but a lot more gear.
What’s the plan once the album drops?
Tour tour tour.
We’re excited to see you guys in LA at both the live shows and DJ sets. You’ve spent a lot of time in LA over the years, but what are some of the most exciting things about visiting here for you?
We have a lot of friends in LA - love coming there and seeing them. Also playing a show at a venue like Troubadour has a strange nostalgic quality to it even though we've never played there. It’s just a historic room and a city with such a deep musical history.
As a special request question from a few of my friends, I have to ask: When do you guys plan on forming a super band with Classixx?
Haha, those guys were actually the original touring musicians for Holy Ghost! way back in 2009 or something. We’re down if they are.
Alright, and how about some words of wisdom to aspiring analog producers?
Get a good pre amp.
Be sure to RSVP via Facebook to catch DJ sets from Holy Ghost!, LA favorites Cosmic Kids, and a few other special guests on Tuesday night at Dim Mak Studios! We'll be there in full force. You can find the rest of Holy Ghost!'s tour dates on their website.