POSTED ON FEBRUARY 15, 2012:
Letting the music flow with We The Ghost
Normally, when a new band comes together between a handful of already accomplished musicians, you have a fairly good idea of what to expect. Take a look around at their previous bands and what they contributed, then make an estimation of what their combined efforts would yield and you generally get a fairly close approximation. Every once in a while, however, you find a true case of the old adage "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and you get something almost completely foreign from your expectations.
With the arrival of We The Ghost, Tulsa has spawned one of those bands. Centered around the core of songwriter Beau Tyler (formerly of Shorelines End and Rescue Signals) and Dain Samuelson (previously of Stephen Speaks) with bassist Jimmy Adams (of Eric & the Adams), I admittedly approached this group expecting something more geared toward alt-rock with a pop leaning. Although that description may not be completely off track, the music itself and chemistry within the band is far from what I had imagined.
Looking back, Tyler and Samuelson are childhood friends who have played together casually for years. After Tyler had relocated back to Tulsa, however, the two finally started playing together, sharing the stage in an acoustic setup. Revolving around songs that Tyler had written and a selection of covers, the two found their natural fit and started developing a small but loyal following. Eventually, Jimmy Adams joined the fold in a move of blind faith and immediate chemistry.
As Adams tells it, he was looking for a solid gig where he would fit in and got a recommendation to play with Tyler and Samuelson. "I hadn't even met Beau before, but I came out to The Brewhouse to see them play and he saw me and said 'Our new bass player is here' and introduced me before we had even played together," he laughed.
Sometimes gut instincts are just unexplainably correct, as Adams settled in and fit almost immediately, filling out the groove for Tyler's songs and locking in with Samuelson.
This isn't your typical power trio, however. Instead of the expected bass, drums and electric guitar, Samuelson plays djembe and Tyler sticks to primarily acoustic guitar, giving the songs a more organic sound and feel. Although the songs are definitely contemporary and would fit in on alt-rock stations like The Edge (Z104.5FM), they have a distinctly different feel, combining pop sensibilities with hip-hop undertones and an occasional Caribbean vibe.
It's a sound that's hard to describe, but that's fine with the band. Although the band acknowledges its pop and hip hop cornerstones, Tyler shared that "I don't really think it matters how it's classified. So far people have seemed to like our music. We're just putting it out there and letting the fans decide what to call it."
Perhaps what is most impressive is how much Tyler's songwriting has grown. Instead of feeling forced or formulaic, the songs have a natural flow to them and the trio's strengths really shine through as Tyler, Adams and Samuelson play off of each other.
When discussing this with Tyler, he shared "That's because it is natural. This is the first time I haven't written everything and had to tell the other people in the band what to play. I just bring the song to Dain and Jimmy and they write their own parts -- we're all on the same page and it works."
We The Ghost recently made its live debut as a full band with a show at Fishbonz, opening for RadioRadio on Jan. 27, and received an enthusiastic response. The group's sound gets even larger with an augmented lineup that includes Matt McHan on guitar, Kris Stone on piano and Branjae Jackson on background vocals, but doesn't lose the free flowing and natural vibe. If anything, it magnifies it and gives it even more swagger and soul with a little more muscle behind it and Jackson's indelibly smooth vocals layering in behind Tyler.
An initial club date in Dallas (where Tyler was located before returning to Tulsa) last weekend saw such a strong initial response that the show was moved from Liquid Lounge to the larger Curtain Club, simply on word of mouth, internet presence and Tyler's local following. Now that the ice has been broken in both cities, We The Ghost is holding a CD release party for its debut EP, My Mixtape Summer, at The Body Electric (1508 E. 15th St.) this Friday night, Feb. 17 at 8pm.
Although the group has already played Fishbonz and Curtain Club, the members of the band are clear in their vision that this group really doesn't fit in a standard nightclub setting. The songs are more intimate and personal and really require a more personalized experience to let the band interact with the audience and allow the listeners to fully absorb the songs.
In looking for a more personal venue to introduce the new EP, the group found a perfect location in The Body Electric, allowing the group to connect and introduce the songs on a more intimate level.
When asked how the group decided on The Body Electric, Tyler shared that "We wanted to do something really intimate and found this place. They've got some really cool shirts and great clothes and it's all local. The people are really cool and supportive too, and it's a new store so hopefully it will help them out a little too. We wanted to keep it local and this way we can. We'll probably set up in the middle of the store and have people all around us, so it should be really cool."
What will be most engaging in this setting is the interaction between the band members and the audience. A recent acoustic gig at Hunt Club revealed just a glimpse of what's in store as Tyler, Samuelson, Adams and Stone played off of each other with a tangible chemistry. The longstanding bond between Samuelson and Tyler is readily apparent, but the chemistry that the group displays as a whole belies the relatively short amount of time the group has played together.
While Tyler's songs and lyrics are central to the band, it's Samuelson's energy and flow on djembe that really ties all of the members together. Literally bouncing around the room and from member to member, there's an unbridled excitement and joy in his eyes that is contagious. Sure, it draws the audience in, but it also flows throughout the band in a way I haven't seen previously. Even in the most intense moments of a song, smiles are breaking out and you can feel the pull between members with the ebb and flow of the music. It's a chemistry that can't be faked or imitated and it lifts Tyler's songs to a new level that hasn't been reached before.
Leading into this weekend's release party at The Body Electric, the band plays live on Fox 23's "Great Day Green Country" and they appeared live on the Homegroan show last Sunday night to preview the show. The release party is an 8pm show, so arrive early and settle in for what should be an amazing evening of songs in a completely different atmosphere. While you're there, make sure to sign up for the band's mailing list and you'll be mailed a link to download the Mixtape Summer EP for free when it is officially released electronically on Saturday, Feb. 18.
As exciting as this is, it's only the beginning for We The Ghost. The band has already planned to release three EP's in 2012, with the vast majority of the material already written. It also plans on extending its reach with a variety of intimate shows with an eye on doing a series of "living rooms" concerts over the summer and expanding the band's reach on a grass root level.
As Tyler shared with me at one point, "We've all been signed and on a label at one point or another. We don't need a huge label. We know what we're doing and we're ready to do it independently."
With the quality of songs that the band has in hand and a free flowing and natural sound that engages listeners immediately, it's hard to believe that We The Ghost won't be able to find its audience relatively quickly. Check them out at The Body Electric this Friday night and be among the first to know about the next hot band coming out of Tulsa's local music scene.
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