Roadkill Ghost Choir is a band at an exciting crossroads very early in their career, one that many bands never reach over the course of several years. So far they've only released a five song EP, Quiet Light, but on the strength of that record and their universally praised live shows, 2013 is shaping up to be a huge year for the Deland, Florida band.
Beyond appearances at the Shaky Knees, Moutain Jam and Governor's Ball festivals, the group is opening for the likes of Dead Confederate and Band Of Horses this spring. I caught one of the band's opening dates for Band Of Horses on a snowy Colorado night at the Boulder Theater, and spoke with frontman Andrew Shepard after the show about the whirlwind Roadkill Ghost Choir is currently caught up in.
Roadkill Ghost Choir is a band that at first listen brings to mind neo-americana acts like My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Band Of Horses, but like those acts, there is something bubbling under the surface that makes them more than just roots rock being played by a bunch of southern long hairs. As is the case with a lot of good bands, it's hard to put your finger on exactly what they have, but they have it.
The Boulder Theater was almost full when RKGC took the stage and the noisey audience was in more of a drinking and talking loudly mood than a "hey let's listen to the opening band" kind of mood, but that quickly shifted once the group began to play. It was interesting to watch the conversion of people who previously were complaining loudly about their co-workers while spilling vodka tonics on each other almost instantly become tranfixed on the stage. RKGC is a no nonsense band onstage, they immediately get down to business and it can be very enthralling to watch them set the mood.
Joey Davoli (Keys, trumpet) and Kiffy Meyers' (pedal steel, banjo) ability to shift instruments mid song adds to the band's ability to flesh out their songs live and certainly helped get people's attention. The rhythm section of is made up of Andrew Shepard's brothers Maxx and Zach and they definitely play with an effortless flow that only people who have played together for years possess, and lead guitarist Stephen Garza plays like a scientist; tinkering with interesting sounds and effects while the rest of the band charges forward around him.
By the time the band played their epic, set closing number "Beggar's Guild" a few people where even attempting the "flailing-white-people-at-an-indie-rock-show" dance and RKGC left the stage to thunderous applause. This fact is even more impressive since only one song before the band managed to captivate and quiet the formerly boisterous audience with the absolutely gorgeous "Bird In My Window". It's not hyperbole to say I saw awe in some of the faces around me in the audience during this two song stretch.
This is obviously a very exciting time for the band, and Andrew Shepard was kind enough to answer some questions via email from the road after the show. Check them out below, and catch Roadkill Ghost Choir on the road this spring, they will not disappoint.
DF: Were these past CO shows the largest audiences you guys have played to outside of festivals? I noticed y'all were taking pictures from the stage in Boulder, that was great. Comment on what the two days with BoH was like...
Andrew Shepard: Yeah, these Band of Horses shows have no doubt been the largest audiences we've played to yet. It's been a surreal experience for us opening up for BoH. The audiences have been fucking awesome and watching BoH at the end of the night is a treat. We feel real lucky to be doing it.
DF: Talk for a minute if you could about the whirlwind of momentum that has been surrounding you guys the past year or so. I remember Jesse (Jesse Rosoff, the group's booking agent) first playing you guys for everyone in the Georgia Theatre's office and now you're touring with the likes of BoH and Dead Confederate and playing fests like Shaky Knees, Mtn Jam and Governor's Ball, that has to be thrilling...
AS: It's been insane. We have such a good team of people around us that believe in what we're doing and work real damn hard to get us out there. We're extremely grateful to have the opportunity to play with such great bands at this point of our musical career. I never thought I'd be doing what I am now a year ago. It's been a dream and we're gonna work real hard to keep this band thing moving forward. It's too fucking fun.
DF: Speaking of all this momentum, has there been anytime to write? What is the timetable for the next release? Is the material already recorded?
AS: I usually write at home in my bedroom so being on the road for long periods of time has been strange for me and how I work. I just recently started writing and demoing in the van. It takes me a lot longer to get into a rhythm but it's been a positive learning experience so far. It's good for me to step out of my comfort zone and fully embrace the chaos that is touring. We are currently demoing new stuff. We're about halfway there song wise so there's still a lot of work to be done. Hopefully we'll be in the studio sometime towards the end of this year.
DF: I've always felt that it's a huge asset for RKGC to have the banjo and horn option to bust out when needed. It really fleshes out the live performances of songs like "Beggar's Guild", whereas other bands can't replicate all the sounds you hear on the record without a guest. I was wondering how/if that affects the writing process for you guys, knowing that you'll be able to play the song live with all the instruments.
AS: There's some new stuff we're working on that has a lot more going on than the older stuff. Lot's of ambient textures, synth bleeps and guitar work that will be close to impossible to play each part live. When we play the song live and it doesn't stand up without all the extra goodness you hear on the recording than that song probably isn't that good. Also, since there is 6 of us playing we can cover lots of ground sonically. That makes the process a lot easier.
DF: It really seemed to me that you guys converted quite a few folks at the Boulder show, people that were running their mouths at first were intently listening by "Bird" and "Beggars", what has that experience been like so far? Watching people get turned on by the tunes in each new city?
AS: When I look out and I see people, who most likely have no idea who we are, responding to our music, it's pretty damn rewarding. It brings me to a place where I can really just let loose. The first BoH show we played in Denver was terrifying for me. I was so incredibly nervous during the first half of the opening song until I looked out and saw people intently watching and nodding. It's that recognition from the crowd that helps me get into that place where everything feels effortless and smooth. The vibe that the crowd gives off is really important to me.
DF: When I listen to RKGC, I feel like although it's familiar sounding music for many people, that there are some real sonic experiments waiting to get out (there is already some weirdness peaking out in the live show). Any plans to really stretch it out on the next record, or are you still looking to define the Roadkill sound?
AS: We're looking to explore more sonically on the next record. Textures and ambience will have a bigger roll on the next album. There will be the familiar sounds from the EP still present such as Banjo, trumpet and pedal steel but just presented in a different and hopefully, more interesting light then before.
DF: Thanks Andrew, good luck down the road and I'll see you guys at the Brooklyn show.
For band info, tour dates and more, check out the band's website here, like the man said, "it's just too fucking fun".
Photo credit: Jen Gongorek & Roadkill Ghost Choir