I Am Ghost is
By Naughty Mickie
There's a popular saying which goes "what
doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and I Am Ghost can take this
to heart. The Long Beach based worked hard since their formation
in 2004 to get noticed-- a true DIY effort -- and were signed to
Epitaph. They saw their debut effort, "Lover's Requiem," released
October 2006. The band's music was more atmospheric and goth, with
violinist Kerith Telestai and pianist Brian Telestai. After
touring, in 2007, there was a major lineup change, which left I Am
Ghost with only half of the original band members. Vocalist Steve
Juliano, guitarists Timoteo Rosales III and Chad Kulengosky,
bassist Ron Ficarro and drummer Justin McCarthy have just released
"Those We Leave Behind" (Epitaph), an album that sounds more
metal, yet still retains the group's dark, atmospheric roots.
"A lineup change like this would probably break
up most bands by now, but we're a pretty resilient band," says
Juliano. "Last year we did over 300 dates. In 2007, we went to
Europe, we did most of the Warped Tour and then after Warped Tour
we were jumping from tour to tour and we were literally never home
and it just wore down some of the members. When we started I Am
Ghost, we were signed so quickly to Epitaph, we didn't really get
a chance to figure each other out. Tours are pretty rigorous,
sometimes they're a bus, but sometimes they're van-trailer and I
think a few people in the band were over it. They never were in a
band before I Am Ghost.
"Kerith, our violinist, was a school teacher
when she joined the band and her husband Brian was going to
college and it caught them off-guard." Juliano continues, "People
think of the rock star lifestyle, you're on tour and it's amazing
and fun. It's fun, but you get sick a lot, people get homesick and
they decided to go their separate ways and they want that nine to
five lifestyle and I respect that. Personally, for me, I can't do
that, I can't be stuck in an office or school for eight hours a
day. I like to travel. The remaining and new members, we're all
tour dogs, we just love being on the road."
I remark on their sound change.
"When we did 'Lover's Requiem,' we came to that
not really knowing what I Am Ghost was," replies Juliano. "We were
trying to find our sound. I didn't know any of the members well
and we didn't know what I Am Ghost was all about. We didn't know
if we wanted to be a dark band or a poppy band or a metal band. We
learned a lot from our last producer (Michael) Elvis Baskette, he
taught us how to write a good song rather than just write this
epic opus six-minute song which sometimes can be cool, but we
overdid it on the last album, we just wanted to be this big epic
"We haven't changed I Am Ghost. It's not like
it's a completely different band, people are not going to
understand where we went." Juliano goes on, "It's definitely the
same band, it's just a progression. We've always wanted to do a CD
like this and be more aggressive. It's still the same catchy
choruses, we don't scream the entire time - you have some
screaming - but it's still I Am Ghost. We have a lot more to write
about too. The past year we've gone through so much drama with
member changes, touring and this and that, that I think it made
for a better album this time."
Juliano notes that the band's writing process
"Definitely more collaborative, the guys in the
band are more songwriters, the new ones who have joined," says
Juliano. "When we got back from the last tour we took some time
off, trying to figure ourselves out and seeing if we could even do
this again because when you lose three members, it's half your
band. Most bands are like, 'Screw it, let's just start another
band or go back to work.' For us, the remaining ones, we were
like, 'No, this is not going to happen. We never got our chance to
shine yet.' Our first show was in mid-2005, so we've only been a
band for seven, eight years and we still felt that there's so much
more I Am Ghost to give and for kids to find out about us. We
decided we are going to write and did most of our writing
cross-country. Our bass player went back to New York for a few
months and he would send me songs on the Internet and I would
record over my lyrics and send them back to him and he'd come back
with more stuff.
"It was cool because I'd get a full song from
Timmy and then I'd sit and listen to it and write lyrics to it and
record lyrics onto his songs and send it back to him." Juliano
continues, "He'd listen to it and we'd talk about it. It was cool
because we never did that before, we only had four or five
complete songs when we went into the studio and wrote with Elvis.
It was stressful because we only had three weeks to record
'Lover's Requiem' and jump on Warped Tour. For this album, we had
over 20 songs walking into the studio, so we actually had too many
songs, we had to cut six or seven of them from this new album.
It's cool to have all this new material."
I ask Juliano about his mainstay for I Am
Ghost-- the lyrics.
"With 'Lover's Requiem,' it was this kind of
epic, rock opera type band and it's a concept album." Juliano
elaborates, "It was this whole epic story about an angel trying to
get back from the dead with this vampire and it was cool, but with
this new album it's more experiences from my actual real life of
what I've seen in the past year or two and what the other guys in
the band have felt. It still has the macabre I Am Ghost sound
lyric-wise. I've always been a fan of Halloween and the dark
beauty of the night and the moon, but it's not a concept album,
every song is about my life and people's lives and how I felt at
that moment. We had a lot of issues to deal with after three
members left. We didn't even know if I Am Ghost was going to have
Touring seemed to be I Am Ghost's thorn, so I
wonder how they dealt with their quick success.
"It's funny because we feel that we're nowhere
near where we want to be right now," replies Juliano. "We've had
so many things holding us back. I really believe that if we didn't
lose members during the last few tours because every time you lose
a member, you have to take some time off and go back in the studio
and work with new people, then you have to go back and figure
everything else out. We disappeared for about a year.
"With the scene nowadays, it's so fickle and
MySpace and PureVolume, every day there's a new band popping up
and kids, our fan base is kids-- you've got the junior high and
high school kids and occasional college kids at our shows, 80
percent are high school kids and they're very fickle. If you
disappear, they tend to move on and older people are not like
that, but we have to come back and say, 'You guys we're back and
we have a new album. Please don't forget about us.' I think, for
this, the kids are going to be very pleasantly surprised because I
know they've been wondering what happened and what we were going
to do without Kerith. Actually there's female vocals and we still
have orchestras and violins too."
Juliano has been a storyboard artist for films
and television and interned in animation at Disney and Hanna-Barbera,
so I had to ask abut his art.
"I draw for fun nowadays," Juliano shares. "When
I'm home, I'll sit down for a couple of hours and draw, but on
tour it's really hard, especially in a van-trailer. The tour bus
is a little easier, it's got a table and I can sit in the back
room and draw, but I keep myself busy with band promotion and
interviews now and writing. My main concern is writing the best
songs and I just sat with my book of poetry and wrote every day
for hours in my room and tried to figure out what the new I Am
Ghost is going to be."
He has his hands in the band's art as well.
"Anything that has to do with I Am Ghost, like
MySpace or any other sites, I design all the art on Photoshop,"
states Juliano. "When it comes to t-shirt designs, I've done stuff
in the past, but with the newer stuff, we've been so busy that I
just haven't had time, so we've had a lot of friend submitting
stuff. I'm always 100 percent into whatever artistic media is
being used for I Am Ghost, I approve everything. The new album
cover and the inserts, I was 100 percent working with Epitaph on
what I wanted and what I wanted the girl (on the album cover) to
look like down to the colors. I was very particular about what I
wanted. I wasn't drawing the cover, but I was there making sure
everything was perfect."
I wonder which cut on "Those We Leave Behind" is
most representative of today's I Am Ghost.
"There's so many good songs," says Juliano.
"Track number two, 'Don't Wake Up,' it's the most personal song on
the entire album. When I wrote the song, I was like, 'Wow, I never
wrote a song like this,' because the lyrics about me and my
girlfriend. She had a miscarriage during the writing of the album
and the song's about that. I couldn't believe I could have been a
father and this song is kind of a montage/song to my unborn son or
daughter. The song's very, very personal to me. When I hear it, I
think about that day when she told me that she had the
miscarriage. It's probably my favorite song on the album because
of how I feel every time I hear it.
"Nothing like that ever happened to me," Juliano
goes on. "I love my girlfriend and we've been dating for about a
year now and for that to happen pretty quickly. It was even weird
how she found out she had a miscarriage. We're definitely not
planning to have kids for a while, but at the time. That day could
have changed my life. 'Don't Wake Up' is like talking about how it
wasn't your time to be here yet, but one day it will be."
I Am Ghost is currently on a full European and
UK tour with Blessed By a Broken Heart. They will be visiting
Greece, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Poland and
U.K. and home in time for Christmas. After a break, they hope to
be back out on the road and through the U.S. again next year. Also
in the works are plans for a DVD/EP of songs that didn't make it
on the album to be released in summer.
"We don't want two more years to go by for a
release. We're hoping to stay in the kids' faces for a while,"
Find out when I Am Ghost is coming to your town
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