I Am Ghost is
going strong
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 band.

"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 has evolved.

"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 another album."

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," says Juliano.

Find out when I Am Ghost is coming to your town at www.iamghostmusic.com

Also visit my blogs at http://mickieszoo.blogspot.com and www.insidesocal.com/doodah 

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