Sun Ghost's Glitter, Guns, & Gold: Indie Piano Pop With a Touch of Sondheim
Give a little taste of a great product and people are naturally going to want more. That's the solid logic of drug dealers, soft pretzel peddlers at the mall and Sun Ghost.
Failed Kickstarter campaigns be damned: The Valley pop rockers took a new approach to crowd sourcing the funding for their new record, Glitter, Guns & Gold. Side A went up online in June exchange for donations. The donations funded the rest of the album's production, from recording to pressing physical discs.
And the product is, indeed, great. The typically guitar-driven four-piece amped up their sound with piano, giving the new record a full, baroque feel. We talked to front man and pianist Trevor Denton about the band's new direction, atypical influences, and the magic that comes from being on the road.
Up On the Sun: First of all, what did you want to do differently on this record than you did on the first?
Trevor Denton: Well, regarding things we wanted to do differently, as opposed to things we did differently by accident: We wanted this album to be more of a whole. The first album was a mishmash of grungy pop rock songs, most of which were written before the band had actually formed. For this one, we took a more collective approach to the songwriting--collective both as a band and as an album. Each song was written and record sort of in context with the rest. This actually resulted in more diversity of sound from one song to the next, oddly enough. But the sequence fits better.
Also, lyrically, I feel like I took more of a storytelling role, portraying the messages of the songs through more subtle and less direct means than just saying "You're goddamn right I feel deserted." Instead I told stories about other people to convey what I meant to say. This felt much freer, like I could be more honest in the same way that writers use fiction to speak truth.
How would you say has your overall sound has evolved since Love, Hurt & Paradox?
On the first record, our lead instrument was guitar. For Glitter, Guns & Gold, the lead instrument is unabashedly the piano. I was gradually switching from guitar to piano-playing with each new song we wrote, until I eventually put the guitar down for good. We embraced the instrumental change and it naturally resulted in a different sound. An evolution was inevitable also because we lost a bass player, Chris, and gained a new one, Nick. But we retained a lot of the same attitude and tone--a sort of punk angst paired with an ambivalence between pop and prog rock. That still describes us, just a bit more animated, and with different instrumentation this time around.
Where did you draw inspiration for the new record?
I've been absorbing musical inspiration from Ben Folds since I was a wee lad in middle school. (He's one of the reasons I began studying jazz piano). But I have a lot of punk roots always trying to break through, in addition to a long background of musical theater to deal with. I was raised by two music teachers, one of which was almost constantly directing some production of a Broadway musical at one of the various valley colleges or theater companies. So while a lot of musical influence for me comes from Cursive, Elvis Costello, and No Knife, it almost equally comes from folks like Stephen Sondheim, Alan Menken, and George Gershwin.
You posted side A of the album as to get some financial momentum to record side B. How did that method work for you? Would you do it again?
Yeah, we did that as an experiment and it turned out pretty well. We at least raised enough money to fund the album's completion and pressing of the physical CDs. I also think it generated a certain amount of intrigue about what the next half would be like. I'm not sure I'd do it again, but I definitely don't regret doing it that way this time. We were able to take our time a bit more and give our full attention to each song. And with people having invested actual money into it, we felt like it was almost a community project, like it's not just ours, it's for everyone.
You guys did quite a bit of touring over the last year. What's your best story from the road? Where was your favorite place to play?
My favorite out-of-town spot has to have been Bisbee, playing at the Sidepony Express Music Festival. Amazing, magical town. We rented this ridiculous luxury condo and had adventures everywhere all weekend. Found a person-size tunnel, drank too much whiskey, saw a UFO, and somehow managed to stumble through playing three full sets and two acoustic sets, all in two days. It was a whirlwind.
Sun Ghost is scheduled to perform Thursday, December 20, at Antique Sugar.