H i s t o r y
National Ghost was formed in 2006, comprised of members from various prominent Detroit acts. The idea was to throw these musicians in a room, most of whom had never met each other, and see what came out. Within a few months the line up solidified and National Ghost was born.
T h e V i b e
Their music is eclectic and original; rich vocal harmonies rounded out by well-thought arrangements, and top notch instrumentation. Careful and well executed, yet open and boundless at times, the band strives to forge new ground with nods to the elders as well. Each musician brings their unique background and ideas into the fold. They write about everything; conspiratorial reptiles, loving tributes to both heroes and foes, and ice cream. They bring ambitious, unfettered enthusiasm to each song they play as their set smoothly glides from melodic rock to sonic groove and beyond.
T h e B u z z
‘a stew that features exquisite harmonies and excellent songwriting as core ingredients.’
'With such a provocative sonic presence, National Ghost seems to stand on their own in comparison to others.'
--Detroit Live Magazine
National Ghost’s 2008 self titled debut is impressive on just about every level, from the musicianship, to the compositions, to the individual performances, to the overall production, it is just a beautiful creation.
James Church - Guitar, Keys, Vocals
John Mabilia - Guitar and Vocals
Stewart Preston - Bass and Vocals
Randy Nelson - Drums and Percussion
Graham Strachan - Lead Vocals, Harmonica and Percussion
In 2007 National Ghost released a 4 song EP.
National Ghost-National Ghost
Midwest Coast Records, November 2008
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National Ghost is comprised of veteran players that bring equal parts passion, taste, bravado, humor...National Ghost is comprised of veteran players that bring equal parts passion, taste, bravado, humor and professional poise to the fore. They know how to communicate to a crowd and, for all their inventive and grandiose ideas, avoid the pitfalls of pretention and over-indulgence. This is an exciting and fun band that will appeal to those who simply have a hunger for well-crafted, melodic and groove induced music.
--Music Connection Magazine
National Ghost- National Ghost
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What is a ghost but a spirit or a vestige of what once was? In the case of National Ghost, however, ...What is a ghost but a spirit or a vestige of what once was? In the case of National Ghost, however, it also refers to something that's still alive. The Detroit jam group combines "ghosts" from various veteran local bands to create something that's vital and new.
This eponymous debut scales new heights with a mixed bag of rock and pop styles that are at once unique but immediately recognizable. Americana, country, prog-rock, reggae, soul and numerous other genres blend a stew that features exquisite harmonies and excellent songwriting as core ingredients. It's obvious after but one listen that the sum here is greater than the individual parts.
"Green Salamander" kicks off the disc with musical nods that might recall Steely Dan and CSN&Y. "King of the Thrill" follows with even more edged beats and eerie guitars. Other notable songs include the jazz-funk fusion of "Leavin'" (which blends some pseudo-reggae and "Give it to Me"-like J. Geils syncopation), the goofy childlike fun of "Ice Cream Head," the almost incomprehensible Three Dog Night-meets-King Crimson blend of "Hollow Boy and the Candy Store," the funky clavinet-driven '70s classic rock vibe of "The Gist," and the reverentially soulful "The Distance Between Us," which resonates so much that the song should be the CD's first single.
Former Robb Roy frontman Graham Strachan covers many of the leads on the band's 14 songs here, occasionally sharing vocal duties with multi-instrumentalist Jamie Church, bassist Stew Preston and guitarist John Mabilia. Percussionist Randy Nelson rounds out the group, providing a serviceable anchor for that patchwork to thrive and proving that in some instances, "ghosts" — especially the Detroit variety — can create something that's very much alive.
Eric Harabadian writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.
National Ghost's Crazy Cool New CD
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Jason Peters Detroit Indie Music Examiner This CD kicks ass. National Ghost’s 2008 self title...Jason Peters
Detroit Indie Music Examiner
This CD kicks ass. National Ghost’s 2008 self titled debut is impressive on just about every level, from the musicianship, to the compositions, to the individual performances, to the overall production, it is just a beautiful creation. This is the rock n’ roll that rock n’ roll grew up on, with heavy doses of ‘70’s style original sin, sprinkled with references to just about every phase that rock has passed through since then. National Ghost, the album, is a very satisfying and unified creative whole, despite being one of the most eclectic CD’s to hit my stereo in quite some time - and in spite of the fact that the individual voices of National Ghost’s band members, seem to maintain their own integrity and unique musical personalities. It has a very familiar feel, yet it sounds completely fresh and original at the same time. It is reminiscent without being directly derivative, and if it is not your classic tapestry, it is at the very least a thought provoking and wildly exciting collage.
As is the case with a lot of cool rock albums, the songs themselves are based on relatively simple chord structures, but the band’s musicianship, the tasteful layering of sounds and textures, and the overall sincerity of both the compositions, and of the performances on the CD, result in a stunning treat for the ears and a 62 minute musical experience that is at the same time soothing and energizing. (To be fair, criticizing a rock band for using simple chord structures is sort of like attacking a landscape painter for using green.) Also, while the underlying chords are simple, the melodies which flow from them are beautiful, sometimes haunting, as in the case of the tastefully Floydy “Frayed”, and sometimes bouncy and almost amusement park giddy, as on the dub reggae meets Ween, sticks-in-your-head-like-superglue, “Ice Cream Head”, and in all cases they are hooky as hell.
While the melodies make the whole thing adhere to your cranium in a relentlessly snuggly way, the real surprise comes from the rhythms, which are anything but typical rock n’ roll. With shades of Yes and King Crimson, National Ghost moves effortlessly between time signatures and tempos, and the songs roll along like one great river, at one moment, wide and deep and calm, and in the next, bouncing over pebbles, and swirling in happy little eddies, only to drop over a log in the smooth rush of a backyard waterfall, always moving, always rolling, never stagnant, never saggy. Even on the straight funk closer, "Gist", the groove never sits still, so it never gets old. The wildest track rhythmically, almost shouldn’t work on a rock album, but the skill with which it is executed, and the connection that the musicians seem to share, make it solid, so it works, and it maintains it’s rock n’ roll feel, while the esoteric numbers in the rhythms would knock plenty of jazz heads off their chairs. Here’s what the band notes on "The Ring" say:
“Holy Time Sig!
Try to follow along: 8 bars of 7/8 to an 11/8 (subdivided 5 and 6) with a 4/4 finish, repeated. That bring us to the next stanza; 7/8 to 11/8 then a 4-bar 4/4 break where the drum fill/vocal part takes over. We then return to the 7/8 to 11/8 phrase, which slides down to a 6/8 swing for a few bars. After a double half-note transition we return one more time to the 7/8, then a stop time segment that sends us back to the 11/8 with a 4/4 bass riff, then a double 5 drum break/band out.”
Try to follow along indeed! Wheeeee! This album is a trip in all the right places. Randy Nelson’s drums, and accompanying percussion tracks, while precise and infinitely tasteful, are slyly understated, leaving room for the rhythmic elements to be filled out by the other instruments, and the vocal lines. Similarly, Stew Preston’s bass is thick and solid, rooting the tracks and contributing to the melody, but without ever stepping on the toes of his bandmates. John Mabilia’s and Jamie Church’s guitars are wicked, adapting to the variations in sonic environments like chameleons in capes, hammering out the rhythms and punctuating the melodies. Every note seems important, there is definitely a jammy element to this album, but it never gets noodley, and the tasty little extras, (Greg Dreslinkski’s B3 on "Leavin’"; Church’s theremin on "Oliver Reed"; various whoops, crashes, booms, and twangs, throughout), are more than just decoration, they completely define the mood in some cases, but they are never over the top or gimmicky.
National Ghost’s command of flow is stunning. The harmonies sound in some places like they could have been modeled after classic C.C.R. or Doobie Brothers, and in other spots they could have come from Honky Dory era Bowie. To say this album is all over the place is to understate an obvious fact, but that is a big part of its genius.
National Ghost’s bed tracks roll like a heady dialogue between the musicians, and manifest a comfortable, easy, groove, which feels a lot like best friends hanging out and making each other laugh. This is particularly surprising in light of the fact that National Ghost, the band, is apparently a collection of Detroit area veterans who had not worked together before. In 2006, Detroit filmmaker, and two time Emmy winner, Jim Bonner, collected a handful of his musician friends and brought them together to record the music for his film, Trap. It took a couple of years to solidify the line-up, and to hash out a sound, but the end result is National Ghost, a rock band that is not bound by the chains of any single genre. Their writing has the feel of true collaboration. That is, it feels like each member gets to bring the whole of his voice to each cut. Nobody gets squashed. I do not know if this is the case, I have not talked to them about it.
National Ghost is:
Graham Stachan – lead vocals
John Mailia – guitars, vocals
Jamie Church – guitars/keys, vocals
Stew Preston – bass, vocals
Randy Nelson - drums
Lyrically, National Ghost, the album, is as collaborative as it is musically, (most of the music is credited to National Ghost, the band), and also as holistic and seamless. While lead singer, Graham Strachan is listed as having written or helped to write the lyrics on 7 of the CD’s 14 tracks, every member of National Ghost, (except bass player, Preston), has a writing credit. And although everybody gets to speak on this album, their wildly divergent themes and states of mind, all clearly belong together and make perfect sense in the context of National Ghost, the album. In many ways, the lyrics support the music, as much as the other way around. These songs range from a story about “bony, brainy, gaunt Michigander”, Jimmy the "Green Salamander", (told by a cat(?)), to a deliciously silly love song from an ice cream cone, (wink), to a sympathy note to our nearly excommunicated distant planetary neighbor, "Dwarf Planet Pluto", and the “everybody dreams of how they want to be seen” ode to hard living, hard drinking, unapologetic "Oliver Reed", (remember Tommy’s creepy step-dad?). This is one album that really does have it all.
National Ghost, the album, works great as a stand-alone sensory accessory, or, it is happy to hang out in the background and keep you company while you drink with your friends, drive down the open road, or write a review, (hopefully not in that order). Because I am new to this, I have been able to spend almost a week with National Ghost’s debut CD. I do not expect this luxury in the future, as already the CD’s are beginning to pile up on my desk, but it has been a great experience. Admittedly, I am more of a music lover than a critic, but it is really neat to focus on a single album, through multiple listens, over multiple days, in multiple moods, and I think when you do this, the music becomes a part of you somehow, I don’t think there is a single track on National Ghost that hasn’t been stuck in my head at one time (or many) over the course of the past few days.
My favorite track (today) is "King Of The Thrill". If you replaced John Travolta with Jim Morrison in the movie version of Grease, this might be the song the song the Doors brought to the soundtrack. And the hookiest song on the album is "Ice Cream Head", but then, I’m a sucker for a love song. I loved National Ghost the first time through, but even so, it has grown on me. I fully expect that it will be a regular part of my personal musical diet for many years to come. I heartily recommend this CD to anyone with ears.
National Ghost was recorded at Reelsound Audio, in Novi MI. Engineered by Jamie Ascenzo, and produced by National Ghost and Jay Kuehn.
National Ghost has a full schedule of live shows coming up, including an appearance at the Assembly Line Concert at 10 PM, on March 23rd, at A.J.’s Café in Ferndale.
Reviews: National Ghost
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By Dan MacIntosh The National Ghost moniker fits this musical collective, but probably not in th...By Dan MacIntosh
The National Ghost moniker fits this musical collective, but probably not in the way it was initially intended. Ghosts are mysterious visions that are oftentimes difficult to completely figure out. They haunt and intrigue us, even though we're not always clear about their true intentions. Similarly, National Ghost is bit of an enigma. Obviously, these five players make up a rock band. But just what kind of a rock band they are, however, is yet to be determined.
One song called "Leavin’" includes this simple and direct lyric: "Celebrate the sound, can you dig what’s goin’ down?" This recording features plenty of jazzy electric guitar and soulful organ. So, you may be tempted to tag National Ghost with the jam band genre category. Furthermore, the band supports this initial theory with plenty of fine musicianship throughout its self-titled release.
Then again, you might be tempted to throw this hypothesis right out the window after listening to "Oliver Reed." Yes, it’s a song about that actor; the English thespian whom the band describes as the Errol Flynn of his day. He starred in such wonderful films as Oliver!, Tommy, and The Three Musketeers. "I used to dream I was Oliver Reed," lead vocalist Graham Strachen admits, over an old school synthesizer groove. I’ll venture to guess that no jam band would ever consider writing a song saluting Oliver Reed. I honestly doubt he's been the subject of a rock song before.
There are moments when this act – at least lyrically – comes off as psychedelic. During "Ice Cream Head," for instance, this song’s character describes himself as literally having a frozen dessert noggin. "I’ve got an ice cream head, careful or I’ll get it on your summer dress." Musically, however, the tune bounces to a summertime reggae beat, replete with a party time brass section. This song is as lighthearted as "Oliver Reed," with its deep discussion of heroes, is serious.
A little musical schizophrenia sets in with the very next song, "Eye To The I," which rolls a little bit like The Rolling Stones during some of their more country/Americana moments. With strummed guitars and weary vocals, the group could very well pass for an alt.country band -- if, of course, that’s the only sample you were given.
National Ghost may frustrate you a bit, especially if you’re an orderly person who likes to keeps your CDs neatly categorized. But if you like the messy, ice cream head joy of a band that appears to change its shape from track to track, you’ll have great, disorganized fun with this new release.
National Ghost Self Titled Debut
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National Ghost is the product of several former Detroit-area bands. Formed in 2006, the original ide...National Ghost is the product of several former Detroit-area bands. Formed in 2006, the original idea was just to get a bunch of guys into a room and see what happened. Well something clicked. Building from the soul/funk base that Detroit is known for, National Ghost branches out into a modern rock sound that is fueled by a love of the 1970’s and a desire for the now. On December 6, 2008, National Ghost will release their eponymous debut CD. Get in line, this one is worth waiting for.
National Ghost has a very earthy sound that's part Americana and part melodic rock. Lead vocalist Graham Strachan has one of those voices that is eminently familiar yet you can never quite pin down who it is he sounds like. On occasion you almost think you hear Jim Morrison, but then it's gone. National Ghost has an eclectic writing style that is very mellow and memorable. King Of The Thrill has a very laid back feel and a killer melody. The chorus here thrums and sways like nobody's business. Break You is a quiet missive that’s part admonishment and part admiration. Leavin' stretches back through time to the decade of sequin suits and long, slow guitar solos that last a week. Leavin' has some of the best guitar work on National Ghost and is full of funk. Be sure to check out The Distance Between Us, a consummate songwriter's song. Other highlights include Eye To The I, Show, Ring and The Gist (by far the funkiest song on the album).
National Ghost is a very talented group that has a real ardor for the sort of funk, soul and rock and roll that characterized the 1970's. This love pours itself forth into National Ghosts' songwriting. National Ghost is a very enjoyable listen and runs across several musical boundaries. There's something here for most everyone!
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
National Ghost Spotlight
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As an ensemble they have been together roughly two years but the collective resume of this band ac... As an ensemble they have been together roughly two years but the collective resume of this band actually reveals decades dedicated to the Detroit music scene. “We’ve been together since 2006 and have been working hard just trying to hone our craft writing good songs and recording” explains Jamie Church. “We’ve been stuck indoors for a long time and now we’re ready to show our cards.” Church (guitar, keys, vocals, Theremin, samples); John Mabilia (guitar and vocals); Randy Nelson (drums and percussion); Stew Preston (bass and vocals) and Graham Strachan (lead vocals, harmonica and percussion) have served their Motor City apprenticeships in several bands including Kunundrum, Weathered Tone, Vietnam Prom, Penumbrae, Stash, Some People’s Children, Thunderharp Choir and Robb Roy. With National Ghost they bring a rich patchwork of wonderful harmonies, superb songwriting and ace musicianship to the fore.
“I came up with the name for the band, offers Church. “We went through many, many names, probably 100. I’ve never been a political writer or too political of an artist but I’ve been up on what’s been going on in this country and I really felt like the country had run its course in a lot of ways and was a ghost of it used to be. Different interpretations kind of spun out from that and everyone liked it.”
“By this point we had written quite a few songs and we started to see a pattern with how we were writing,” adds Strachan. “It was kind of a throwback to that missing element in music that you don’t quite hear anymore. This involved taking time to listen to an entire album instead of a couple cuts. When I was a kid you put the headphones on and listened to an album front to back and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The band’s debut disc features 14 tracks of original eclectic rock and pop that borrow liberally from every type of genre you could imagine. Americana, country, funk, reggae, jam, prog-rock, blues—like some tasty musical smoothie; it’s an energized and powerful blend. For instance, the lead cut “Green Salamander” is an ode to the band’s fellow artist friend Jim Bonner that immediately grabs you with articulate, well-defined interplay and an amazing Steely Dan meets CSN&Y kind of panache. Scroll down a song or two and the jazzy funk of “Leavin’” will get your toe a-tappin’ as it unfolds into a celebratory staccato reggae-ish vibe. Need a little bluesy pick me up? “Show matches cool slide guitar licks with a country kick. And then there’s the incomprehensible Three Dog Night meets King Crimson blast of “Hollow Boy and the Candy Store” to really know you off your feet!
Brought together by afore-mentioned filmmaker friend Bonner, the members of National Ghost had never formally performed or written as a unit before. But an initial jam session at Church’s home sparked inspiration almost instantly. “Everything came together really fast,” says Church. “And since then we have a creative problem where we have too much material. But that’s a nice problem to have (laughs)! We’ve already got more than enough songs for another album so it’s gonna be tough to pick out what goes on the next record. It’s great to get together with people that have the same vision and work so well together.”
In today’s cookie cutter mentality of assembly line pop stars and lock step music production, perhaps National Ghost’s primary mission is to bring care and quality back to music and break out of the mold pervasive in the current cultural marketplace.
“For me personally I’ve been accustomed to focusing our sounds to hit a niche,” claims former Robb Roy front man Strachan. “That’s what’s so great about this. It’s the corporate opposite in that we try to make the songs different and just be what they are. In Robb Roy we had to fit into a certain genre to market it and it was not as creative as I would have liked it to be.”
As one would imagine making a project like this work requires a simpatico that resembles a family in the sense of healthy give and take, with egos firmly in check. “Often before we focus on songs for a gig we’ll just start jamming and instantly someone will come up with something quirky and unique or strong and melodic,” says Church. “we’ll usually prioritize those songs and work with whoever comes up with lyrics first for them. Everything seems to make its way into what we do. We’re old enough and we’ve been doing this long enough to be respectful of each other.”
“We all know what’s good and what’s not,” asserts Nelson. “And nobody’s gonna put something in the mix if it’s not good enough. We just kinda know after all these years what’s gonna fly and what won’t”
With such a provocative sonic presence, National Ghost seems to stand on their own in comparison to others. However, being a Detroit-based band, they are quick to stake their place in the musical scheme of things. “When we put the album on CD Baby and they wanted us to describe our sound,” says Strachan. “They even have a category called ‘Detroit Rock.’ It contains a lot of stuff like MC5, The Stooges and The White Stripes—garage rock as they call it. All that music is great but I think Detroit music is more than just garage rock. I think when you hear us there is some of the Rationals there or maybe Motown, with some of the harmonies we do. And just the fact that we’re from here means we’ve always been influenced by what’s around us.”
“None of us have set any long term goals for this band,” states Church. “We just want to let people know who we are and get the music heard. We’re gonna take whatever opportunities come our way and just work hard.
You can find their new album on all the usual online outlets and go to www.nationalghost.com or www.myspace.com for more information.
--Detroit Live Magazine
Bands To Look For
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Detroit's National Ghost, a wide-range of influences swath together- glam-rocks big buzzing guitars,...Detroit's National Ghost, a wide-range of influences swath together- glam-rocks big buzzing guitars, dance-pops swing-able rhythms, prog-rocks guttural lyrics, and even a bit of funk and reggae; recently released National Ghost(self-titled), listen at myspace.com/nationalghost.
Brian McCollum's Big Gigs
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The band is just 3 years old, but the players are well established on the Detroit scene -- most nota...The band is just 3 years old, but the players are well established on the Detroit scene -- most notably vocalist Graham Strachan, who puts a melodic topping on National Ghost's quirky groove rock. The five-piece celebrates its self-titled debut disc in a release party; Dec. 6th, 9 p.m., Berkley Front.
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"I like it!" JT the Brick on the song Ice Cream Head
Ghost's typical set list is all original rock, with maybe a nod to an influential artist here and there.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.