The Ghost of Joseph Buck
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The Ghost of Joseph Buck

Denver, CO | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Denver, CO | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Americana Indie




"Get to Know a Denver Band - The Ghost of Joseph Buck"

I definitely like to tell stories and those are usually of a sad or darker theme,” Joe Franzen, guitar player and songwriter with the Denver Americana quartet The Ghost of Joseph Buck, told AXS. The stories and characters are shaped by stories I’ve heard or read, experiences I’ve had, and imagery that’s popped up in my head. Sometimes all of that goes into one song.” Playing the Southside Bar Kitchen on Sunday, July 12 for the Bluebird District Music Festival and again later this month for the UMS, the haunting whimsy of The Ghost of Joseph Buck’s music is truly impressive when experienced live. Franzen along with his three fellow bandmates spoke with AXS about The Ghost of Joseph Buck in this exclusive interview.

AXS: Are you Denver natives? If not, where is everyone originally from?
Joe Franzen (electric guitar): I’ve lived in Denver for 20 years but I’m originally from Arlington Heights outside Chicago. Polly Beck [vocals, piano] is from small town Indiana, and Steph Schooley [stand-up bass, backup vocals] and Marc (aka Marco) Walker [drums, cornet, backup vocals] are both from Texas. Steph grew up in Austin, and Marco is from Waco. And he doesn’t appreciate jokes about his hometown.

AXS: What brought The Ghost of Joseph Buck together?
Polly Beck: Well, Joe and I are married so that made it convenient to be in a band together, and Steph and I have been great friends since we both moved to Denver to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA in 1998. Actually, a big group of friends all pitched in money to buy Steph her bass on her 30th birthday. We started playing classical duets together after that and just morphed into this band we have now. We took to Craigslist to find Marco, and it turns out he lives 5 minutes away in North Denver. He started playing with us in late 2014, and he’s been a super addition to the band.

AXS: How long has The Ghost of Joseph Buck been together? What have you learned during that time?
Polly: We’ve officially been The Ghost of Joseph Buck since 2011. Personally, I have gained so much respect for musicians who actually play out and tour. It takes grit and guts for sure.

AXS: Where was your first show in Denver, and what was the experience like?
Joe: Our first show was Urban Cowboy at Cassleman’s. It was pretty intimidating because it was a big crowd, big stage, and a well known event. Getting ready for that gig is really what got this incarnation of this band together. It was nerve racking but a ton of fun.

AXS: Who else did you play with at the show?
Joe: We opened for Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams who are one of the tightest Americana bands on the Front Range.

AXS: Have any Denver musicians inspired The Ghost of Joseph Buck?
Polly: I’m inspired by Slim Cessna’s dark but rockin’ sound and the emotion that Nathaniel Rateliff evokes through his voice. The way the Flobots have used music as a platform for social change is deeply inspiring as well.
Joe: I also really like the bands Polly mentioned for the same reasons and also like the sound of Gregory Alan Isakov, Two Tone Wolf Pack, Bad Luck City and Sawmill Joe. They all have a darker tone to their music that I’m drawn to and inspired by.
Steph Schooley: There are so many Denver and Colorado musicians and groups to be inspired by. I’m drawn to the swing of The Hollyfelds, the force of Itchy-O, and the moodiness of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
Marco Walker: I come from the punk/indie lineage and tend to gravitate toward local bands such as Lion Sized, SPELLS, Dirty Few, and In the Whale. But I also appreciate the spectrum of more chill bands such as Devotchka, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Patrick Dethlefs.

AXS: What projects are The Ghost of Joseph Buck currently working on?
Joe: We’re currently recording our follow up EP to our 2012 release. It will be another five-song EP, and we’re really excited about the way our music is evolving. Look for the release in early fall.

AXS: What else is The Ghost of Joseph Buck involved in locally, either as individuals or as a group?
Polly: We’re really kind of a bunch of “do-gooders.” Steph is the executive director of a non-profit, Campus Compact of the Mountain West and has two young children. Marco is a therapist with Kaiser Permanente. Joe is an environmental scientist, and I’m an educator primarily working with expelled secondary students. Joe and I also have two kids.
Marco: When I’m not saving lives, I’m out riding one of my many two-wheeled vehicles--Group rides on my Triumph Bonneville, mountain biking, urban assault riding, or pulling a music trailer on the neighborhood cruiser bicycle club I started in the Highlands in 2009.

AXS: Does The Ghost of Joseph Buck have a goal in mind for the sound the band produces?
Joe: I do most of the songwriting so I guess I steer that quite a bit. I usually start from an Americana perspective and then the band helps shape the sound. It usually ends up being something we have a hard time labeling. I don’t really have a goal for the sound. I just want to continue to evolve as a songwriter and have the band help shape that evolution.
Polly: My goal is usually to slow everything down and make it into a female angst-driven sound. The band over rules me 90% of the time! That’s okay though. I love our sound, and someday, maybe when my kids are a little older, I hope to have my own musical side project that comes purely from my own perspective.
Steph: My goal is to speed Polly up and make it into a less female angst-driven sound. Just kidding…kind of. I feel a compulsion to help create music, even though I don’t write the framework of the songs, that has movement and draws you forward (regardless of tempo) through twists and turns. A sound that’s interesting and just a little bit unpredictable.
Marco: I like finding vocal harmonies and writing trumpet parts minutes before recording them in the studio. I also like bringing a backbone to Polly’s beautiful vocals and piano as well as Steph’s acoustic bass. Joe and I tend to feed off each other when he dials in some nice crunch--especially when using Steph’s grandpa’s old Gibson electric with P-90’s.

AXS: Are there certain influences or themes the band tries to inject into its own music?
Joe: I definitely like to tell stories and those are usually of a sad or darker theme. The stories and characters are shaped by stories I’ve heard or read, experiences I’ve had, and imagery that’s popped up in my head. Sometimes all of that goes into one song.
Polly: Joe sometimes writes songs about other band members’ experiences. Some of his lyrics echo my life experience growing up in a small conservative town with a liberal mind and cultural background that did not always meet the status quo. He’s also written songs based on stories Steph has shared with him. We’re always careful now what we tell Joe because it might end up in a song!

AXS: For someone who has never seen or heard The Ghost of Joseph Buck, what would you tell them to entice them to watch your set?
Steph: I think part of the fun of our music is the unpredictability of it. I find it difficult to describe, which is a challenge in and of itself but also leaves the music open to so many possibilities. It’s music that tells interesting stories that you can’t wait to hear how they’ll end.
Polly: It’s good, honest music. We certainly want the audience to be entertained and have fun, but there are no gimmicks. We play. We talk to each other. We talk to the crowd. And, we have a good time.

AXS: What would your ideal live show look like? Where would it take place? Any particular time of year?
Joe: My ideal show would be at the Bluebird or Gothic with simple lights and cool vintage instruments. I think my favorite time of year for a show like that would be late fall.
Polly: It would be my dream to play a beautiful theater like Ellie Caulkins or Boettcher Concert Hall! I love classical music, so the idea of playing a theater typically reserved for a symphony would be awesome. On the other hand, I’d love to just set up on a street corner with the full band and play to anyone strolling by as a fun surprise.
Marco: I just love playing out live. I’m not that picky. If some of my friends are in the audience, as well as some folks who’ve never heard our music before, I’m pretty happy.

AXS: Would a specific band/musician share the bill with or open for The Ghost of Joseph Buck?
Joe: Polly and I saw Shakey Graves back in December and there were local Denver musicians on the bill opening and playing with him. Something like that would be fantastic. The list is pretty long of Denver bands I’d like to share a bill with.
Polly: In addition to the long list of local bands I’d love to play with, my fantasy would be to open for Cat Power or Wilco.

AXS: What shows are you looking forward to over the next few months?
Joe: We have a lot of cool stuff coming up this summer. We’re playing the UMS for the second time and playing the first ever Bluebird District Music Festival. There are so many amazing bands playing those two festivals that we’re excited to see. Polly and I are also going to see the last Grateful Dead show in Chicago. I can’t believe we got tickets!
Steph: I love seeing Itchy-O live. Talk about a unique experience! I’m also really excited to see Morrissey this summer at Red Rocks. He brings out the fan girl in me.
Marco: I finally broke down and got a three-day pass to Riot Fest. It’s going to be 1994 all over again! I look forward to The Underground Music Showcase every single year. It’s such an awesome little miniature South by Southwest. I finally got smart and took off work that Friday so I can maximize my Thursday opening night enjoyment.
Polly: I’m excited to play KRFC’s Live at Lunch again in Ft. Collins. Doing live radio definitely brings out the nerves, but it is such a great way for people to learn more about you and hopefully make some human connections that go beyond the music itself.

AXS: What do you enjoy most about Denver’s music scene, and why?
Joe: There are tons of cool places to play. Owners and booking agents for most venues are very supportive and respectful. Most of the bands in Denver are also supportive and friendly. The scene is very diverse and most musicians want to make Denver a strong scene, and by supporting each other we all benefit.
Steph: It’s been really fun getting to meet and play with lots of local and touring artists and feel a sense of camaraderie among groups. We haven’t had a negative experience yet (perhaps some irritations, but nothing terrible) and continue to look forward to bringing our sound to different venues, artists, and audiences.
Marco: I love how dynamic and quickly growing the music scene is in Denver. When Kendall Smith inherited the UMS, it was nothing like the vision he has created today. Aside from all the hours of work and coordination it takes to put on a festival like this, it could not succeed without the vibrant community of local musicians and music fans that exist in Denver. Just check the musician’s section of Craigslist and you will find throngs of musicians just having moved here from all parts of the country, looking to try out their trade in an exciting new city. - AXS - Allie Andress

"2013 UMS Band Interviews #4"

Where/ When are you playing for the UMS?
The Ghost of Joseph Buck will be playing at
Gary Lee’s Motor Pub and Grub at 10:00 p.m. on July 18th.

In twenty-five words or less, describe what somebody who has never heard of your band might expect from your performance at UMS this year.
It’ll be like a wayward journey from the Great Plains through the dusty Southwest all the way to the border of Mexico.

What was the first music you remember using your own money to buy?
The Who – Who’s Next

What has been your favorite album of 2013 so far?
Cat Power – Sun. Yes, it came out in Sept. 2012 but can’t stop listening to it.

Do you have any advice for new bands?
Respect goes a long way.

Have you planned out who you want to see at UMS this year? Who are some of your highlights?
Ark Life, Lord Huron, and Mosey West will be on the list for sure. Wow – it’s so overwhelming. We still need time to digest the line-up.

If you've been to UMS before, what three words would you use to describe it?
Eclectic. Eye-opening. Inspiring.

What has been your most memorable experience at UMS to date?
James Han at the South Broadway Church in 2012 was pretty awesome in the true sense of the word.

Any tips you'd like to give the novices for making the UMS experience even better?
Drink lots of water.

Is there any place you're looking forward to eating during UMS?
Famous Pizza – a slice of cheese always satisfies.

What is your favorite shop on South Broadway?
Lee Alex Vintage Modern for furniture and Boss for vintage apparel.

Who is your all time favorite Colorado band?
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Fair Children

You're working the counter at Twist & Shout, and a customer is interested in expanding his music collection. What three albums would you recommend?
Shovels and Rope – Oh Be Joyful, Calexico – Carried to Dust, Cordero – En Este Momento

Is there anything we forgot to ask you about the UMS that you think people need to know?
It’s really hot, but it’s worth it!
- Spork-Twist and Shout Record Store Blog

"ReverbNation Featured Artists of the Month"

The Ghost of Joseph Buck first appeared in the Fall of 2011. Guitarist and songwriter Joe Franzen gets inspiration from the connection we share as human beings that allows us to understand one another. The songs are real stories about real people. The Ghost of Joseph Buck has been filling venues with their haunting sound for the past year and a half. Those who listen to the group will be filled with feelings of humanity, empathy, hope and hopelessness. The sounds of Americana and folk interwoven with blues, gypsy, latin, country, and even a hint of classical create a unique musical sound that you’ll feel in your bones. - Colorado Music Buzz

"The Ghost of Joseph Buck"

This EP isn't a collection of murder ballads so much as one of tales of misfortune collected from grandparents who grew up during and after the Great Depression in the West. "Brother Ely" is the tale of a pious figure who comes to town, doomed to sing his praise to God literally to death when his efforts invite the attention of the Devil. "Travelin' Chair"'s Willie McGee, meanwhile, doesn't fare much better after being framed in 1945. Musically, this record has clear ties to folk and other old-timey music, but the arrangements and instrumentation have a modern flavor that gives graceful yet weighty songs like "Last Man on the Mountain" a depth and richness that could not have been achieved with vintage equipment. - Westword

"Steal This Track"

"The Ghost of Joseph Buck is a Denver-based quartet that has been bumping around town for about a year now. The group’s instrumentation — upright bass, piano, guitar, drums and an occasional organ — gives its old-timey tunes the sound of a forgotten era. Recorded with Colin Bricker at Mighty Fine Audio, the band’s debut EP sounds like something you might hear in an Old West saloon — or maybe an Old West saloon on TV. The pared down instrumentation lets the EP’s five songs — three of which were inspired by Radio Diaries stories — really breathe and blossom."
- Eryc Eyl, Hey Reverb (Jul 23, 2012) - Hey Reverb

"Radio Diaries songs from The Ghost of Joseph Buck"

Over the past year, Americana band The Ghost of Joseph Buck has been writing and recording songs based on our stories. They’ve kind of become the official bards of Radio Diaries. We’ve just put up three of their songs – based on Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair, The Last Man on the Mountain, and The Gospel Ranger – on our Soundcloud page for your listening pleasure. - Radio Diaries

"Steal This Track"

The Ghost of Joseph Buck are a Denver band, for sure. The band was formed in Denver and all its members live here. But the band’s heart, its music, encompasses the entirety of the American West mythos.

On the band’s second, recently released EP, “Scenic,” The Ghost of Joseph Buck continues to pepper simple yet strong music with Western motifs like a barroom piano, the occasional organ and mariachi horns. But this time they brought along the ballsiness of rock with guitar moments that almost cross over into hard rock.
Despite wandering towards rock, Polly Beck’s vocals and lyrics on “Scenic” maintains consistency with the bands’ previous, self-titled EP. Beck, who founded the band along with husband Joe Fanzen back in 2011, has a somewhat low, populist voice that’s more powerful than pretty. It’s the perfect voice for carrying lyrics about outlaws, lost loves, struggles, and other Western themes like murderers and preachers.

All this talk about the West will likely lead you to expect something specific, but The Ghost of Joseph Buck do well avoiding outright nostalgia and cliche. The West is an inspiration, a launching point and not a handbook for the band’s music.

Below, download “Angels of Juarez,” only in Steal This Track. The band is currently planning more winter shows, so stay tuned on the band’s website for more info and to stream more music.

Please note that downloads offered via Steal This Track are intended to whet your appetite, and are NOT CD-quality recordings. If you want those, please support the artists by buying their music and/or seeing them live.

If you re a Colorado band or musician ready to expose your fresh sounds to the readers of Reverb, email your tracks — along with any interesting facts about them, as well as a photo or album art — to Steal This Track for consideration. We only feature tracks not available for free elsewhere. - Hey Reverb


The Ghost of Joseph Buck - Scenic EP, Released November 2015

  1. Dividing Line
  2. Western Sky
  3. Days of Old
  4. Angels of Juarez
  5. Not About You

Recorded at Mighty Fine Productions, Denver, Co.

The Ghost of Joseph Buck - Self Titled EP, Released March 2012

  1. Brother Ely
  2. Pueblo's Burning
  3. Travelin' Chair
  4. Hey Jim
  5. Last Man on the Mountain

Recorded at Mighty Fine Productions, Denver, Co.



Conjuring up images of dusty towns, open roads, and lonesome wanderers, The Ghost of Joseph Buck's music connects humanity past and present. Lovers, outlaws, preachers, murderers, and wanderers, together in song.

Joe Franzen, guitarist and chief songwriter of the band, finds inspiration in the expansive plains to the east of his home and the lives and stories of the people that surround him. Pianist and vocalist, Polly Beck, lends music and melodies to many of the tunes using the old beaten Bond piano Franzen bought for her when they started dating.
Bassist, Stephanie Schooley, draws upon her classic country influences growing up in Austin, TX to create steady, swaying and toe-tapping rhythms.
Drummer, Marc
Walker also from Austin, TX,  offers invaluable creative input and a driving and steady beat that allows the lyrics and melodies to reach the listeners. 

Their second EP, Scenic, was released in November 2015.  The Denver quartet will bring you more stories of struggle and survival in 2016 backed by simple yet powerful instrumentation.