World's Greatest Ghosts
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World's Greatest Ghosts

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This band has not uploaded any videos




Bands break up for many reasons. Wanting to sound like the Smashing Pumpkins usually isn’t one of them—especially for a synth-rock band more used to garnering New Order comparisons than zeitgeist affinity. Laughing between bites of bourbon-spiked boozecakes and Irish coffee, the members of World’s Greatest Ghosts are explaining how their self-imposed break—the band has taken a two-month show hiatus to work on new material—snowballed into one ridiculous rumor. “I think our friend started it,” guitarist Brandon Anderson admits. “If you could prolong that, I’d really appreciate it.”

Answers like this go a long way toward explaining the mystique of WGG, a quintet of out-of-state suburbanites who migrated here after hearing stories of Portland as a mecca for aspiring musicians. The band—composed of singer-keyboardist Jesse Laney, his wife Emily, brother Casey and two close friends—play tight and anthemic rock songs that rely just as much on video-game keyboard blips as killer guitar hooks. The band’s attention to detail and overall sense of, well, geekiness (whether talking favorite records or Lost mythology) is on display in all of its songs, with lyrics that read more like rules to an old Nintendo RPG than your standard boy-meets-girl set.

For all World’s Greatest Ghosts’ dorky tendencies, spending just a few minutes with the band feels more like reconnecting with a long lost friend than sharing a drink with a rock band. So it makes sense that the band, whose debut is on the horizon, prefers playing house shows—where the boundaries between audience and performer are broken within seconds. Then again, not all of WGG’s song subjects are so universal. When asked about his favorite dinosaur (standout song “Prehistoric Forest” mentions both Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex), singer and keyboardist Jesse Laney nonchalantly quips, “What era?” Try posing that question to Billy Corgan.

-MICHAEL MANNHEIMER May 7, 2008 - Willamette Week

"MP3 At 3PM: World’s Greatest Ghosts"

Portland, Ore., quintet World’s Greatest Ghosts is set to release its debut, No Magic (Lucky Madison), on Tuesday. The band’s members are said to be Dungeons & Dragons heads and use fantastical inspiration in their music, so the album features endearingly nerdy lyrics and song titles such as “Mazes & Monsters,” “Potions” and “The Royal Court,” combined with lively electric-guitar hooks and swirling synth. Download opening track “Phantastes” below. - MAGNET

"PDX Pop Now! 2008"

PDX Pop Now!-- the annual compilation and festival celebrating the music of Portland, Oregon-- will return this summer for a fifth installment.

The two-disc compilation, PDX Pop Now! 2008, becomes available to Portland retailers and CD Baby on June 17. It features tunes from Chromatics and Panther alongside previously unreleased tracks by the Blitzen Trapper, YACHT, Horse Feathers, Yellow Swans, Talkdemonic, Au, Pink Martini, the Joggers, and Faux Hoax (a collaboration between Menomena's Danny Seim, Gang of Four's Dave Allen, and John Askew). Proceeds from compilation sales will go toward funding the festival.

Speaking of the festival, it takes place July 25-27 at Rotture, and it features appearances from Panther, Y La Bamba, World's Greatest Ghosts, Atole, SubArachnoid Space, Starfucker, Meth Teeth, New Bloods, Guidance Counselor, the Builders & the Butchers, Reporter, and Argumentix. Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster of the Thermals, aka the recently revived Hutch and Kathy, are also tentatively scheduled to perform. - Pitchfork

"World's Greatest Ghosts Sign to Lucky Madison"

This just in from the End Hits new ticker, the keyboard/party enthusiasts in World's Greatest Ghosts have inked a deal with local label Lucky Madison.

Take it away label manager Kevin O'Connor:

"World's Greatest Ghosts are now a part of the Lucky Madison roster. The inks still drying and I'm really excited to welcome them to the family. They're going to be hitting the studio in the next couple months to begin work on their debut record which will likely be out in late spring 2009."

You heard the man. Spring 2009. Get ready.

- Ezra Caraeff - Portland Mercury

"World’s Greatest Ghosts Tape Penny Jam, Prep Debut Record"

I said it back in March, and I’m sticking with my guns: World’s Greatest Ghosts should be huge. The Ghosts have gotten lots of props this year (a tenth place finish in our annual “Best New Band” poll, a slot at the PDX Pop Now! festival, opening for Talkdemonic in Seattle) and now comes news that they’re finally ready to hit the studio and record a debut record.

After signing with local label Lucky Madison last month, the basement synth rockers are looking to get the album out by late spring. Yesterday I asked singer/keyboardist Jesse Laney about the band’s plans for the new year:

"We are going to record at Miracle Lake studio with Skyler Norwood from Point Juncture WA. His studio is pretty rad and he is a really nice guy, so we’re really excited to get to work with him. As far as songs go, we’re gonna do a few older songs from the EP but polished up and rerecorded. The rest is gonna be unreleased material comprised of some of the stuff we’ve been playing for the last year and some stuff we’ve written this fall. Hopefully it will be about 10-11 tracks. We are very excited about everything right now and can’t wait to get the album done. We are trying to get it recorded by the end of Jan to give the label enough time to get it out by late Spring."

As long as “On the Shore” is on there, I’m going to be one happy camper. Also, we’re a few days late on this (too much turkey + Blazers liveblogging = slow LC Friday), but the latest episode of the always-awesome Penny Jam features the Ghosts playing the new jam “Magick Words” at Matrix Networks in Milwaukie. So many telephones! So much Moog!

World’s Greatest Ghosts at Matrix Networks from The Penny Jam on Vimeo.

World’s Greatest Ghosts play the Penny Jam, Vol. 2 party Saturday, Jan. 3 at Holocene with Sleep, Dirty Mittens, and Ryan Dolliver.

- MICHAEL MANNHEIMER - Wilamette Week Local Cut

"World’s Greatest Ghosts Premiere: “Phantastes” MP3 Oct 19, 2009"

Forget 'World's Greatest Dad,' you need a coffee mug that says 'World's Greatest Ghosts.' That's the name of the Portland, Ore. geek-rock group that revolves around the songwriting core of brothers, Jesse and Casey Laney. WGG started in the brothers' hometown of Nashville around 2004 but and added Jesse’s college sweetheart, bassist Emily Onstott (now his wife). They quickly added Tuscaloosa, AL native/guitarist Brandon Anderson and recently, Alaskan drummer Eric Ambrosius (who took over for original stick man, John Damiani).

I have on good authority that the capable Northwest unit are "D&D heads," which isn't surprising considering the subject matter of their songs. Lyrics range from magical elixirs (“Potions”), weak enchantment spells (“Magick Words”) and Monster Manual-worthy creatures (“Mazes & Monsters). That fantastical inspiration continues on the leadoff track for the band's debut, No Magic. The Sunset Rubdown-esque cut—entitled "Phantastes"—coils labyrinthine keyboards, synths and a circular guitar riff around a rushing drum kit. Then the fivesome shoots it all skyward with some NES-like bravado.

WGG's debut album, No Magic, was recorded this past spring and will ably soundtrack your next fight against harpies and sand dragons on November 10th (on Lucky Madison) Roll a d20 and two d10! OK, enough dorky references... - Under the Radar

"The Family Way - The Close Kinship of World's Greatest Ghosts"

IT'S A RECIPE for certain disaster: a five-member band that includes three songwriters—two of whom are brothers, one of which is married to the bass player. But World's Greatest Ghosts have made the closeness of their relationships work for them; the strength of their music comes from its interlocking, familial parts.

Naturally, it isn't easy. Of the band's songwriting process, guitarist Brandon Anderson deadpans, "It's mostly an argument over different calibers of bullets, which one can penetrate the temple first."

"Or somebody has a good riff, and then we take turns making each other angry," keyboardist/vocalist Jesse Laney jokes, then says, "When you work with your brother, the one comforting thing is that no matter how much we piss each other off, the next day it'll probably be okay. And I honestly feel that way about working with Brandon, too."

Jesse and his brother Casey, the sons of country songwriter Alan Laney (Shania Twain fans might recognize his work), grew up outside Nashville without much care for entering the family business. As Casey says, "We were actually anti-country music growing up quite a bit. I viewed it so much as a business, that it was a big turnoff to me."

"I never really thought I had a future in music," says Jesse, "because all my friends were in bands and I never got into it, so I always felt a step behind. And then Casey started playing music and I didn't. I was just like, it'd be fun, but I'm never going to be able to catch up, basically. That's what I've been trying to do the last three years," he adds, laughing.

After graduating from college, Jesse borrowed a Casio and began playing music with his brother for the first time. A stint in New Orleans was cut short by Hurricane Katrina, so along with Emily Onstott (now Jesse's wife and the band's bassist), the Laney brothers came to the Pacific Northwest to visit their friends in the band Here Comes a Big Black Cloud.

Seeing that band's lifestyle was pivotal, says Casey, "Because it made it seem like a reality, that you could have a DIY band and actually play and actually have a following and friends—that a scene existed for that." Anderson, a friend from college, joined them in Portland along with Eric Ambrosius, and World's Greatest Ghosts became a reality—getting their feet wet by playing house parties.

"There was always a certain level of ambition," Casey says of those early shows, "but it was also really cool because it was: Be as creative as you can be, because it's a party anyway."

Jesse adds, "It's funny, we used to hear it all the time: 'World's Greatest Ghosts is that house-show band.' But I feel like there are other bands that are way more deserving of that title."

They've outgrown their basement origins with their tautly satisfying debut full-length, No Magic. Led by the intertwined guitars of Casey and Anderson, the sound is state-of-the-art 21st-century indie rock, incorporating peppy, jumping-bean beats with vintage synth sounds and Dungeons & Dragons-influenced lyrics. After completing the record earlier this year, original drummer John Damiani departed to return to school. Eric Ambrosius was in the audience at his last show with the group, and having met the band before, Ambrosius contacted them through a mutual friend to see if he could be their new drummer. It worked out, and World’s Greatest Ghosts is now poised for a national tour.

"It was just an idea that we all had," says Jesse, looking back on the band's short history. "Let's all move into a house together and form a band. It was kind of an experiment. Thinking back on it now, it's kind of crazy that we all decided to do that." - Portland Mercury

"Ghost Stories - World’s Greatest Ghosts aren’t the type of nerds you think they are."

or a band that’s frequently associated with all things geeky, Jesse and Emily Laney’s North Portland house hardly resembles an ode to Dungeons Dragons. Despite the odd thrift store gnome or tchotchke—and the Darth Vader helmet resting on a keyboard in the front room—it’s relatively tame for a group like World’s Greatest Ghosts, one that sings about evil monsters, magic potions and secret elixirs. Not until you walk down the basement steps to the band’s practice space, lined with concert posters of friends’ bands and K Records staples, does one realize that the house is more of a temple to the synth-rock quintet’s real unabashed obsession: playing live music.

In fact, sitting around a table at NoPo dive the Florida Room, it’s hard to get through a conversation without delving into a discussion of favorite shows and albums. “Have you heard the new Built to Spill yet?” guitarist Casey Laney interrupts. “The first track is one of the best album openers in years.” His brother Jesse quickly jumps in: “I was just going to say the same thing!”

Finishing each others’ sentences is nothing new for World’s Greatest Ghosts. Until recently, the four core members of the band—Casey and his brother Jesse, who sings and plays keyboards, Jesse’s wife and bassist Emily, and guitarist Brandon Anderson—all lived in the same house. It’s that closeness and familial bond that led to frequent arguments, laughs and missteps that inform its debut album, No Magic. Recorded by local producer Skyler Norwood—whose previous credits include work for Blind Pilot, Horse Feathers, and Talkdemonic besides moonlighting in Point Juncture, WA—No Magic is one of the best-sounding and -sequenced local efforts in years. From the opening “Phantastes,” a ringing, anthemic pop song with dual-guitars slithering like a snake trying to make its way out of a labyrinth, to the infectious singalong “On the Shore,” it’s an album that isn’t afraid to shake a leg and have some fun amid the turmoil.

“We don’t always love each other,” Jesse admits. “We’re all family and friends that have gone way back, but we still fight. I think it’s better to be a real band that has problems but still has so much fun than [one] who paints a pretty picture all the time but secretly hates each other.”

The Laneys moved to Portland in 2006 from outside Nashville, Tenn., on recommendation of a few friends and a desire to move away from any scene that emphasizes anything other than the music. Though Jesse jokes it’s actually because of his disdain for the South (“summers there are filled with humidity, ticks and assholes”), the brothers’ upbringing was surrounded by music: Dad Alan Laney is a well-known country and bluegrass songwriter. Still, Nashville and also New Orleans—where Jesse and Emily briefly lived before Hurricane Katrina—lacked anything resembling the Portland underground house show circuit that helped birth the current band.

For most of its first three years in existence, WGG rarely played a show in a traditional venue, instead hitting up almost every basement, living room and arcade in the city. “It was such an incredible experience,” Casey says. “Playing with punk bands and alongside really avant-garde people was rad. I mean, we’re a pop band, and to be submerged in that kind of scene really imparted a lot of good things on us.” Those wide-ranging influences are heard on No Magic, which jumps from synthensizer-led rave-ups (“Magick Words”) to songs like “Loudest Speaker,” the album’s closest thing to a ballad and only moment in its 33-minute run time where things slow down enough for you to catch your breath.

Following the mastering of the record in the spring, World’s Greatest Ghosts also had to pause for a second: Drummer John Damiani decided to move to Oklahoma City for grad school, and label Lucky Madison pushed the release of No Magic back to the fall. New time-keeper Eric Ambrosius was actually in attendance at Damiani’s last show with the band, a Tender Loving Empire showcase in June, and after just two months has already integrated himself into the World’s Greatest Ghosts family.

“We’re excited to record with him and see what happens when we don’t all live together,” Casey says. “It could be a disaster, but at least at the end of the day we’ll still be friends.”

SEE IT: World’s Greatest Ghosts release No Magic on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at Holocene with Swim Swam Swum and Wampire. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.
- Willamette Week

"World’s Greatest Ghosts, “Phantastes,” No Magic (Lucky Madison)"

It all starts so innocently: two twin guitars, chiming and reverberating out of each side of the speaker, slithering like a snake through trying to make its way out of a labyrinth. “There’s nothing here!” singer Jesse Laney shouts. “But we got a lot to say about it.” Then you hear a drum stick tapping a hi-hat, spacey, sci-fi synths hover like they’ve just discovered a new planet and the mood turns from confused to optimistic to estatic in just a few seconds. And all I want to do is dance around like there’s no tomorrow.

You see, it’s hard not to get super geeky about World’s Greatest Ghosts. Of every band I’ve heard since moving back to Portland two years ago, no one has really captured my heart quite like these guys. No matter where I see WGG play—be it a crowded house show, opening for a sparse audience at the Wonder Ballroom, or in the KPSU subbasement—they always kill it. And so it feels so fucking good to be able to hear this song, and the incredible album that comes after it, and say this: I think No Magic is the best Portland rock record since the Thermals’ The Body, the Blood, the Machine, and I’m ready to stand behind it.

On an album where every freakin’ song sounds like a single, “Phantastes” is still the most obvious choice. As the opener, it quickly sets the template for the rest of No Magic: circling guitars, tons of keyboard and synth breakdowns, cascading drums and gigantic choruses. You can say that “Phantastes” sounds like Wold Parade (or even Spencer Krug’s nerdier project Sunset Rubdown), sure, but that’s almost doing a disservice to the song. World’s Greatest Ghosts live in their own universe, and though you can hear traces of ELO and even some dancey stuff most of No Magic almost transcends comparisons. We music writers love cheekiness, and to write something this rad, this much fun off as New Order-ish is just lazy. If WGG are anything, it’s certainly not lethargic.

I’ve listened to “Phantastes” in my office quietly over headphones, trying hard not to knock over my coffee as I drum on the table and endure all sorts of stares from my bemused co-workers. I’ve jammed the song in a car driving to the beach; on the 15 to work; getting lost trying to find my way to the next subway in New York City. My iTunes play count is at 24. The night I first received the record, I brought it home and throw it on my stereo only to be interrupted by my basement neighbors 10 minutes later. “Do you think you could stop stomping on the floor?”, they asked. Honestly I had no idea I was rocking out that hard. That’s the great thing about WGG—they transport you to a place where everything is right, where all your worries go away, and, for nearly four minutes, to a fantasy world where everyone is as weird and spazzy as you are. Yeah, I want to go to there. - Willamette Week Local Cut

"World's Greatest Ghosts"

World's Greatest Ghost's sound is euphoric while at the same time inflated with antagonism. A few of their tracks like "Loudest Speaker", "The Royal Court", and "Potions" have that Islands quality of "yeah you thought this was a happy song, but guess what, it's kind of gloomy". Their music dwells in a place where lyrics and music work in opposition to create another layer, another way to process the familiar. This contradiction manifests itself in other aspects of their work as well. Many of their tracks are filled with visions of monsters ("Mazes and Monsters"), magic potions, and kings and queens, but instead of romanticizing the mundane with whimsy, The World's Greatest Ghosts seems to ground these fantasies with realities of fear, mortality, truth, personal responsibility, self-fulfillment, and joy. Overall it's a pretty successful device. - Baeble Music


No Magic (Lucky Madison Records, 2009)

1. Phantastes
2. The Royal Court
3. Loudest Speaker
4. Magick Words
5. Sleepwalkers
6. Potions
7. On the Shore
8. Mazes and Monsters
9. Put Yr Boots On!

Exercising Demons (self-released, 2008)

tracks listing:

1. Butterscotch Sunday
2. Mazes and Monsters
3. Sleepwalkers
4. Noma
5. Prehistoric Forest
6. Potions



World's Greatest Ghosts' songs are as much about exorcising your inner demons as they are about magic words and potion brewing. They have always had an affinity for the fantastic and whimsical. Lyrically those themes have been used to express ideas about joy, fear, mortality, personal and social responsibility, self disillusionment and fulfillment, truth, and standing together with those you love for the greater good.

World’s Greatest Ghosts is the brainchild of brothers Jesse and Casey Laney. The group is rounded out by Emily Onstott Laney, Brandon Anderson, and Eric Ambrosius. WGG made a name for themselves in both the sweaty, crowded basements and the vast array of bars and venues to be had in Portland. Equally joyful and anthemic, WGG’s live in a world where keyboards and synthesizers collide with spiraling guitar solos, vocals are shouted and quietly whispered, and the pace hardly slows to anything less than a quick jog.

WGG's full length debut, "No Magic" Nov. 10th 2009 on Lucky Madison Recs.

"A scorcher. The Portland band's epic pop-rock achieves an architectural grandeur that never betrays its addled energy"

"No Magic is the best Portland rock record since the Thermals’ The Body, the Blood, the Machine, and I’m ready to stand behind it...That’s the great thing about WGG—they transport you to a place where everything is right, where all your worries go away, and, for nearly four minutes, to a fantasy world where everyone is as weird and spazzy as you are. Yeah, I want to go to there. "

"World's Greatest Ghosts have passed all their courses with flying colors. They have received the right letters of recommendation from all the right people. They have never lost their mastery of the fist pumping epic. They are a part of the proud tradition of songwriters - Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Hutch Harris - who make the personal political and the political personal. The lyrics to their album read like poetry of the heart sung with deep, honest emotion over ringing, searing guitars, and thrusting rhythms. They have recorded one of the best albums of the year, not just locally, but period. Full stop. "

"Explaining his excitement at having just signed hometown indie rock quintet World's Greatest Ghosts to Lucky Madison, label co-owner (and Talker-demonic) Kevin O'Connor cited both the quality and quantity of the band's live shows. Indeed, there is a good chance that if you go down to your basement right now you will catch the Ghosts pounding out a Dungeons & Dragons-themed, unexpectedly earnest synth-and-riff anthem this very moment, so ubiquitous have they been on the Portland house show circuit this year."

“Not only are they one of the best synth-pop/rock bands in Portland, they can deliver a song about dungeon-crawling or potion-quaffing without a hint of irony (or metal). I guess this is what happens when D&D players grow up listening to Devo instead of Dio.”

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