INTERVIEW

A diet of Motown, doo-wop and Phil Spector is all a growing ‘Ghost Surf’ boy needs

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Little can be learned about Spectrals from the internet. Hiding behind his shadowy alter ego, 19-year-old Louis Jones has so far evaded the spotlight. Lanky and quietly spoken, with a shock of ginger hair, he’s a far cry from the moody raconteur I was expecting to meet.

Louis explains: “I’ve been doing stuff off and on for a couple of years. Spectrals and the sort of stuff I’m doing now, that sort of started in May. It was just some things that I’ve had knocking around for a while. I had a block of free time and just recorded and it came out better than I expected.”

From a small town outside Leeds, he was brought up on a musical diet of Motown and doo-wop, under the influence of bands like The Supremes and The Isley Brothers. Despite only playing under the guise of Spectrals for a few months he is set to play several dates with Lovvers in September and the Loud And Quiet Stage at this year’s Offset Festival.

“I’ve just found out this week that Loud And Quiet want me to play their stage at Offset,” he says “so that’s a bit scary. That’s going to be the first Spectrals gig. I’ll probably play in a friend’s living room before that, try and do something quite low key, but that will be the first proper gig, I’m really excited for that. The line up they’ve got for that so far – Mazes, Male Bonding – just that stage alone, it’s brilliant to be included.”

Live, he has a ‘classic band’ set up, but his recordings are all his own. Hidden under dense layers of reverb lie shimmering gems like ‘Don’t Mind’ and ‘Leave Me Be’. Echoing his early 60’s influences, the songs have a melodic heart filtered through a fuzzy exterior.

Collectively Louis describes his music as ‘Ghost Surf’. He explains: “I guess certain music is quite a sort of weird vibe. I guess there is that sort of element to it, like obviously there’s the influences of surf music and doo-wop music and I wanted to put more of a weird twist on it, make it a bit creepy. They’re all quite tongue in cheek though, the songs that I’ve written, without doing it down.”

The classic song writing techniques of Phil Spector are an obvious influence, from the catchy hooks and dreamy harmonies to the name of the band. Louis explains: “I wanted to play on the Phil Spector thing without being too obvious really, but also like Spectrals, it’s a bit ghostly, sort of spooky, a bit weird maybe. I didn’t really want to name it after him or do it as my name, so I thought I’d go with something that was quite simple.”

Having already garnered the attention of American indie label Captured Tracks he is set to release a 7″ through them in August, with a full length LP following later in the year. As a fan of the label they contacted him after hearing his demo on Myspace.

“I’m just recording at the moment with a friend of mine who has a studio and I go up there and he just lets me crack on. I struggle on some instruments, like I’m not the best drummer, but I’m getting to the stage where what I want the drums to sound like I can achieve. I think there’s something to be said for that really, rather than just relying on computers.”

An EP for UK label Suplex Cassettes has also been recorded, and a split 7″ with Sheffield band Bhurgheist.

“I think the way I heard a lot of things on tapes and vinyl has influenced the way Spectrals sounds,” reasons Louis. “I think it benefits from being played on vinyl, there’s a warmth to it. I don’t want to just do the tape thing or the vinyl thing, I don’t want to just limit it, but I think it suits it, definitely.

Photography by Bart Pettman

Photography by Bart Pettman

“Another thing I like about the vinyl format is that it lends itself well to doing singles,” he adds “a whole lot of the old soul records work on singles and I think there’s something lovely about that, having an A and a B side, that a theme can almost run through if something’s on a 7″. Two parts of a similar sort of thought really.”

This is also something Spectrals shares in common with his idol Spector who once described LPs as “two hits and ten pieces of junk.”

Touching on the saturation of acts like Little Boots and La Roux, Louis chimes in: “I hate that kind of stuff. I’m not interested in the disco, dancey thing. I think obviously it has its place, but to me I think we need more bands like Lovvers and less like Little Boots.”

He adds: “Male Bonding, Teen Sheikhs, those are the sorts of bands that are really exciting in the UK at the moment. With Male Bonding, one of the guys is putting out a tape with a band called Thee Fair Ohs, there seems to be something really productive going on over there.”

Currently in the process of recording his debut album, Louis says he is definitely concentrating on Spectrals. “I’ve done other things,” he explains “the other band I was sort of in came to its natural conclusion [He was previously in a band called Old Gold with his brother and some friends], not to say that we’ll never play or anything, but it’s really Spectrals that I want to carry on with. I think it’s that that most reflects my interests musically, and personality probably.”

When it comes to the issue of cover versions, there’s only one song that springs to mind.
“I’m learning one at the moment to play live,” he says “it’s a really early Elvis Costello demo, one of the tracks that he demoed for his first album, it’s called ‘Wave a White Flag’. With the Spectrals songs I like to do really sort of nice, poppy, almost upbeat songs and then the lyrics can be quite negative or bitter; I like to play around with that. This song, it’s a bit perfect for that.”

And so things return full circle to his first love, Motown. “That’s the sort of thing that probably informs Spectrals,” enthuses Louis. “There was a lot of music around when I was growing up, from my mum and my dad, like The Supremes’ ‘Baby Love’, that’s probably the first song I remember loving. Obviously you get into other things as you get older, but it never leaves you, and one day it’ll come through in something that you do.”

“I always want to do the same sort of songs, I don’t want to be defined by what’s underground, but in the same way, I think the music’s really influenced by what’s going on at the moment, I just want to keep playing as much as I can.”

With bands like Lovvers and Finally Punk getting some press attention and underground labels like Sex Is Disgusting and Suplex becoming more widely known, it’s possible we could be entering into new era of Punk and Low-fi bands in the mainstream. Spectrals might just be one of the acts that makes it beyond the ‘parish line’.

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