The Ghost Inside
Both album titles from Californian melodic hardcore band The Ghost Inside intimate the cyclical nature of life. About Returners, the band’s debut, singer Jonathan Vigil has said, “[I] sit back and wait to return to the places I’ve come to know and face the differences I’m left with.” Their freshly released follow-up You Get What You Give isn’t about waiting, though; there’s nothing passive about it. It says that you must act. “I’ve learned in life,” Vigil explains – having called from Salt Lake City on the eve of the Vans Warped Tour – “that anything you’re going to do, you’re going to [get] back as much effort as you put in. If you half-arse something it’s going to show.”
This theme interlocks with the salient appreciation Vigil holds for Ghost’s fanbase. “Specifically with this band, we’ve put everything that we had into [it]. If we had given this attitude of saying, ‘It’s going to come to us; it’s going to happen; we deserve it,’ then it’s never going to come. ‘You get what you give’ means you’re going to have to sacrifice. You’re going to have to give everything that you have to see the fruit of the labour.” Where many musicians seem to operate with a sense of entitlement, Vigil’s enthusiasm for the fans is strong and humble. In footage of a show the band played last year, a skinny, eager young man flaps his way from the crowd’s front and onto the stage like a goldfish. He dives out on top of the audience while another fan leaps up on stage just behind. Then another, and another, and then they’re all just pouring up and over like lemmings off of a cliff. It’s almost like Vigil is calling them forth and then sending them off; it’s hard to tell if it’s happening under their own volition or his, but it’s incredible to watch. “We grew up in the hardcore scene; we grew up being those kids that would run on stage to play along with our favourite bands so we know what it’s like,” Vigil says when I express amazement that security doesn’t flatten these young fans and call finito to the stage-crashing straight away. “When it comes time to play a show like that, we just tell security, ‘Hey, if a kid comes on stage he’s not trying to hurt us. He’s not trying to steal from us. He’s not trying to do anything, he just wants to have a good time.’ We tell them that we don’t mind it, as long as they’re not breaking our equipment! They’re paying money to see us. I know what it’s like to go to a show and security is so shitty that you can’t even enjoy yourself. It’s a buzzkill, and it makes you turned off to the hardcore music scene.”
Vigil is an LA native; “born and raised,” he says seriously. The connection to his own youth is a vein throughout the singer’s comments, and he enjoys reminiscing about the hardcore and metalcore scenes in LA during his formative years. “The guy who ran [our local team centre] had all these really awesome bands I grew up listening to play [there]. It was three dollars to get in to see these cool bands, and it was just so accessible,” he muses. “You didn’t have to get a ride down there, you didn’t have to find a way to raise the money. It was a great vibe and it moulded me into who I am today.”
Vigil also believes the hardcore and metalcore scenes are expanding, and aren’t as stigmatised as they have been in the past. “I think this kind of music is becoming more accepted into the quote unquote mainstream,” Vigil confirms. “With its popularity growing, it kind of opens up a fanbase for everyone. We have crossover: we have kids who would normally not see our band come to a show and be into it. It’s great, because it feels more of a community than it ever has before, and we’re stoked to be a part of it. It’s cool that the underground thing is becoming more of a positive thing than a negative thing.”
With some of You Get What You Give leaked about three weeks before its official American release date, the band decided to put the entire album up online so that fans could have a listen on Ghost’s terms, and then decide to buy it if they so wished. Single Engine 45 is a powerful, anthemic message about addiction. ‘All my life I’ve waited for something to break these chains’, the final refrain, soars over technically astonishing drums from newest bandmember Andrew Tkaczyk. The tale told in the video is a rather beautiful but sad metaphor. According to lore, “Eskimos would put blood on a knife, then freeze the knife and put it out in front of their igloos overnight,” Vigil explains. “A pack of wolves would come by and smell the blood, and go straight to it and start licking the blood. But because the knife was frozen they didn’t realise it was cutting their own tongues. And they would slowly bleed out and die. They’re so fixated on getting the blood that they don’t realise they’re killing themselves.” Expect more allegory and passion when The Ghost Inside come to Australia in a few months time.
BY ZOË RADAS
THE GHOST INSIDE accompany The Amity Affliction, Architects, and Buried In Verona on Friday October 5 at The Palace. There’ll be two shows on the date; one U18 and one 18+. Get What You Give is out now on Epitaph Records.