A life on standby is something My Own Ghost is certainly not experiencing judging by the reactions to their current album and recent live performances.
Luxembourg is one of the least likely destinations that comes to mind when attempting to compile a list of famous alternative-rock stars and memorable moments from this particular genre. However, recent history looks set to change all that due to the emerging talent that is My Own Ghost.
After debut album ‘Love Kills’ received encouraging reviews from music journos in the band’s homeland, not to mention news of this debut album filtering to neighbouring countries and thus adding to their tally of positive feedback, My Own Ghost has wasted no time in terms of building their repertoire for compelling alt-rock due to numerous live shifts over the last few years and, more recently, recorded output via sophomore album ‘Life On Standby’.
It was this second long player which alerted Famous Last Words (FLW) to the talents of each and every member of My Own Ghost – namely Judie Rodesch (vocals), David Soppelsa (guitar), Joe May (bass) and Michael Stein (drums) – who understand the dynamics required to forge a truly engaging album that incorporates a variety of sources from alternative rock, pop and more traditional rock music, and then proceeds to meld these various sources together in order to express the conflicting emotions on show here.
The irony is most definitely in the title of My Own Ghost’s current album because life for these aspiring alt-rockers has been far from a period of inertia as recent trips in their native Luxembourg fulfilling various promotional duties regarding ‘Life On Standby’, to performing live to home audiences as well as adding new additions to their fan base after recent excursions to the UK, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands demonstrates.
Considering therefore, the recent surge in popularity for My Own Ghost, with the band currently riding a wave of momentum that is on an upwards trajectory, FLW is keen to establish where this all started for this alternative-rock combo, especially when, as mentioned previously, Luxembourg is not renowned for producing a long lineage of alternative rock bands from its own doorstep.
“David [Soppelsa], Joe [May] and Fred [Brever] (who left the band recently) knew each other from previous bands,” sparks up lead singer, and only member present today for the discussion with FLW, Julie Rodesch. “In 2013, they decided to start a new project by posting an ad on Facebook, which I saw and ended up contacting them. During our first meeting, we noticed that it seemed like a good fit, and we decided to work together. I had already worked with Michael [Stein] in other bands and projects, and I just knew that he was the last missing piece to complete My Own Ghost.
When it comes to Luxembourg, it actually has quite a large amount of bands compared to the size of the country. I just think that maybe not every band feels the need to play and take their music abroad. As we have a lot of bands, there’s quite a big diversity in styles, and I think that each one of us has had experiences in different kinds of music and bands, which we see as a plus because it’s helped us to define ourselves as musicians and naturally our sound.”
With FLW considering My Own Ghost to be an alternative-rock band, how exactly does frontwoman Julie Rodesch view the band’s sound?
“Basically, we see ourselves as a rock band, but we refuse to limit ourselves in the song writing process,” she considers before going on to add. “When writing, the song takes us in a direction, and with the song we create a certain sound. So you might end up finding a more pop-oriented song as well as songs with metal or even electronica influences on the same album. I guess the biggest strength of My Own Ghost might also be that every single band member has a different musical background, and as we have quite a few songwriters in our band, there’s great diversity in our songs, and it ends in our very own sound.”
My Own Ghost certainly appear to contain elements of the darker side of alternative rock, but there are nods to more traditional sources of rock music, not forgetting splashes of pop influences as well in their sound as mentioned by My Own Ghost’s lead vocalist: “We all [My Own Ghost] have quite different musical backgrounds and we don’t necessarily listen to the same bands. So any questions concerning this area are not that easy to answer. However, I would suggest that our biggest influences might be The Cure, Muse, HIM, Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon, Asking Alexandria, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, The Who, if I had to name a few.”
When you listen to your debut album ‘Love Kills’, how does it sound to you now, and what are your opinions of this record in 2017?
“We are still very proud of the work we did on ‘Love Kills’, but yes there are some changes,” offers Julie Rodesch regarding the band’s debut album. “‘Love Kills’ quite clearly shows in the song writing that we were still in the process of finding ourselves as a band. We experimented with different sounds, styles and ideas and ended up putting most of our songs on that first album. Also, the production, except for the drum recording and the mastering, were done by us with mainly Fred [Brever] putting a lot of work into it. The 10 songs on ‘Life On Standby’ are more refined and homogeneous. We still have the same sound, but it has evolved and (we hope that) one notices that we have grown as a band. Another aspect might also be that we got professional feedback on our song writing and help in selecting the right songs for the album. This, and having ‘Life On Standby’ produced and mastered professionally, helped us create a more refined sound.”
Considering the glowing critical appraisal the band has received for ‘Life On Standby’, what do you remember of the entire recording process when working on this second album?
“We did all of the recording, except for the drums, ourselves at MOG Studios. For the recording of the drums we again relied on Markus Teske from Bazement Studios in Germany. As for the producing and mixing, we had the great opportunity to work together with Hiili Hiiliesmaa from Coalhouse Recordings in Finland. He is mainly known for his work with HIM, Amorphis and Apocalyptica. Hiili then requested that Svante Forsbäck from Chartmakers in Finland should be responsible for the mastering of the album. Svante is known for his work with Rammstein, Sunrise Avenue and Bullet For My Valentine. We really appreciated working with such experienced people, and we learnt a lot from them.”
How long did the whole recording process take for ‘Life On Standby’?
“That’s hard to say as we never stop writing and recording, even while touring. We are lucky to have the possibility to record whenever we feel like it at our MOG Studios. However, we’d already started recording new songs at the beginning of 2015 for the current album, so it might have taken us something in the region of two years to create our latest album.”
Did you encounter any problems when recording the band’s album ‘Life On Standby’?
“We tested some new technical approaches and naturally, at the beginning, there were some mistakes, so I had to record one or two songs a second time, but apart from that, it was quite a smooth process.
Who came up with the album title, and is ‘Life On Standby’ referring to anything personal in terms of the band or one of the band members own experiences?
“If I remember correctly, one of the songs was called ‘Life On Standby’,” answers Julie. “As the chosen songs all revolved around the different aspects of life, we thought that ‘Life On Standby’ would also be a very fitting album title. ‘Life On Standby’ stands for the people who let life pass them by. They are frustrated and unhappy, but do not have the courage and/or strength to change. On the album there are some really sad tracks, but also songs with an optimistic outlook on life. This contrast was really important to us, as we wanted to show that you should never give up fighting and working to achieve your goals and to make your dreams come true.”
Do you have a favourite track from the new album at the moment, and what are your reasons for this track being a particular favourite?
“My favourite track at the moment is probably ‘Hope’,” Julie considers and then continues to explain. “It’s something very different and individual compared to the other songs on the album. Also, it was one of the most challenging songs for me to sing.”
Who was responsible for the artwork and ideas for the front cover of ‘Life On Standby’? What is the image trying to convey?
“As for the artwork, we worked together with an artist from Ireland, Nina Y. When we first saw her work, we fell in love with it and thought that the mannequin would symbolise the meaning of the album title, ´Life On Standby’, perfectly. The mannequin stands for the listlessness of some people who let life pass them by. The bleeding apple symbolises that there’s always life and a small spark of hope in all of us.”
It’s our turn to offer a couple of songs from My Own Ghost’s album, ‘Life On Standby’, because the songs – ‘Everytime I Break’ and ’10 Weeks Of Summer’ – have been rotating at a regular rate on the office music player of late. Therefore, what can you tell FLW about the ideas behind the lyrics for these two numbers?
“‘Everytime I Break’ was born during a discussion I had with my dad,” replies Julie after some initial consideration. “He asked me why I sang. Funnily enough it took me a while to find the right and honest answer. But actually the reply was quite simple, I sing because it makes me happy and it makes me feel better. ‘So, ‘Everytime I Break’ is about no matter what comes in life, and no matter how hard some people might try and make me feel bad or sad, they can never take away this feeling of joy and happiness I have when I sing.
The other song you refer to, ’10 Weeks Of Summer’, has a certain wistfulness to it; a yearning for those years when we were still really young and carefree, unburdened by the responsibilities and demands of life.”
Are you pleased with the overall outcome of the album ‘Life On Standby’ or, in hindsight, is there anything you would do differently now?
“We are really pleased with the outcome of the album. The songs, as well as the song selection, the artwork and the sound of the record are exactly how we wanted them to be.”
If you could have one thing right now, what would it be and why?
“If we could have one thing right now, we would love to be in a tour bus on the way to the next city to play a concert. We’d want to play every night, in a different city, and meet a lot of new people along the way.”
Despite a surge in popularity for My Own Ghost on the live circuit, do you feel that we’re experiencing the death of live music in general in the current musical climate?
“It is true that maybe there are less people coming to live concerts, but we’ve also noticed that there are the ones that are really passionate about music and real music lovers. These people would never miss the opportunity of a live experience or the chance to support the bands they like. As long as such devoted fans exist, there will always be a music scene.”
What do you feel that you’re trying to say or communicate as a band and in terms of your music?
“We try to write music that’s fun to listen to, and which people can identify with. Our songs have catchy melodies with a twist, and lyrics that leave room for interpretation, because we want the audience to feel and live our music the way we do. Our songs are about everyday life and the challenges and situations you are confronted with. Through our music we try to give people a small spark of hope and courage to just keep on going.”
From a different perspective therefore, in terms of what My Own Ghost is trying to communicate as a band, what’s it like being the only woman in the band, and how do you think music critics and audiences perceive you?
“I don’t really see myself as a rarity being the only woman in a band,” Julie swiftly replies. “Nowadays there are a lot of great female fronted bands out there, so I don’t really think that it’s odd for the audience, journalists or critics to see a female singer fronting a pop/rock band. As for My Own Ghost, I just love to travel and tour with the guys. They make me laugh so much and there’s just never a boring moment. I think of myself as very fortunate to get to live these experiences and adventures, and even more so because I get to experience them together with people I really like and appreciate. Having said that, there are a lot of female artists out there I admire, one would be Hayley Williams from Paramore because of her energy on stage. Another one is Kelly Clarkson because I just love her honest attitude to life. Naturally, I also admire both of them because they are brilliant singers.”
What’s next for My Own Ghost?
“At the moment we’re still promoting our second album, ‘Life On Standby’,” says Julie. “We’ve also started writing and recording songs for our third album. At the same time, we’re always on the lookout for concerts, tours or festivals we could play and we’re preparing our tour with Serious Black, which will take place in September 2017.”
“We want to thank you Nathan, and the followers of Famous Last Words Records for your interest in My Own Ghost, and we hope to get the opportunity to play a concert in your area so that maybe we can meet (Sounds like a plan, and thank you for the kind words! FLW). If you like what you heard, and want to keep in touch, please make sure to check us out on our official website http://www.myownghost.com/ or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Also, our second album ‘Life On Standby’ is available now, so make sure to get your copy!”
FLW is among those who are in the possession of a copy of ‘Life On Standby’ and as the band’s vocalist Julie Rodesch says, “make sure to get a copy!” as you will not be disappointed in terms of those who have a penchant for alternative-rock music.
When it comes to My Own Ghost life will never be put on hold because this band cares far too much to allow any such negativity to creep in to their sound or lives. Positivity is the key word here, and it is an essential component that has provided My Own Ghost with the rewards they are currently experiencing which, by the way, are fully deserved.
(Photography courtesy of Tom DiMaggio, Nina Y, Pseikopixx and My Own Ghost)
On the album there are some really sad tracks, but also songs with an optimistic outlook on life. This contrast was really important to us, as we wanted to show that you should never give up fighting and working to achieve your goals and to make your dreams come true."
Julie Rodesch, My Own Ghost
FLW - From the Tapes
Just when life throws you a curveball, it sometimes turns out for the best. My Own Ghost certainly know a thing or two about such incidents as the band’s vocalist, Julie Rodesch, recalls one episode in particular during a stint out on the road when performing live.
“During a tour in the east of Europe there was some misinformation. What transpired was that we ended up at the wrong venue to set up our gear during one of our live dates. At said venue, nobody knew that we’d arrived. A few chaotic minutes passed until we got the information that they were waiting for us at another venue in the same city! Luckily, we made it to that location on time, and it actually ended up being the best gig of the tour.”