A few weeks ago, before their debut at the Opening of Dharma, I had a chance to sit down with My Lover the Ghost. I have been hearing their name for quite a while, but had never seen them or heard them play a single note. It became clear early on that the band aim for an experience rather than a recitation of their music. Shows and rehearsals take form of their own accord with little or no preplanning. While watching their debut performance, I felt a sense of pride knowing that Lake Charles has My Lover the Ghost in her scene. The experience and confidence among the band allow their loose approach to flow to the audience in a way that is inspiring and inclusive. The audience plays an immediate role in what the band is playing on stage at any given moment, a feat that I had yet to see accomplished with such class and precision in The Chuck.
My Lover The Ghost
George Walton – Bass
Alyssa DiNatale- Vocals
Brandon Pittman- Guitar, Keys
Derek Saurvant- Saxophone
Shannon Simmons – Drums
Alright so what are you guys doing? What is the general scope of the band for those that have never heard a lick of what you play?
Brandon – I think the mission statement turned into something completely different when we got together. We were going for sort of trip hop Massive Attack, Portishead, spooky sexy music was kind of the template we were going for, but it seems like every time we got together we came up with something new and different. And it still seems to be like that. The Chemistry was there from day 1, so we’ve just kind of gone for it.
George – We’ve been playing together for a little over a year now, and have not played a show up to this point. It has given us an opportunity to dial in our sound. If we have a sound.
How did you all manage to get together?
Alyssa – I started having this series of house shows at my house in December of 2011, so for a while I had all of these bands flowing through my home. Derek Saurvant turned up at my house for a show one night. He had whiskey, so we made friends. Later I met Brandon at a Certain Satellites show. I was watching Derek play sax, and was thinking man it would be cool to do something with that. Next thing I knew Brandon asked me if I wanted to jam sometime, and I was like Hell yea I would! I had met Shannon previously, but didn’t know about George. Then someone gave me the history of George Noise.
Brandon – Shannon and I had been hanging out for quite some time already when I started thinking of doing a different project than my usual noise. The initial idea was like this huge 9 piece revolving band, but once we got together it was just like f$% that, lets just do this!
Shannon – Well I knew Amanda (Sonnier – When Word Was Sound) before I knew Brandon. I saw that Amanda was playing music, so I showed up to hear her band, which I knew nothing about. I walk in, and Brandon’s up there with all his pedals making these beautiful sounds, Amanda is back there thumping out these John Bonham beats. They came off the stage and she goes “This is my friend Shannon,” I said “Hey how you doin, I’m your new bass player. “
Brandon, you are sort of known in Lake Charles as the guy with all the pedals. If you had to bank on just one pedal, which would it be?
Brandon – Its the (Line 6) DL-4. Its just opened so many worlds, just with the delays and the looping ability. I got my first DL-4 in 2001, there is a guy named Ian Moore thats from Austin, he had a boomerang (pedal). I loved the way he would be playing guitar, when all of a sudden he would start stacking, and i would think aww thats what I’ve been hearing in my head since i was 11 years old listening to Jimmy Page in my bedroom! It opened the world of noise and looping. Over the years I have put a few more on the pedal board. The goal is 8 DL-4s. This band is cool though because, i do a little looping, but i get do more straight guitar with a little echo.
Was the band born from you looking for more structure?
Brandon – I had really gotten into Massive Attack and Portishead over the years and I wanted to do something that was more in line with that. So that was the idea, but once we got together that sort-of got thrown out the window.
Shannon – We kind of use them as a reference. All of us really like both influences, but once we got together we kind of just started making sounds together. I don’t think we’ve even really written a song. They are based on a sound, like a feeling or a vibe, everybody will jump in and we’ll record our practices.
George – I think weather plays a part in it as well. Because if you think about it, our song “Witch Fire,” is a loud, hot, dirty song, and it was written in summer. Then theres “Of the Night,” where its a little cooler and rainy outside and its kind of a spooky song.
Brandon – Its been a very reactionary band, which is perfect for me, because thats what i’m used to with Amanda in When Word Was Sound. We have no rules, its just get up and go. So its nice to base things off of that, and still have that ability to stretch out. I don’t think we have ever played anything, exactly the same way twice. We sort of take the jazz estetique where its like, variations on a theme, somewhat structured.
Shannon – I don’t think any of us ever try to do what we did last time. Every time we approach any song, these guys are such great listeners, that as we are going through it, we are all responding to what the others are doing. Even though we know the general direction we are headed in, nobody in this band is afraid to step off, and head down a different path.
George – I think “Ride” is a good example, how the end of ride used to be, just another section, and then it turned into this kind of weird dubby, jazzy weird vocal thing, where it used to just be be four chords, and lets repeat em 8 or 12 times.
As Brandon is known as the “pedal guy,” you Derek are The Chuck’s resident sax man. What role does the sax play in M.L.T.G.?
Derek – Its something I’ve been battling for the entirety of my musical career. I am usually asking myself, well where do i fit in? I’m not playing the melody, so what I basically try to do relies heavily on listening. There are layers to this music, and i try to weave in and out of them. At times it feels like ok, I need to come out a little more. Our Songs are never the same, so it is an active listening/playing/evaluation of where I should be. Most times, Alyssa is singing the melody, so I just do what I can to fill in. If I hear something that could fit into this gap, then I’ll go for it.
Brandon – it adds a sexy factor
Alyssa – I think that Derek’s sax playing and my voice fit together, I sing with my voice, and Derek sings through his sax, both of our instruments mix and merge until we are singing as one.
Shannon – When we go back and listen to our recordings from rehearsal, we are often trying to figure out who is who, Derek and Alyssa will weave in and out of each other’s lines, and not necessarily finish each others sentences, but add little comas in the other’s phrasing.
Derek – The saxophone is the most closely related instrument to singing and the human voice. The way the sound hits you, and the way it affects you. I’ve always been told that by teachers and professors, that it is the most closely related to the human voice. I’ve been kind of running with that over the last few years.
How would your style of being in the moment, playing by the seat of your pants, and listening, translate into an album if you all decided to cut one? Would it just be, here is a song on this particular rainy day? Or would you at that point reel it in, and try to distill the songs to their essence.
Shannon – Well I think we all know it when we nail what it is that we are after. Even though we might play one song five or six times, one night we’ll be playing a song and just sort of look at each other and go, yea that was a great take. I think what we a going for is for there to be a sense of sincerity present in the music. That would be what I consider to be a finished song.
Brandon – I guess like a good jazz session, when you nail it, you nail it. We could always go back and sprinkle a few overdubs.
The word Jazz has been thrown around quite a bit in this conversation. Would you include jazz in your band description?
Brandon – We’ve called it spooky jazzy.
George – Spookcore. So far thats the one I like the best.
Alyssa – I think we’re just us, I don’t think we are any particular genre.
Is it that you have a trad jazz element in your style?
Derek – Its the freedom of jazz.
Shannon – The attitude of Jazz. Thats how we are as musicians. We hardly ever play a song the same way. So there is the freedom of listening and responding and being open to the moment. I don’t think you will ever hear us and think man, they sound like their cd. You would think, wow that was a cool variation on their song, when actually every song that we do is a variation.
Brandon – It took me years to find the way to express myself, and the notion of what I wanted to do. It has been great to have these guys to make music with.
George – I think the fact that everyone has a different musical background, playing and listening. I know I’m kind of a music snob. There are a lot of different influences coming in from everyone at every angle. So then you couple that with the freedom element and mash it all into this ball, and this is what you have.
Derek – I think age is important too. We have a pretty wide ranging age group in this band. It has a lot to do with everything, what you are exposed to at different points in your life. It has everything to do with it.
You guys have been jamming together for a year without playing a show. What prompted you to get a show after so long?
George – We’ve been trying to play for over 6 months. I’ve had a rough year family wise, deaths and births to just general family stuff. Also I don’t live here, I live in Gadon, so its and hour here and an hour back and forth to practice. So that plays a role in us not booking shows. Everybody else has life stuff too.
Derek – Several times we’ve set out to have a show and there was just always something that didn’t work out, and in the end it all worked out for the better.
It seems like after a year of rehearsals you would just be dying to play a show.
Brandon – Oh we’ve all been chomping at the bit for sure.
Shannon – There is a level of patience that comes with it. Even when we thought we were ready to start playing, I don’t think any of us were like running to the goal, we were more like well when the time comes and everybody can make it, and everyone’s feeling good about it, then we’ll play.
I’d like to thank these guys for giving me a chance to speak and listen. Be sure to check out My Lover the Ghost when you can. They have no shows booked as of now, but the show is an amazing experience that you want to see if you have the chance. Follow My Lover the Ghost on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mylovertheghost.