We set the timer and snuggle in with our favorite new bands in the Impound’s version of speed dating with a killer-diller soundtrack.
“I consider the circumstance/ and mold it into sound/ and whatever the trappings are/ I’m bound to shout it down.”
These tough, knotted lines open the roaring good self-titled debut album from Boston-based Ghosts of Jupiter, which seizes and holds one firm, a bold, musky sound that recalls the halcyon days of double gatefold vinyl and perfectly weathered denim and suede. That said, these Ghosts are cut a little leaner, forgoing 70s bloat for taut, meaty musicianship grounded in marvelously melodic frameworks. Heck, a lot of this set is radio ready if radio weren’t such a seething sinkhole of suck these days – we’d all be WAY better off if Ghosts of Jupiter were the yardstick for rock airwaves instead of Nickelback.
The album, released November 8, builds seamlessly, growing more interesting and throwing off expectations as it moves towards its final stand in softly burning fields where blackbirds fly overhead and the shoreline wind catches us with a snap – evocative stuff to say the least. And yet, it never feels cerebral, giving into animal instincts musically in a way that makes one wonder if Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott left some pale boy children around Beantown before he took his bow. Nate Wilson (lead vocals, keyboards), Johnny Trama (guitar), Adam Terrell (guitar), Tommy Lada (bass), and Thomas Arey (drums) are part of real rock’s new phalanx, shoulder to shoulder with The Black Keys, Rival Sons and The Raconteurs beating back the teen-focused twaddle that passes for rock in the mainstream.
We grabbed Nate Wilson to discuss Jupiter’s orbit.
Why do you think you’re a musician?
I think people who are in it for the long haul just know they have to. I knew as early as 13 or 14 that I was going to be a musician the rest of my life, though not for any financial gain – I’ve proven that over and over [laughs]. It’s not a choice at this point. I have to do it, and I really don’t know how to do anything else [laughs].
Was it always keyboards for you?
I started playing piano at four. My mom is a pianist, so I started taking lessons really young. I’ve always had music in my life and been tied to the piano, one way or another.
The piano, perhaps more than any other keyboard, gives you an orchestra at your fingertips.
You can [do that], but it can be very daunting. I don’t actually wind up playing a lot of piano in [Ghosts of Jupiter], where I play a lot more Hammond organ and other keyboards. I write the majority of the songs on guitar now, too. I don’t know if the songs would come out the same way if I only wrote on piano. The whole catalyst for this band was I got into a rut writing on piano and I picked up a guitar one day, not knowing anything about it, and forced myself to write a song. And I immediately began writing really differently, which is a big part of this band’s sound. I don’t play [guitar] live or the studio, but the ideas come from that instrument.
You have two major shredders in this band, so I understand the hesitation to play next to them.
Yeah, why would I want to get in between them? Adam can also be very understated. He’s a musician’s musician. He’s got huge ears and always plays what’s appropriate, perhaps at the price of dominating in a more traditional way.
He’s not a showboat guy and that makes it hard to get on the cover of Guitar Player…
[Laughs] …unless you hire a really good publicist!
The name Ghosts of Jupiter doesn’t refer to anything on Earth, so it immediately frees up the imagination.
I’m pretty fond of the name, and part of the reason we stuck with the old name [Nate Wilson Group] for a little bit wasn’t because we didn’t want a band name or I wanted my name up front. We sat and thought about it a lot, came up with lists of hundreds of names, and it was one of the hardest things. You don’t want to pick one of those shitty band names that everyone makes fun of.
A name like Ghosts of Jupiter harks back to another era, a golden one in fact. I could see this band on the bill at the Fillmore East with Spirit and the Climax Blues Band.
I’d be happy to be on that bill!
You guys have a love for that sort of classically rooted rock, which isn’t to say you’re not a modern band but Zeppelin comes to mind immediately with this group.
We hear that a lot and I’m not going to shy away from the comparison. Zeppelin is more like a commonality for all of us. Everybody in the band is experienced musicians and has played a lot of different kinds of music, but the one thing we all have in common is growing up on rock from the seventies. Not that any of us was around in the seventies, but we listened to classic rock radio and our parent’s record collections. We’re not trying to be some retro/vintage act, but the tools we’re trying to work with are stuff that harkens back to that era – stuff that just feels good.
Not to be too crude, but that kind of rock gets people off better than what’s on general offer today, which doesn’t have that sleazy, gutbucket quality that classic rock possesses. I like Foster The People but I have a hard time imagining folks having sex to their music, whereas Deep Purple, Zep and their ilk are intrinsically rock ‘n’ roll in the colloquial roots of the phrase. And I pick up on similar energies in your band.
Absolutely, I agree. Maybe it’s just an attitude or boldness.
There’s nothing timid about it, whereas I feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone’s diary entries in a lot of modern rock. They’re not storming Valhalla; they’re just trying to get through another morning. It seems like just more fun to play rock where you put your foot on the amp and try to whap your mojo on everyone in the room.
It’s definitely a more introverted landscape out there [laughs]. And it’s definitely more fun to play this sort of rock ‘n’ roll. There’s something bold about it, and people either love it or hate it – you’re going to get a reaction one way or the other. People have usually made their minds up that they love this shit or not.
So, what’s usually going through your head right before you go onstage?
Honestly, I’m usually just trying to remember the goddamn lyrics [laughs]. It’s usually some new song we haven’t played or a new cover, and the responsibility of being a lead singer is still new for me. Having a microphone in front of your face at all times can be a hefty task [laughs]. I’m mostly just trying to not fuck the words up!
It’s been a growing process for me. I’ve always sung and written lyrics but I’ve always had other people in the band who were the “singer.” As I went along I found myself growing more and more dissatisfied with that situation. I wanted to own it a little more, but it was a little leap for me to go out and actually do it. Over the past few years I’ve come to think of myself as a vocalist and not just a keyboard player who also sings. It’s great because there’s always room to grow, always more to learn.