Old Ghosts are, in many ways, just what their name suggests. They’re a band of musicians who’ve played music together and separately for over a decade now, floating into and out of musical projects over the years. Through that time, they’ve offered the Buffalo hardcore scene a wide palette of musical aesthetics.
Having seven releases out and ready to debut their second proper LP, Crow, Old Ghosts have quietly built up a prolific catalog. The band offers stark and pointed hardcore punk written by veteran musicians who deftly balance simplicity and ingenuity.
I sat down with Derek Dole, the band’s vocalist, to talk the new LP and Buffalo hardcore.
The band includes a few Buffalo hardcore mainstays, and has gone through some lineup changes. How did you all get Old Ghosts together?
I will focus on the current line up, Josh Heatly and I are the only original members. The short story is we had three members that left the band in the winter of 2018. We had the idea of asking Tom Mayer to join the band. We started doing some writing with just the three of us. Eventually we convinced Nick Racino and Cody Krieger to join us. Tom, Nick and Cody all played together in Rust Belt Lights so everything came together quite quick with them. We’ve all been pretty close friends for 10 or more years and it’s been fun hanging with those guys on a weekly basis.
Crow is the band’s latest LP, but Old Ghosts has released music pretty consistently for almost eight years now. What sets the new record apart from your other releases?
When Tom joined the band things changed big time. He definitely has a way with making a song more dynamic. Concentrating on transitions and cool drum parts. Also, the songs are way more collaborative too. It seems everyone has a cool part or idea to add to song.
How was your experience recording at GCR with Jay Zubricky? Was the recording process any different with the new lineup for Crow?
GCR is the first real studio that we’ve been in. This was our first effort where we were in a space designed for recording. Every other recording we did was in a practice space or basement. With this line up we spent way more time dialing in our tones than ever before. Those guys were all prepared and everything went smooth. As for Jay, he was awesome to work with. The guy knows his shit and captured us perfectly.
Songs like ‘Enablers’ and ‘Hourglass’ have interesting lyrical content. What are some of the themes and topics addressed on the new record?
With 12 songs I wish I could go through each one. Some topics touched are seasonal affective disorder, the loosening of environmental regulations, internalizing problems/emotions, intolerance/racism.
I think most of the songs end up being questions about how we treat the world, each other, and ourselves. Are we able to change our ways? Can we get past regrets and imperfections? Will we fight for the marginalized or just stand by?
Your vocals in Old Ghosts are similar to Dead Hearts, but you do find moments to change up your cadences and delivery. How consciously do you try to add variety to your vocal delivery?
I didn’t really put much thought to that. If there was something that seemed a little too close to what Dead Hearts had done I might have changed it. For Dead Hearts, Jeremy (now in Tuning) did all the phrasing. So most differences would be due to that.
What’s the story behind the One Hundred for Haiti release?
I guess Dave Campbell from State of Mind had been talking to Bystander about working with them on something. I am not sure whose idea it was to have us be a part of it but I wasn’t going to turn it down. I’ve been friends with some of those guys for since the Dead Hearts days. Greg Bennick from Bystander is the founder of One Hundred for Haiti, and all profits from the records go to the organization. For info on what the money goes to I urge you to check out the website.
The band’s cover art seems consistently stark and ominous. Is there a continuity that you are cultivating with the artwork?
Yes, it is definitely an intentional thing. I really wanted to keep the aesthetic similar throughout the band despite the changes in sound. In regards to our new cover, I know crows flying by a statue that says “E Pluribus Unum” is pretty stark and it has been hard to stay positive especially under the current administration but it’s all perspective. Most people associate a crow with death or bad luck but can also mean change or transformation for the better.
How has your perspective on music and hardcore changed/evolved over the years?
It hasn’t changed much. It still is as important to me as it was when I was in high school although I can’t make every show due to priorities. I’m still finding new bands to enjoy. There is still plenty of things to scream about. I’m thankful Buffalo has a new crop of bands bringing new blood to the scene and keeping it alive.
Most underrated Buffalo hardcore band? Any era.
Past: Against All Hope. Seek out the Drywall 7”. They were a great melodic hardcore band in the vein of Dag Nasty.
Current: Pure Heel. They are angry straight forward hardcore and are great live.
Most uplifting or positive experience during COVID?
I have two kids and a wife who is a teacher who is currently working from home. Being able to spend time with them has been great. My kids are at an age where they still want to be around me and I have more energy to do activities with them. My wife does CrossFit training and we’ve been working out together. Until we retire we’ll never have this much time to spend together. It also makes me appreciate what being in a band means to me. I miss hanging with those guys and making music. Hopefully we can get back at it soon.
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