It may be rainy in London town but thanks to Caught a Ghost’s Hold Out – a jazzy, electro-fused track – our mindset is all summer garden parties and sun-soaked afternoons. Caught a Ghost is the newest project from Los Angeles songwriter Jesse Nolan and sultry vocalist Tessa Thompson. It’s a band that refuses to be pinned down with a sound that fuses motown, soul, dubstep, rap and electronica.
Nolan has been described as a mad scientist of music: re-purposing vintage tracks and old school samples for a very unique sound. No surprises then that the band’s name is of equal mysterious origin deriving from an old expression that at live performers’ most exciting shows, they were filled with a soul from the past or rather they ‘caught a ghost’ onstage. Rumour has it CAG’s high energy shows that feature as many as nine musicians and various dancers onstage might just live up to that hype. We chatted with the mad scientist himself, Nolan, to talk all things melodious and musical…
What inspires the music you make?
I’m inspired by my experiences with people mostly. Sometimes I’ll write a song that’s directly inspired by another piece of artwork but mostly my interactions with loved ones, friends and strangers fuel my writing.
When did you know that you wanted to go into music?
There are pictures of me as a baby sitting naked in my dad’s guitar case. I think I was always attracted to the idea.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
The best gig I’ve ever played was this crazy party we threw called Cosmic Prom, which took place in a 360 degree projection dome. We had a bunch of crazy art installations and people dressed up in weird space age prom outfits. Pretty epic.
What have you been listening to recently?
I’ve been listening to a ton of ’70s Dub music lately. King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Lee Scratch Perry, Clement Dodd. The grooves are so deep and I’m fascinated with the culture surrounding the 1970s in Jamaica, the live dubs and remixes, the sound system battles…
What artist most excites you?
I love the Kendrick Lamar record. That guy is so dope. There was a bunch of great music last year. Fiona Apple, Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Grimes… I love Janelle Monae– I think she’s pretty incredible live.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Assuming we are talking about living, active artists, I’d like to put together a track where Dave Grohl play drums, Jack White plays guitar, Andre 3000 raps and Bjork sings the hook.
What’s the inspiration behind the music video Sleeping at Night?
The ‘Sleeping at Night’ video, is, like everything I seem to do, a love letter to Los Angeles. Truthfully, there are so many faces to Los Angeles, so many split personalities, that you never run out of people to fall in love with. It necessitates documentation. Some of the people in the video I just ran into on the street in the fashion district downtown. Others I’ve known for years, a few for my whole life. Russ Tamblyn, who holds the rather legendary status of having played Riff in the original film Westside Story, has been a family friend since I can remember. My Great Aunt Carol, who has amazing fashion sense, I’ve also known since birth.
How would you describe your style?
Musically and fashion-wise, I’m influenced by vintage soul and the the birth and development of hip-hop. I always try to reach back into the past for little gems that maybe people have forgotten, and try to re-imagine them from a contemporary perspective.
What are your touring must-haves?
This is gonna sound super LA, but I really need to eat green leafy vegetables and get a fair amount of exercise. I get really restless sitting still for too long so I need to get outside and go running, hiking or swimming. Other than that I love traveling anywhere any time. New places provide so much inspiration.
Watch Caught a Ghost’s latest single No Sugar in My Coffee, recently seen on the Vampire Diaries.