By Oscar Ross, First Year History
Dialling in from the band’s Brighton base of operations during a solo studio session, Holiday Ghosts' founder, writer and producer Sam Stacpoole talks to Epigram Music about the band’s origins, creative processes and his thoughts on the modern music industry.
Hailing from Falmouth, Cornwall, Stacpoole originally played in the garage-punk band The Black Tambourines, creating the solo act Holiday Ghost as ‘A place to put some more ideas that weren’t as punky’ as the type of music he was working on with The Black Tambourines. This development of more personal, ‘Really lo-fi demos’ recorded on a boss eight-track flash recorder led to Stacpoole’s development of more experimental ideas. ‘I started recording bonfires and making them into songs’, Stacpoole reminisced on his early days and making an unreleased E.P in ‘The very early days’, ‘I was writing way slower songs’. It is this intimate form of writing and recording that has continued throughout Stacpoole and the bands work, especially with the introduction of Katja Rackin and Charlie Murphy.
Rackin and Stacpoole have currently been together for nine years, writing and sharing music together since the start of the band. ‘It’s very natural’, Stacpoole commented when speaking on writing as a couple, ‘It never feels weird’. The couple write ‘Most of the songs’ together with Stacpoole commenting that ‘We sing together and write together, even when the lyrics are very personal’. This collaborative writing style comes through in songs where they both sing in unison such as ‘Leaving Today’ off of their most recent album North Street Air. Murphy, described by Stacpoole as ‘a founding member of Holiday Ghosts…he’s important to our records’, no longer plays live with the band, preferring not to tour but still write much of the band’s songs. The most notable of these that came up in conversation with Stacpoole was ‘3rd Dream’, another track on North Street Air, which Murphy had apparently ‘Binned years ago’ but resurfaced when Stacpoole was looking through his and Murphy’s old song exchanges. Stacpoole’s close personal relationships with both Raskin and Murphy, describing him as ‘A brother to me’, result in truly personal and honest music writing, a rare find in the modern music industry.
Newer members Morgan, on bass, and Ben Spanks, on guitar, are also ‘Involved with writing and recording’, with Stacpoole commenting how he and Raskin are ‘The core of the band’ but with other revolving musicians who he wouldn’t consider ‘Session musicians at all, they’re still involved in the process’.
The band’s second album West Bay Playroom, released in 2019, was completely recorded in Stacpoole’s childhood playroom following the closure of their previous base, Troubadour Studios. Stacpoole described the closure of Troubadour Studios as a ‘Total blow’ saying that the band had ‘Been going there for years’. However, this led to a movement of the band ‘Back to the room that we started it in’. ‘I was spending my entire time as a musician recording and writing in there’ remarked Stacpoole, describing how the entire album was recorded in the room, with Stacpoole’s production methods being based off his desire to ‘Capture the live sound of that room, because it’s a really special place for music in my life’. The jangly and spacious sounds of West Bay Playroom carry through Stacpoole’s feel of the room as ‘a really creative space with a nice sound’ especially with songs such as ‘Kats Lament’ with it’s roomy sonorities and intimate vocals. The most unique feature of the album’s sound is the drum beats, with Stacpoole describing how he ‘didn’t use a snare mic’ in order to capture both the feel of the drums in the room but also Raskin’s unique drumming feel.
In terms of the band’s influences, Stacpoole remarked how he and Raskin work together continuously, ‘living together and sharing music influences, talking about bands’. Stacpoole also gave an insight into some of the main Holiday Ghosts influences: ‘it was inspirational to tour with him’ describing Calvin Johnson as a main influence on the band, also mentioning the Violent Femmes and The Clean, a 90s New Zealand indie rock band.
Stacpoole went on to speak about the resurgence of punk in the modern music industry and the emergence of post-punk bands such as Keg and Squid, commenting that ‘high energy guitar music seems to be selling well right now’. ‘I’ve been in the (music) game nearly 10 years now’ Stacpoole continued, ‘And at the start of that it was far more difficult to get heard as a guitar band, but now it seems to be swinging back around’. Stacpoole had some criticism of the resurgence of punk and post-punk, saying that ‘There’s a lot of song writing that might have been thrown in the bin a bit’ and how ‘There’s been a lot of monotone music lately in the guitar world’. However, he sounded hopeful for the growth of the genre as ‘People are starting to crave melody’, referring to many post-punk attitudes to dissonance and harsher vocals.
When asked about Holiday Ghosts’ future and their place in the music industry of the 2020s, Stacpoole maintained the personal touch to his music that is so evident in the band’s sound, stating that he doesn’t concern himself ‘With how commercial our band can be’. Stacpoole’s hopes rest on the band being able to ‘sustain us as people’, rather than ambitions of stardom and money. Holiday Ghost’s intimate and easy-going feel seems to emanate from Sam Stacpoole’s personal approach to all aspects of his music; honest writing, experimental and intimate with production, Holiday Ghosts bring something truly individual to the modern music industry.
Holiday Ghosts are currently embarking on their UK tour. This includes an exciting show at Bristol’s Exchange with Penelope Isles on the 24th of November.
Featured image: Fat Cat Records
Will you be seeing Holiday Ghosts on their tour?