Smoking the Ghost
w/ Book of Lies, Fail Safe Remedy,
Modern Day Monks
Sat. May 19
$5 (all ages)
Oasis Bar & Grill
788 Folly Road
"For me, the band name is, in one sense, a metaphor for releasing oneself from the bondage of the past," says guitarist J.R. Getches, of local modern-rock quintet Smoking the Ghost. "It could also mean releasing one's fears as an exhalation. Smoking, in its earliest forms, was a Native American spiritual ritual meant to connect one with the other worlds, realities, and messages."
Getches and his bandmates — drummer Curtis Flewelling, bassist Matt Flewelling, guitarist Ted Huge, and singer Mike Gruenloh — first started connecting with each other last year. While Getches stayed busy in 2005 and '06 performing weekend gigs with local funk/party-rock cover band MacDaddy and occasional acoustic duo sets with vocalist Allison Tysinger, the other four were jamming on song ideas in their own original group, Seventh Son.
"I had been watching Seventh Son since shortly after I arrived from L.A.," remembers Getches. "I was impressed with their originals and spent some time with them in the studio. I found myself resonating with the vision these guys projected and felt that I could be a useful part of it. Fortunately for me, they agreed. So as I came aboard, we changed the name of the group."
The summer and fall of 2006 were big seasons for the band as they started to play regularly at the local clubs and establish themselves on the scene. As "Seventh Son," they entered the three-month battle of the bands series at The Map Room that summer. Under the new name Smoking the Ghost, they made it to the finals and won the highest marks. One thing literally led to another after that accomplishment.
"We were so pleased to win but more pleased to get respect from the other bands and judges," says Getches. "As a result of that win, and our relationship with Jeff Leonard and Jordan Herschaft from Fusion Five, we were able to record 'Angel's Prayer,' our first single, which Amy Hutto began playing regularly on 98X's 'Local X.' That led to us opening for Blanco Diablo at the Music Farm which, in turn, garnered us some great press and a larger fan base."
According to Getches, Gruenloh writes most of the lyrics while everyone brings ideas and arrangements to the song lists.
"We have benefited from the natural progression of the band from its early days of raw energy to a tighter, more muscular sound," says the guitarist. "We are also switching up, as we have a strong lineup of guitarists. You will see Matt playing lead guitar while I move to the bass. We have also been doing some acoustic shows lately, which have brought out some interesting facets of the band such as more focus on background vocals and hand percussion. Our audience will get to see more of that side of us at upcoming shows."
The band describes their style as equal bits of Bowie, U2, Doors, Ween, etc. One might detect a hint of INXS, middle-era Who, Midnight Oil, R.E.M., and Nirvana here and there as well. There seems to be a "seriousness" in the tone of the songs and the demeanor of the guys at stage-front ... and a bit of thinly-veiled humor, too.
"We are moving toward focused arrangements with more varied sonic palettes," says Getches. "You will see us using mandolins, keyboards, and even sitars. Everyone in the band can sing so we are elaborating our backing vocals and harmonies. Several of us in the band are very concerned about the direction our country is taking," he adds. "In our downtime, we listen to the great protest music of the Vietnam era and find ourselves realizing that those messages are still very relevant in today's America. We are certainly serious about performing meaningful music in a socially conscious way. But, it is rock 'n' roll after all so it's hard not to get caught up in the joy of playing for a passionate audience."