Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey—Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
For our latest Popping Up feature, we turn our eyes and ears to New York City, hometown of Nick Millhiser (above left) and Alex Frankel — better known as electro-pop duo Holy Ghost! And, yes, there’s a ! in their name! (See? It’s addictive!!) The pair, signed to DFA Records, finally released their debut album last month after several years of dropping singles and taking up remixing chores for other artists (such as MGMT, Moby and Mark Ronson).
Additionally, a music video for Holy Ghost!’s energetic single “Wait & See” (try not to cut a rug — or at least tap a toe — while listening) recently premiered. And as handsome as these suave city gents are, they opted to have each of their proud pops portray them in the mesmerizing day-in-the-life clip, which was directed by Ben Fries.
We were lucky enough to catch the guys on their recent spring tour with Cut Copy, and to have Alex give us some insight into the hauntingly awesome, synth-laden world of Holy Ghost! Read on below.
AGES: Both Nick and Alex are 28.
WHERE THEY’RE FROM: New York City, a metropolis that, Alex notes, inspires by virtue of the freedom it offers. “I think that starts with transportation. We didn’t need to ask our parents to drive us anywhere when we were growing up, we could just take the train or our bikes all over the city,” Frankel explains. “That meant we could play shows with our band down town at CBGB’s or Brownies, go record shopping at Kim’s on St. Mark’s, see concerts at Roseland, hang out with the stoners in the meadow, whatever. As long as I was home for dinner my parents were pretty cool about letting me explore. And exploration was inspiring, and still is.”
AMOUNT OF COAXING NICK AND ALEX’S DADS NEEDED TO PLAY THEM IN THEIR “WAIT & SEE” VIDEO: “Surprisingly little! They were total sports.”
WHERE THEY MET: In elementary school.
ON WHETHER THEY WERE NAUGHTY BOYS IN CLASS: “All boys are naughty. But I mean, no, not really,” says Alex. “We both got bagged for smoking weed and peeing in public, hopping the turnstile for the subway — and Nick was arrested for writing graffiti etc. But honestly, in New York City, that’s nothing. We never did hard drugs and we both did well in school. Neither of our parents tolerated much bullshit from us.”
THEIR HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: Nick and Alex were in short-lived hip hop act Automato, who released a lone album that was produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and his DFA Records co-founder Tim Goldsworthy. “Our manager played basketball with [Bikini Kill/Le Tigre frontwoman] Kathleen Hanna, who was dating [Beastie Boys'] Ad-Rock at the time, and Ad-Rock was in the studio making a BS2000 with James,” says Alex. “And somehow, through that, we ended up meeting James. And eventually I ended up kicking Ad-Rock in the balls on a fast break during a basketball game James used to play in. Sorry, man.” [Ouch!]
ON SWITCHING FROM SWIZZING UP RAP JAMS TO ELECTRO-POP WITH HOLY GHOST!: “Wasn’t such a shift really. We still like the same stuff,” Frankel notes. “We just started to actually get into the records we had previously had just sampled from. Like, ‘Oh wait — beyond the drum break, I actually really like this S.O.S. Band song’, etc. And James and Tim from DFA also kinda pushed in that direction.”
HANDS-DOWN WHACKEST RECORD IN ALEX’S COLLECTION: “I have disco and Italo records that are so deeply awful it’s scary they were pressed,” he sheepishly admits. “Honestly, I feel like 90% of my records are generally whack — but the same records also have golden nuggets hidden within them.”
HOW THEY GOT THE LEGENDARY MICHAEL MCDONALD TO CROON ON ALBUM TRACK “SOME CHILDREN”: “First you have to wine him up properly — he prefers a full-bodied red, Loire Valley if possible,” Alex points out. “Then it’s steak and a show, of course. Then you kinda just dare him to at the end of the night, like a joke, and hit record.”
ON OUR FAVE TRACK OFF THE LP, “JAM FOR JERRY”: “Jerry [Fuchs] was a good friend and the drummer for !!!, The Juan Maclean and Maserati,” says Alex. “He died during the making of our record, which he also played on.”[wpaudio url="http://cdn.idolator.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/05-Jam-for-Jerry.mp3" text="Holy Ghost! - Jam For Jerry" dl="0"]
THE ! IN THE BAND NAME — NOT QUITE AS SIGNIFICANT OR INFINITELY MORE PROFOUND THAN THE $ IN KE$HA?: “Nothing is more profound than the $ in Ke$ha.” [You read it here, folks.]
NUMBER OF FANS WHO PULLED AN “I’M WITH THE BAND” TO GET BACKSTAGE WITH THEM ON THEIR RECENT AMERICAN TOUR: “About none.”
All above band photos taken by Ruvan Wijesooriya. Holy Ghost!’s debut LP is available now. The band is currently on tour in Europe.