The basic rules of journalism suggest that I’m unfit to tell this story. From this moment forward, I am imbued with a conflict of interest highlighted by the fact that I not only grew up with the three artists behind Another Ghost’s debut album, but that I am genuine in wanting them to receive some sort of gain from this piece. The irony is few others are as qualified to share this story.
I grew up with Evan Captain, peripherally at first, then as a member of the same social circle. My earliest memories of him are from a high school creative writing class we were in together when I was a sophomore.
On Fridays our teacher held an open mic-style period where anyone could share work they were especially proud of or ask for feedback on drafts. When this theoretically nice idea turned into a few dozen students sitting motionless in deafening silence in hopes that they’d just be let out early instead, Evan found his way to the front of the class, guitar in-hand. While he played, the whole class – a vibrant mass of rowdy pubescence – shut the fuck up and, for possibly the first time in their lives, listened. I distinctly remember his dilapidated black hoodie and tranquil demeanor, both indicating his relaxed way of interacting with the world around him. After he finished a song our teacher asked for more, and, with a shrug, Evan continued.
During that time, Evan delivered pizzas in our hometown. Occasionally I’d hear about how he delivered to a house where he found his way to a piano and played so skillfully he was able to earn extra tips and probably a few encores.
I grew up with Tait Howard the same way. In 2003, when buzz surrounding The Matrix series was reaching its apex, Tait wrote “Trinity Dies” on a white t-shirt and wore it to school after catching the midnight screening of The Matrix: Reloaded, dramatically pulling back his jacket to reveal the message to helpless onlookers. On several occasions, I’ve witnessed him effortlessly grace blank sheets of paper with hyper-detailed drawings, exuding the borderline lethargic gravitas of a magician completing a trick for the hundredth time. During visits in college, he often instigated lucid rhyming ciphers, coercing everyone to freestyle rap over beats he’d found on YouTube, which were ceremoniously bookended by him rattling off intricate bars about the disheveled apartment around him.
I firmly believe that every high school social group unanimously, yet without ever verbally communicating it, decides on a friend’s basement to be their headquarters. That’s where I got to know these guys. Once you NERF war beef with someone, you’re essentially blood brothers.
Last month I saw Evan’s long-awaited debut album had finally arrived. Under his Another Ghost moniker, Evan put together four separate movements to the album, each based on a different season, featuring correlating artwork from Tait, along with musical contributions from Evan’s sister Lena both as a musician and general critic. The album, Saucy Dreams, Mortal Torment, and Wicked Woe, is meant to serve as a journey for the fictional character Skeleton Boy, one of Tait’s creations. Here’s our conversation about the project.
NadaMucho.com: Talk about how this collaboration started.
Tait Howard: The original idea was that I would write a comic and he would write a song about that page and I would make the next page of the comic based on his song and he would make the next song, and it would be just back and forth, and then I never did my part of that. A couple years later Evan was like, “Hey, I’ll pay you to do some art for an album that I’m doing” and I was like “Okay.”
NM: That’s a really ambitious project. Technically this is your debut album, right?
Evan Captain: Well, yeah. My first album that I’ve released that I’m really proud of that I can say is a finished product. I did the best job I possibly could have and I used every single tool that I know, and I’ve learned so far, in a bunch of different arenas. Like performance, and engineering, and production, and marketing it’s just – yeah it’s a debut album.
NM: It just so counterintuitive from my perspective that your debut album would come out right now when, for so long, it seems like you’ve been working on music. Does it feel validating to have it out there?
EC: Oh, for sure. What’s so big about it, for me anyway, is the fact that it sounds so close to the way that I heard it in my head when I first wrote those songs, and some of those songs I wrote in high school.
LC: Yeah, they’re so old. I remember hearing those riffs for years and years and years, and now they’re finally on a physical thing.
EC: I was asking Lena way early on with some of these songs, on “Night for example – from the middle of the winter movement, the one with the dude riding the sheep in the middle of the aurora borealis – that song took eleven years to finally get correct. It went through so many different iterations and I was always showing it to Lena like “Hey, this is a new one, this is a new one, this is a new one” but it was never perfect. When I finally showed her this one she was like, “Yeah, you got it.”
NM: So would you wind up giving extensive notes, Lena? Or would it just be like “Do this a little different” or “I like this more”?
Lena Captain: Yeah, exactly. Just a little more bass or accentuate a certain part more or this sounds weird. Just simple, honest things.
EC: Definitely helpful. I wrote the main riff for “Night” in the middle of a family vacation.
NM: So you’ve been working on that song for over a decade.
EC: Yeah, for that one. Some of the tracks on that came so fast. And Tait, you remember “Dead Guy” from when we first even had an inkling of collaborating. That was from like 2011.
TH: Oh, yeah. It’s funny to hear you say that. You know, we’ve talked about this obviously pretty extensively and we’ve been kind of collaborating, not necessarily on this album, but kind of working together alongside each other for so long that it’s interesting to hear you lay it out like that. I recognize so much of what’s on that album from hanging out with you in high school or college and throughout knowing you. It’s interesting to hear it all come together.
LC: In that way, too, it’s a nostalgic album for me. Since I heard it for so long and it sounds so good, not to mention the artwork is really badass. It’s just so awesome to hold it.
TH: I’m just kind of learning to use my phone right now, so it’s the only album that I have on my phone and I’ve been listening to it like every day on the bus for the past couple weeks.
NM: It’s varied in a way that I don’t think a lot of listeners are used to hearing in an album. You could afford to just have it be the only album on your phone that you listen to for several months because it covers everything.
A lot of albums tend to fall into the trap of “This is going to be a classic hip-hop album,” or whatever, but you’re just like “I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want.” It’s like watching a chef use every technique they know in every dish they possibly could make.
EC: That was the idea actually. I get bored with music really quickly. When I’m listening, I’m just antsy. I wanted this album to be a breath of fresh air in every track, like every moment is a rebirth, where something new would come at you in a different way. I play a lot of different music and I’ve had a hard time making an album in the past because I didn’t want to confine it to one genre. That doesn’t cater to all the tastes that I like hear in one place in the span of sixty minutes.
NM: And I think that goes back to you guys talking about seeing your artistry grow since hanging out between high school and now. People show a lot of promise in high school because they’re starting to get into things they like and could just as easily fall out of it. But you guys both really spend a lot of time developing and learning and trying new things in your medium. It’s cool to see you guys meet in the middle because you’re kind of matching one another’s creativity. Do you feel that helped over the course of the collaboration and how you communicate?
EC: I would say so.
TH: It’s funny because I don’t think we ever really gave each other notes. I think what you’re saying is totally true; we’ve built what we’re doing around each other completely but without ever actually sitting down and being like “well this is what I want this to sound like” or “this is what I want this to look like.” For me, it was a job because Evan was paying me, but it also felt like it wasn’t work because he gave me almost no direction. We simultaneously came up with the concept of the seasons aspect and his music definitely – spanning these different genres and sounds – makes it a journey to listen to the whole album. You feel like you’re stepping in at one point and getting off at totally a different place, so I think subconsciously that’s how I wanted the art to feel, too.
I didn’t hear the entire album all the way through until I got a copy of the printed final CD, but anytime we’d hang out for the past two years Evan would be like “listen to this, this is what I’ve been working on for the past week or so” and seeing it build and watching my pieces come together, they just built off of each other really naturally.
EC: When I saw the piece for summer, it didn’t change what I was writing, but it added layers to the sound I was going for. Your work is so driven by color that I’m able to almost write chord structures based on the tones that I see and general feel of the piece. You remember when we sat down and listened to the first song for summer and it just fit so well.
NM: It’s this level of specificity that, if either of you asked one another for it, it would have been a train-wreck but the fact that you could present it to one another simplified the whole process. Lena, do you feel like you were able to lend yourself well to this project because you were growing up in that atmosphere?
LC: Yeah, not to mention I’m related to Evan.
NM: You were already going to have a hand in it so you might as well sing on it, right?
LC: For sure. Evan taught me a lot about music and I already know I can be honest with him, and I don’t really care if he likes my opinion or not. So there’s a boundary of what I’m going to say and, usually, he’s like “That’s exactly what I thought, I just wanted to make sure.” But looking at this art right now – it’s a little bit of a divergence from the question – it fits so perfectly. It’s like when you draw to music and you create based on how that music makes you feel.
TH: I think it was simultaneous. I can’t remember if I heard one of the first songs off summer when I started working on it. It’s weird because the timeline stretches back so far and it’s hard to say exactly when the project started. The timelines of the music and art are totally intertwined. I think the only part of the album that neither of us really saw until the end was fall. I finished summer, spring, and winter while I was in Seattle. I was showing Evan my stuff and we were hanging out a lot. Then I moved to Portland and finished the fall piece here and missed the tail-end of the album. I didn’t really show much to Evan, I think I sent him one or two picture messages on my phone like “Hey, this is almost done, hope this is good.” But it’s hard to say what influenced what. I think it was totally a mutual building and creating experience.
NM: I’m sure you’re open to more collaboration, are there any plans at this point?
EC: Tait has already done the art for another of the albums that I wrote. This was an album that I wrote, and did a bunch of the prerecording for a bunch of the sketches in college, and that album cover with the ear coming out of the sky. I’m so stoked about that one and I can’t wait to release that one. Frankly, I need that to be done as well as Saucy Dreams or better, and that’s going to take some time.
Right now I’m just planning on being micro-ambitious with music. I’ve been working on Soundcloud a lot just trying to post some stuff from my archives like stuff I did in high school, stuff I did in my gap year, some genre studies that I’ve done, all showcasing how I’ve learned to do what I do. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities with artists on Soundcloud to collaborate with them like MCs, vocalist, other producers.
And I was going to ask Tait, we should definitely work together on some art for these pieces, too. I want to release a collaborations album or some kind of EP.
TH: Cool, yeah.
NM: That’s probably how a lot of the collaborations go. Just one of you saying “Hey, man I want to do this” and the other’s just like “Okay.”
EC: Absolutely. We’ll just figure out the specifics later.
LC: I think I’m in it for life.
EC: We still need to do a video for “Their Story.” Just walking around like some 90s rap video. Lena, you and me are going to Portland and we’re just going to walk around in like –
LC: Go-Pros and hipster clothes.
EC: Yeah! And just get a bunch of people in a crowd to jump around with us and some of those shots from above.
LC: Just walking around like “WHAT” spreading out our arms, walking hella wide.
TH: And then there’ll just be a shot of all of us in a fish-eye lens with a bunch of neon lights. Let’s just remake a TLC video.
NM: Oh my god. So much fake gold.
EC: If it’s not the music, then it’s the art. I was telling Tait last week this is like a resume it just shows so much shit. I’m happy with it.
EC: Well, we should end on a high note like George Costanza.
TH: I think the best way to end this interview would be to say: Cameron, did you know that your name has the word “Camero” in it? Because that’s pretty cool.
Another Ghost will be performing on Friday, January 16th at Stone Way Café.
You can purchase physical copies of the band’s album from Everyday Music, Silver Platters, Easy Street Records, or digitally through, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, or Bandcamp.
For more information about Tait’s artwork, follow his Tumblr and reach out if you’re interested in hiring him for freelance work through his website.