ghost estates - filling the void
brian giles
Fresh from his commendation in the Hot Press & Sony Xperia Awards, Aidan Kelly Murphy continues to shine a light on Dublin's finest.

He talks to GHOST ESTATES, whose heady sounds are helping to fill the void.

Pictures by Aidan.

Ghost estate - an unoccupied housing estate, particularly one built in the Republic of Ireland during the period of economic growth when the Irish economy was known as the Celtic tiger.

Ghost Estates - A Dublin based electronic pop rock band consisting of Keith Byrne, Dan Doherty, Colm Giles, Brian Giles and Allen Monaghan

Dublin’s Ghost Estates formed in 2010 after the dissolution of the members’ individual bands. With a renewed sense of vigour the quintet set about creating a new musical soundscape free of any defined dynamics. As if to highlight their determination for experimentation the five-piece wrote their debut album prior to playing any live gigs. With members alternating between instruments and songwriting duties the group have a fresh approach to the indie guitar band model.

Late 2011 and early 2012 saw three successful single releases, each of which showcased the different styles and different voices that make the band unique. Following this their self-titled debut album was launched to much critical acclaim. Ranging from straight up indie pop songs to dark atmospheric synth driven psychedelic rock; the album was bold, brash and brilliant in equal measures.

This year has seen the band build upon the successes of 2012 consolidating their reputation as a dynamic live act who are able to capture the difficult, and much coveted, raw yet refined sound. April also saw the band release a split single with fellow Dubliners Twin Kranes, as part of the Record Store Day initiative.

I caught up with bassist Colm to see how work was coming on the follow-up album and to recap on those auspicious and unusal beginnings.

colm giles
Ghost Estates formed out of the ashes of two Dublin bands, Sickboy and 8Ball. How did this coming together happen?

It came about initially because the band myself Brian and Dan were in (Sickboy) was coming to an end. We were just fed up with what we were doing. So we decided to start all over again. In time, Keith and Mono (8Ball) joined and the dynamic of the band completely changed. After the lads joined songs just started building up. We all brought different ideas in and things started to click very quickly. It was great.

In Ghost Estates the five members alternate between instruments and share vocal duties at different times. Is this born out of a necessity and desire to experiment or is it a something that happens naturally as songs are written and developed?

A bit of both really. You know we don’t have any set ways of working. Different songs come from different methods. Some songs are born from jamming while other ones are nearly set in stone in terms of arrangement by whoever brought them in. Then other songs will completely change from their initial structure. It's fun to bounce ideas off different people who have different styles towards what they are playing. Then other times it can be a massive pain in the hole. Ha!

In the Irish media the phrase ‘Ghost Estates’ has become synonymous with the recession. Was the name choice a reflection of Ireland at that moment, something that reflected the media outlook at the time or are we all reading a bit too much into it?

It was a name we decided on because it had a very strong meaning and impact in Ireland at the time. Still does. It was something that you read about all time. We saw those words everywhere, so we decided it be great to use it as a band name. Turn the meaning on its head a bit. Turn it into something positive. It also has a powerful visual image, you think of a place the minute you hear it. Like in other countries where they wouldn’t know the origin of the name, people have come up to us and said how much they loved it. I find people in general remember the name.

keith byrne
You wrote your first album before playing your first gig. Was this reverse approach something that consciously happened or was it that the songs formed so quickly in those early rehearsals?

The songs did come together very quickly in the early jams. It wasn’t a conscious plan to do it in reverse, it just happened. We were jamming one day and we just said to each other we have enough songs and ideas here to make a really good album. We just went from there. We definitely loved the idea of doing it and no one knowing who we were. No pressure or major plans. It was a lot of fun doing it that way.

You have such a strong visual identity as a band via your album and single artwork. How important is it to the band to build that defined, almost iconographic, visual recognition?

Brian does all our artwork and it is very important to him, and us as a band, to have a strong visual output in terms of covers, posters and things like that. You know it is a really important thing for any band. You should always try to make your artwork stand out, jump out at you. Plus it's what you leave behind when you're gone, you know! You want the whole package to be great!

April saw you you releasing a split 7″ single with fellow Dublin’s Twin Kranes for Record Store Day. Was this something you had been wanting to do for a while, and how did the project come together?

We wanted to put something out this year, mainly because we didn’t know when we were going to put out the new album. So we thought of doing a split release for ‘Record Store Day’. As a kind of stop gap between the albums. We also wanted to put it out with a band we love and admire. Twin Kranes are a band that we love to bits. Such an amazing act, their album Spektrumtheatresnakes is one of the best albums to come out of this country! We just asked the lads if they would be on board with the idea and they were. Simple as that really. It was good fun doing it with them.

dan dohery
You’re busy working on the follow-up to your critically acclaimed debut, how has the process being going?

The process has been slow if I’m honest. Not that we don’t have an abundance of ideas floating around, it's just hard at the moment to settle on songs that we are all happy with. We really want to get away from the whole ‘Indie Pop’ thing. So it's fun to try out different ideas. It's just the way it goes sometimes. We’re not worried as we’ve been here before. Even though the songs did come quick last time there were still moments of bashing your head against a wall until it just clicks. It will be a while yet before we go in to record them. Dan has built his own studio in the centre of town now and it's a great resource to us to be able to go down there and work on the tracks.

For the debut you wrote then gigged, this time it’s the reverse. Has this had much of an impact on the songwriting?

No, not really. Ha! We are still coming up with ideas or songs and bringing them in and working on them as a group. Same as before.

You used peer-to-peer fundraising last time to help finance your album. Excluding the financial implications, how important was that whole experience of knowing beforehand that so many people support the band?

Well we didn’t think we would make the mark at all. We thought it was going to be an embarrassment to be honest. We couldn’t believe that we made it and we had that support. It was a really amazing experience to know people out there supported us.

allen monaghan
Is it something that you may use again in the future?

No, we won't be doing it again. It was something that I would recommend to other artists only as a last resort really. Without that album would not have been pressed. I think it's an amazing idea and I love how it gives struggling artists of all different areas a platform to try and achieve their goals. However, I would be hesitant to use it again. If you’re an unsigned band I think using it can be harmful in terms of the way labels view you. I mean it's just something we wouldn’t do again in terms of the making or pressing of our next album.

Are there any concrete plans for the follow-up?

Just get the thing written and demoed up for the end of the year. Then were going to start shopping it around to people and see if anyone bites. We wont be putting it out this time on our own and we are prepared to wait until we find someone willing to work with us.

What does 2014 hold for Ghost Estates?

2014 at the moment is mainly going to be about us finishing the album in terms of mixing and mastering. Then it’s about getting it out to the public! We want to work with the same people as last time; and at the moment its going to be in early 2014 that they are free. We also are going to be getting out of Ireland as much as we can. We have a tour lined up for March in Germany and France. Also we’re talking to bookers in Spain about getting over there early next summer. At the moment our main concern is to find people who are willing to work with us in putting the album out. As I said before we are prepared to wait until this happens. There are a few things in the pipeline, so you just watch this space!



Listen to Ghost Estates here.


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