The Ghost of Otis - 05.05.11

Interviewed by
The Ghost of Otis - 05.05.11The following is a mini interview of generic questions that we posed to all bands that wanted to answer:

The Ghost of Otis

Matt D'Amico: guitar/bass/vocals
Krista D'Amico: baritone sax/vocals
Jay McCray: spoken word vocals
Russ Baker: drums

1. How did you get your band name?

Russ: Our band name is a tribute to a dog I had when I was younger. In his later years, Otis developed a horrible case of mange. He was constantly scratching himself and smelled terrible. Nothing was effective in treating his condition. Eventually we just started putting him outside the house when we were trying to practice, because his presence was a putrid assault on the senses. Then one night, Otis simply disappeared. A few days later Matt was driving with a former band member, and they passed by a dog who's eyes reflected an eerie green glow. "Holy crap, it's the ghost of Otis!" one of them exclaimed. We thought that had a neat ring to it, so from that moment the name stuck.

2. How did this band get started?

Russ: Matt and I started The Ghost of Otis when we were rooming together during our freshman year of college back in 2003. At the time, Matt had just picked up a guitar, and I had always wanted to play the drums. We concluded that in order to be a band, we simply had to make the conscious choice to do so. How else did all the bands we revere become what they are? The fact that we had no experience or musical training didn't seem to be an issue. So, we just started writing songs. We even improvised at a party one night using a one-stringed guitar and a shoe for percussion. That didn't really cut it, so I bought a drum set and we hit the ground running in the basement at my mom's house. Now here we are, eight years later, and the intentions we set forth are finally coming to fruition.

3. What bands are you influenced by?

TGOO: Alice in Chains, Bill Hicks, Buckethead, Criteria, Cursive, Coheed & Cambria, The Cure, Explosions in the Sky, Funeral for a Friend, Interpol, Deftones, Michael Jackson, Jim Morrison, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, Primus, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, The Appleseed Cast, The Good Life, The White Octave, The Smashing Pumpkins, Thursday, Tool, Zappa ... just to name a few.

4. If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?

TGOO: We'd love to tour with the Deftones because we grew up listening to them, and they are still holding it down. They are one of the only bands from that era who write amazing music and are still doing their thing. Especially after Chino’s work with Team Sleep, they are able to pull off hardcore rock with electronic and melodic strains that complicate their sound without taking away from their music’s immediacy and power. Their bad-ass stance as a band and as musicians- particularly Chino’s lyrical input- has kept us afloat as individuals. To know that there are other people who feel like us out there, who can make something so intense and moving out of those feelings and that perspective, as well as to know that there are hundreds of thousands of riled up fans in the world who actually respond to that energy and support them -- that is good news.

We'd also love to tour with The Appleseed Cast, because they are one of the bands we got into earliest as a group of people. Touring with The Appleseed Cast would be the definition of success for us. We've gone as a group to a few of their shows, but one of the most inspiring was when we saw them at a Legion hall in Connecticut, and were standing feet from Chris Crisci and Aaron Pillar. We had a chance to speak with them after that show, and they were the most humble and down to earth people you could hope to meet. After witnessing a great performance, that was just the icing on the cake. Being on Deep Elm, a label that The Appleseed Cast repped for so long, has always been a dream for us. Touring with them or even just playing a show would be another dream come true. It's very inspiring to watch a band create a live sound that is just as amazing as their albums. We actually saw them play Low Level Owl I and II back to back at The Middle East in Boston. It was a mind-blowing performance.

5. If you were a furry, what animal would you be? Why that animal?

TGOO: This is actually a really funny question for us to answer. A few years ago we played a show at Hemp Fest, an annual event that takes place at The University of Rhode Island. Anyway, there was this one kid there who just didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the crowd. Before any of us had even heard of furries, this dude was handing out flyers explaining how evil and terrible they are. One part of the flyer specifically told us to shun anyone in the community we knew to be a furry. This guy really believed he was making a difference. It was pretty hilarious. To be honest, none of us are really into that sort of crap. But if we were, we'd definitely want to dress up like a mangy rotting dog. We're sure that's what Otis would have wanted.

6. Why should people listen to your band?

TGOO: People should listen to The Ghost of Otis because we are really just starting out, and our sound is still evolving. We feel that Hopes and Denials presents a lot of relevant issues, and whether or not people agree with the lyrics, there is an emotional truth and vitality in the album. As a close-knit band with mostly family members, we play off of each other musically in ways that come naturally and intuitively. However, this album consists of songs written when we were still exploring this connection and our musical relationship to one another. So, people should listen to the band to hear how we as musicians and as a band continue to evolve our sound and aesthetic. Although we've been writing music since 2003, we feel that the release of Hopes and Denials represents our starting point, our foundation. If you respond at all to this album, our next album is going to please, and hopefully surprise you.

7. If you were chosen to be in Guitar Hero/Rock Band, what song would you want in the game? How hard do you think it would be to five-star on expert?

TGOO: We'd love a song like 'How it is' to be featured on Rock Band, mostly because it would be amusing as hell to watch someone try and keep up with Jay's maniacal ranting. They would probably pass out. Plus, the instrumental parts of that song are also pretty fast paced and intricate. Maybe one of the gaming systems can develop a plastic saxophone controller for Rock Band when we're world famous. It's hard enough for us to play the material with real instruments, so we'd imagine it would be pretty tough to pull off on an Xbox or whatever.

8. If you won a Grammy, who would you thank?

TGOO: First, we would thank Otis, who haunted our basement when he was both living and dead, motivating us to play music loud enough to drown out his smell. If you think that doesn't make any sense, then you clearly never met Otis. We’d also thank our fans (all twelve of them) and our parents and friends, especially Tommy D. and Cathy.

9. If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?

TGOO: Probably the fact that so many people are successful in the industry simply because they're related to somebody that's already made it big. There's got to be at least a million people out there with more talent than Miley Cyrus or Willow Smith, but you'll probably never hear about them. The spoils system has got to go. That, and we really think Bono should stop making music. Also, any music that seems utterly void of content or doesn’t seem to come from some place of truth, but instead seems entirely driven by greed and maybe perpetuating worse things—it would be cool if a lot of that wasn’t successful or mainstream. Obviously, this is a completely subjective issue of taste and intent, but an example would be the Black Eyed Peas’ performance at the most recent Super Bowl. Every second of that was horror.

10. Memorable tour experience?

TGOO: We've never really toured at all, but one of our most memorable shows was a few years back with a band called Criteria. It was a great feeling to play a show with a band that has inspired us so much. Recently we have played a good number of shows in the Rhode Island and Connecticut areas, but to call it a tour might be a bit of a stretch.

11. What does AP.net mean to you?

TGOO: AP.net is a great resource for both artists and their fans, creating ways for fans to participate in a community that exists around their favorite bands and musicians. There are a lot of great reviews and interviews to check out, and it's a great tool for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s going on in the music world. We recently heard about the new Thursday album while on the site. It’s an awesome way to learn about new music, from both well-known bands and emerging bands like us. AP.net is a living and immediate forum that brings the music and musicians it features and follows even closer to fans, who are able to form an even more integral and meaningful connection to bands through the site. There are exciting conversations, exchanges, and encounters taking place there. We really appreciate that you guys were interested in interviewing us.

12. What is your favorite song to play?

TGOO: Probably 'The Ultimate Truth'. It's high energy, and Jay's vocals make for a great mantra.

13. What is your vacation spot of choice?

TGOO: What the hell is a vacation?

14. What music reminds you of your childhood?

TGOO: Wow, some of this could get a little embarrassing. Let's see.... the Aladdin soundtrack. Guns ‘n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction. The Lion King soundtrack. Bruce Springsteen (everything). ZZ Top. Spin Doctors. That terrible song 'tub thumping' by Chumbawumba. We're pretty sure that's the only song they ever wrote. MC Hammer. Ace of Base. Coolio. Criss Cross. Kenny G. R. Kelly (before peeing on someone). The Cranberries. Smashing Pumpkins.

15. If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?

TGOO: We all agree that we'd like the power to fly. We do tend to get pretty elevated, but for some reason we never leave the ground. So actually flying would be pretty awesome. That, or the power of invisibility, so we can avoid everyone who sucks.

16. Do you feel that your band has "made it"?

TGOO: We've written an album we are all proud of that has now been endorsed by Deep Elm, a record label we have the utmost respect for. I guess it depends on what your definition of "making it" is. We'd all love to be rock-star millionaires doing world tours, but in this day and age that sort of thing seems to be on the way out. The fact that we've been recognized and endorsed for something we enjoy doing is as much success as we could ask for right now. Of course we do aspire for greater things to come. We’re just not sure how long it’s going to be before we can afford the harness for Krista’s flying saxophone solo and the chariot and white stallions Russ will need to pull his drum set around.

17. What is something that most fans don't know about you?

TGOO: Probably the fact that we’re all pretty goofy in our own right. Some of the content on our album is pretty angry and touches on some heavy subject matter, but as individuals and as group we are far from serious most of the time.

18. What's your favorite holiday?

TGOO: 420.

19. What do you like to do in your spare time?

TGOO: What the hell is spare time?

20. What kind of hidden talents do you have?

TGOO: Umm... Jay can rotate his leg 180 degrees so that his foot faces the wrong way. Does that count?
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02:03 PM on 05/08/11
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These guys are damn good. If you want to read more, read here.

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