With two albums under their belts, the London based psychedelic folk rock band Crumbling Ghost can be found at the inaugural Vernal Equinox festival in Preston on March 4th. Their most recent release, the ethereal, ‘Five Songs’, an EP that mixes traditional folk songs with dark fuzz-rock, features such songs as ‘Are You Going To Leave Me?’ (their take on Scarborough Fair) and the guitar-heavy ‘Maajun’.
Feel free to introduce your band, Crumbling Ghost, to our readers. What got you involved in this endeavor?
Ruth (Bass): A shared love of the same types of music — old folk, metal, and heavy, riff-based music. We all knew each other in different capacities and have all played in different bands in the same circles in London.
Donny (Guitar): I’d known John (Guitar) for a while and after his band broke up and I’d left my previous band, he asked if I wanted to join in jamming with him, Matt (drums) and our original bassist Neil. We ended up playing as Damo Suzuki’s ‘‘sound carriers’’ for a night and decided to keep it going. Shortly after Ruth and Katie (Vocals) joined and eight years later we’re still here.
You’ll be performing at the Vernal Equinox festival, how has the festival atmosphere changed since your bands’ first festival?
Donny: Vernal Equinox will only be our third festival, all of which have happened within the past twelve months, the others being Roadburn 2016, and The Great British Folk Festival. Ruth was away for both of those, so our good friend Simon Kobayashi filled in. Aside from those we’ve just played normal gigs. However, Roadburn and The Great British Folk Festival were about as different from each other as you could get, so it’s difficult to compare. They were both amazing fun though.
What unexpected inspirations stimulated your latest EP, ‘Five Songs’?
Donny: For me, I tried to channel some a twin peaks vibe into my guitar lines on ‘Lose And Get Something Good’. Not sure that’s clear in the end result, but that’s what I tried.
How do your songs come about in the recording process?
Donny: The traditional songs mostly come via John. He’s the real folk fan of the band. He’ll earmark something he likes and will bring to us with a general idea of what he wants to do. Then we ruin all of his careful plans and ideas by adding our own, and then we either keep playing it or abandon it. With the original pieces, one of us will come in with some ideas, sometimes full formed, sometimes just little pieces of music and we just bounce them around for a few weeks/months until we’re happy with them. Usually once we have 4 or 5 we’re happy with, we go and record them. Although for the next release I think we’re going to try and record the whole thing all in one visit.
Ruth: We tend to go into the studio with fairly fully-formed songs which don’t really change too much as we record them, apart from the odd tweak here and there. We might get creative with some layers of instruments, but they sound on the recordings pretty much as they do when we play them live.
Your songs are often historical in nature, transporting listeners to a forgotten time in Britain. What interests you about these times in particular?
Ruth: I suppose we tend to be attracted to the darker songs of the folk canon — murderers, tricksters, nasty events.
Donny: It’s all so bleak and miserable. These were the popular songs of the time, and all about people being drowned, killed at war, tricked by con-men and so on. It’s gruesomely morose and appeals to us as fans of darker musical themes. It also appeals to our dark sense of humour I think. Nothing quite like singing 200-year-old songs about drowning people.
On your second album ‘II‘, you brilliantly cover ‘Reynardine’, a song most people would be familiar with as a 60s/70s folk revival standard. How do you think today’s folk revival holds up in comparison?
Donny: Difficult for me to answer as in all honesty I don’t listen to much folk. John is the big folk fan of the band and I enjoy hearing what he’s unearthed and enjoy playing around with it. But otherwise I’m utterly clueless about the folk revival. Though I have found it fascinating that several bands have embraced folk themes around a similar time to us and have been mixing it with heavier themes. Even more so that people have developed a real hunger for it. Must have been something in the water.
What are some favourite folk songs of yours that you have yet to cover or put your eclectic spin to but would like to in the future?
Donny: Again, that’s more John’s thing. It’s possible we’ll record ‘Gower Wassail’ properly after we recorded a live version for ‘Bright Young Folk‘ last Christmas. That said, it’s not really folk but I’d love to attempt ‘Wreck’ by Gentle Giant, such a great song. I’ve wanted us to cover that since we first started.
Ruth: Watch this space, I suppose…!
What’s on the horizon for Crumbling Ghost? A new full-release?
Ruth: Playing live this year, and writing new songs, and hopefully a new album in 2018.
Donny: Yep, Vernal Equinox fest, then supporting our friends Church Of The Cosmic Skull at their London show, then the Ilfracombe Folk Festival. In between we’ll be working on the next full length album. It’s slow going as we’re all spread across the UK, but we’re tentatively aiming for summer 2018.