Handsome Ghost brings acoustic dance music to Austin, making fans swoon with dreamy vocals and heart-pounding drum beats.
Story by Anaya Green
ORANGE Magazine had the opportunity to talk to the artist about his experiences.
Starting things off, how have y’all enjoyed Austin so far?
We loved our stay in Austin on this tour. Too short, but still great. I have a good friend who lived in Austin for years and I spent a good amount of time down there too, so it's always a treat whenever we can come back. Wonderful city.
Can you tell us a bit about how Handsome Ghost and this new album, “Welcome Back,” came to be?
Sure thing. The band started a few years ago over the course of one summer in Brooklyn. I was writing some songs that were different than anything I had done in the past, and honestly, I didn't have much of plan for them at that point. But those handful of tracks kind of slowly progressed into Handsome Ghost. We released two EPs over the next while, but "Welcome Back" is our first proper album. My bandmate Eddie Byun and I decided to build out a (very modest) studio at our place in Massachusetts and make the record at home, more or less. It was a great experience in that we had enough time to be very thoughtful in deliberate in all the choices we made. The songs we wanted to include, the arrangements, tones, etc. Handsome Ghost has seen a lot of twists and turns since those first songs in Brooklyn, but "Welcome Back" was the record we wanted to make and I feel like we executed our vision for it and that feels great.
The dark and icy tone of your music evokes a feeling of a winter in Boston. Given your Bostonian origins, how do you think that environment has shaped your sound?
Ha, dark and icy, I like that. I don't know if the city of Boston has much influence on the sound, but winter in the Northeast is no joke and I definitely think that can shape who you are as a person, or band, for that matter. I like to think that our record is good for a winter drive, or a walk through the snow.
With this debut album, the sound seems much warmer and folk inspired, especially in contrast to the electronic feel of the “Steps” EP from 2014. Can you tell us about that evolution?
Well, I played folk music first. That's the music that taught me how to play and write and sing. When Handsome Ghost started, it was a breath of fresh air and a chance for me to move towards something new. For "Welcome Back," I just found myself wanting to focus more on the songs themselves and a little less about production. I think Eddie really helped push things in that direction too, because he's definitely a "song first" musician. Every choice we made in terms of arrangement was meant to support the lyrics and the melody, and I think that kind of naturally pushed the sound a little further towards folk and away from the electronic feel of the two EPs, particularly the last one. I'm into it, I'm kind of happy to be back writing songs on guitar after a little time away.
What are some artists that y’all are really into right now?
Well, Flor. And not just because we're touring with them. They’re a great band. Also Now, Now, Frances Cone and Phoebe Bridgers.
What was the overall group energy that you were moving towards with this new album?
I think Eddie and I have a lot of trust for each other, as friends and musicians. The thought when we went back Massachusetts to start working was "let's make the album we want." That sounds really simple and easy, but sometimes it's hard to block out all the opinions and negative thoughts and all of that nonsense. Our thought was just to go home, write good songs, record them well and then hope that the rest works itself out.