With its latest release Public Housing, Durham’s Gross Ghost offers a particularly scuzzy brand of indie rock. Building on the catchy guitar pop of last year’s Brer Rabbit, the record’s unvarnished production captures the band’s more aggressive leanings. Dive assistant editor Chris Powers caught up with frontman Mike Dillon to discuss the album’s recording process and the band’s release show Friday at Cat’s Cradle’s new Back Room.
DIVERSIONS: Can you talk about the recording process for Public Housing and the inspiration behind it?
MIKE DILLON: The process was we all wrote most of the record in our practice space and then basically we recorded at The Pinhook in Durham. Then we finished up the record out in the middle of nowhere in a cabin in Pittsboro. We wanted to write a straightforward rock record — energetic and something like our live shows.
DIVE: This record seems to have a grittier, live feel. Was that a conscious decision from the start?
MD: Yeah I think so. The kind of stuff I was thinking about — references and inspirations — were straightforward. Just 1,2,3 go kind of rock ‘n’ roll. It all came nicely together. The first record was more of a recording process and this record was an effort by all of the band members. All of us playing in the practice space and working on stuff — we were playing it live as we were writing it.
DIVE: How did you approach the songwriting? From the start did you have a live sounding record in mind and did that play into the actual writing of the songs at all?
MD: Our first record, when we played live it didn’t sound like the album. It was faster, slower, some things are missing that we added on the record. On this record, what you hear on the record is what you’re going to get at the show and that was the intention for sure.
DIVE: Going back and listening to Public Housing, do you hear anything that really stands out as being different from the first record? Specifically, there’s a pretty significant acoustic guitar track on one of the songs.
MD: The thing about the tracks that are basically acoustic or are a little different than our normal sound is I like a lot of different types of music and there’s a bunch of different types of sounds we can mess with. But I feel like if the record was high energy the whole time it might be a little too much. To put tracks like that on the record to break up the sides and mellow out the middle.
DIVE: Did a lot of thought then go into the order of the songs on the album?
MD: The sequencing was very important. I like that about other records. We messed around with a bunch of different sequences and tried to figure out the best mix to make the record flow as one smooth process and I think we got a good one.
DIVE: Friday’s release show is at the new Cat’s Cradle Back Room, a smaller, more intimate venue. Does this influence the type of show you guys will play?
MD: We might play some stuff that we don’t usually do live like we’re trying to figure out how to add the songs from the record that we don’t usually play. And we’ve got some people that are going to come in and fill in on instruments to help us out a little bit. It is an intimate venue so hopefully it’ll be packed with all of our friends and energy will be high. So we’re looking forward to it, we’re going to do something a little bit different than normal.
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