For more than thirty years, the CMJ Music Marathon has been the world’s most important platform for learning about new bands and discovering new, untapped wells of glorious music. This year, October 15-19, at more than 80 different music venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn more than 100,000 fans came out to see more than 1300 artist performances. At the festival’s Hotel on Rivington press lounge on one of those days I was lucky enough to get to sit down and chat with seven new bands and talk to them about their music and their future.
My first interview of the day was with the indie rock n’ roll band, Rocket & The Ghost. Getting ready to release their eponymous debut EP November 5, 2013, Kiyoshi Matsuyama (songwriter/vocals/guitar), Brian Kesley (bass), Stuart Bidwell (drums), Sean Gavigan (guitar), and Alan Markley (keyboards) sat down to talk with me about life, love, ampersands and the fact that even if they are knocked down on their knees by the ravages of a cruel music industry (Eric Clapton), they can still do what’s necessary to pull themselves and each other back up.
(The band approaches the table talking about one members pants and how good they look. They then all exchange the same pleasantries with each other, with each complement getting nicer for each band member. This talking over one another would happen for the remainder which is why so much of the back and forth is anonymous. Lead singer Kiyoshi informs me)
“We complement each other on our looks to make ourselves feel better”
The press kit informed me that Kiyoshi formed this band after leaving another. I inquire about this to which he replies.
“I got the best of the best. I was in a group called the London Souls and they’re still a group now but sometimes your goals in life changes. This bands been together for a year and a half.”
How did you all meet?
“We went to college together at New School,” they say, excluding Alan from the four of them. I ask about this to which the band all replied.
“Alan was out back of that club that night, remember?”
“Right, behind a dumpster with a Casio.”
Did his keyboard have a stand or was it on his lap?
“He was actually begging for money to get some batteries.”
“We had to buy him the stand.”
“We taught him to sing, put a jean jacket on him, although I don’t know where that pink shirt came from.”
And so it goes with Rocket & The Ghost. As fast as the complements come in, so too do the barbs.
What’s the origination of your band name.
“It’s really a childhood story. Rocket was a childhood dog. There was a ghost in the backyard in upstate New York and Rocket chased the ghost. Plus we wanted an ampersand in our name. And we wanted a ghost. A lot of the songs we sing and we play have a childhood air about them. There’s an innocence to the songs, emotionally.”
So are you all professional musicians?
“We’re all professional musicians; some of us play in a wedding band; teach; freelance composing.” One of them even admitted to “work in a barbershop part time.”
Your press materials call you an “indie” band. What does “indie” mean these days?
“Indie doesn’t mean anything.”
“It used to mean you sounded like The Strokes.”
“Now it just means nothing.”
“Indie’s a label that means it’s okay to listen to this.”
“We try to tell people that we’re a rock and roll band. We’re really loud, spacey, and dynamic. The louds are loud the softs are soft. We try and encapsulate the whole dynamic; whatever sounds good. We don’t try to cater what’s ‘hot.'”
Who are your major musical influences?
“My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, Roy Orbison/Elvis, Wilco, Kings of Leon”
What’s your band’s position on Auto-Tune?
“For our band? No.”
If you could score any film or director, what would it be?
“Does it have to be an existing film? I’d love to score a samurai movie of some kind. I would score a movie that doesn’t exist yet; Samurai’s in Space. ‘Saturday Night Fever.'”
“Anything Cohen Brothers would be great.”
What are your feelings of Lady Gaga?
“She’s doing exactly what everyone else is doing but she’s dressing different.”
“She’s a nonessential part of my life.”
“A non-lode bearing part of my life
If you could add any musician living or dead to your ensemble, who would it be?
“I’d really love to just mess with you guys and replace myself with Chick Corea.”
“David Byrne would be my choice.”
“Is there any way we could get all of Derek and the Dominos without Eric Clapton?”
What is one piece of advice you would give to any band trying to make it to next year’s CMJ Music Marathon?
“Figure out who you are and do that. Whatever you’re into, especially in New York, thousands of people are also into it.”
What’s next for you guys?
“We’re going to hire Derek and the Dominoes. We got a music video that’s being edited. We’ve got photo shoots. We’re going to try to put out more online content.”
What’s the one question you always want interviewers to ask that’s never asked?
“Do you have any songs that would go well for a divorce?”
For your divorce or other listening pleasure, check out Rocket & The Ghost’s debut EP coming out November 5, 2013. You can also learn more about Rocket & The Ghost from their Facebook page or website .