By Kathryn Pinto
United Ghosts has a brand new video that burst onto the internet just days ago. Credit the familiar psychedelic shoegaze sound to former Mere Mortals frontman Axel Steuerwald along with a new band that includes Sha Sabi, guitarist Jason O and drummer Sean Burgess. Radio Free Silver Lake caught up with Axel this week via email. He gave us his take on videos as an art form, working with a new band and the new 7" they will release this Saturday. The band plays Saturday November 26 at the Satellite along with Tennis System and LA Witch.
Radio Free Silver Lake: We last saw you (Axel) fronting the Mere Mortals who were together for about five years and had some modest success. How has it been to leave that behind and form a new band?
Axel Steuerwald: I think if you really love something you have to love it enough to know when it's over. I'm really proud of what Mere Mortals did, but just as we were getting somewhere and the Japan deal and tour, the Black Francis shows and LA residencies were happening, that was when it started to unravel . We had trouble getting along and being creative It was a great period in my life up to then, for which I am very grateful, but moving on felt natural.
RFSL: What is United Ghosts like? How did the new project come together and how is it different from the previous band?
It went on like that for a while, basically a studio project. Then ex-Mortals guitarist Jason O (who also writes now) and my favorite drummer Sean Burgess got involved and stepped things up to being a “real” live band.
RFSL: How do you describe the sound, what are the band’s influences? In one interview Axel talks about a Pre-britpop sound in England in the 1990’s. Can you explain that sound more? Is that an influence?
AS: The thing I liked about the Pre-britpop sound in England was that it was wildly experimental, yet always infused with pop sensibility. Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain and a whole slew of lesser known bands, they all had an amazing freedom of expression about them. Incorporating dance music, guitars, found sounds, anything, but behind all the noise there was always a melody looming, like an old 60s song on the radio but you can't find the station.
I hear a lot of “Kraut, Psychedelia, Shoegaze” when people describe our music. I love all of those things, but I don't think it'll ultimately fully describe us. Someone from Origami Vinyl blogged that “It sounds like being in a dream where you are able to fly through the galaxies”. We all liked that.
RFSL: The band just released a new video for “Holes Into the Night.” Are you happy with the way it turned out? Was it fun to make? Do you like making videos, or is it time that could be spent in the studio? How do you feel about music videos making a comeback in the youtube/social media era?
AS: I really like how our video turned out . We got so lucky. Arian Soheli who made it is a great film maker. Smart, intuitive, tasteful. Hopefully he'll be much too expensive for us soon. And no, I never think spending time on the immediate stylistic periphery of your music is a waste of time. Cover sleeves, photos, web design, videos, they should all be part of a concept that makes your fans feel something, feel special for being part of this. I think the fact that you can make your own video and see if people respond to it on youtube is great and honest. It's direct, much better than some corporate guy at a TV station pre-selecting what music fans should watch.
RFSL: You have a show coming up with Tennis System at the Satellite this Friday for the 7” release of “Holes Into the Night.” Do you have plans to tour?
AS: Yes definitely, but first we need an album. We are going to skip most of Christmas this year and shut ourselves away to work on that.
RFSL: What are you listening to?
AS: It changes every day. Yesterday I listened to Tamaryn, Still Corners, The Horrors, Harmonia, The Church and I tried to turn my friend on to NEU! I'm always trying to turn people on to NEU!
RFSL: What’s next for the band?
AS: Shut ourselves away and make an album, then think about the rest. We have a show coming up at Bootleg 1/26 2012. Then think about touring it. We actually just got some nice first reviews from Europe. It would be amazing if we got to go over there . I think we all love to travel , and play of course. Best buzz in the world.
RFSL: Anything else you’d like to add?
AS: I know I talk about Europe a lot, because it's where I come from, but I feel very at home in LA these days. Many thanks to this city.