Ghostmouth's Sean Chaucer: My dad can beat up your band's dad
First impressions are hard to take back, but even with ludicrousness of a name like Ghostmouth, the Twin Cities band's members take themselves seriously. With their new album, which is actually a collection five years in the making, the band share with their fans a new maturity that opens an element of truth to music that is stratospherically brilliant, hidden behind an attitude that has caught many people's attention.
Gimme Noise caught up with quick-witted lead singer Sean Chaucer before their CD release show on Friday, and he spend a good amount of time boasting that his father could beat the crap out of the dads of the members of Howler, Polica, Doomtree, and a load of other Minneapolis darlings.
Band Members: Sean Chaucer, Donovan Seaberg, Shawn Mouacheupao
You seem to include a lot of humor and fun into Ghostmouth's music, which I very much appreciate. Do you find it easy to to be take seriously as an artist when approaching your career with this view?
I find it painfully easy in fact. While our demeanor and overall attitude towards promotion and stage performance can be very brash and humorous, it is executed with a degree of wit and cynicism that puts a greater weight on what we say and do. If I could compare our approach to anyone else, it would be Kurt Vonnegut. While his writing is very satirical and humorous in nature, his readers are only laughing in self-defense. I feel as though it's the same way with those that find what we do humorous.
Musically, while we may incorporate some of this quick-wit into lyrics and melodic choices, it is always a very conscious decision, and the deeper message behind our music is usually more meaningful, and often quite sad.
Minneapolis is well known for its indie-rock scene, as well as its detractors that hate this scene. How do you describe Ghostmouth's music, and what do you think of the scene?
Ghostmouth fits into an interesting mold. While many bands, local or otherwise, find their sound early on in their career and have problems breaking away from it, we have never let labels and genres hinder us from doing whatever it is that we want to do. I believe that many bands are so frightened by the idea of breaking away from "their sound" that they leave no room to rediscover themselves and bring their music to an entirely new and unique place.
That being said, I have a great deal of appreciation for the Twin Cities music scene, because there are a lot of musicians who do break away from this mold. Some of my personal favorites have included Dosh, Kill Sadie, Peter Wolf Crier, Self-Evident, and No Bird Sing. Although the indie-rock community is certainly thriving, I feel as though many of the bands that deserve recognition for taking risks and growing as artists are instead recognized for less meaningful reasons, or just not recognized at all.
You say that you hate Howler, The 4onthefloor, as well as Doomtree, Communist Daughter, and Polica. Are you really prepared to kill all of their puppies and have your dad fight their dads?
I'm sure they're all lovely people; I know some of them. I'm certainly not fond of any of their music, let alone impressed, though I wouldn't be surprised if they said the same thing about my music.
The 4onthefloor puts on a terrific live show, but when listening to them on record, I feel as though their energy and songs fall flat. They seem like rather fit individuals, but I'd be willing to bet that their dads smoke a lot of cigarettes, and therefore get winded rather easily. My dad doesn't smoke, so I'm quite certain that my dad has far greater stamina and could therefore take their dads in a fistfight.
Doomtree certainly has a lot of talented people involved; I've loved nearly everything Lazerbeak has been involved in, and Cecil Otter's Rebel Yellow was a well-above-average release, but I can't take Doomtree seriously. I know this is a touchy subject for Minnesota music fans, but it's just my opinion. Music is supposed to create a fictional dream for its listeners, and by constantly shouting "Doomtree! Rhymesayers!" into your ear buds, they are breaking the fourth wall and reminding you that you are just listening to a hip-hop song. It really detracts from any messages they are attempting to put into their music. They're all a bit older, so I assume their dads are a bit older as well. My dad could take their dads.
Communist Daughter comes close to some deeper insights lyrically at times, but their guitar tones are awful, and their music is kind of wimpy. If Johnny's dad is as wimpy as his singing voice, my dad could take his dad.
Polica is the living proof of the only bad thing that Justin Vernon did to the indie music scene; convincing burgeoning indie-pop musicians that it is okay to use auto-tune for every vocal part in every song, even though Vernon only used it for two or three songs. My dad doesn't really know anything about auto-tune, and what people don't understand, they destroy, so my dad would destroy their dads.
Howler is kind of cute, I suppose. They play at being bigger dicks than they actually are in an attempt to snag more press, but Jordan Gatesmith is much nicer and far less of a celebrity than the Twin Cities writers are making him out to be. His music is very derivative, and reminds me of music I was writing when I was 16 years old, and he's only two years younger than me. His lyrics seem to lack any meaning whatsoever, most likely due to the fact that he does little to examine his songwriting process. The songs are probably meaningless to him, and so I find them meaningless as well. Plus, they're an awful live act. They're not a tenth as punk-rock as they think they are, and my dad was in a real punk-rock band in New York in the early 1980s. There is not a doubt in my mind that my dad is more punk-rock that Jordan Gatesmith's dad, and so he would definitely make a fool out of him in a physical battle.
I'll leave all of their puppies alone though, simply because I'm a vegan and can't bring myself to harm an animal.
This being said, if any of the aforementioned artists were ever to release an album that I enjoyed, I would be fully prepared to spread the love.
I hear some traces of ska in the new album; what did you draw from when writing for Toast Mouth?
Well, I wrote these songs when I was was 16 years old (except for two songs on the album that were written by my old band-mate from my high school days). I'm 21 now, which doesn't seem much older, but I can barely relate to the person I was back then. People tend to underestimate how much human beings change in short periods of time. I had never really intended on releasing these songs, but we were still playing them live, and fans would always come up to us after shows and ask why some specific song wasn't on our debut album. So this one is really for the fans. Back then, I was listening to The Libertines a lot, as well as some truly awful Libertines knockoff bands that were being paraded around England as the second coming of Pete Doherty. So they songs on the new album have a similar catchy punk-rock vibe, mixed with my 16 year old attempts to write poetic and meaningful lyrics. Sometimes I got lucky and hit more towards the mark, and other times I fell flat, most likely die to fact that I did little in the way of examining my songs and lyrics back then. I basically just had this dream of moving to London and becoming a starving poet. I moved to Minnesota instead, and I'm still kind of hungry.
What is the origin of the name Toast Mouth?
The name of the album, Toast Mouth, comes from an internet conversation we had with a fan. He left a picture of a goat with the caption "Goat's Mouth" in mockery of our band name, and we responded with the picture that ended up being our new album cover with the caption "Toast Mouth."
You say that you're influenced by Godzilla, Charles Dickens, Bukowski, and James Bond. Can you elaborate on this?
You shouldn't believe everything you read on Facebook. we've been working on new music that sounds almost nothing like anything we've ever released before. More noises and sound-scapes and such. You'll hear some new songs previewed at the CD release show. It's full of philosophic mumbo-jumbo and lyrics about the universe and dodos and little children and suicide.
The ideas behind the lyrics are very influenced by some of my more favorite local rappers, like Joe Horton of No Bird Sing and Michael "Eyedea" Larsen. I've come more to realize through getting to know some local rappers that Eyedea really started a legacy here in the Twin Cities that has been passed down in a generational sort of way, and I'm attempting to capture his philosophical lyrical magic and bring it over to the indie-rock scene.
As far as our Facebook influences go, Godzilla was all about making noise. Charles Dickens loved little children. Bukowski loved suicide. I should probably update our influences by adding Alan Watts and Joe Horton to cover the philosophical end.
James Bond was included because I was named after Sean Connery, and they should probably hire us to write the theme song for the next James Bond flick, so I can go buy food.
More and more artists are giving away their music, even you guys on this new album; what prompted you to do this?
It was really a no-brainer. The last album was also available for name-your-own-price downloads, and we made enough money to release another album entirely by ourselves. We didn't use Kickstarter or anything; our profits came entirely from the generosity of our fans, and it's worked pretty well so far.
How do you feel about this shift in the music industry?
This certainly changed things for record labels, as their claim to importance comes entirely from the band's inability to fund an album by themselves. Technology and name-your-own-price downloads really made musicians question the need for any sort of record label at all. Just one of the many ways Radiohead has innovated the music scene.
What's the plan with this upcoming tour?
There are no plans really. We're probably going to go on another batttery-powered tour. The best thing about these tour is that we can play wherever we want, our costs are low, so we can choose what we do on the fly. Plus, all of our gear fits into my two-door Honda Civic. I hear the Black Keys are going to tour again; maybe we'll hop on a few of their tour dates. Or perhaps we'll jump aboard with The Shins tour. I'm sure they won't mind, although it probably wouldn't stop us if they did mind.
What can we expect at the show at the Amsterdam on Friday?
Birthday cakes, balloons, French kissing, women's legging, new music, the announcement of a new band member, dad fights, wild stage banter, and terrific performances from the openers Phantom Tails and Crimes, who are two of my favorite Twin Cities bands.
I won't speak for them, but from our performance, you can expect a bit above our normal level of destruction and punk energy, along with a healthy dosage of not giving a shit. Someone recently told us we were the rowdiest and most destructive band they had seen since The Goondas, which is an accolade that were not just flattered by, but completely honored.
Ghostmouth will have their CD release show at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall on Friday, March 23, 2012 with Phantom Tails and Crimes opening.
18+, $5, 9 pm
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