INTERVIEW: Sam Fowles (GHOST WHO WALKS)
Part blues, part psych, part rock and roll: there's a whole lotta labels one could throw at Kiwi groovers Ghost Who Walks, but none stick quite so easily as fun, fresh and downright funky. Originally formed by Sam Fowles in the throes of Wellington open mic nights, Ghost Who Walks have raised the bar (and many roofs) over the years with their dynamic tunes, culminating this week in the official release of their debut self-titled EP.
Twelve months in the making, 'Ghost Who Walks' travels across four tracks, busting out various styles and tones that pay homage to their roots while also putting a distinct twist on some significant grooves. 'Vertigo', 'Walking Talking Blues' and 'Soul Power' gift us a couple of toe-tappin' blues-fests, while 'Dreaming About Listening' branches out to embrace some reggae vibes and beyond, and you're ultimately left with the urge to grab a guitar and jam the night away with Sam Fowles and his Ghost Who Walks crew.
Having poured blood, sweat and tears into this project, there's a defiant sense of raw passion and controlled production in the short space of four songs, and the end result is one that seems to come daringly close to capturing the magnetic vibrancy that the group have become notorious for throughout their journey.
And while the EP isn't officially out until this Friday, Ghost Who Walks are officially launching the EP live with a hometown show in Wellington tomorrow, and The Soundcheck grabbed frontman Sam before the madness kicks off to chat creativity, influences and the next phase beyond this week. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Sam! So great to chat with you today, and what a fun few days you’ve got ahead of you! The week of your Ghost Who Walks debut EP release, as well as the launch party tomorrow! How exciting is it to be at this stage?
SAM FOWLES: It’s a little bit scary, I’m not gonna lie (laughs). But it’s exciting, I mean a lot of work’s gone into this to get us to this point. It’s gonna be fun to just let go of it, as it were.
TIANA: And you have released some singles from the EP along the way already...has it been a good reaction to the songs you’ve released so far?
SAM: Yeah, so far so good! who we’ve been playing them to...everyone’s got a different favourite, which is quite interesting! So it was quite hard to pick the singles. Which is not a bad thing necessarily (laughs).
TIANA: In terms of choosing the final four songs, what was the culling process like?
SAM: It’s funny, there’s probably about eight songs I chose from. And I asked around a lot about what people thought, then what I thought, and sort of combined the two. And they were probably the four I was quite happy to let go of!
TIANA: I got a sneak peek and I did enjoy all of them, but my particular favourite was ‘Dreaming About Listening’. A total jam! But is there a particular one from the EP you’re really keen to play live? It may be impossible to pick, you may love all of them…
SAM: Yeah, it kind of almost is (laughs). But I guess I just get into a zone and I enjoy each one as much as the next! They just flow from one into another, if that makes sense?
'WALKING TALKING BLUES' (GHOST WHO WALKS)
TIANA: And away from the live side of things, when it came to writing for the EP, what was the creative side of things like? Do you have a particular process that you go through, or do you just let it evolve naturally?
SAM: I’m more of a “letting it happen” kind of guy I think. I know some people sit down and write every day, but I can’t do that. I play every day, but sometimes I’ll play something and something will stick, like I’ll really enjoy it and I’ll dig it and be like “oh that’s cool, yeah I’m gonna run with that and see what happens there!”. And then I find that the song tends to fall out after that.
TIANA: That sounds like me. If I try to force myself to write something I’ll end up with nothing. Then meanwhile, at 3am suddenly I wake up inspired and have to get it out somehow.
SAM: Yeah, yeah that’s right! It’s like that moment of magic hey!
TIANA: Your EP launch party is officially happening tomorrow – is there anything special in-store for this epic evening that you can reveal?
SAM: We’re gonna play one new song that we’ve got up our sleeves that we haven’t performed live yet. Something a little bit different! We’re looking forward to seeing how that goes. So the show’s tomorrow and the EP comes out the next day at midnight, so literally as everyone walks out of the show they can have a listen to the EP!
TIANA: Beyond this week you’ll be taking off on some regional tours in November and early December, including a couple of festival spots. What are you most looking forward to in that run of shows?
SAM: I’m definitely looking forward to playing our first festival! That’s gonna be really cool to just get amongst that sort of environment. Very keen to do that!
TIANA: The Ghost Who Walks tunes have such epic grooves and there’s obviously a huge range of genres kicking around – you’ve got blues and funk and reggae and rock. And in the past I’ve seen you list a heap of influences spanning everything from Hendrix to Chili Peppers, and fellow Kiwis Fat Freddys Drop. But did you grow up listening to all of these different genres and that’s how you capture so many in your tunes?
SAM: My dad, he was really big into Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, all that blues and guitar sort of music. So I had that education from a young age (laughs). Without knowing it! A subliminal education. And it’s funny, then I formed my own sort of tastes but I still drifted back to that. I guess it’s obvious that I dig any music that’s got a groove, really. And different music’s got different grooves, like reggae’s got a different groove to funk, but they’re both grooves, you know? And I like messing with them and taking bits of one and chucking it with another and seeing what happens!
TIANA: I think what happens is that no one can sit still when they listen to it! I was listening to it while I was working at my day job and I had to tone it down.
SAM: (laughs) Well that’s definitely a good sign!
TIANA: In terms of what you listen to nowadays, do you tend to still gravitate towards the same kind of stuff? Is there anything in particular you’re really into currently?
SAM: I’ve been really getting into my soul music lately! All sorts of stuff, one track I’ve been listening to quite a lot lately is Otis Stack’s ‘Fashion Drunk’. He’s a real sort of a soul dude. But I’ve also been getting into different time signatures, like 6/8 a bit more, which is more of like a soul feel I think. It’s kind of a groove, but it’s more of a slow and steady groove. I think just to diversify a bit that’d be a nice counterpoint to the high energy stuff that we’ve got going on at the moment.
TIANA: Busting out some 6/8 in the future then perhaps – and then maybe 7/8 after that? Who knows!
SAM: (laughs) Wow. Maybe?!
TIANA: IIt’s harder to dance to 7/8, so maybe not? Let’s not over-complicate it just yet.
SAM: But actually I would like to start experimenting, and being more experimental. I’ve kind of got a nice formula, so it’d be nice to expand on that!
TIANA: Well some fun times ahead by the sounds of it. Now obviously you’re about to kick off with these shows later in the year…but is there a bucket list band or artist you’d love to play with in the future?
SAM: Oooh that’s a good question! If I was gonna name an artist, I’d love to open for Gary Clark Jr. or something like that.
TIANA: Beyond the EP release and the shows…how on earth do you plan to top 2018, are there big plans in the works for 2019 and Ghost Who Walks? Or are you just gonna get through the next little bit and see what happens?
SAM: I kind of just wanna enjoy playing the songs live over the summer, and then I really want to get back into writing, I’m really looking forward to writing again. And just making the time once the madness has calmed down a little bit, just getting back into that creative headspace and explore some new ideas I’ve been thinking about for a while.
TIANA: Well it’s going to be an exciting time both this week and beyond – but obviously, I have to ask before I let you go…will we get to Ghost Who Walks in Australia anytime soon?
SAM: Oh, we would love to! Maybe we’ll look at something next year! It’s definitely something I’d love to look at, for sure.
TIANA: Well anytime you can trek on over, we’ll be here ready and waiting! Wishing you all the best with the launch and release this week, and thank you for the chat!
SAM: Awesome, thank you Tiana! And likewise to you. Seeya!
GHOST WHO WALKS OFFICIALLY RELEASE THEIR DEBUT EP THIS FRIDAY, WITH A SPECIAL EP RELEASE PARTY TOMORROW AT VALHALLA IN WELLINTON.
BY TIANA SPETER