Present yourself to the readers
Ghost Painted Sky is a New England-based duo consisting of David Strong and Lisa Wood, though we have additional members in the live lineup. We’ve released several EPs from 2014-2017, and just recently completed and released our first full-length album, called Flightless. We create music that is dark but also honest and deeply probing.
What’s the story for FLIGHTLESS ?
Flightless is above all the story of an evolutionary process, but one that ultimately forms a cohesive whole. While the band began as a solo project with David doing essentially everything, as Lisa slowly came to be more involved over the course of the past two years, it has become a lot more collaborative and dynamic. In many ways Flightless tells the story of its own creation, as Ghost Painted Sky went from a self-searching solo outlet to more of a dialogue-driven partnership exploring the highs and lows of life.
Who composes ?...How does it work in the duo/band ?
Every song is different, but a lot of the early material had David composing and creating all of the music and lyrics. Some of those songs are on the album (in more refined versions than the original EP versions), but the process has evolved since Lisa became involved. While David still composes almost all of the music and a lot of the lyrics, Lisa will often come up with working melodies and vocal parts that sometimes change the nature of a given song, or at the least offer real-time feedback to musical ideas. So it has become a lot more collaborative.
In the case of one song from the album (“In the Grey Light of Dawn”), the guitarist we have been playing live with recently (Michael Rebeiro) came up with a fantastic part that worked so well with the song we held up the nearly-finished album to record it and mix it in. There could well be more of that kind of thing going forward, but we’ll see what happens…
Who writes the texts ?..What are they talking about ?..How does inspiration come ?
Again, every song is different. David wrote some song lyrics in their entirety, Lisa wrote a couple of the songs that she sings, but the largest part of the album had kind of a collaborative lyric-writing process. One of us would have a basic idea and start writing around it, and the other would suggest new or different lines or words… It was often really more of a sculpting process, which resulted in songs that were more concise and poignant, but also as real, personal, and honest as anything either of us wrote individually.
As we’ve started working on new material, it pretty much continues in that vein, though Lisa has started playing a little bass, and has begun offering up some musical ideas as well.
We’ve both led fairly interesting and kind of intense lives so far, and we pretty much just write about our lives and experiences, so we have no shortage of inspiration.
Why did you choose this style of music ?
It was less a case of choosing a style than of a style just kind of developing on its own. We both have pretty similar tastes and influences and visions of what we want this band to be.
Why the name GHOST PAINTED SKY ?
The name actually originates from a friend and former band-mate of David’s. It was initially conceived as a potential title for an EP they had worked on together in a former (now defunct) band. In the end, that title was never used (and the EP wasn’t even released until well after that band had ended).
When David started the current band, he just kept coming back to that unused title as a band name, since it seemed to perfectly capture the haunted and dark, but ultimately hopeful and inspired feeling of the music. David’s former bandmate was graciously receptive to David’s using it for the new band, and the rest is history.
What are your personal musical tastes and your influences ?
We both have pretty similar tastes and influences, and are both long-time fans of old school goth rock, post-punk and darkwave, which is probably where the bulk of our musical influences come from…though we do both have pretty broad tastes in music beyond that as well, from shoegaze to deathrock, industrial to electronica, and beyond.
We never set out to adhere to any particular genre or imitate any particular band. We just write what we write, and the result of that is what you hear. That said, it seems like the music you grow up with kind of tints the way you think about music, and influences the way you approach creating music, whether you intend for it to or not.
What's your best live memory ? And why ?
We have a few, though a lot of it boils down to those times when you are just playing/performing well and really present and feeling the flow, the audience is feeling it and into what you are doing, and you kind of all have this collective moment together. Those moments can be more sporadic and fleeting than you might like, but they do make everything worthwhile. They have that spark of connection, like making a new friend or meeting a lover.
In studio, what was the ambiance for the album FLIGHTLESS ?...etc.…
The album was recorded over three years or so, so the atmosphere shifted during that time.
Ghost Painted Sky began with just David, a guitar, a bottle, and a lot to process (arguably not the most auspicious or constructive beginning, but it is what it is), and that shows a lot on the first self-titled EP from 2014 (which is slowly being re-developed into a full-length album in its own right). Some of the songs that appear on Flightless were originally recorded and released a little while later (in 2015) on The Shadows Breath EP, which was the second Ghost Painted Sky release. At that time it was still David working solo, and the atmosphere was more of frustration and alienation…a lot of just feeling stuck on the wrong path and unable to affect much change. It was around that time that Ghost Painted Sky also first started playing live (with a somewhat different lineup than the current live one), which changed the way David was approaching song creation in some ways. It was also around that same time that David began working on the cover of New Order’s “Doubts Even Here,” and the spoken vocal part at the end of the song marked Lisa’s first appearance on a Ghost Painted Sky recording.
With the Scars EP last year, Lisa wrote the lyrics and sang the vocal part for the track “Seeker,” and the working dynamic for the rest of album more or less started with that. From that point things became more collaborative. David would start developing musical parts and ideas, Lisa would offer melodic ideas, vocal snippets or feedback, and we’d rework accordingly.
Once we worked out our new process, we buckled down and focused on fleshing out and finishing all of the new material for the album, as well as reworking some of the older EP tracks to better fit the rest of the album.
That was how we spent most of the winter and spring of 2017-2018…long nights in our studio (which is at our home), working parts out, recording tracks, writing lyrics… The atmosphere was largely comfortable and low-key, just the two of us mainly aiming to create conditions that allowed us to focus; nothing extravagant, but just enough to feel focused and comfortable.
How does it work for the design of the CD ? and why this title ?
The title originates from the cover art, actually. It’s a photo Lisa took of a bird’s wing in the sand that we’d found while walking on a beach. The rest of the bird was buried deeply, with just this wing protruding from the ground. It kind of summed up how we’d been feeling, in a lot of ways. This potential to take off and fly, buried under life’s complications… It had this strange, almost surreal serenity and beauty to it.
It struck us both, I guess, and she entitled the picture “Flightless.” From there everything just clicked, and there was no question of what the cover art and title of the album were going to be; it really just seemed to encapsulate the whole feeling of the album.
What are your projects ?
Musically speaking, Ghost Painted Sky is our real focus, though David has been involved in a number of other bands and projects over the years (including a couple of long-term but sporadic ambient projects called Transientflow and Droune, which don’t really sound anything at all like Ghost Painted Sky). We have been playing with some new ideas that are different enough from Ghost Painted Sky where they may or may not end up becoming another project at some point down the road, but we are really just focused on Ghost Painted Sky for the foreseeable future.
Outside of music, Lisa is a visual artist and sometime photographer, and David writes prose and is involved with permaculture.
What's your motto ?
We don’t necessarily have a motto, but one thing we always try to keep in mind while working is: “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” (to paraphrase a quote attributed to the original Voltaire).
Website to remember
What would you like to say to the readers ?
Thank you for supporting underground and independent music, and for lending us a little of your time.
What question, I did not ask you and would you like me to ask you :-) ?
Nothing in particular comes to mind offhand.
Thanks for the upkeep