During Rocket & the Ghost‘s packed CMJ set at the Living Room in New York City last month, the Brooklyn band tore through their self-titled EP with frontman Kiyoshi Matsuyama stealing the show — thanks in no small part to his well-trained falsetto.
The band prides itself on making their live shows organic, forgoing overdubs and pre-recorded segments to keep things pure in the rock sense. With these guys, what you see is what you get and what you’re going to get is a rock show. They’re not interested in layers and layers of guitar when one will do just fine. They don’t need Auto-Tune or other vocal modifiers when Matsuyama can go from a whisper to a yell in a matter of seconds all on his own.
For their debut EP, the band also wanted to stay away from using any studio magic, recording it live to get that same energy they give off in their live show.
Rocket & the Ghost initially began as a songwriting collaboration between Lily Claire of Lily & the Parlour Tricks and Matsuyama. But as things began to take off for Claire’s own project, Matsuyama decided he needed to move on too. He contacted his friends, bassist Brian Kesley, drummer Stuart Bidwell and guitarist Sean Gavigan, who all attended New York’s New School together, but didn’t become friends until after they graduated, about working on some songs. Keyboardist Alan Markley later entered the group thanks to some mutual friends.
Matsuyama, who was previously in the band the London Souls, told Radio.com that Rocket’s debut EP is the perfect primer for those who haven’t seen the band live. The five songs on the EP each show off the band’s multi-genre style, which is a mix of Americana, pop, folk and rock.
“I think that’s the most special thing about this band; everyone brings their own flavor,” Bidwell said. “Everyone in the band is extremely talented, but everyone comes from a very different place. I think that’s why we’re hard to pin down as a genre.”
The guys tested out many of the tracks in concert before even bringing them into the studio, which, thanks to audience feedback, often changed a song’s direction.
“Our intentions of the songs, what we feel about them, is not necessarily what other people are going to say about them,” Kelsey said. “The fun part is having people hear it and coming to their own conclusions about it…To hear those conclusions, it’s often very different than we thought we sounded like or what a song would invoke.”
One song in particular is “Gold,” which is a band favorite that has gone through many different arrangements over the time they’ve been playing it live. The guy’s ability to go with the flow, Kesley said, has a lot to do with their solid friendship, rare amongst many bands.
“Five people that get along who want to be there and want to play music together and be in the same room together, that’s a feat within itself,” he explained. “It’s working for us so far, and there’s a lot more to do.”
Listen to the band’s self-titled EP below.