By Garin Pirnia
In the past couple of years, disco music has made a comeback. Percolating with heavy basslines and synths, acts like Sally Shapiro, Hot Chip and Neon Neon are revitalizing the genre. New York duo Holy Ghost! (not to be confused with another New York band called the Holy Ghost, sans exclamation point) ostensibly is influenced by that period as heard on last year’s debut single, “Hold On.”
Classifying their music simply as “gay,” cousins Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser released the dance track on the DFA label to a bevy of hype. One well-received single is all it takes for a group to garner notice and these guys are no exception. Influenced by everyone from Yacht-rocker Michael McDonald, the Talking Heads and Kraftwerk, “Hold On”’s incendiary beats have been a fixture in clubs.
“It was really nice that the song did OK,” Frankel remarks. “Hearing it out in the clubs is amazing. That’s the dream: to test the sonic abilities of your work in multiple environments and see the physical reaction it triggers. That and buying your mom a house and having a shower that’s connected to Perrier kegs.”
They’ll have to be patient with those kegs for their debut album won’t be out till next year. In the meantime, the guys are remixing Cut Copy’s “Hearts on Fire,” recording more twelve-inches, putting together a live show with The Juan Maclean, djing and working day jobs. Currently Millhiser works in a wine shop and both used to work for Al Roker’s production company. “That was a pretty shitty job, but it was also the best-paying job I’ve ever had so it worked out,” Millhiser says. “It was also freelance so I could come and go as I pleased. Maybe that was the best job I’ve ever had. I don’t know.”
Working in an office doesn’t come naturally for them, but playing music does. They both started playing instruments at early ages.
“I have a scar on my forehead from when I fell off my dad’s speaker while dancing to ‘Beat It’ at the age of 2,” Millhiser says. Before forming Holy Ghost!, the guys played in Automato, the first DFA-produced hip-hop group. The sextet only released one album back in 2004, on Dim Mak, then eventually disbanded.
“When Automato broke up, we both wanted to continue making music. Neither of us rap, so we couldn’t make hip-hop, and without a rapper, we were suddenly free to explore tempos we couldn’t with Automato,” Millhiser says. “We started making tracks and then they needed vocals so Alex stepped up and started singing.”
Being part of the DFA family has been a rewarding experience, especially collaborating with all the bands and working with the unassailable James Murphy. “Nick cooks the pasta, I make the sauce, DFA stirs,” Frankel says. Millhiser and Frankel are touring a lot and find it to be a bit disorientating. “It’s just hard because at the end of a tour, I’m always left wondering what happened,” Frankel remarks. “I have to review photos and passport stamps to know where exactly I’ve just been.”
Living in the oversaturated musical market of New York, they see a plethora of bands trying to emerge. “I’ve always felt that the so-called present day ‘New York music scene’ has been somewhat romanticized by outsiders,” Millhiser says. “I’m not sure it exists in the sense that people think where there are all these bands who all know each other and hang out all the time. I feel like people have this idea that Yeasayer and TV on the Radio meet for coffee every morning, which I don’t think is the case. If they do, they don’t invite us.” Frankel chimes in, “We worked it out. Yeasayer takes Greenpoint, MGMT’s got Bedford Avenue, and we have South Williamsburg. But no one can act on any beef without a sit-down with James.”
Holy Ghost! seem to be doing fine without sipping lattes with Tunde Adebimpe, anyway. Prophesizing their future, the guys would like to “deepen the groove” and eat pizza. “We get drunk occasionally and then eat pizza. An ongoing bet is, ‘How much you want to bet we end up eating pizza in three hours?’”
Holy Ghost! DJs Modular Chicago with onefiftyone, Bald Eagle, SR-71 and Modular Deejays at Sonotheque, 1444 West Chicago, (312)267-7600, March 27, 9pm-2am. $10, $7 with rsvp to going.com.