Interview: Caught A Ghost — Channeling ‘Spirits’ into Music

Some band names seem to draw from inexplicable randomness, but “Caught A Ghost” embodies this week’s Top Emerging Artist perfectly. The band is a stirring mix of staggered inspiration, including everything from dreamy soul to modern electronica. The unique (sometimes slightly eerie) result of this combination is “channeled” by Jesse Nolan and his childhood friend Stephen Edlestein, two unassuming companions from L.A. Jesse summons this energy from parts unknown, as if he’s drawing inspiration by catching ghosts.

Top Emerging Artist: Caught A Ghost


It’s curious to think of music of the past as some remnant of thoughts and emotions—sprits, even. With this year’s EP Nightworks, Caught A Ghost release the apparition of their own self-described “indie electro soul.” We used the wonders of technology to catch up with Jesse, way off the grid in the city of Arica, Chile, as the band tours Latin America. From the arid shore of the Pacific to the New York metropolis, the airwaves carried our conversation about the creation of music: where it comes from, how it gets there, and how to reproduce it live once it’s made.

Rukkus: We just caught your show at Bowery Ballroom. What are some highlights you remember from the show, and how do you feel the tour has gone as a whole?

Jesse Nolan: The Bowery was our first show in New York as a band, so it was pretty amazing to play to such an enthusiastic audience. It’s a very special room with a lot of history, and you can feel the ghosts of past performances in a space like that. Tessa’s father, who performs as Chocolate Genius Inc, performed there opening for David Byrne once. Our drummer Stephen’s brother, who plays in Io Echo just played there a few weeks ago also. I thought maybe New Yorkers would be a little tentative and hipstery like our hometown Los Angeles crowds can be, but they really came to enjoy themselves, which we appreciated.

Rukkus: Yeah, New Yorkers get a bad live music rep, I think. Your sound is an interesting mix of everything from modern electronica to classic motown; how did you begin making this unique style, did it just simply “come out of you?”

Jesse Nolan: I’d say you’ve got it about right. Bob Dylan describes making music as ‘channeling’ spirits from another realm. That’s where the band name comes from.

caught a ghost

Live at Bowery Ballroom. Photo Credit: A Horse With No Name

Rukkus: That’s an interesting way of looking at it; a little spooky, even. You and Stephen Edlestein have known each other for a while now. Has this helped the way you create music together?

Jesse Nolan: Stephen and I met in kindergarten while picking soccer teams. He was really tall so I was stoked to have him on my team. It’s very much the same way these days. He hits the drums hard and can carry lots of heavy equipment. In terms of familiarity, we know each other very well at this point– we lived together all through college and currently room together. We have a lot of musical common ground and referential understanding. He’s also very professional. I have very little patience in the studio sometimes so I often give him only one or two takes to lay down his drums, and he nails it.

Rukkus: A lot of acts that draw from electronica end up relying on it to reproduce their live sound; How have you avoided this, and what influenced the decision for a more “soul oriented” live show?

Jesse Nolan: On this most recent tour, we stripped down to five musicians. We’ve played shows with as many as 11, counting horns, scratch dj and dancers. I like how lean it feels. With fewer musicians everyone has to give more energy to the group. Our keyboardist plays synth bass, which adds a nice contemporary dimension for me, and we have some tracks and samples. But yes, most of the electronic stuff is ambient and we try to avoid playing with a click if possible. I don’t really like feeling tethered to a track.

Rukkus: Wow, 11? It’s cool you can still reproduce such a rich sound after stripping it down so much. As you close out this tour, what are your plans for the future?

Jesse Nolan: Well, we are now in Chile; I am writing you from Arica–a small coastal town in the north of the country. We’ve been here playing a series of concerts for Rock the Vote – as they have an election finishing up this Sunday. It’s been an amazing run of shows. The people have been incredibly welcoming, and it’s been really fun to speak Spanish to the crowds. I think we may end up playing a lot of shows in Latin America. It’s been an unforgettable experience. Our record comes out in the US early next year and we will be going to SXSW. We are very excited about that as well.

Article by Nicolas White

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