Photo by Mark Louie

Summer Space Camp

I had no idea what the hell ‘Ghostplay’ means so I’ll admit—just like with a lot of text acronyms that I can’t interpret—I looked it up on Urban Dictionary so I wouldn’t have to ask when I interviewed the local band using said moniker. Apparently it’s when you put a white sheet over your head like a ghost and dry hump someone till … you can guess what comes next.

After giving it some thought, Ghostplay is a pretty fitting name for this band. When I finished listening to the band’s soon-to-set-sail debut EP, I felt like I had been surprise attacked by a shrouded spectre that made me climax and left me disoriented. It was kind of awesome and weird. These were the perfect, aptly timed jams for another restless summer, too. Add Ghostplay to your summer playlist, and your list of local bands on whom to keep a watchful eye and listening ear. You can thank me later for the wham-bam.

Ghostplay’s first release, 33, is a five-song EP that the band has been writing and revamping for a couple years now. The band is a tight-knit, funny and endearing three-piece, consisting of facetious frontman Jason Hess on synthesized bass, guitar, keys and vocals; super sweet babe Leticia Garcia on guitar and vocals; and newcomer drummer Armando Gonzales. Ghostplay’s music features complex layers of sound, created by an equally complex assortment of audio equipment.

“The only part that’s a little confusing—and some people have questions about—is that I use a baritone guitar which is split into two audio signals,” elaborates Hess. “One signal feeds to a guitar amplifier, and the other signal is processed by a computer to make it sound more like a bass guitar. Then that signal feeds to a bass amplifier. That same computer is also used to simultaneously create live effects, looping vocal tracks and keyboard sounds.”

Hess describes a collaborative songwriting process rather than a single member bringing the seeds of an already-formed song to the table. “A lot of times songs are born just from the three of us being in a room together” says Hess. The band’s camaraderie and egalitarian take on the band dynamic is palpable throughout our conversation.

Although they’ve been jamming songs into fruition and playing shows for a while, they only recently got to work on a more focused recording effort. “It’s really difficult when you don’t have anything recorded to promote yourself with,” says Garcia. “For this EP, we got to work with a really cool producer, Monte Vallier from San Francisco, so we’re really looking forward to having the EP to help promote ourselves.”

33 is being released by Noise Loves Audio, a Davis-based radio show and label specializing in analog for its sound character—particularly cassettes, although the EP will also be available in digital formats. The corresponding EP artwork by John Conley creatively correlates to the dark and dreamy feeling of the music.

Ghostplay has been twice nominated for the Sacramento News and Review’s local music awards, the Sammies, in the “post-punk” category, but to try to better pinpoint their sound or genre, it takes a mouthful. Gonzales tries summarizing with, “Post-punk shoegaze-y space rock, you know … dark pop,” to which, personally, I’d add beachy surf rock dance-y dream-pop with a pinch of goth.

The opening track on 33, “Too Much,” sets the tone with a spacy, sleepy beach soundscape over which Garcia sings lazily and soothingly. A muffled, echoing Hess melodically chimes in over the ringing, rolling guitar riff. The beat begins to escalate, and suddenly the pace is dance-y, then again takes a breather and slows to a Sunday stroll on Xanax. Just when you think the song is over, you stumble back into the same dream.

My favorite track, “My Halo,” is breathy and uplifting with rad timing changes; on “New Monday,” tremolo-altered voices oscillate, tonality climbs and the cadence pulses; “Science” is haunting, metallic, interstellar, pounding and echoing; “Patience” is full of angst, feedback, strange voices, layered atop traveling arpeggios and a steady pace that builds and erupts into a space cruise.

If all of that sounds great to you, then don’t miss the band’s upcoming EP release show at trusty Old Ironsides on July 10, 2015 (plus Mall Walk is playing!).

When it comes to where the members of Ghostplay want to take the band in the future, according to Hess, they’re happy with things just the way they are. “We have a lot more songs to record now,” ruminates Hess. “Music is something that we really enjoy. Shows are fun whether or not there’s a lot of people there, like this one at this art collective in Davis … it was a great experience, you know? It’s just interesting, getting to collaborate with other artists.”

“I want to do a lot more recording, because that’s what lasts,” Garcia adds.

Spinal Tap was afflicted with a curse of having to frequently replace their drummers due to untimely deaths, such as spontaneous combustion. But Ghostplay, although currently on drummer number three, feels blessed rather than cursed about their own game of musical chairs.

“I’m really grateful that we’ve been lucky enough to find three drummers,” explains Garcia. “Mark Rocha was our first drummer who really helped us get started playing shows and helped shape the songs. Then Michael Couloures, he came in on a whim and learned all the songs in a month to record them.”

Following guest drummer Couloures’ contribution to the EP effort, Gonzales fell right into place. “I feel super lucky. I mean, it was love at first Craigslist,” gushes Gonzales. “This band is so practical and sincere. If I had to use two words to describe Ghostplay it would be those two words.”

Help Ghostplay celebrate the release of their debut EP, 33, at Old Ironsides on July 10, 2015. Get there early, because the first 50 people will receive a free copy of the album. Also performing will be Mall Walk, Silver Spoons and Subculture. This 21-and-over show will cost a $6 cover. Doors open at 8 p.m.