2019 – West Bay Playroom (PNKSLM058) – Listen/buy
2017 – Holiday Ghosts LP/CD (PNKSLM032) – Listen/buy
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On their first record, there was a sense that the individual members of Holiday Ghosts had finally found a true musical home. They intend to keep a good thing going.
The Falmouth four-piece all have storied creative histories, but it’s with this band that they’ve struck upon a potent songwriting chemistry. Their self-titled debut felt like an exercise in total stylistic freedom; the sound of a group following their nose and mining their record collections to produce something genuinely reflective of who they are as musicians. They’ve continued swiftly in that vein on sophomore LP West Bay Playroom, which arrives just eighteen months after Holiday Ghosts despite some major changes. The lineup’s been reshuffled, with drummer Katja Rackin and guitarists Sam Stacpoole remaining, and being joined by Ryan Cleave on bass and Charlie Fairbairn on guitar.
The closure of their previous base of operations, Troubadour Studios, in their south coast hometown, saw them relocate to Sam’s childhood home in nearby Maenporth, where they took over an old playroom - hence the title of this second full-length, West Bay Playroom. The site was at the core of the album, not just as a place to rehearse, write and demo, but as the location for the actual recording, too. It lent the quartet exactly the kind of autonomy they needed to make a record entirely in their own image. “After a while, it wasn’t just that the acoustics were great, or that the room allowed us to set up and record live,” Katja explains. “It became more about the feeling of the place, and the experiences that we had there. The setting was really important.”
Katja, Sam and Charlie all brought their own songs to the process and roughly a year of chipping away in the playroom in between tours has produced a freewheeling rock and roll affair that cements an adventurous edge as Holiday Ghosts’ calling card, whilst still allowing each individual talent to shine. There’s hints of Sam and Ryan’s grounding in garage and punk scenes, as well as Charlie’s penchant for pop melodies and Katja’s confessional approach - “I’ll write the words first, before I decide what the song’s going to be,” she says of the differing dynamics within the outfit, “whereas Sam will have a full instrumental track finished before he thinks about lyrics.”
“And Charlie kind of writes like he’s working on a movie script!” laughs Sam. “His songs are like little stories, where he’s always looking through somebody else’s eyes. For my own part, I just knew that on this record, I wanted to work a bit more outwardly, and not get too caught up in writing about myself. I got tired of the idea that people would know the intricacies of my life - I’ve done enough of that kind of songwriting in the past, so instead it was interesting to me to put myself into someone else’s shoes, and to write more fictionally. It was liberating to build some of the songs around ideas I got from other people, whether it was Kat telling me about a book she’d read or a friend’s experience of being a paparazzi photographer.”
It’s how deftly Holiday Ghosts balance a slew of different ideas from three separate songwriters that sets them apart; they pursue stylistic diversity rather than shy away from it, which explains how West Bay Playroom swings with such poise between infectiously bluesy pop (‘B.S. Porsche’), cinematic instrumentals (‘Cobra’) and bouncy, pointed rock (‘Human Race’). At the centre of it all is a shared love of classic rock and roll, in whatever form that might take.