Starting a band, rehearsing, booking gigs, making the whole damn thing work — these are genuine challenges for grown adults with day jobs and reasonable cash flow. But for a group of musicians who are still in school, the task can be monumental.
Such is the case with Love Ghost, an L.A. alt-rock band that formed a couple of years ago when founding member Finnegan “Fin” Bell was in eighth grade, 14 years old.
“The lineup has completely changed, but really what Love Ghost is, is a grunge rock band with strings,” Bell says. “That’s what our music is. That’s what I was inspired by. My childhood hero was Kurt Cobain. Eventually I got to Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains. But essentially, that’s what we are.”
Digging a little deeper into a sound that certainly recalls the heady, plaid-heavy days of the ’90s, Bell describes the Love Ghost sound as “hard alternative rock.”
“It’s definitely changed,” he says. “When we first started, it was actually pretty much all acoustic — I’d just play acoustic guitar. But progressively, the guitar tones got more aggressive. Now it’s more electric guitar and pedals. Even our string player uses pedals. I’d say it’s like modern ’90s rock with strings.”
That Seattle-birthed scene hasn’t flourished for some time. Hell, most of the big-name frontmen are tragically no longer with us. But still, Bell believes that the world is ready for a grunge revival.
“I think that it’s going to make a comeback,” he says. “That’s my prediction. A lot of this hard rock — it inspired post-grunge and definitely contributed to the emo movement. So I’d say that the sound definitely evolved. As to what is contemporary in the grunge rock scene, it’s maybe a little bit different today.”
Love Ghost released an EP, Love Ghost Vol. 1, in 2016 and followed that with the Lobotomy album this year. Such is their commitment to the trad-grunge vibe, they went to London Bridge Studios in Seattle to record some of it.
“When we got the opportunity to go to London Bridge, it was pretty much awesome for me,” Bell says. “And that was intentional, to record in Seattle and try to capture that soundscape and that aesthetic, of a Seattle sound.”
Bell says that a life balancing school, homework and rehearsal gets crazy and requires a lot of caffeine. Compounding those issues is the fact that they often perform in bars that they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed into.
“That definitely does happen a lot,” Bell says. “Sometimes we’ll get lucky and play an all-ages show but a lot of the times we’re playing 21+ shows, so we’re playing for adults. We can’t bring our friends. We have a bit of a following at this point, so a lot of it is us putting up fliers. It is what it is.”
Through a combination of hard work and great music, they’re more than getting by. Love Ghost perform regularly, and the shows usually go well. Usually.
“Pretty much all of our songs are in different tunings,” Bell says. “Some of the songs are in tunings that I make up. They’re almost not even real tunings. We played a show in Seattle, and by the end of this specific show the guitar just wouldn’t stay in tune. It was just so annoying. My guitar was completely out of tune by the last song and it just drove me crazy. That was probably our worst show.”
On the other hand, they gave the headliners a run for their money when opening for Smash Mouth at the Rose, and they sold out the Bootleg Theater on “record release party” night.
“Basically, our shtick was that we were gonna make it be like a circus,” Bell says. “We had a bunch of old-timey circus attractions, like the Wolf Boy. Instead of having a band open up for us, we had two contortionists. They just did contortion pieces before we played our music. That was a really fun show.”
Bell believes that Love Ghost are outsiders to the contemporary L.A. rock scene, yet they manage to make it work.
“When we play shows at the Echo with other L.A. bands, it’s cool and it does mesh,” he says. “There is something of an overlap. As far as that scene goes, the L.A. rock band scene, we’ve been treated pretty well and it’s fun.”
This week, the band play the notorious Viper Room, and Bell says we can expect a fun show.
“You can expect us to work our asses off,” he says. “We’ve pretty much rehearsed every single day, and you can expect a great show.”
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After that, Bell says, they continue to drop music videos — the “visual album” that sits alongside Lobotomy.
“There’s going to be three more music videos, and five already came out,” he says. “Stay tuned for those videos. Most of them are animated and directly correlate to the songs. The album is obviously a fragment of time in our lives. A lot of it is about identity and a lot of the music videos correlate to a certain sense of identity, or identity struggle. Also, we’ve been doing this movement lately called Feed the Homeless, where every Sunday at 10 a.m. we meet and us and some of our fans give out sandwiches, sodas and water to the homeless population of L.A.”
Now that’s making a difference.
Love Ghost perform with Blu Nyle, The Waiter AKA Kief Braun and more at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the Viper Room.