Of all the bands and artists that we’ve covered over the years, House Ghost might be the most fun and unpredictable of the lot. Are they indie pop? Or are they garage rock? Or wait, are they hip hop producers? Whatever the endeavor may be, the music this duo has been responsible for over the last few years has been fucking awesome, a streak that is continued with their latest record Pines which is out now. Listen to a catchy upbeat rocker from the album called “Cold Gold” below:
To get a better handle on what these dudes are all about, we reached out to Keith Miller and Derek Keijner with a few questions. Read on as we talk about their latest effort as well as their collaboration with Kendall Elijah Dynamite and more…
Never Nervous: First, tell us about House Ghost. Who’s in the band, who does what, and how’d the band come to be? Is there a fascinating origin story?
Keith Miller: House Ghost is Derek (Keijner) and me (Keith Miller). We have an open-door policy for the rest of the band and there have been other dudes come in and out over the year — but it’s always Derek and me. Everything we do starts as a recording project and we figure out how to play it live later, but primally speaking, I’m the terrible singer and Derek is the noisy guitar player.
We had another band back in the day called Black Kerouac (actually, Black Kerouac has a song on the LIFL Bowie compilation that Never Nervous just posted about) that fell victim to being too serious. I then went on to produce some things for other people and Derek had his own band for a bit, but it felt dirty not doing music together, so we started a new band. I was sitting on a ton of songs and was sick of watching all my friends work for years on their music, only to spend tons of money and never release anything. So, on a whim, I packed up my recording gear and drove down to Atlanta on Halloween and had my buddy Donjon record drums for an entire album in an afternoon. I came back and we just started gutting out the recordings. Now we’re on album number four.
NN: Where’d the name “House Ghost” come from? Whenever I hear the name I think of Beetlejuice.
KM: That’s the right reference! The welcomed haunting—Beetlejuice, Casper, Patrick Swayze. It’s, of course, a play on House Guest. We produce as Hearse Guest.
NN: Your new record has more of a straight forward, serious attitude to it. Was this intentional?
KM: Absolutely. The very idea of House Ghost was that it was supposed to be a disposable band that never gets thrown away—a creative dumping ground based on Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy of the Rhizomatic. It’s whatever we need it to be. Up to this point, House Ghost has been super clever and kitschy, and our live shows were nuts. I think we got a lot of credit for being entertaining, but not necessarily as songwriters and musicians and I think we just wanted to make something that was unashamedly earnest.
Derek Keijner: We have always loved the Byrds’ “Sweethearts of the Rodeo” –this strange country Pop record that didn’t quite fit in with any genre or with their own previous albums, but it’s one of our favorites…a classic departure record.
“The very idea of House Ghost was that it was supposed to be a disposable band that never gets thrown away … It’s whatever we need it to be.”
NN: How would you describe the music House Ghost makes to someone that hasn’t heard you before?
KM: We call ourselves garage pop because it covers a multitude of sins. But the term we use the most is “painful rainbows”—songs that sound fun, but have really sad bastard lyrics.
NN: Whether it be related to music or not, what would you say is a major influence or inspiration behind the music you folks make?
DK: Everything from the worlds of The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. I think a lot of people grew up and retain fond memories of those shows, but we felt so close to the bizarre feelings they elicited that we never stopped watching or talking about them.
KM: Yeah, I think that we’ve been way more influenced by how TV and movies have used music than the music itself. That really informs who we are…we’re not making albums, we’re making soundtracks.
“I think that we’ve been way more influenced by how TV and movies have used music than the music itself.”
NN: Last year, you released a collaborative pair of singles with Kendall Elijah Dynamite. How’d this joint project that blended two genres (hip hop and indie rock) come to be?
KM: For years, Yons and I would bounce things off of each other as producers—him from the hiphop world and me from indie pop. We finally got to do something together when House Ghost had this series where we challenged ourselves to write, record, and mix a song all in one night and then release it as a single (collected as the album Handshakes). We did the song “You Should Go” with Yons and another collaboration with James Lindsey called “Gold Watch” that turned out to be a big hit for us. After that, Yons told me to check out Kendall because he knew I would love his stuff (which I did). Kendall and I hit it off immediately. He and I text constantly about the philosophy of art…dude knows everything about music. His new album Honeyman is so good…Derek even did the cover art for it. The SisterSingles we did together was just the beginning…we’re about to do a lot more collaboration with Kendall.
NN: What’s the plan moving forward? Do you guys plan to tour?
KM: We’ve already got half of the next album already in the can (cough…Kendall collab…cough) and we’ve started producing some songs for other people that will be coming out soon. We’ve got some shows coming up, but a full-on tour just depends on if the world hasn’t blown up yet.
DK: The new album in the works is another departure with darker themes and lots of drum machines and synthesizers. The opposite of this record.
“We’ve already got half of the next album already in the can (cough…Kendall collab…cough).”
NN: Where does a band like House Ghost prefer to eat, drink, and be merry in Louisville?
KM: We eat at our computers while recording and editing, we drink alone, and we haven’t been merry for a long time.
DK: We don’t have any money. Or friends.
KM: In all seriousness, it’s hard to keep up with all the new places. We’ve always been Zanzabar people, though, and the remodel is awesome.
NN: Of all the killer record shops in Louisville, which one do you prefer over the others, and why?
KM: Definitely Matt Anthony’s. We love that dude and the fact that he’s starting his own label is killer. He’s not just curating, he’s contributing.
NN: Have you seen Star Wars Episode VIII yet? If so, you aren’t one of those assholes that didn’t like it are you?
DK: I loved seeing Frank Oz doing Yoda again. But what was with Luke milking an alien and then violently chugging it as the milky blueness dribbled down his face? Have some self-respect.
KM: I’m a Star Trek guy—better mythology. I like Star Wars too, but it betrays its own universe rules and is narratively inconsistent. It’s great fantasy, but awful sci-fi…I’ll see it when I see it.
NN: Speaking of franchises, what’d you think of the new Twin Peaks? Aside from most of the Dougie shenanigans, I loved it!
DK: I love the weirdness of Twin Peaks this new season. You got pockets of it the first two seasons and then a lot of wine-tasting snooze scenes, but this time Lynch gave us the goods.
KM: The pacing was jarring and it made me physically uncomfortable….I loved it! My only hope is that we will someday be able to elicit the same visceral reactions out of people that Lynch does with his art.
NN: What is your favorite conspiracy theory?
DK: The Kubric moon landing is a fun one, but I subscribe to the idea that everything in the National Treasure movies is based in reality. Only Nic Cage knows the truth.
KM: I once spent the afternoon listening to a die-hard flat earther detail the “science” behind the theory and the conspiracy to cover it up. The straight-faced buy-in and commitment of the flat earth society is incredible! If I could sell House Ghost with as much fervor as they have for their ideas, we’d be massive.
“I subscribe to the idea that everything in the National Treasure movies is based in reality. Only Nic Cage knows the truth.”
NN: Before you go, tell us about your favorite song that you’ve heard from 2018 thus far.
DK: Justin Timberlake’s “Filthy” is great! It would never get air play if it were anyone else. Any chance to hear normies get weird makes us happy.
KM: I was really looking forward to the new Breeders track, but I think I need to hear the whole album for context. They’re not released yet, but I got to hear new songs from the upcoming Maximon and Beware the Images EPs and a new song from Kendall that I can’t stop playing. Most of what I listen to is Louisville bands…you guys (Never Nervous) do a great job staying on top of what’s happening.